What a difference a year makes. This time last year, Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards was devastated after drawing the outside barrier with Te Akau Shark in the A$5 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m), while this year, he was overjoyed when drawing gate two for Group1-winning mare Probabeel.
"It is such a big help that Brendan [Lindsay, owner] was able to secure barrier two," Richards said. "It means we can ride a nice positive race and have her up in the first half of the field.
"In previous campaigns, she has been a bit slow away from the barrier, but she has been jumping with a bit of enthusiasm and putting herself up in the race this preparation, and hopefully we will be able to make use of that good barrier," he said.
The 4-year-old will be reunited with regular rider Kerrin McEvoy.
Probabeel will be looking to cap an already successful spring campaign on Saturday after winning two of her previous three starts, including the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) and Group 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m), after finishing runner-up in the Group 3 Sho Country Quality (1200m) first-up.
"She has had a great preparation," Richards said. "She came out and ran great in the Show County and was just beaten, she won the Bill Ritchie and the Epsom, so she brings in some really strong form.
"The key to that has been up on top of the ground in Sydney. She comes down to Melbourne and hopefully we can see a nice track there on Saturday."
Probabeel is a $9 prospect in a market headed by Russian Camelot ($4.80), who eased slightly after drawing the outside gate.
Meanwhile, Te Akau's other superstar mare Melody Belle will be making a hit-and-run raid to Melbourne for the A$2 million Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington on November 7.
The 12-time Group 1 winner has been in imperious form since returning to her homeland following two inconclusive runs in Sydney earlier this preparation, and trainer Jamie Richards, in consultation with her owners, is keen to have another tilt at the Mackinnon.
The 6-year-old mare won last year's Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington before a luckless second in the Mackinnon to Magic Wand a week later.
John Galvin, who manages the Melody Belle Fortuna Syndicate that owns the multiple New Zealand Horse of the Year, confirmed on the strength of her Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) triumph at Hawke's Bay last weekend.
"Last Thursday, Jamie messaged me to say how good Melody Belle's work had been on Thursday morning and that if we ran well on Saturday, we should give serious consideration to going to the Mackinnon because she was going so good," Galvin said.
"We agreed she would have to perform superbly well for us to make that call, and of course that is what she did. She annihilated that field.
"When we weighed it up, 2000m at Flemington, A$2m race, hit-and-run raid, just go there and come back, it seemed the perfect race for her.
"She was desperately unlucky last year in the same event and she is probably going better now than she was then."
- NZ Racing Desk