While the State Of Origin rugby league series kicks off in Sydney this Wednesday night, Saturday’s contest at Eagle Farm is developing into its own Queensland versus New South Wales battle in the Stradbroke Handicap.
The top four chances in the market order for the Group 1 $1.36m AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m), all three year olds, are evenly divided between Queensland and New South Wales.
Sydney trained Epaulette and Your Song will come up against Queensland pair Sizzling and Better Than Ready with only a breath between them in the betting.
The Peter Snowden trained Epaulette heads the market at $5 with the other three Stradbroke hopefuls at $6 each.
Snowden has confirmed that dual Group 1 winner Epaulette is in fine order following his win in the Group 1 $650,000 Carlton Mid Doomben 10,000 (1350m) at Doomben on May 25 and is ready to go on Saturday.
“I’ve had a look at Epaulette this weekend and he is in great order,” Snowden said.
“He’s trained on really well since the Doomben 10,000 and I’m confident he will be hard to beat although it won’t be easy for him with 56kg,
“The weight is terrible and if the handicaps were done before the 10,000, he would not have got 56kg.
“But I’m not whinging about it, we have to deal with what we’ve got, and I know the horse is as good as I can get him going into the Stradbroke.”
The Anthony Cummings trained Your Song was unplaced behind Epaulette at Doomben but created a huge impression with a five lengths victory in the mud in the Group 1 $400,000 Bundaberg Distilling Co. BTC Cup (1200m) at Eagle Farm on May 11.
Carrying the maroon colours will be Sizzling who returned to the winner’s list in the Group 2 $350,000 Sky Racing Queensland Guineas (1400m) at Eagle Farm last Saturday and immediately threw himself into Stradbroke contention.
It had always been Eagle Farm trainer Kelso Wood’s intention to keep Sizzling to his own age before tackling the Stradbroke against the older horses and the plan came to fruition and with the addition of blinkers the three year old was able to bounce back to form aided by an aggressive Chris Munce ride.
And alongside Wood’s colt is Kelly’s Schweida’s colt Better Than Ready, also trained at Eagle Farm.
Better Than Ready is primed to run the race of his life back to Eagle Farm and under Handicap conditions after two encouraging efforts at weight for age.
The More Than Ready colt ran home in the heavy conditions for a third to Your Song in the BTC Cup and then made up plenty of ground when fifth to Epaulette in the Doomben 10,000.
Better Than Ready has already been tested at this level when a gallant fifth to Shamexpress in this year’s Group 1 $1m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on March 9.
Go the Maroons!!!