The Listed Christmas Stakes (1200m) is one of two black-type racings running at Sandown Racecourse this Friday, with 11 sprinters set to tackle the Boxing Day feature race.
Robbie Laing has given himself a helping hand in the race by accepting with three of his four nominated horses – Lord Of The Sky, Mr Make Believe, and Boomwaa – opting not to run Hannaford.
The trainer had contemplated running both Lord Of The Sky and Mr Make Believe in the Group 3 Standish Handicap (1200m) at Flemington Racecourse on New Year’s Day but considered the Christmas Stakes the better option due to the lower weights and weaker competition.
“I was going to go to the Standish with Lord Of The Sky but I thought I’d just enter him in the Christmas Stakes to have a look and it came up light on numbers,” Laing told Racing Victoria.
“Mr Make Believe has been carrying big weights and he gets down to 55.5kg so he’d have to be a chance the way he’s going.
“I said to his owners that we might go to the Christmas Stakes because it might be a weaker option than the Standish.”
In another turn of luck for the trainer, four-year-old entire Lord of The Sky has scored the inside run from barrier one and will carry 59.5kg, which is down from the 60kg he carried to fourth place in the Listed Doveton Stakes (1000m) last time out.
Eight-year-old gelding Mr Make Believe carried a hefty 60.5kg in the Red Tempo Handicap (1000m) last time out but will enjoy a decrease of five kilograms in the Christmas Stakes – the same weight he rode to second place in the Doveton Stakes – as he jumps from barrier five.
Laing also opted to run Boomwaa in the Sandown race rather than the $80,000 Benchmark 84 handicap (1200m) at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
The three-year-old gelding is backing up from eighth place in the Fiesta Star Handicap (1200m) on Saturday. Laing is confident the horse can turn the result around as he carries the minimum weight of 54kg from barrier 10 as long as he doesn’t miss the start again.
“He probably missed the start by further than what he was beaten at Flemington on Saturday,” he said.
“He reared at the start and after they’d gone 100 metres he was in front. I reckon the gas he used in the first furlong was probably the difference between winning and losing.”
Laing’s confidence in all three of his runners is high with the trainer unable split the trio.
“You could throw a blanket across my three. Lord Of The Sky’s improved since his first-up run. Mr Make Believe beat him on that occasion and has held his form and Boomwaa’s been running terrifically with big weights,” he said.
However they don’t just have each other to worry about. Laing’s trio will also need to beat headliner Ready To Rip.