Racing: Highlad faces testing task

NZ Victoria Derby hopeful again cops the visitors’ draw in Caulfield leadup.
Damien Oliver will need plenty of luck when he rides Highlad (outer) at Caulfield on Saturday. Picture / Race Images
Damien Oliver will need plenty of luck when he rides Highlad (outer) at Caulfield on Saturday. Picture / Race Images

Victorian jockey Damien Oliver will have his skills tested when he partners Cambridge colt Highlad at Caulfield on Saturday.

Highlad will start from the outside barrier (14) when he takes on a strong field in the A$500,000 Ladbrokes Classic (2000m).

The luck of the draw also went against Highlad at his previous start. He drew one from the outside before finishing third in the UCI Stakes (1800m) at Flemington.

Highlad went forward at Flemington but trainer Murray Baker will not weigh Oliver down with instructions on Saturday. "We will leave it up to Ollie," Baker said. ""He's won 105 group one races."

Highlad has had only three starts and also drew out when he won the Wanganui Guineas before heading to Melbourne.

"We are pretty happy with him," Baker said. "He has taken improvement from his last run.

"He did a lot of work into a strong wind last start. It was also his first run for a month and he stuck on well. I think he's a pretty good horse."

Highlad is as short as $10 on some markets for the Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on October 29 and another good run would confirm he was on target.

"Hopefully, he will go well enough for Oliver to stick with him [in the Derby]," Baker said.

Highlad, a High Chaparral colt, did not even trial till August. He won a trial on a heavy track at Te Teko before winning a maiden 1200m first-up, on a slow track at Avondale.

He then beat Manhattan Street on a slow track in the Wanganui Guineas (1340m). He coped with a good track at Flemington but would be suited by the jar being out of the track.

"A bit of rain wouldn't hurt him," he said.

The Ladbrokes Classic includes the first six home in the UCI Stakes and leading Victoria Derby contenders Seaburge and Good Standing.

Seaburge rushed home for second in last weekend's Caulfield Guineas and Good Standing had a rocky run when unplaced in the Guineas.

Seaburge and Good Standing opened as $3.50 joint favourites in the early Australian markets, with Highlad third favourite at $8.

Oliver will also partner Highlad's stablemate Eleonora in the Ethereal Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield.

Eleonora, who was never clear when unplaced over 1600m at her last start, is being aimed at the A$1 million Victoria Oaks (2500m) on November 3.

"We are pretty happy with her and we do think she's a stayer," Baker said.

The other New Zealand-trained runners at Caulfield will be Fanatic (Caulfield Cup), Blizzard (Coongy Cup) and Shillelagh (Tristarc Stakes). Hong Kong-based Zac Purton will ride Blizzard and Shillelagh.

A strong contingent of North Island horses and riders will be in action at Ashburton on Saturday.

The main attraction is the $50,000 Barnswood Stakes (1400m) for 3-year-olds, with six of the 10 runners trained in the north, including the leading 2000 Guineas hopes Heroic Valour and Sweet Leader.

Heroic Valour will race in blinkers and a tongue tie for the first time.

The northern riders at Ashburton will include Matt Cameron, Mark Du Plessis, Craig Grylls, Michael McNab, Rosie Myers, Sam Collett and Alysha Collett.

Celebrity Miss will defend her title in the Jakkalberry Classic (1700m) at Rotorua on Saturday and Scapolo, the runner-up last year, No More Tears and speedy 3-year-old Ferrando are among 11 runners in the weight-for-age Sweynesse Stakes (1215m).

South Australian trainer Grant Kluske has to pinch himself to make sure it's not a dream he has a runner in the Caulfield Cup.

The Kluske-trained Go Dreaming snuck into the Cup as No 18 in a 20-horse field, which has two emergencies.

That doesn't matter to 55-year-old Kluske who has been training for only two years after making a semi career change on his 50th birthday from selling real estate.

Based at Strathalbyn, Kluske learned the horse training craft from the late Mick Whittle, and while no clone, he has adapted a number of his methods.

Whittle was renowned for working his horses from a car around the paddocks of his Strathalbyn property, a practice Kluske has adopted.

Go Dreaming was bought for $9000 with ambitions of a Strathalbyn or Port Lincoln Cup, but has managed bigger prizes including the Onkaparinga Cup at Oakbank and the listed Japan Trophy at Morphettville last year.

Go Dreaming's spring campaign has been plagued by wet tracks until his last start fourth in the JRA Cup at Moonee Valley on September 30.

"At Moonee Valley the other night that's the first time he's had a run on top of the ground this campaign and he really needed it, but he pulled up well," Kluske said.

"We got back at 11 o'clock to where we were staying. I went out at five o'clock the next morning to pick him up to go home and he'd licked out the bowl.

"I was that pleased with him."

There have been some punters also dreaming of a Go Dreaming victory with the stayer shortening from $301 to $101 after coming up with barrier one in the draw.

Kiwis at Caulfield

• Highlad will start from the outside gate at the tricky 2000m barrier.

• He will also appreciate any easing of the track.

• Eleonora could be a sound each-way prospect in the fillies' 2000m event.

- NZ Racing Desk, AAP

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