Quality stayer The Chosen One takes the next step in his build-up towards the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, when he tackles the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Sandown on Saturday.
The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained entire is one of just five runners in the AUD$1 million feature, with the presence of emerging star Zaaki (-333.33 favourite) too daunting for many.
While not expecting to upset the applecart, Baker, who cannot be in Melbourne due to COVID-19 restrictions, is keen to have a go in a race that has been good to the stable over the years.
“We’ve won it on four occasions, dating back to The Phantom in 1990 and then more recently with Lion Tamer (2011), Dundeel (2013) and Bonneval (2017),” Baker said.
“We’re very happy with The Chosen One. He was good in the Feehan (Group 2, 1600m) first-up (when third) and we haven’t done a lot with him. He may be looking for 2000m or a bit more now, but we’re bound to have a go.”
Saturday’s Underwood Stakes meeting will be hosted at Sandown after a spring carnival reshuffle that will see Caulfield host the Group 2 Zipping Classic (2400m) meeting at the end of the carnival.
“All of the tracks in Melbourne are good,” Baker said. “It is a nice track Sandown. They all get their chance.
“It is a small field, but it is a very good field. It could be a tactical race.”
Zaaki aside, rivals include fellow Kiwi Probabeel (+400), Feehan winner Superstorm (+1000) and Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) winner Fifty Stars (+3000), with The Chosen One rated a +1800 chance.
Damian Lane will ride the son of Savabeel on Saturday and Baker suggested he could race forward if required.
“Damian Lane is going to ride him on Saturday and I don’t know about the Caulfield Cup (Group 1, 2400m) yet. He has ridden him quite a bit off and on and he knows the horse,” Baker said.
“He will probably have one more run at Caulfield before the Caulfield Cup in either the Caulfield Stakes (Group 1, 2000m) or the Herbert Power (Group 2, 2400m).
“He won the Herbert Power two years ago and the positive is he is in the field for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, so we don’t have to push him to qualify.”
Baker is also pleased with stablemate Quick Thinker, who is stabled with his son Bjorn in Sydney at present and finished second in last week’s Group 3 Newcastle Gold Cup (2300m) under topweight.
“He went really well at Newcastle. He was very unlucky. He just got held up on the bend. Rory Hutchings rode a perfect race on him. He just went around in the trail and they never opened up on the bend and he had to tread water before getting out late. He ran home well and he had 5kgs more than the winner,” Baker said.
Quick Thinker will run in the Group 1 Metropolitan (2400m) and Kerrin McEvoy has been booked to ride.
Closer to home four-win mare Francesca will have her first tilt at black-type when she contests the Group 3 Boehringer Ingelheim Metric Mile (1600m) at Awapuni.
“It looks a pretty strong field. They would have had some rain and it will be a test (Heavy10). She is stepping to the mile for the first time,” Baker said.
“She has 53kgs and she is a trier and I just hope the track is not too bad.”
Baker and Forsman also have two-year-old Turn Me Loose filly Wessex and smart staying mare Robusto entered for Matamata on Saturday, but neither are guaranteed starters with the track a Heavy11 track after rain on Thursday.