Great Esteem To Lead Winx In George Main

There are few scenarios where an interstate trip for a Group One race against a superstar is an easier option than a Group Three event on your home track.

But that's what faces Great Esteem and trainer Stuart Webb ahead of Saturday's George Main Stakes (1600m) at Randwick.

Webb is not expecting to deny Winx an 11th straight victory but he wants natural leader Great Esteem to be in front for as long as he can manage it.

"I'm hoping he's not there to inject pace," Webb said.

"I'd love for him to go forward in a small field and get away with some easy sectionals."

The alternative was to run the same day in the Group Three Naturalism Stakes at Caulfield.

The strength of the Naturalism field was one of the deciding factors in taking on Winx at the top level.

"It's going to be a real high pressure race down here on probably a wetter track," Webb said.

"This smaller field with the possibility of a couple of runners coming out will be a lower pressure race."

Webb's is not the only stable which concedes the task before them may be insurmountable.

Godolphin assistant trainer Darren Beadman is hoping Hauraki can get a nice run to set the horse up for the Epsom Handicap in two weeks.

"He's got a little bit of a hurdle ahead of him in Winx, but in saying that, the horse is in really fine form," Beadman said.

Waller put the finishing touches on Winx with a track gallop at Rosehill on Wednesday morning.

She trialled at Warwick Farm on Friday to make up for missing a run in the Chelmsford Stakes where she was scratched because of a wet track.

"She's very much a natural athlete," Waller said.

"I don't think it has too much effect on her what we do in the mornings, what lead-up runs she has.

"She looks like she's come back very well - a bit bigger and bit stronger. Hopefully that makes her a bit better."

Tosen Stardom's Victorian trainer Darren Weir has never won a race in Sydney despite breaking the Australasian record for most winners in a season last year.

The Japanese import will have to cause a boilover to break Weir's duck and shares the second line of betting with Hauraki at $11.

Le Romain is set to run in the Cameron Handicap at Newcastle on Friday, reducing the field to a maximum of seven runners.

If Winx holds her $1.15 quote, it will be the shortest price she has been sent out in her career.

Ciaron Maher's Racing Manager Stands Down

Trainer Ciaron Maher's racing manager has stepped aside as investigations continue into the ownership of four horses he trains including Group One-winning mare Azkadellia.

Racing Victoria stewards on Wednesday opened an inquiry into the ownership bona fides of Azkadellia, Hart, Loveable Rogue and Mr Simples.

Ben Connolly, Maher's racing manager, is listed as the sole owner of the four horses.

Maher released a statement via and told AAP he did not wish to add to that while the investigation was ongoing.

"I am shocked and terribly disappointed to have been informed of the stewards' investigation involving Ben Connolly and Azkadellia," Maher said.

"As the stewards have reported of their continued investigations, I have spoken with Ben and we both agree it is in the best interest of the stable and to Ben to take a leave of absence until the stewards complete their investigation.

"At present, my main concern is the ban on Azkadellia.

"I look forward to this matter being resolved as quickly as possible."

The four horses are barred from racing until stewards complete their investigations.

In June, when Azkadellia was racing in Brisbane, the Courier Mail reported convicted Gold Coast-based conman Peter Foster was being investigated as possibly having a financial interest in the mare.

No Long Faces If Winx Loses: Waller

While her winning streak creates pressure and expectation, Chris Waller will not panic in the unlikely event of Winx getting beaten.

As she attempts to stretch her unbeaten run to 11 in Saturday's Group One George Main Stakes at Randwick, her trainer says defeat will not equal disaster.

"We won't be walking around with long faces if she does get beaten at some stage soon," Waller said.

The Chris Waller-trained champion mare WinxThe Chris Waller-trained champion mare Winx

"We'll be there ready to back her up again in the next race."

Few give credence to the idea of a Winx defeat including bookmakers who rate her $1.15 to continue her winning ways.

If they are right Winx will equal Kingston Town's 11-race winning streak, close within one of Tulloch's 12 straight victories and be three behind Phar Lap who won 14 on the trot.

The finishing touches were put on Winx's preparation for her first Group One race of the season at trackwork on Wednesday.

The champion mare galloped strongly over 1000 metres at Rosehill, her final hit-out before her last run in Sydney for the spring at Randwick on Saturday.

After jumping off her, jockey Hugh Bowman said he was excited about her progress since her dominant first-up win in the Warwick Stakes.

"She's certainly tightened up since her first-up run," Bowman said.

"She's on track for the weekend."

Waller elected to scratch Winx from the Chelmsford Stakes last Saturday week because of the heavy Randwick track.

Instead she trialled at Warwick Farm on Friday, cruising home to finish third.

