A star-studded field awaits Kiwi raider Probabeel in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Saturday, where she will clash with the likes of Behemoth, Arcadia Queen, Ole Kirk and last-start Group 1 winner Streets Of Avalon.
The Jamie Richards-trained mare was victorious first-up in the Group 3 Bellmaine Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield earlier this month but Richards is aware it will be a major step up on Saturday.
Like a number of her key rivals, Probabeel will be using the Futurity as a stepping stone to next month's All-Star Mile (1600m) which carries A$5 million in prizemoney, a whopping 10 times the worth of tomorrow's A$500,000 Group 1.
A stable fond of following successful patterns, Probabeel took out the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) in her third start in the spring and Richards said they are trying to follow a similar formula this time.
"We are just trying to replicate what we were able to achieve in the spring — third-up into a nice mile race, and hopefully we can do the job again. It will be a big thrill if we could," he told Racing.com.
"It's a great field and a great dress rehearsal for three weeks in the All-Star Mile. There is nowhere to hide. This is her first decent crack over the shorter trips at weight-for-age. She ran in the Cox Plate (Group 1, 2040m) before that and has won an Epsom, under the handicap conditions, so this is a big step up for her.
"She is a Group 1 winner in the spring in Sydney, so I would say that is good enough form, but when you are against the likes of Arcadia Queen, Behemoth, and Ole Kirk, who is a real hot-shot three-year-old, you can't go in too confident."
Probabeel ($3.60) is the second elect behind Behemoth ($3.20), who boasts Group 1 victories at Caulfield over 1400m in both the Memsie Stakes and Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (when carrying top weight) in spring.
Probabeel has again drawn wide (nine) in the 10-horse field, but will get her preferred good ground as she looks to add a third career Group 1.
Meanwhile, Richards reported Melody Belle has come through her unplaced run in the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) last weekend in good fettle, having been sent out a $1.30 favourite.
"It was a pretty tough watch last Saturday with her," he said. "She just had no luck and got held up and she had no room in the straight.
"We have just got to turn the page. Everyone keeps asking 'is there something wrong with her?' She is 100 per cent, it just wasn't her day.
"She has pulled up great and is in good form at home. She will trial again on March 2 at Rotorua and then she will head to the Bonecrusher (Group 1, 2000m) at Ellerslie, a race she has won before."
All going to plan, an Australian campaign could be in the offing.
"That has been the plan all the way through, to try and get this record for the Group 1s and then come across and enhance her value a bit more with some more Group 1s and group races in Australia," Richards said.
- NZ Racing Desk