Hawkes duo bid to join the Champagne set
CHAMPION trainer John Hawkes can't split his classy colts Outrageous and Irukandji going into the Group 1 $500,000 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
"They are both nice young horses and I don't think the mile will worry them,'' Hawkes said.
"We can't fault them, they have trained on well and both are in good form. It's a tough race, it won't be easy to win it, but they should be competitive.''
In early TAB Fixed Odds betting, Outrageous is at $6 and Irukandji at $11 behind co-favourites El Dorado Dreaming and Not A Single Cent on $5.50.
Outrageous is due for a change of luck after running unplaced on a biased track behind Not A Single Cent in the VRC Sires' Produce Stakes before his fast-finishing third to El Dorado Dreaming in the ATC Inglis Sires'.
Irukandji goes into the Champagne Stakes after leading most of the way to score a half-length win in the Baillieu Handicap.
Hawkes, who trains in partnership with his sons Michael and Wayne, has won the Champagne Stakes four times, with Mighty Manitou (1982), Dracula (1998), Viscount (2001) and Mentality (2006).
Form guru Gary Crispe believes the stable is set for a fifth success on Saturday, revealing a slight preference to Irukandji over Outrageous in the Group 1 juvenile race.
"I thought Irukandji did a great job last start and he appears capable of taking that next step,'' Crispe said.
"Irukandji did a good job behind Written By two starts back in the Pago Pago Stakes and improved off that with a strong last-start win when he raced on-speed.
"This is his attempt beyond 1200m but Irukandji ran to a new Timeform peak of 110 last start and this is a perfect platform to make further improvement going out to 1600m. He is by triple crown winner (It's A) Dundeel and is drawn to receive a far more economical run.''
Crispe pointed out that Irukandji defeated third place-getter Spin by 1.7 lengths last start and that horse then ran fifth, beaten 1.5 lengths, in the Sires' to confirm the form.
Outrageous has been bereft of luck in both Sires', but Crispe feels the youngster is one Champagne Stakes starter who will run the 1600m right out.
"He only saw daylight late last start and flashed through for third,'' Crispe said.
"I think he will relish the step up to the mile and looks to get the right run from the inside draw.''
The Hawkes stable, which prepared Estijaab to win the Golden Slipper, could claim the two final Group 1 races in Sydney this season with three-year-old colt Showtime among the main chances in the $600,000 Schweppes All Aged Stakes (1400m).
Showtime is backing up after a good second to Catchy in the Arrowfield Sprint last week.
"He has been very consistent without winning, he always runs good races,'' Hawkes said. "This isn't an easy race - he is only a three-year-old against the older horses but he will run well again.''
Showtime proved he could mix it at this level when he led for a long way for a close third to Brave Smash in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield earlier this autumn.
The Hawkes stable also has Crafty Cop in the APN Outdoor Handicap (1200m), Firsthand resumes in the Group 3 $150,000 Hall Mark Stakes (1200m) and Dyslexic runs in the Group 3 $150,000 JHB Carr Stakes (1400m).
"They are all chances but in very competitive races - they are never easy to win at this time of year,'' the Hall of Fame trainer said.
Team Hawkes also has two feature race hopefuls at Caulfield on Saturday with the brilliant Sprightly Lass in the Listed $120,000 Bel Esprit Stakes (1100m) and Top Me Up in the Listed $120,000 Anniversary Vase (1400m).