"I thought that was a very worthwhile exercise because in the past she has been and can be a little fractious in the barriers especially when she's feeling very well," Bowman said.

"The fact that she's been through the barriers since her last run for me is a real positive."

After Saturday, Winx will travel to Melbourne for the Caulfield Stakes on October 8, her final run before her Cox Plate defence at Moonee Valley on October 22.

Japanese import Tosen Stardom and Godolphin's Hauraki loom as Winx's main challengers in an eight-horse field on Saturday.

Waller said while he respected the opposition, his focus would remain solely on Winx.

"If she's right the other horses have to improve to beat her," Waller said.

"We've just got make sure that she turns up the same horse that she's been turning up in the last 10 starts."

Winx's stablemates Spiritjim and Vanbrugh are set to race against her while Randwick Guineas winner Le Romain has drawn barrier one inside Victorian-trained Great Esteem.

Vanbrugh and Le Romain have both been accepted for the Group Three Cameron Handicap at Newcastle on Friday.

Bush Hero Clearly Innocent Back In Shorts

Bush star Clearly Innocent could be racing's latest cult hero to lay claim to the "people's horse" moniker.

With seven wins from nine starts, NSW's reigning Country champion's popularity is growing ahead of his return to racing in The Shorts at Randwick.

Trainer Greg Bennett says Clearly Innocent has generated a flurry of media attention ahead of Saturday's Group Two race.

Clearly Innocent ridden by Tommy BerryClearly Innocent ridden by Tommy Berry

"He's got a big following in the bush," Bennett said.

"People have taken him on board and almost regard him as their own which is great."

Clearly Innocent won the Country Championship Final in dramatic fashion, defying a betting drift caused by a minor hoof injury to dominate the $500,000 race.

He then won the Listed Luskin Star Stakes at Scone, beating Music Magnate who later won the Group One Doomben 10,000 in May.

While Music Magnate was improving the Luskin Star form, Clearly Innocent was also in Queensland for a well-deserved holiday.

"I didn't want to go to the well one too many times and be disappointed," Bennett said.

Clearly Innocent's success has boosted Bennett's stable with new clients and more horses.

The gelding can further enhance the Scone trainer's reputation by giving him his first Group winner on Saturday.

"I've had some great tough, good performing horses that have won lots of prize money and won Listed races," Bennett said.

"But as far as sheer ability and untapped potential I think he's without a doubt the best one I've had."

Clearly Innocent trialled at Wyong on September 6 giving jockey Brenton Avdulla a chance to re-acquaint himself with the horse he rode once for a second-placed finish in a Highway race in December.

"He's had a couple of gallops since and going into Saturday against that quality sprinting field I couldn't be happier," Bennett said.

Clearly Innocent's spring program includes the Group Two Premiere (1200m) at Randwick on October 1 before a trip to Melbourne for the Group Three Moonga Stakes (1400m) on October 15.

"If we can get through those three runs well then I'd love to think we can get him to a Group One," Bennett said.

He might get his chance on the first day of the Melbourne Cup carnival in the $1 million Longines Mile.

With that in mind Bennett will not read too much into The Shorts or The Premiere.

"I think we're going to see the best of this horse once we get him up over his proven trip of 1400 metres and even beyond to the mile," Bennett said.

Clearly Innocent is on the second line of betting at $5 for The Shorts behind All Aged Stakes winner English at $2.60.

Trainers Blocked From Warrnambool Dunes

Warrnambool trainers have been blocked from using one of their best weapons in the preparation of their racehorses.

The sand dunes at Levys Point are off limits following advice to the Warrnambool City Council from Aboriginal Victoria there were Aboriginal Protected places in the area.

Jane Baker, secretary of the South West Owners, Trainers and Riders Association, said there could be significant fines for the council if trainers continue using the dunes.

Premier Victorian trainer Darren Weir has been a regular user of the beaches at Warrnambool and used them to prepare Prince Of Penzance to win last year's Melbourne Cup.

"We understand council's position that they've had to close it immediately because they will be liable if there is anymore damage occurring," Baker told RSN927.

Baker said the ban on using the dunes had been unexpected.

She said trainers had been issued with maps of trails to use among the dunes and she believed they were sticking to them.

"There's been no warnings, no signs, there's nothing in the regulations to prevent us going through those trails," Baker said.

"There are probably some heritage sites at several places around here but the fact the council has issued permits to us in the past would indicate they didn't know either.

"What we need to determine is exactly where these places are and what we are looking for.

"It's very hard to avoid something if you don't know it's there."

Baker said at least 30 horses a day used the trails and most of the trainers in the association, of which there are upwards of 30, would use the beach at some time.

The council has also instructed trainers to work horses in smaller groups at Lady Bay and on the wet sand near the waters edge.

