Durendal will face his biggest challenge yet in the Australia Stakes as he bids to continue his winning summer.
The last-start Standish Handicap winner will step to weight-for-age for the first time in Saturday’s Group Two sprint at Moonee Valley where his opposition will include a number of proven Group One performers.
Durendal has won his past three starts, highlighted by his first stakes win in the Group Three Standish (1200m) at Flemington on January 1.
The four-year-old then spent a week at owner David Moodie’s property before returning to Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra’s Flemington stable to prepare for another rise in class.
“He stayed in work but he was in the paddock during the day and stabled at night,” Zahra said.
“He worked in the morning and was back out in the grass during the day. It was just to get him out of the stable for a little bit and freshen him up.
“He’s been in work a while so it was just something a bit different for a week and hopefully it pays off.”
The 19 nominations for the Australia Stakes includes Group One winners Rebel Dane, Mourinho, Trust In A Gust and Hucklebuck.
Zahra said everything had gone to plan with Durendal and so long as he worked well on Tuesday he would take his place on Saturday.
“He still looks fantastic,” he said.
After finishing unplaced in a benchmark race during the Melbourne Cup carnival, Durendal won over 1400m at Ballarat on November 21, adding an open handicap down the 1200m straight at Flemington before the Standish.
“His form as a three-year-old was good and he’s been placed really well this campaign and built his confidence up,” Zahra said.
“Now we’re going to go to the Valley, it’s something a bit trickier and a bit different and we’re going to raise the level again and see if he can stand up.”
Zahra says Durendal’s best asset is his ability to put himself on the speed and create his own luck.
“Now it’s a different ball game being weight-for-age and we’re confident enough he’ll graduate, whether it’s now or in the future,” he said.
“But it’s time to start putting the pressure on him and see where we end up.”
Article from JustHorseRacing.com.au