Former first-class leg spin bowler Murray Baker will attempt a hat-trick of group one wins on the racetrack this weekend.
Baker, who played 17 first-class games of cricket between 1966 and 1975, will produce Turn Me Loose in today's group one CF Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield as well as Saint Emilion and Jon Snow in the Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa and Luna Rossa and Saracino in the NRM Sprint (1400m), also at Te Rapa.
Baker, who trains in partnership with Andrew Forsman at Cambridge, was upbeat about his prospects in all three races, especially with five-year-old Iffraaj entire Turn Me Loose, who was fourth in last year's Orr Stakes resuming before he claimed his third group one win in the Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield a fortnight later.
"He's got a good record at Caulfield and we're very happy with his work leading into this race," Baker said.
"The race the other day [Australian Stakes over 1200m] was too short for him. We knew that but we had to get a race into him to fit him for the 1400m this week. They equalled the track record at Moonee Valley that night and just went too fast for him.
"But at Caulfield they have to race uphill and it's a bit more of a test over 1400m. He won the Futurity there last year and we're happy with him."
Closer to home, Baker and Forsman have live chances in both weight-for-age features at Te Rapa with Jon Snow rated a $6.80 fourth favourite for the Herbie Dyke and Saint Emilion at $16 for the same race.
"Jon Snow has got to prove he can get the trip but he does tough it out to the line. He has been narrowly beaten in his last three races, not more than a length from the winner in any of them, and three-year-olds do have a good record in this race," Baker said.
"Saint Emilion has been freshened up since Auckland and we're happy with him. He really is a 2000m horse and he's proven at weight-for-age."
In the NRM Sprint, the stable will saddle three-year-olds Saracino ($9.50) and Luna Rossa ($25), though Baker was hoping for easing of track conditions to fuel his confidence.
"We would have liked to have seen the rain that was forecast for Luna Rossa and Saracino - and for Jon Snow - but it didn't come. We just hope there's plenty of water going on," Baker said.
"Saracino is a good horse. His first-up run was a bit of a write-off but he's improved a ton. Luna Rossa just got outpaced at Wellington last time.
Baker and Forsman have several other runners at Te Rapa, including last-start Desert Gold Stakes winner Nicoletta and Desert Gold-placed Bonneval in the Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m).
- NZ Racing Desk