The 2014 Alister Clark Stakes is set to be a most interesting tactical race; with several of the leading chances faring poorly in the barrier draw for the Group 2 event that will be run at Moonee Valley on Friday night.
Vilanova returned to his best form with an impressive win over Countersnip and Alpha Beat in the Group 2 Autumn Classic (1800m) at Caulfield on February 22, but will need some luck in the Alister Clark Stakes after drawing barrier 13.
The Commands gelding had his first look at Moonee Valley in a trackwork gallop on Monday and according to Justine Hales, the Melbourne representative for the Waller stable, he worked strongly and has taken plenty of benefit out of his Autumn Classic victory.
Surge Ahead also worked at Moonee Valley on Monday ahead of the Alister Clark Stakes and, like Vilanova, did not fare well in the barrier draw for the $220,000.
The Danehill Dancer gelding performed fairly in both the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on February 15 and Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at the same venue on March 1, but will need to improve to win from barrier 12 in the Alister Clark Stakes on Friday night.
Arguably the biggest loser from the 2014 Alister Clark Stakes barrier draw was David Hayes-trained Honey Steel’s Gold, who will jump from the outside of the field with in-form hoop Stephen Baster on his back.
Honey Steel’s Gold failed to live up to his potential during the 2013 Spring Racing Carnival, with his campaign highlighted by a fourth place finish in the Group 3 Norman Robinson Stakes (2000m), but he scored his third career win in the Mistable Handicap (1800m) at Sandown on March 5 and based on his previous form will relish the step up to 2000 metres.
Scratchy Bottom is set to be the only filly in the 2014 Alister Clark Stakes, with Pat Carey-trained filly Blue Eyes the second emergency, and the lightly-raced galloper will jump from barrier eight on Friday night.
The daughter of Sebring has recorded two wins from four career starts and will be stepping up to 1400 metres for the first time in her racing career after working home fairly when fourth in the Group 3 The Vanity (1400m) at Flemington on February.
Other key runners in the 2014 Alister Clark Stakes field include Wendy Kelly-trained Late Charge (barrier 11), Star Thoroughbreds-owned Pheidon (barrier ten) and last start winner Cadillac Mountain (barrier two).