Co-trainers Matthew Ellerton and Simon Zahra will run their in-form sprinter Durendal in the easier Listed $120,000 John Dillon Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Tuesday after being scratched from the Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley last Saturday.
Durendal was one of the top fancies in the weight for age Group 2 $200,000 Jeep Australia Stakes (1200m) but the training duo elected to keep him to the handicap conditions at this stage of his career.
The Medaglia D’Oro four year old made it a hat trick of wins with his three quarters of a length victory in the Group 3 $150,000 Standish Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on New Year’s Day and Ellerton and Zahra were tempted to test him out at weight for age in a classy Group 2 field last weekend.
Durendal had won his previous two starts with wins in a 1400m BenchMark 84 Handicap at Ballarat followed by a win in a 1200m Handicap down the Flemington straight on December 12.
“(The Australia Stakes) was weight-for-age and Tuesday’s race is a handicap so we’ve opted to keep him in a handicap,” Ellerton told racing.com.
“His 1200m record is pretty good but he’s a versatile horse and Tuesday looks an easier race than Saturday.
“He’s been up a while but he’s had a little freshen up the farm since he won the Standish and all’s well going into Tuesday.”
Durendal has drawn the inside barrier in the twelve horse field and regular rider Damian Lane is in the saddle again.
Lane has been on Durendal’s back in four of his last five starts but missed out on his Ballarat win when Ben Melham steered him to victory.
Durendal has been installed the $2.90 favourite at Ladbrokes.com.au for the John Dillon Stakes ahead of last start winner Duke Of Brunswick at $4.
The Mick Price trained Duke Of Brunswick is also racing is career best form with two wins from three starts this campaign.
Duke Of Brunswick resumed from a winter spell to score a first up win in a BenchMark 78 Handicap at Pakenham over 1200m on November 29 followed by a second over 1400m at Caulfield in a BenchMark 84 Handicap on December 26 before returning to the winner’s stall last start.
Duke Of Brunswick has drawn awkwardly at gate eleven in the original draw with Nicholas Hall retaining the mount.
John Dillon Stakes market order at Ladbrokes.com.au: $2.90 Durendal, $4 Duke Of Brunswick, $6 Tried And Tired, $13 Tudor, Baligari, $16 Amorino, Whistle Baby, $17 Mighty Like, Nicoscene, $21 Taddei Tondo, Judges, $101 Mister Milton.