Five-year-old Stampede will be among a host of horses putting Caulfield Cup aspirations on show in the Group Three Naturalism Stakes.
The Naturalism carries a ballot exemption for the winner into next month’s $3 million Caulfield Cup (2400m) and 23 of the 25 nominations for Saturday’s 2000m-race hold Cup entries.
The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Stampede won the Listed Wagga Wagga Gold Cup in NSW and the Group Three Chairman’s Handicap in Queensland over 2000m last campaign before being put away for the spring.
He resumed with a convincing win in a 1600m-handicap at Moonee Valley on September 9.
“We pencilled in the Caulfield Cup as a race we’d love to target with him,” Bott said.
“After winning in Queensland we decided to pull the pin early on his Queensland campaign just to really focus on giving him his chance at the better quality staying features over the carnival.
“That gave us enough time to put him out, give him a quick turnaround and bring him back and try to prepare for a race like the Caulfield Cup.
“His first-up ran gave us a lot of confidence and obviously Saturday is the next natural progression.”
Beau Mertens rode Stampede to victory at Moonee Valley and again has the ride.
“It will be tougher competition on Saturday, so we’ll need to see him take that next step,” Bott said.
“But he’s a horse who continues to improve as we raise the bar and if he keeps on that upward spiral we’ll keep pressing on towards that path.”
Bott said Stampede had come through his Moonee Valley win well.
“He was nice and forward for that run but I still think there’s improvement there, particularly stepping up to 2000 metres,” he said.
The James Cummings-trained Tally is entered for the Naturalism but he is already assured a 2017 Caulfield Cup berth via his Mornington Cup win in April.
The Lindsay Park stable has six nominations including import Harlem while Victoria’s premier trainer Darren Weir has five highly rated entries in Star Exhibit, Articus, Amelie’s Star, Big Duke and Guardini.
The Mick Kent-trained Group One winner Abbey Marie, who ran second to Australian Oaks winner Bonneval in the Group Two Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes, is also entered.
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