Cox Plate winner Shamus Award headlines the Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) that has brought together a small by high quality field at Caulfield on Saturday.
The Orr Stakes boast five Group 1 winners from the final eight acceptors with Shamus Award stepping out for the first time since leading all of the way to win last year’s Group 1 $3m Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 26.
Carnival jockey Craig Williams is back aboard the three year old replacing apprentice Chad Schofield who was able to ride at the feather weight of 49.5kg when he led all of the way to win the weight for age Championship of Australasia in the Spring.
Williams is likely to choose to go forward on the Snitzel colt from the outside barrier of the eight horse field.
Trainer Danny O’Brien has Shamus Award primed for a bold first up showing at weight for age as he heads towards the Group 1 $500,000 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on March 1.
“He’s there to win. It’s a Group One race,” O’Brien told AAP.
“He’s not using it as a warm-up. He’s ready to win. He’ll improve obviously going forward but we won’t be making any excuses for him.”
“He’s a colt going first-up into a 1400 metre race and he’s an on-speed horse.”
“If you are going to be running on in a 1400 metre race you could probably have them a little bit underdone. But when you are going to be on the bunny, you are going to have to be reasonably close to your top.”
O’Brien will decide after the C.F. Orr Stakes if the three year old will need another run before heading to the Australian Guineas.
“He’s definitely going to the Australian Guineas, we’ll decide after the Orr whether he needs another run,” O’Brien said.
“If he does run again the logical race would be the Futurity.”
The Group 1 $500,000 Cathay Pacific Futurity Stakes (1400m) is also run at Caulfield two weeks after the C.F. Orr Stakes but is only one week out from the Australian Guineas.
The only other three year old in the C.F. Orr Stakes is the Bart and James Cummings trained Eurozone who will jump from gate six with Damien Oliver in the saddle.
The powerful Chris Waller stable will be represented by multiple Group 1 winner Foreteller and Queensland Derby winner Hawkspur with both runners having their start since running down the track in last year’s Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington in November.
Foreteller has drawn barrier two with regular rider Craig Newitt aboard while Hawkspur will jump from the inside gate with Michael Walker hoping to be fit to ride after suffering an ankle injury at Benalla on Tuesday.
Perth Group 1 winner Playing God (barrier 4) is also resuming with Steven Parnham to ride and has shown in the past that he can match it with the eastern staters when third to Black Caviar in the 2012 C.F. Orr Stakes.
Peter Moody expects Moment Of Change (barrier 7) to strip a much fitter horse after a first up second in the Group 2 $220,000 Essendon Mazda Australia Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on January 24 and will have Luke Nolen back in the saddle.