Kumaon will be the sole Darley representative in the Champagne Stakes 2014 and trainer Peter Snowden is expecting an improved effort from the Lonhro colt in the Group 1 event at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Kumaon made his racing debut with a narrow win over Cyclone in the Schweppes Golden Gift (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens on December 21 and was sent for a stint in the spelling paddock after finishing third in the 2014 ATC Membership On Sale Plate (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens on January 4 before returning to the races with an unlucky second in the Group 2 Pago Pago Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 29.
The talented colt was well-backed in the lead-up to the Group 1 Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 12, but clearly did not relish the heavy surface and was never able to get into the race.
Snowden told TVN that Kumaon has taken no harm out of his run in the 2014 Champagne Stakes and is confident that the two-year-old can return to his best form if the Royal Randwick surface remains dry this weekend.
“He has done really well,” Snowden said.
“The prospect of a good track on Saturday certainly enhances his chances; he didn’t handle the heavy ground at all last start.
“I am really happy with his work, a mile I think poses no problems for him, but he definitely needs a good track.”
Kumaon will jump from the inside barrier in the Champagne Stakes on Saturday and Snowden said that he is happy to draw the inside rail after Australian Turf Club officials announced earlier in the week that the railed would be pushed out by nine metres.
“Barrier one he has come up which is a good thing,” Snowden said.
“He doesn’t have pace, but at least he is going to be close to the fence and that just may be the place to be with the rail out nine metres, it may favor those inside horses.”
Kumaon is currently available at 2014 Champagne Stakes odds of $17; with Peggy Jean ($3) a narrow favourite from Veuvelicious ($3.30), Bachman ($5), Go Indy Go ($7) and Scratch Me Lucky ($9.50).
Snowden is chasing his fourth win in the past five editions of the Champagne Stakes after previously winning the race with Skilled (2010), Helmet (2011) and Guelph (2013).