By Ray Hickson
In-form trainer Bjorn Baker will be keen to talk up under rated mare Champagne Cuddles as a late TAB Everest contender if she can post a first-up win at Rosehill on Saturday.
While there is technically only one open slot at present, James Harron’s, Baker is well aware that last year there were five replacements made prior to the Everest.
With that in mind if Champagne Cuddles can win the Group 2 $200,000 Schweppes Sheraco Stakes (1200m) she’ll have her next run in the Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) two weeks out from the $14m race.
The theory is a win there and slot holders could take notice.
“I think she will be in for her best preparation,’’ Baker said.
“She has run against some really good horses and she deserves to win a big one.
“The Everest – are we allowed to say that? I think she is as well credentialed as some of the others and hopefully she can put her hand up.
“You probably have to look at the Premiere, three weeks between runs works really well, to give her a shot. I don’t think she is out of contention.’’
Champagne Cuddles was $3.80 favourite with TAB in the Sheraco on Thursday morning and Baker is pleased with how the race sets up for her and jockey Brenton Avdulla from barrier two.
She’ll be out to atone for defeat in the race a year ago when she ran third, as favourite, to Invincibella first-up from a spell.
Earlier this year the five-year-old won the Group 2 Breeders Classic in February then proved herself in the best company in the autumn running fourth in the Group 1 TJ Smith and All Aged Stakes.
“I thought last preparation was a bit hit and miss at times but she didn’t have luck,’’ Baker said.
“In the TJ Smith she was really unlucky not to run a clear second and in the All Aged she was a bit stiff as well.
“She has a good gate and she has come back really well. I think they key is to put her where she is comfortable, whether she is just off them or midfield I think she can get into a good spot.’’
Baker is keeping the blinkers up his sleeve on Champagne Cuddles if required, particularly should she have an Everest audition in the Premiere.
Stablemate Redouble has been thrown in the deep end somewhat, Baker concedes, in the Group 2 $200,000 Tooheys 150th Birthday Theo Marks Stakes (1300m) but references his fresh effort last campaign as why he could be competitive.
“I think he is a bit under rated, last time first-up he was only just beaten by Trekking,’’ Baker said.
Champagne Cuddles runs second in a Canterbury trial on September 2
“It’s a very hard race, there’s no doubting that, but he couldn’t be any better.’’
Redouble is one of the outsiders with TAB at $31.
Bjorn Baker’s comments on his other Rosehill runners:
Shock Alert (Race 2, $3.20): “I think he is genuinely better on top of the ground, Nash goes on and he will be able to put himself forward without too much pressure.’’
Irukandji (Race 3, $3.90) & Oneness ($8) – we didn’t really know about the wet track with Irukandji last time but he was always going to be vulnerable at 1500m on a wet track. We will try to get cover and if he can relax early he should be able to finish off. Hopefully Oneness can get a nice run just off the speed, he’s going well in what looks an open race.’’
Edison (Race 5, $13): “I thought he would have been right in the finish last time, he was very unlucky, had he got clear running. It’s a good renewal of the Dulcify but he’s third-up, gets a good track and you have to give him a good each-way chance.’’