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Abbey Marie kicks off autumn in Orr Stakes

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Trainer Mick Kent will begin Abbey Marie’s campaign in the Group One Orr Stakes at Caulfield.

Trainer Mick Kent wishes he could wind the clock back more than 20 years to the days when the Group One C F Orr Stakes was run at Sandown.

The Orr over 1400m was transferred to Caulfield in 1997 and on Saturday it’s the first Group One race of the autumn carnival.

Past winners of the Orr at Sandown included Melbourne Cup winners from the previous year At Talaq (1987), Let’s Elope (1992) and Jeune (1995).

Saintly won the Melbourne Cup in 1996 before winning the Orr first-up at Caulfield, but in recent years the race has favoured horses who prefer a short-course.

Kent will saddle Abbey Marie on Saturday for her first start since her behind Boom Time in the Caulfield Cup.

The now five-year-old hasn’t been successful since winning the Australasian Oaks (2000m) at Morphettville in May 2016 at her third race start.

The then three-year-old became gravely ill soon after and has been restricted to nine starts since, although Kent believes the mare to be going as well as ever.

She was given a soft trial at Cranbourne over 990m on Monday, an effort that pleased Kent, however the trainer is concerned the 1400m around Caulfield may be too sharp.

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He has also nominated Abbey Marie for the T S Carlyon Cup (1600m).

Abbey Marie closed off well when a first-up seventh to Hartnell in the P B Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield last August before running second to Bonneval at Moonee Valley the following month.

“I wish the meeting was at Sandown like it used to be as for her it would be a much better track,” Kent said.

“She’s going really well but we’ve got to find the right race she can win.

“I’d love to find a mares mile race, a Group Two race at the Valley on the way through to get her back winning again.

“Running her in the Orr and with the vagaries of Caulfield if you draw bad you get back which makes it too tough.”

Kent’s plan for the mare is the Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 24 into the Group One Australian Cup (2000m) on March 10 before she travels to Sydney for the Ranvet Stakes and The BMW at Rosehill.

“When she gets up to the Australian Cup distance and those races in Sydney, that’s when she’ll be suited,” Kent said.

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