Murray Baker will unveil his latest Derby prospect when the unbeaten Highlad makes his Australian debut in the UCI Stakes at Flemington.
Baker is no stranger to Derby success in Australia with Lion Tamer winning the Victoria Derby in 2010 while Nom Du Jeu, It’s A Dundeel and Mongolian Khan have all won the Australian Derby in the past decade.
The New Zealand trainer is now in partnership with Andrew Forsman and the two have already made an impact in Melbourne this spring with Saracino winning the Group Two Danehill Stakes Eleonora taking out a maiden at Geelong.
VRC Oaks prospect Eleonora, a granddaughter of 2001 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups winner Ethereal, will step up to Sunday’s Group Two Edward Manifold Stakes (1600m) at Flemington while Highlad runs in the Listed UCI Stakes (1800m).
Damien Oliver will ride both horses.
Highlad won a maiden over 1200m in New Zealand in August before winning the Listed Wanganui Guineas (1340m) at his second start on September 3.
“We like him,” Baker said.
“He’s unbeaten from his two starts. He’s a nice horse.
“He’s settled in well. He had a jump-out the other day (at Flemington), but he hasn’t raced for a month.”
Eleonora took a while to warm up in the straight in her race at Geelong on the synthetic track before powering to the line at the end of the 1300m to win comfortably.
Baker says she needs a mile and further and the VRC Oaks is a target.
“She’ll run in the Edward Manifold and then the fillies’ 2000 metre race on Caulfield Cup day,” he said.
That 2000m race is the Ethereal Stakes.
Eleonora is at $13 in the Oaks market while Highlad is at $17 for the Victoria Derby.
Baker was at Caulfield on Saturday to watch Caulfield Guineas-bound Saracino finish a luckless fifth in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude (1400m) while stablemate La Luna Rossa made an eye-catching Melbourne debut with a fast-finishing second in the Thousand Guineas Prelude.