Racing: Baker seeks double at Flemington

By Mike Dillon

Highlad (outer) will use the UCI 3YO Stakes at Flemington today as a stepping stone to the Victoria Derby. Photo / Race Images
Highlad (outer) will use the UCI 3YO Stakes at Flemington today as a stepping stone to the Victoria Derby. Photo / Race Images

Cambridge trainer Murray Baker jumped on a flight from Auckland to Melbourne yesterday and, no, he did not run to the aircraft.

You probably could have forgiven him if he had.

At Flemington tomorrow , Baker will saddle unbeaten Highlad for the A$120,000 UCI 3YO Stakes and classy filly Eleonora before the A$200,000 Edward Manifold Stakes.

Despite that he was leaving plenty behind for co-trainer Andrew Forsman - Mime and St Emillion in the $250,000 Livamol Classic at Hastings today.

And about the time Baker's flight was crossing the west coast of New Zealand another stable star Turn Me Loose was producing a sizzling exhibition gallop at Te Rapa races in company with Barbaric.

Highlad, winner of the Wanganui Guineas at just his second raceday appearance, steps from 1380m to 1800m and has drawn barrier No 18.

Fortunately on his back will be the man who knows Flemington better than any other, Damien Oliver.

"Flemington is a track you can sit three wide on provided you get cover," said Baker. Highlad looks a stayer in the making and is heading towards the 2500m Victoria Derby, so the 1800m tomorrow should not be a problem. "He's done very well in Australia."

Eleonora is also stepping up - 1300m to 1600m, but that definitely won't be an issue. She is a grand-daughter of Caulfield/Melbourne Cup winner Ethereal and finished powerfully to finish second to talented Astara in the 1600m Champagne Stakes at Ellerslie in the autumn.

Interestingly, when down to make her Australian debut last start, rain caused the grass track meeting to be transferred and she raced on the artificial Pro-Ride surface at Geelong.

"We didn't have a choice, she had to have a race to get her ready for this week," said Baker.

Damien Oliver kept Eleonora fore a late dash and she swept past the leaders with 120m to run. The 1600m on the vast expanses of Flemington should suit ideally. "As you'd expect, she's a real staying type and she is aiming at the Oaks."

Much of the rain that decimated South Australia on Thursday tracked north of Melbourne as it headed east, but more rain is predicted today and possibly tomorrow for Melbourne.

If it arrives it will suit Sofia Rosa in the A$500,000 Turnbull Stakes. She has not been suited by the 1400m and 1600m races in two starts in Melbourne so far, but the 2000m on the roomy Flemington will be more to her liking.

She got a long way back in the Makybe Diva last start and the best part of her race was the closing 200m.

The possibility of some suitable rain and the long run home is what she has been looking for.

Perhaps place money might be the best aim for Sofia Rosa - she has to face Hartnell, who could not have been more stylish in winning the Hill Stakes at Randwick last start.

His Melbourne form last year was not so brilliant, but he looks a much improved horse. At $2.10 on the Australian TAB yesterday he looked pretty good value.

- NZ Herald

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