Estijaab to repel favourite’s curse
Estijaab dominates betting as a red-hot favourite at $1.35 for the Group 2 $300,000 Reisling Stakes (1200m) - but this is a race and meeting renowned for boilover results.
It was only 12 months ago when She Will Reign was sent out the $1.40 Reisling favourite and lost her unbeaten record when second to Frolic.
The other important Golden Slipper lead-up on Saturday, the Group 2 $300,000 Todman Stakes (1200m), also has produced some stunning upsets in recent years with Sepoy getting beaten at $1.18 favourite in 2011 and Capitalist also being humbled at $1.22 in 2016.
She Will Reign, Sepoy and Capitalist all bounced back to win the Golden Slipper at their next starts.
Team Hawkes prepares Estijaab and they will be keen for their star filly to get through Saturday's Reisling Stakes with an impressive win that enhances her claims for the $3.5 million Golden Slipper in two weeks.
Estijaab sits 19th on order of entry and needs to win, or at worst run second, to guarantee a Slipper start.
She has only been to the races twice for a brilliant debut win at Randwick before her game second to Sunlight in the Silver Slipper Stakes.
"Estijaab was very good last start,'' trainer John Hawkes said.
"It was a hard run but she came through it well and seems fine. Hopefully she can run a good race (Saturday).''
Hawkes, who co-trains with his sons Wayne and Michael, is chasing a fourth Golden Slipper this month after previous wins with Guineas (1997), Forensics (2007) and Mossfun (2014).
The Hawkes stable also has $34 outsider Nuclear Blitz in the Reisling but she is not a certain starter with connections considering saving her for the Group 3 $300,000 Black Opal Stakes (1200m) at Canberra on Sunday.
Showtime, the talented Hawkes-trained three-year-old, takes on the older horses at weight-for-age in the Group 1 $500,000 Canterbury Stakes (1300m).
Hawkes has never been afraid to run his top three-year-olds in major weight-for-age races, quite often with success and most famously with Octagonal in the 1995 Cox Plate.
He has also won the Canterbury Stakes previously with a three-year-old, Paratroopers in 2006.
Showtime proved he is competitive at this level when he led early and held on for a close third to Brave Smash and Tosen Stardom in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes last start.
"I thought he ran a great race at Caulfield, he fought back really hard against two tough, older horses,'' Hawkes enthused.
"The shorter trip (back from 1400m) won't worry him, either. He has run well in both starts this time in, he's maturing now and will be in the mix.''
The Hawkes stable also has three very good chances at Flemington on Saturday including promising juvenile Outrageous in the Group 2 $200,000 VRC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m).
Outrageous scored a strong win at Newcastle last start edging out Godolphin's Tin Hat who has since franked the form by winning easily at Ballarat.
The pair are clashing again in the Sires with Outrageous favourite at $5 and Tin Hat next at $5.50.
Interestingly, Hawkes won the VRC Sires six years with All Too Hard, the sire of Outrageous.
"We feel Outrageous will be suited at 1400m but his barrier (14) does make it difficult,'' Hawkes said.
"They usually don't go that hard over 1400m at Flemington so we are going to need a bit of luck. But they are the cards we have been dealt and there is not much we can do about it. He's a nice colt and will be competitive.''
In contrast, Bella Martini has drawn the rails barrier for the Group 2 $200,000 Kewney Stakes (1400m).
Bella Martini won the Gosford Guineas two starts back then didn't have the best of luck in the Typhoon Tracy Stakes at Moonee Valley last start.
"Although Bella Martini has been up a while, she is a lovely filly, very genuine and should run a nice race again,'' Hawkes said.
Notio tried hard against a smart horse in King's Will Dream last start and is trying to snap a long run of minor placings in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy (1400m).