The 2014 Chelmsford Stakes field has been released, with leading Sydney trainer Chris Waller set to have six of the nine runners in the Group 2 event at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Waller won the 2013 Chelmsford Stakes with Hawkspur and the Group 1 winner has been given the opportunity to defend his crown in the $175,000 race on Saturday.
Hawkspur (barrier six) has not recorded another race win since he stormed home late to win the Chelmsford Stakes by three and a half lengths last year, but has produced two promising performances in the Group 2 Missile Stakes (1200m) and Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) since starting his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign.
Talented mare Royal Descent (barrier one) finished a tough second in the Warwick Stakes and is primed to record her first race win in over a year in the Chelmsford Stakes.
Royal Descent has not returned to the winners stall since she romped home in the 2013 Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m), but she has been placed at Group level on five occasions and has performed well over a mile.
Sacred Falls (barrier three) finished a close fourth in the Warwick Stakes and is also set to back-up in the Chelmsford Stakes, while Moriarty and Junoob will be having their second race starts of their preparation after resuming in Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m).
Rounding out Waller runners in the 2014 Chelmsford Stakes field is Bagman (barrier five), who will be chasing his third straight win after recording back-to-back wins at Moonee Valley on August 2 and Caulfield on August 16.
Leading the charge against the Waller team in the Chelmsford Stakes will be Cox Plate hopeful Criterion, who resumed with a fighting third behind Tiger Tees and Royal Descent in the Warwick Stakes.
Criterion (barrier eight) won both the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) over staying trips during the 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, but he has performed well over a mile fresh and finished second behind Shamus Award in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington earlier this year.
Joseph Pride-trained Laser Hawk (barrier four) returned to the races for the first time in over a year with a fair performance in the Group 2 Missile Stakes (1200m), but was scratched from the Warwick Stakes due to the heavy Royal Randwick track.
Pride believes that Laser Hawk will take a few runs before he returns to anywhere near his best form, but he remains confident that the Artie Schiller gelding can be competitive at the highest level of racing during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival.
One of the most interesting runners in the Chelmsford Stakes field is progressive stayer Entirely Platinum, who will be making his debut at Group 2 level.
Entirely Platinum (barrier seven) started his spring preparation with a comfortable win in the Canterbury Hurlstone RSL Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on August 16 and is on a path towards the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m), but will likely need to record a win at Group level to quality for a start in the race.
Waller is chasing his third straight win in the Chelmsford Stakes after winning with Danleigh in 2012 and Hawkspur last year.