Leading Adelaide jockey Dom Tourneur knows that Hucklebuck will have to step up again if he is going to beat a crack field in the Group 1 $500,000 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Hucklebuck has drawn barrier eight in the fourteen horse field with bookmakers marking him as the one to beat after scoring an impressive win in the Group 3 $150,000 C S Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on February 15.
Tourneur has won three of his last four rides on the Elvstroem three year old, including his last start C S Hayes Stakes win and knows that the step up to Group 1 is a whole new ball game.
“But he has got to take that next step to be competitive at Group One level,” Tourneur told AAP.
“They are not going to be pushovers,” Tourneur said.
“They are all there to have a crack at the big one and I’m sure they are all going to be primed for it and he’s got to take the next step to be competitive. But I’m confident he can.”
Tourneur won’t be able to give Hucklebuck the cosy run on the fence that he was afforded last start from the inside barrier, but his good gate speed will enable him to take up a handy position behind the likely leader Shamus Award who will jump one from his outside at nine with Craig Williams.
Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien is expecting Shamus Award to appreciate the step up to 1600m and the Cox Plate winner will strip a much fitter horse after finishing third behind Moment Of Change and Eurozone in the Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 8.
“I’m not a form analyst, but I would suspect that the Orr Stakes would be the strongest race of the lead up races,” O’Brien said.
“It was weight-for-age against Moment of Change, who’s racing as well as anything in Melbourne at the moment.
“I think both the colts’ runs were full of merit in the Orr and no doubt it was the highest-pressure 1400 race that they’ve run so far this autumn.
“I expect it will stand them in good stead when they come back for the Guineas against their own age.”
The Bart and James Cummings trained Eurozone fared well in the barrier draw and will jump from gate five with Glen Boss to ride.
Eurozone hasn’t had another run since his nose second to Moment Of Change and if he runs up to that form will be hard to beat back against his own age.
Thunder Fantasy will jump from gate six with Mark Zahra and will also be better for his first up run when he scored an impressive one and three quarter lengths win over Rock Hero in the Group 2 $220,000 Hyland Race Colours Autumn Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 8.
Rock Hero has drawn awkwardly at ten but will be able to follow Shamus Award across and jockey Michael Rodd was impressed with the Sydney colt’s Cranbourne barrier trial win since running second to Thunder Fantasy.
Matthew Allen on The Quarterback will be hoping for a solid pace up front to give him a chance to settle back in the field from barrier eleven and make his usual last surge in the straight.
Prince Harada is gradually improving with every run and will jump from barrier seven with new jockey Corey Brown in the saddle.
Ladbrokes.com.au market order for the Australian Guineas has Hucklebuck the $3.70 favourite just ahead of Eurozone at $4.40 and Shamus Award at $6.50.
The Quarterback is next in the betting at $10 ahead of Thunder Fantasy at $12, Criterion at $13, Teronado at $14, Prince Harada at $15 and Rock Hero at $16.