Two horses who made their presences felt in the Group One Oakleigh Plate are set to clash again over the same course and distance as leading contenders in the Listed Bel Esprit Stakes at Caulfield.
The Sarah Zschoke-trained Eduardo is the $2.25 favourite for Saturday’s 1100m-race with Bons Away considered the biggest challenger at $4.60 coming off a fast-finishing second in the Listed Hareeba Stakes (1200m) at Mornington last start.
David Eustace, who trains Bons Away in partnership with Ciaron Maher, believes the drop in distance from 1200m to 1100m will be more of a positive than a negative for the sprinter on Saturday on his home track.
“He is a winner over 1000 metres this preparation and he’s a fast horse,” Eustace said.
“On figures, possibly his runs in the Oakleigh Plate are the best of his career. So 1100 at Caulfield is probably his bread and butter. It’s right up his alley.”
Bons Away was fourth in this year’s Oakleigh Plate in late February, less than two lengths behind the winner Booker, while a year earlier he was beaten just over half a length in the same Group One handicap when fifth.
Eduardo also contested this year’s Oakleigh Plate, finishing a length in front of Bons Away when third in his first Group One test.
Both Eduardo and Bons Away then finished down the track in the Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington at their next starts with Eduardo stepping out for the first time since on Saturday.
Eduardo won a jump-out at Cranbourne on Monday by around six lengths in preparation for Saturday.
Bons Away’s W J Adams Stakes (1000m) win at Caulfield first-up this campaign is his only victory so far this season.
But the gelding has been a model of consistency in Group and Listed race sprints, finishing outside the top four only once from nine starts this season.
“He’s flying,” Eustace said.
“His run at Mornington was outstanding. You could see his last 200 metres was very quick so he thoroughly deserves to win on Saturday and he’s holding his form exceptionally well.
“He’s just a horse you can really rely on to run a good race more times than not, so hopefully he does again.”