Chris Waller is in the box seat ahead of Saturday week’s Group 1 JJ Atkins(1600m), with the leading Sydney trainer boasting two of the top chances for the $500,000 two-year-old race.
Just 17 horses remain in contention following today’s first acceptance deadline and occupying the top two positions in the ballot are the Waller-trained Zoustar and Vilanova.
Zoustar beat his stablemate in an all-Waller quinella in the BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes but his trainer was struggling to split the pair despite Saturday’s result.
“Vilanova will get his turn, they’re both nice colts. The other horse [Zoustar] just got a better run,” Waller said following the race.
Zoustar is unbeaten from three starts while Vilanova heads into the JJ Atkins on the back of consecutive runner-up finishes, having also taken second place in the Group 2 Champagne Classic.
The pair have proven too strong for most of their likely JJ Atkins rivals but one either is yet to meet is Sir Moments. The Steven O’Dea-trained gelding won the Listed Dalrello Stakes at his last start and will contest The Phoenix (1400m) on Saturday.
Joining Waller as the only other trainer to have more than one acceptor is Gai Waterhouse. The high profile Randwick trainer has kept both in-form gelding Romantic Touch and Sebring filly She’s Bella in contention.
Romantic Touch will chase a third straight win if he lines up on Saturday week and will head into the race on the back of a 7 1/2 length romp at Canterbury on May 22.
Others vying for JJ Atkins success include Darley colt Paximadia and Patinack Farm’s Hooked who finished fourth and fifth respectively in the BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes.