Front runner Oxford Poet is looking for back to back wins when he steps out in the Listed $150,000 Winter Challenge (1500m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
Oxford Poet has drawn barrier six in the ten horse field and jockey Tim Clark is hoping for a repeat performance that saw the pair lead all of the way to win Listed $150,000 Winter Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill on July 16.
The Kim Waugh trained five year old will be facing a tougher assignment this week after going up 3kg on his last start win and he is yet to win beyond 1400m.
Clark is confident that Oxford Poet can run out the extra distance in the Winter Challenge after being strong at the finish of the 1400m Winter Stakes.
“I think he can, he wasn’t really stopping the other day — I know the second horse (Zin Zan Eddie) was flying at him late but he was entitled to do that,” Clark said.
“He hasn’t won beyond 1400m but his only run beyond it was a half-length third over 1550m at Kensington back in 2013.”
The rail for Saturday’s meeting has been pushed out 3m and Clark said that could also play into Oxford Poet’s advantage.
“This week it goes out to the 3m position and generally helps horses on speed,” Clark said.
“It’s not a big advantage but it will help to offset the weight increase.”
Winter Stakes’ second and fourth placegetters Zin Zan Eddie and Marenostro will be facing off against Oxford Poet again in the Winter Challenge and both will meet him 1.5kg better at the weights.
Jason Collett sticks with Zin Zan Eddie who has drawn the rails and Tye Angland will again take the mount Marenostro who will jump from gate three.
Like Oxford Poet, Zin Zan Eddie hasn’t won over 1500m while the Chris Waller trained Marenostro will have no trouble with the distance, having won on seven occasions at 1500m and further.
Oxford Poet has been racing consistently over the Winter months and prior to his Winter Stakes win had been placed twice from three starts.
The Dylan Thomas gelding kicked off this current campaign with a second in the $85,000 Open Handicap (1100m) at Randwick followed by a third in the Listed $100,000 June Stakes (1100m) at Randwick on June 11 before running fifth in the Listed $100,000 Civic Stakes (1350m) at Rosehill on July 2.
Kerrin McEvoy takes the ride on the Waller trained topweight Tales Of Grimm who has drawn barrier seven while Rory Hutchings is aboard the stable’s third runner in the Winter Challenge, ex-Kiwi trained Sacred Master who has drawn awkwardly at gate nine.
Sacred Master will be having his first start for the Waller stable but while under the care of New Zealand trainer Tony Pike, the Mastercraftsman gelding performed well over a middle distance as well as over a staying journey with a win in the Group 2 NZ$100,000 Avondale Cup over 2400m at Ellerslie on February 20 followed by a third in the Group 1 NZ$500,000 Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie on March 12.