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Holyfield Fighting Fit For Champagne Bout

By Ray Hickson

A week in the paddock since his latest win has allowed promising youngster Holyfield to work up the strength he needs to finally deliver the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable a juvenile Group 1 at Randwick on Saturday.

Annabel Neasham, assistant trainer to Ciaron Maher & David Eustace. (Pic: Steve Hart).

It’s the same formula that has worked wonders with iron two-year-old Away Game and Annabel Neasham, who heads the stable’s Warwick Farm base, believes the colt is at his top for the Group 1 $400,000 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes (1600m).

The Maher and Eustace team has won 25 two-year-old races this season so far, including nine stakes wins, but have had to settle for second place in both the Golden Slipper with Away Game and the Inglis Sires’ with Prague.

“A Group 1 juvenile is still eluding us so it would be good to go one better and hopefully he is the colt to do it with,’’ Neasham said.

“We like giving them a little time in the paddock immediately after they run as it helps them get over it quicker and he had a week out.

“To my mind he looks like he’s strengthened up, I know it’s only been three weeks but he looks like he’s gone the right way.’’

Holyfield has long been thought of my Maher as an ideal horse for the Champagne and Neasham said they deliberately took the ‘low road’ with him to give him time to mature.

He won on debut at Newcastle then travelled to Melbourne where he scored at Sandown before an unplaced effort in the VRC Sires’.

Three weeks ago he confirmed himself as a Champagne contender when he beat Untamed, who has since won the Fernhill Handicap, in the Group 3 Schweppervescence (1400m) on March 28.

“He went down to Melbourne after he won up here and that travel did him the world of good,’’ Neasham said.

“We decided to take the softer option of going into the (Schweppervescence) rather than the Sires. We thought the spacing of three weeks into the Champagne will suit him ideally.’’

The Schweppervescence, also known as the Baillieu, has provided five Champagne winners in the last 30 years, the latest being The Mission in 2017.

But each of those youngsters had another run after winning the Baillieu in either the Sires' or, in Prized Icon's case, the Fernhill before the Champagne so Holyfield will need to break new ground.

The colt is a $7.50 chance with TAB and will be jockey Tom Marquand’s second last Group 1 ride before he returns home to the UK.

Neasham said she expects Holyfield to be prominent and has no doubts about the mile or the firmer footing.

“He has good gate speed so we won’t tie Tom down to too many instructions he’ll just ride the race as it unfolds,’’ she said.

“We have the luxury of riding him like that because we don’t see the mile as an issue.”

It was announced on Thursday that Away Game, who followed her Slipper placing with a brilliant win in the Group 2 Percy Sykes last weekend, is heading to Adelaide to take on older horses in the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes.

Holyfield wins at Rosehill on March 28

Neasham said it’s likely that the stable’s runners in the Group 3 Hall Mark Stakes will be saved for another day with Sesar heading back to Kacy Fogden in Brisbane while All To Royal will contest the Hawkesbury Rush next week at Rosehill.

But consistent galloper Dr Drill will take his place in the JCDecaux Handicap (1400m) with next month’s Scone Cup his likely target.

The gelding, $14 with TAB, ran third in a 1200m Listed race at Moonee Valley first-up from a break a month ago and Neasham said he’s a real dark horse on Saturday.

“He looks well over the odds from what I can see, he has form over all sorts of trips but he seems to have come in quite sharp this time in,’’ she said.

“We didn’t get a run in the Doncaster and we toyed with running him here or wait for the Hawkesbury Cup.

“But he enjoys his runs spaced and something like the Scone Cup is probably the next race after this.”

All the fields, form and replays for Saturday's All Aged Stakes meeting at Royal Randwick

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