Baker says council is worried about erosion to the beach and also public safety.

Racing Victoria's racing operations manager Paul Bloodworth says hopefully a solution can be found between the government, Warrnambool council and local trainers as the beach is a vital part of the training program for a number of leading trainers including Weir..

Unbeaten Barthelona Faces Biggest Test Yet

Three-year-old Barthelona faces his biggest test yet when he puts his unbeaten record on the line at Caulfield.

The Mike Moroney-trained colt won on debut at Bendigo as a late-season two-year-old and had his first start of the new season at Sandown late last monthfor an impressive 2-3/4-length victory in a benchmark race against his own age over 1000m.

A younger half-brother to Stradbroke Handicap winner Under The Louvre, Barthelona chases his third-straight win in Saturday's Alfred Foundation Plate (1100m) in which he will jump from the outside barrier in a big field.

"He's going well and I thought he won really well at Sandown," Moroney said.

"He's got a tricky gate on Saturday, but he is a backmarker to a degree. Hopefully he can find a bit of cover and finish off strongly."

Moroney is hoping Barthelona can keep stepping up this spring and if he does he will be given his chance against the best sprinting three-year-olds.

"All going well we'll keep raising the bar and see where he ends up. It would be nice to end up in the (Group One) Coolmore Stud Stakes but he's got to keep stepping up."

Barthelona is at $5 for Saturday's race with the Hawkes Racing-trained Legerity the $4.80 favourite.

Moroney said Barthelona's two wins had come on big, roomy tracks and Caulfield presented a different challenge.

Another three-year-old from the Moroney team on trial for better races is the filly Sognani who will have blinkers on in the Lasallian Foundation Plate (1400m).

Sognani broke her maiden at the Geelong Synthetic track in her second start on August 30 over 1300m, winning by 1-1/4 lengths.

"(Jockey) Patrick Moloney thought she had a lot of improvement in her," Moroney said.

"He said coming to the home corner he thought she was going to win by five (lengths) but said he couldn't get her out of third gear when she hit the front.

"We've put the blinkers on just to sharpen her up."

Provocative Retired After Tendon Injury

Queensland Oaks winner Provocative has been retired after sustaining a tendon injury.

The Tony Pike-trained New Zealand mare sustained the injury over the weekend and connections have made the decision to send her to the breeding barn.

"She had a bit of heat in her tendon over the weekend and we had it scanned on Monday morning," Pike said.

"It's revealed a small tear in a tendon.

"Obviously if she was a gelding we probably would have tried to rehabilitate her.

"It would take six to 12 months and the prognosis would be reasonably OK, but obviously with tendons you're always a little bit worried whether they are going to come right or not.

"Being a four-year-old mare in the spring and a Group One winner, we've decided to retire her to stud."

Provocative, a daughter of the late Zabeel, won four of her eight starts highlighted by a dominant three-length win in this year's Group One Queensland Oaks.

"It's a little bit devastating, but you've just got to press on and unfortunately that's racing," Pike said.

He said a decision on which stallion the mare would be served by was likely to be made this weekend.

Provocative, who had been due to run in Saturday's Naturalism Stakes at Caulfield, was one of three Melbourne spring carnival hopefuls for Pike this year.

The trainer will now rely on Group One winners Sacred Elixir and Rangipo.

Sacred Elixir will resume in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude on Saturday week while a decision on whether Rangipo returns in the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes on the same day or waits for the Listed Paris Lane Stakes will be made after he gallops next Tuesday.

"Sacred Elixir is really going well," Pike said.

"He's settled into Melbourne really well and I couldn't have been happier with the way he's been working."

Maher Mares Shaping Well For Naturalism

Group One wins don't come easily as Ciaron Maher can attest and of his five victories to date, four have been with mares.

One of them Srikandi has been retired while another, Azkadellia, has been banned from racing as stewards in Victoria investigate the ownership bona fides of the of the mare.

Away from the Azkadellia controversy, Maher will focus his attention on Caulfield Cup hopefuls, Jameka and Set Square, winners of the past two VRC Oaks, who head to Saturday's Naturalism Stakes.

Victory in the Group Three race guarantees the winner a start in next month's Caulfield Cup.

Both mares sit high in Caulfield Cup betting with Jameka sharing favouritism at $15 and Set Square on the next line at $17.

Jameka is comfortably in the Caulfield Cup at number 17 in the order of entry with a number of runners above her already declared non-starters while Set Square is borderline, sitting equal 33rd.

"Set Square is down the order a bit so if she was able to get the win and get herself in, that would be ideal," Maher said.

Jameka's fitness levels are where Maher wants them heading into Saturday's Caulfield feature while Set Square is making steady improvement after missing an autumn campaign.

