By Ray Hickson
Sydney's newest Group 1 race, the Surround Stakes, will be the early target for star Godolphin filly Alizee, her trainer James Cummings has revealed.
The Flight Stakes winner is back in training for the autumn alongside the likes of Hartnell and top line colts Kementari and Viridine.
Alizee gave Cummings his first Group 1 win as Godolphin head trainer and the three-year-old is the horse he seems most excited about heading into 2018.
"I couldn't split them as far as which one I'm happier with but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see her come back really strong,'' he said.
"She'll start in the Light Fingers (on February 17) and go to the Surround then I could run her in races like the Phar Lap or the Coolmore Classic.''
The Surround Stakes (1400m), run on March 3, was recently elevated to Group 1 status along with the Warwick Stakes (to be renamed the Winx Stakes).
Re-live Alizee's brilliant Flight Stakes win back in September
Speaking of Winx, Cummings said he's unlikely to tackle the champion mare early on with the stable's number one seed Hartnell.
While his focus is returning the seven-year-old, last seen running 20th in the Melbourne Cup, to his best form that could mean races like the Orr Stakes and Futurity Stakes (both 1400m at Caulfield) are targeted.
"Obviously we'll aim up at the weight for age races and I have a good idea of where I want to have him coming through but I'm prepared to be flexible with him,'' Cummings said.
"I'd like to get the horse back to Sydney but I don't want to rule out Australian Cups, or two runs at 1400m rather than one. He went really well for us first-up.''
Hartnell was long regarded as the horse most likely to trouble Winx's winning streak but the champion has had the better in all seven clashes to date.
So you can understand Cummings not being keen on going there again despite the general feeling that if she's going to be vulnerable it could be in her coming campaign.
"If he came back and I felt like he was better than in the spring then I would never say never,'' he said.
"When I reflect on (the spring) he couldn't beat Humidor over a mile and with good reason because Humidor was the only one that could really put it to her.''
As for some of Godolphin’s leading colts, both Kementari and Viridine are slated to resume in February though their targets are yet to be confirmed by Cummings.
Naturally any available Group 1 is desirable but, while the Group 1 Randwick Guineas is an option for Kementari, in Viridine’s case he may have to take on older horses.
Kementari was runner-up in the Caulfield Guineas and both colts contested the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes with Viridine faring best in fifth place after winning his first four starts.
“I need to be having them perfect for when the opportunities pop up,’’ he said.
“Things didn't pan out for Kementari and Viridine had come a long way and hopefully we see the best of him this time.’’