Fresh off his incredible 10th Group 1 win for the 2014-15 racing season, Sydney’s Chris Waller will again be well represented in the weekend’s feature race with a trio of nominees for the $175,000 Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m).
This Saturday his attention turns back home to Sydney with the Villiers Stakes stealing the spotlight at Royal Randwick.
Nominations for the quality handicap showdown have been extended until 11am (AEDT) on Tuesday, but of the current 17 entries Waller prepares three.
His most notable hopeful is last start Festival Stakes winner I’m Imposing.
The Danehill Dancer gelding may be nine-years-old but he’s proving an evergreen veteran after beating home a similar field of rivals by a narrow margin in the Listed Festival Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill on November 29.
That was an improved effort as he relished being back down in class after running second last to cross 14th behind Hucklebuck in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on November 8.
Also running in the Festival Stakes trifecta for Waller and backing up in the Villiers Stakes is third over the line Strawberry Boy.
Formerly prepared by Gai Waterhouse, the six-year-old Redoute’s Choice gelding was backing up in the Festival Stakes following a first-up win in the Listed Ladies Day Stakes (1400m) at Hawkesbury on November 6.
Waller’s third Villiers Stakes hope this year is then the American-bred Mizzen Mast gelding Multilateral, winner of the Wyong Cup back in September and sixth over the line two and a half lengths off his winning stable mate in the Festival Stakes.
The Festival Stakes is the traditional Villiers Stakes lead-up every Sydney Summer Racing Carnival and again this year provides the bulk of the nominations for the Group 2 showdown.
The other most notable Festival Stakes graduates nominated for this Saturday’s feature race are the Scott Aspery-trained runner-up Estonian Princess and fifth placegetter Sir Moments who were both under two lengths off the winner.
Snitzel mare Estonian Princess is likely to be the best fancied of the mares for this year’s Villiers Stakes win after she finished just a nostril flare off I’m Imposing last time out.
That followed on from a number of good spring runs in both Sydney and Melbourne including her fifth behind Bonaria when beaten one and three-quarter lengths in the Group 1 Myer Classic (1600m) at Flemington on Derby Day.
The Steven O’Dea-trained Sir Moments won the Queensland Guineas – Daybreak Lover Stakes double in Brisbane during the winter before winning against at the Gold Coast in mid-November ahead of his fifth in the Festival Stakes.
Last year’s Villiers Stakes winner Ninth Legion came via an unplaced run in the Festival Stakes when 11th in the lead-up, a position this year’s highest rated hope on Saturday Monton ran with the 60kg top weight.
Other notable Villiers Stakes nominations for 2014 include the Peter & Paul Snowden-trained Rose Of Choice coming off a Group 3 fourth at Sandown from Zipping Classic Day, Sam Kavanagh’s ATC Cup third placed seven-year-old Midsummer Sun and the Helen Page-trained Gold Coast raider Rudy coming off a Listed Recognition Stakes victory over the Doomben mile from November 29.
Rudy, along with the aforementioned Sir Moments, are out to break a 23-year drought for Queensland-trained horses in the Villiers Stakes.
His trainer Page was based in Sydney back in 1989 when she won the Villiers Stakes with Spot The Rock one year before the Lawrie Mayfield-Smith-trained Post Elect won (1990) and then Howard Wilson’s Shining Wind (1991) went back-to-back for the Sunshine State horses.
The other 2014 Villiers Stakes nominees are: Aomen, General Groove, Kaypers, Keep Cool, Mouro, Pelicano, Scream Machine and Surge Ahead.