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Trainer Bjorn Baker is counting on a light weight and the addition of blinkers helping Champagne Cuddles in her bid to claim an elusive Group One win in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington.
Champagne Cuddles has been placed four times in Group One races during her 17-start career but is yet to break through at racing’s elite level.
Baker has had Saturday’s $1.25 million Newmarket (1200m) in mind for Champagne Cuddles all preparation and while the mare goes into the race off a last-start unplaced effort in the Millie Fox Stakes in Sydney, the trainer is forgiving of that defeat on a soft track.
“Last start, I just think that even though she has got wet-track form she’s definitely looking for a better track,” Baker said.
“She will be fourth-up on Saturday so there’s no doubting her fitness, the blinkers go on and she gets in with a light weight (52kg).
“On her day she’s a very good mare, but it’s going to be an exciting race and a tough ask. It’s a field full of depth.”
Baker hopes the blinkers might help Champagne Cuddles “switch on” and help her find an extra length or two.
“It might just help her to finish off a little bit better,” he said.
“She’s done a bit of work in them and we’re happy with how she has gone in them.”
Champagne Cuddles gained experience on the straight course at Flemington when she finished third in the Listed Kensington Stakes over 1000m before returning home to Sydney to win the Group Two Breeders Classic (1200m) at her next start.
“She had only had one very soft trial leading into that first-up run at Flemington. It was her first time down the straight and she had a big weight,” Baker said.
“I thought it was a commendable effort. I think she’s a lot fitter and I think the 1200 metres probably suits her a bit more as well.”
Jamie Kah will ride Champagne Cuddles for the first time and like the mare, Kah is chasing a first Group One win.
Champagne Cuddles was rated a $34 chance on Thursday in a quality field which has been reduced to 22 after the scratching of Shoals to run in the Canterbury Stakes in Sydney.
Seven individual Group One winners remain in the line-up along with a number of up-and-coming sprinters.
Lightning Stakes runner-up Osborne Bulls is the $3.90 favourite to claim his first Group One win, ahead of three-year-old colt Graff at $8.50 and five-year-old gelding Eduardo at $9.