THE prospect of a heavy track at Doomben for the $1.5 million Stradbroke Handicap had Scone trainer Brett Cavanough excited, but it didn’t appear enough for Hunter connections of Danon Liberty late on Friday.
Cavanough’s The Monstar, a noted wet-track performer, was the final runner into the 1350-metre feature after Aquis, which also has Spieth in the race, paid a $45,000 late entry fee following his win in the group 2 Moreton Cup last Saturday.
The move effectively left the Australian Bloodstock-owned Danon Liberty, still a $7.50 chance in the race, as first emergency. The Japanese galloper is unraced in Australia but has impressed in jump outs for Victorian trainer Darren Weir.
Australian Bloodstock hoped a heavy track would lead to a scratching and a start for Danon Liberty, which drew barrier six and was given just 51.5 kilograms.
However, it was reported on Friday that trainer Chris Waller was set to start all three of his runners, Endless Drama, Shillelagh and Foxplay, if the track was soft.
Racing Queensland vets also cleared Endless Drama and the Mark Newnham-trained Burning Passion on Friday to start.
Weir's travelling foreman, Jarrod McLean, told AAP it had been deflating to learn Danon Liberty was an emergency after the team expected he would get a run.
Stewards left the track rating as heavy for Doomben on Friday, which helped The Monstar’s price shorten into $17 with TAB Fixed Odds.
“It won’t change our plan much, it’s pretty straight forward for us,” Cavanough said of the heavy track.
However, Cavanough was not expecting to easily gain the lead with the likes of Newcastle trainer Paul Perry’s three-year-old Perast and Tony Gollan’s Most Important in the field.
“I think there will be two or three going forward,” he said.
“I think we will be one out running fourth or fifth, and just get to the outside when we can and get going, because we’re rock hard and we’ll get through it.
“I don’t know where we’re going to be. I’ll leave that up to [jockey Skye Bogenhuber]. She’s a good judge of speed and I’ll let her work that out.
“The horse of Gollan’s will go forward. It will show speed and I reckon Champagne Cuddles will be super hard to beat. She’s got no weight and they will push forward. They won’t want to be too far back. I’ve got mine in as good as order as I can get him. Is he up to them? We’ll know tomorrow.”
Perast was a $7.50 chance for the race and Newcastle trainer Kris Lees’ Invincible Gem was $13.
AAP reports: Scone trainer Brett Cavanough is confident The Monstar will have no trouble backing up within a week for his biggest test in the Stradbroke Handicap.
Cavanough also hopes the infamous curse on winners of the Moreton Cup in the Stradbroke will be irrelevant as Saturday will be only the third time the Group One race has been run at Doomben.
The Monstar will be the 24th horse to attempt the Moreton Cup (QTC Cup)- Stradbroke double and if successful he would be the first to win both.
Since the QTC Cup was introduced in 1979 as a lead-up to the Stradbroke it has been run on three different dates and at two different distances.
But the Cup winners have produced just five third placings in the Stradbroke, with the latest Ortensia in 2009.
Even superstars such as Schillachi and Hareeba have failed to fire in the Stradbroke after winning the QTC Cup.
The Monstar showed plenty of fight to win the Moreton Cup over 1200m at the Sunshine Coast last Saturday.
The win gave him ballot-free entry into the Stradbroke but he was not an original nomination.
Aquis Farm stepped in and offered to pay the $45,000 late acceptance fee for The Monstar which Cavanough quickly accepted.
The Monstar hasn't backed up in a week since winning at Albury twice in 2013.
"There should be no problems with him backing up," Cavanough said.
"He is a good doing horse and I will have a good look at him before the race. But I can't see why he can't back up.
"If he didn't run Saturday I would have had to come back in distance to races like the Concorde Stakes in Sydney and he would run into those good three-year-olds resuming for the spring.
"It would be different if it was Eagle Farm and 1400 metres. But he is going from a tough 1200 at Caloundra to 1350 at Doomben which has been suiting horses with his on-pace racing style."
Skye Bogenhuber, who won her first Group Two race at her first attempt in the Moreton Cup on The Monstar, will be having her first Group One ride in the race.
"It is very exciting and there has been rain about, so who knows. He should get the right conditions," she said.
AAP reports: There are pointers from two astute veterans that indicate Newcastle three-year-old Perast has a genuine chance in the Group One Stradbroke Handicap at Doomben.
Perast, who earned a place in Saturday's Stradbroke by winning the Fred Best Classic at his last start, is trained by multiple Group One-winning trainer Paul Perry from Newcastle.
Perry is regarded as a trail blazer after sending Choisir to Royal Ascot in 2003 to win the two feature sprints, the King's Stand and Golden Jubilee.
The fact he hasn't had a runner in a Brisbane Group One race since Newport won the 2007 Brisbane Cup is a real pointer to Perast.
Perry's son Shannon said his father didn't believe in travelling horses to races they couldn't win.
"Perast's barrier (12) could have been worse and we know he can handle the Doomben track and the 1350 metres," Shannon Perry said.
He said the fact Jeff Lloyd had accepted the ride was also a good pointer.
"When a top jockey such as Jeffrey Lloyd gets down to 50kg to ride a horse you have to take notice," he said.
Lloyd will need a doctor's clearance to ride Perast after being stood down after two rides at the Gold Coast on Wednesday.
Lloyd, who is confident he will get a clearance, confirmed he hadn't ridden at 50kg in more than a decade.
"Perast looks a good ride in a Group One and I hope the effort is worth it," he said.