Despite sharing the same Rosehill Gardens race card with two Group 1 events and two Golden Slipper preview races this Saturday, the Group 2 Ajax Stakes (1500m) for three-year-olds and up is shaping as one of the most hotly-contested races of the day, with several in-form runners confirmed to line up.
Having returned to the track in strong form this preparation, talented five-year-old Mouro arguably headlines the strong Ajax Stakes field of 11, and received an even greater boost when allocated the ideal gate 1 at Wednesday’s barrier draw.
Debuting on course with two strong results in his native France before being transferred to the care of trainer Tony McEvoy, Mouro has finished outside the places on only two occasions in twelve race starts in Australia.
Currently in a three-race win streak, the classy Grand Slam entire closed an impressive spring preparation with back-to-back victories in the Plumbtec Sale Cup Open (1600m) and Group 3 Eclipse Stakes (1800m) before returning for a comfortable win in the Group 3 TAB Rewards Stakes (1400m) first-up on March 1st.
Having highlighted the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) as the major target this season, McEvoy is confident Mouro will continue his perfect run of form in the Ajax Stakes on Saturday.
Only two other runners will carry winning form into the 2014 Ajax Stakes; exciting five-year-old Messene and sole Gai Waterhouse-entrant Ecuador.
Finishing outside the places only once in eleven competitive starts so far, Messene is incredibly aiming for his seventh-straight victory in the Ajax Stakes having won every event he has entered since March 2013.
While only lining up for two races over the late spring/early summer of 2013, Messene strolled home by nearly three lengths in both the NSW Thoroughbred Breeders Maiden (1400m) and December Handicap (1550m).
Yet to contest a Group level event, Team Hawkes are confident the Lonhro gelding can overcome the relatively wide barrier 9 in the Ajax Stakes, having claimed the Listed John McGrath National Sprinter (1400m) from barrier 15 last time out.
Also finishing outside the places only once in 11 race starts, Ecuador has returned to racing in peak condition in 2014, claiming both the TAB Rewards Maiden (1400m) and Australian Turf Club Maiden (1400m) with relative ease.
Allocated barrier 8 for the Ajax Stakes, Waterhouse is confident the High Chaparral gelding will receive the run of the race, and is likely to mimic the early pace of both Messene and Riva De Lago (barrier 10).
Yet to reach peak condition in 2014, Riva De Lago has been a leading punters’ pick in betting markets for both the Group 3 Southern Cross Stakes (1200m) and Group 3 Liverpool City Cup (1300m).
Having finished out of contention in each of those events so far, trainer Chris Waller, who will also saddle imported runners Danchai (barrier 7) and Weary (barrier 3) in the Ajax Stakes, is confident in a sharp turn for Riva De Lago this weekend.
Ladbrokes.com.au is currently offering the best odds on the 2014 Ajax Stakes!
Open an account at Ladbrokes.com.au today and Bet Better this weekend!
2014 Ajax Stakes Final Field and Barrier Draw
|No||Last 10||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Hcp Rating|
|1||212x2011x1||MOURO (USA)||Tony McEvoy||Craig Williams||1||58kg||108|
|2||7×84811315||MONTON||Ron Quinton||Sam Clipperton (a)||4||57kg||106|
|3||2x81039x70||RIVA DE LAGO||Chris Waller||Jim Cassidy||10||55.5kg||103|
|4||x4165640x5||MALAVIO||Steve Englebrecht||Brenton Avdulla||2||54.5kg||101|
|5||02111x11x1||MESSENE||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||James McDonald||9||54.5kg||101|
|6||21x1x1235x||DIAMETRIC (scratched)||Chris Waller||Jason Collett||11||53kg||97|
|7||12852145×8||LESS IS MORE (FR)||David Vandyke||Jay Ford||5||53kg||97|
|8||1x21126x11||ECUADOR (NZ)||Gai Waterhouse||Tommy Berry||8||53kg||96|
|9||5x2261070x||DANCHAI (GB)||Chris Waller||Craig Newitt||7||53kg||93|
|10||24x10137x6||RHYTHM TO SPARE (NZ)||Michael Moroney||Glen Boss||6||53kg||93|
|11||26x6x244x3||WEARY (FR)||Chris Waller||Glyn Schofield||3||53kg||89|