Co-trainer Stephen Autridge has named September’s Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes as an early Group 1 spring target for the stable’s visiting Kiwi galloper Xtravagant would could go all the way to Cox Plate Day.
Prepared in Matamata, New Zealand, by Autridge and Jamie Richards the Pentire stallion was last seen winning the Group 3 Breeders Stakes (1200m) at home at Te Rapa in late April.
That followed the now four-year-old’s first trip to Australia where he failed to finish in the money running a disappointing eighth to Palentino as a beaten $2.80 fancy in Flemington’s Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) on March 5.
A winner of six of his 10 career starts to date, Xtravagant is best known for his two Group 1 New Zealand wins in the 2015 NZ 2000 Guineas and this February’s NRM Sprint.
That’s the kind of form Autridge is hoping the horse can return to this campaign bringing his best back to Melbourne following his look around the Flemington track on Tuesday morning with Damien Oliver in the saddle.
“He just stretched his legs and Damien was very happy with him. He wasn’t out to do much, he’ll have a jumpout [over 800m] on Friday where Damien will ride,” Autridge told Racenet.
“He’s settled in better than he did last time we were here. It was a bit of a rush last time, we wanted to get here a bit early and get settled.”
The stable is eyeing a first-up return for the consistent entire in the $120,000 Listed Chandler Macleod Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley Racecourse on Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes Day, September 3.
“Depending on how the jumpout goes then that’s the race we’re looking at,” Autridge said.
“Ideally we’re looking to get him to relax a bit better and run a strong mile and further – not ride him back, just get him to settle in behind the lead.”
From there he could be stepped up to elite level company in the $500,000 Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) three weeks later at Caulfield Racecourse, a race won for the past two years by Darren Weir with Trust In A Gust (2014) and Stratum Star (2015).
Autridge also named Flemington’s $500,000 Group 1 Yellowglen Turnbull Stakes (2000m) on Sunday October 2 over the AFL Grand Final long weekend for Xtravagant.
The big goal is to have the horse peaking for a shot at the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) back at the Valley on October 22, a campaign he’ll only continue on if he shows up in the Sir Rupert and Turnbull.
“Depending on how we go in those we’ll make the call on the Cox Plate or if we have to look at something else,” Autridge said.
Xtravagant is nominated for this season’s Cox Plate, a race last won by a New Zealander with the Gary Hennessy-trained Ocean Park back in 2012.
He is currently rated a $26 chance in futures Cox Plate markets at Ladbrokes.com.au led by Chris Waller’s defending champ Winx.