Five three-year-old group one runners within a fortnight and all in different races.
That is a likely scenario for Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman as their outstanding team of 3-year-olds prepare to tackle rich assignments on both sides of the Tasman.
Three of the horses will be in action at Flemington and two at Riccarton. The Melbourne group one hopefuls will comprise Highlad in the A$1.5 million Victoria Derby (2500m) and Saracino in the A$500,000 Coolmore Stakes (1200m) on October 29 and Eleonora in the A$1 million Victoria Oaks (2500m) on November 3.
The stable's team for the New Zealand Cup meeting at Riccarton Park is expected to include Jon Snow in the $400,000 Two Thousand Guineas (1600m) on November 5 and Honey Rider in the $300,000 One Thousand Guineas (1600m) a week later.
Meanwhile, stablemate La Luna Rossa will tackle a A$200,000 group two fillies' 1600m at Moonee Valley on Saturday and Honey Rider will complete her Riccarton buildup in the listed Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie.
It has already been a rewarding spring for the stable's 3-year-olds, with the black type tally including four group wins, a listed win and a pair of group two placings.
None of the group one assignments will be easy but all the horses have earned a crack against the best of their generation.
Baker has won 18 group one races in Australia, including four Derbys and the South Australian Oaks, but Eleonora will be just his second Victoria Oaks runner, the first being Twilight Zone, who was unplaced in 1990.
Eleonora is third favourite after her convincing Ethereal Stakes win at Caulfield last weekend.
She is likely to go straight into the Oaks, rather than have another leadup race in the Wakeful Stakes on Saturday week.
"She doesn't need a lot of racing and the Wakeful is just five days before the Oaks," Baker said. "Flemington can get pretty firm and I wouldn't want to risk jarring her up."
Eleonora was still a maiden when Baker sent her to Melbourne but had not been out of the money and was stakes-placed at two, over 1600m.
"She had had a limited amount of racing but we always thought she was a nice staying horse. She finished it off nicely [in the Ethereal] and I thought she won with a bit in hand."
Highlad failed at Caulfield last Saturday but had a genuine excuse after being trapped three or four wide, on a day when a strong wind made if difficult for any horse without cover.
He started from the outside barrier at Caulfield and is due a good barrier in the Derby. "He has come through the race well and he wasn't knocked around in the straight," Baker said. "I do think he will stay."
Saracino has been a dual group two winner this term and will come back to 1200m in the Coolmore, after peaking on his run when sixth in the 1600m Caulfield Guineas.
Baker prepared Dal Cielo to run sixth in the Coolmore last year, after the horse had failed in the Caulfield Guineas, but Saracino will face a top field with Astern, Star Turn, Extreme Choice, Flying Artie and Capitalist among his likely rivals.
Mark Zahra will ride Luna Rossa on Saturday. The filly, who was ridden against her normal pattern when sixth in the Thousand Guineas, will race without blinkers and Saturday's race will also represent a drop in class.
A maximum of 11 runners are expected to accept for Saturday's Cox Plate today.
Winx was a $2 favourite yesterday, with Hartnell at $2.80. Black Heart Bart, three-year-old Yankee Rose and French galloper Vadamos shared the third line at $15.
- NZ Racing Desk