Racing: Two Dargaville winners cap off today

Glamour colt Sepoy will be a star attraction at Caulfield on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images
Glamour colt Sepoy will be a star attraction at Caulfield on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images

Yesterday started well for trainer Steve McKee and only got better with a couple of winners at Dargaville.

The South Auckland horseman awoke to the news that Black Caviar had been pulled out of the Futurity Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday, thus markedly enhancing the prospects of his pride and joy Mufhasa.

New Zealand's leading sprinter-miler, who will be ridden by Nash Rawiller, drew barrier six in the 11-horse 1400m group one feature.

It is far from a vintage field with Australian journalists expecting the last Toorak Handicap winner to open up favourite and add to his three group one trophies already won this season.

One of his rivals will be old sparring partner Wall Street, who is now in the care of Mike Moroney. Cox Plate winner Pinker Pinker adds a touch of class to the field.

Although McKee will be kept busy with Mufhasa at Caulfield, he will probably be keeping a watchful eye on proceedings at Otaki, where 2007 Epsom Derby runner-up Eagle Mountain will make his New Zealand debut for the trainer.

The 8-year-old Rock Of Gibraltar entire, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, last raced on February 19, 2010, and could find the 1600m of the Haunui Farm Group One WFA Classic too short.

Meanwhile, back to Black Caviar. "I have put Nelly [Black Caviar] in the paddock - at a destination that I'm not disclosing as the mare deserves some peace and quiet - for the next couple of weeks. There's nothing wrong with her. To the contrary, she's at the top of her game," trainer Peter Moody told the Herald Sun on Tuesday.

The break is all geared around having her at her peak when she flies across to England for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

"That's the Royal Ascot race the owners have had their sights on for some time and everything is being tailored like a Savile Row suit to have her cherry ripe for that race on June 23," Moody said.

This means a possible showdown with unbeaten champion Frankel in the Queen Anne Stakes (1600m) on June 18 is now only a remote possibility.

However the great mare may be given an opportunity to win a record 20th race in Australia before leaving for overseas.

Black Caviar may have one or two starts in Adelaide or Brisbane before flying out to England late in May.

Moody has indicated there are three group one sprints that are suitable to ready Black Caviar for Royal Ascot: the Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m) at Morphettville on April 28, the Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville on May 12, and the BTC Cup (1200m) at Doomben on May 12.

It seems likely Adelaide is now favoured to see Black Caviar for the first time as the Robert Sangster Stakes is a set-weight race for mares and would be a walk in the park for the champion.

Moody could also run her in The Goodwood, a set weights and penalties race, if he feels she needs another start before leaving for England.

Despite the star attraction being missing, Saturday's Caulfield meeting is proof the fortunes of this Festival Of Racing do not rest on one horse's shoulders.

The Soft Sand story continues in the Angus Armanasco Stakes.

Colin Little rarely lets cats out of bags but he's been quite open in declaring Soft Sand something a bit special.

Everything points to the Oakleigh Plate being the defining, toughest race of Sepoy's career.

He is a champion 3-year-old but the Plate represents the next chapter.

His amazing improvement in the past two weeks has convinced trainer Peter Snowden to attempt a weight-carrying record with the Dubai-bound colt.

Snowden said Sepoy, who has been defeated just once in 11 starts, was leaner than ever before for a first-up run in Saturday's 1100m helter-skelter sprint with 58kg on his back.

Sepoy has 1kg more than last year's winner Eagle Falls and will be giving as much as 6kg to eight of the other 16 runners.

Snowden said the weight difference between Sepoy and the older horses had been a concern but in the end the star colt was primed to run.

"He has improved so much in a fortnight I can't believe it," Snowden told Radio Sport National yesterday.

"Normally, he is round and burly first-up but to me he looks like he's had a run and tightened up really nicely."

Snowden said a Flemington jumpout two weeks ago and subsequent trackwork had brought on Sepoy more than he could have imagined.

"He looks in great order and I'm very happy with the way he's been working. To my eye, the way the horse looks he needs to run.

"The work he did yesterday morning really topped him off and I feel he is going to run very well on Saturday."

Sepoy would be the highest-weighted 3-year-old to win the Oakleigh Plate, eclipsing the 57kg record set by Fastnet Rock in 2005.

Doubts about him setting a new weight mark surfaced when Sepoy eased from $2 to $2.30 after strong support for the Jason Warren-trained Bel Sprinter, who was backed in from $4.40 to $3.20.

The winner of five of his six starts, Bel Sprinter has 54kg in the Oakleigh Plate and is the only other horse in the market under double-figure odds.

Early punters also jumped on board the Peter Moody-trained Curtana, who has firmed from $31 to the fourth line of betting at $18.

Facile Tigre, First Command and African Pulse are $15.

Kerrin McEvoy will ride Sepoy, who is resuming after an unbeaten spring campaign with his last of five wins that preparation being the Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on October 29.


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