The mares have faced off against each other at their two runs this campaign.

Jameka finished in front of Set Square when fourth first-up in the P B Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield last month while Set Square was first home of the pair when third in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley on September 3.

"I thought leading into the Dato around the Valley Jameka might have been a bit sharper, but her race didn't go to plan," Maher said.

"Set Square sat wide and just flowed into the race really nice.

"On that race I think it would be hard to split them on Saturday."

Maher is planning one more start for the pair before the Caulfield Cup and said he may split them.

He said they would be nominated for the JRA Cup at Moonee Valley on September 30 and the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington two days later.

"It wouldn't matter what sort of grade of race it is, it's just nice timing heading towards the Caulfield Cup," Maher said.

Set Square is the outsider of the two runners on Saturday at $11 with Jameka the second elect at $5.50 behind Tom Melbourne who has firmed from $4.20 to $4 in early betting.

Steady Caulfield Cup Approach With Berisha

Trainer Robert Smerdon and Berisha's group of owners have devised a plan for their assault on the Caulfield Cup.

A part of that plan unfolds at Caulfield on Saturday when Berisha runs in the Group Three Naturalism Stakes over 2000 metres.

The Naturalism winner gains an automatic start in next month's Caulfield Cup, although that is not something Berisha's connections have to worry about because he is already guaranteed a start courtesy of his win in the Mornington Cup in April.

As a result Smerdon has taken his time with Berisha this campaign with his sole focus having him spot-on for the 2400m handicap on October 15.

Berisha was spelled following his Mornington Cup win, resuming in the weight-for-age P B Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield on August 13.

He finished less than four lengths from the winner Miss Rose De Lago before running seventh in the Heatherlie Stakes on August 27.

"He's assured of his spot in the Caulfield Cup so we don't have to screw him down yet and we haven't," Smerdon said.

"He's improving with each run and he's improved out of the Heatherlie and he's still got significant improvement to come.

"He's ticking over well but there's still a fair bit of upside still to be had after Saturday."

After Saturday's outing, the gelding heads to the JRA Cup at Moonee Valley on September 30 before the Caulfield Cup on October 15.

Chris Parnham takes the ride on Saturday.

Saturday's race has attracted a field of 16 runners with four emergencies.

All runners, with the exception of Great Esteem, also an entrant in the George Main Stakes at Randwick on Saturday, are nominated for the Caulfield Cup.

Berisha is one of the outsiders at $35 in the Naturalism with the imported Tom Melbourne the $4.20 favourite in early markets.

Singapore based Glen Boss will partner Tom Melbourne for trainers Lee and Anthony Freedman on Saturday.

Boss rode Tom Melbourne to victories at Sandown, Flemington and the Albury Cup before the horse over-raced when a fading 10th in the Mornington Cup under Ben Melham.

Tom Melbourne is the only ride for Boss at Caulfield before he returns to Singapore where he has six rides at Kranji on Sunday.

Orman And Heathcote Combine At Eagle Farm

Apprentice James Orman can cement his association with leading trainer Robert Heathcote at Eagle Farm as he prepares for a busy finish to the year.

Orman has four rides for Heathcote on Saturday - Sea Red (Veuve Open), Silento (Class 6 Plate). Big Decision (Class 6 Hcp) and Beckoning Light (Class 3 Plate).

Heathcote has a big opinion of Orman and gives each of the apprentice's mounts for him a good chance.

"Jim is level headed rider with plenty of natural talent," Heathcote said.

He believes the toughest task for Orman will be to get the best out of the enigmatic mare Sea Red.

"She has won six races but had five goes at Eagle Farm, on both the old and new surfaces, and never run a place," Heathcote said.

"Jim's style should help her and maybe he can get her to perform at Eagle Farm. The distance is ideal at 1400 metres."

Heathcote will have a strong hand in the Veuve as he will also saddle Dream Choice and Punta Norte.

"Dream Choice has found his niche in Brisbane and does handle the new Eagle Farm. Punta Norte has plenty of ability. He just has to produce it," he said.

Orman had his first rides at Randwick last week and finished sixth in the Sheraco Stakes on his favourite horse Sold For Song, less than two lengths from the winner Heavens Above.

He expects to be aboard the strong finishing mare in Melbourne later in the spring.

Orman is also preparing for a stint in Singapore later this year as part of a prize organised by the Queensland racing media, jockeys and UBET as the state's rising star.

"I am really looking forward to both experiences as it give you a chance to compete against the best," Orman said.

Orman is the busiest jockey in Queensland and last season had 1142 rides for 143 winners to win the state titile.

This season he has already had 110 rides for 11 winners.

"When you are as tall as me it helps to keep busy and keep the weight down," Orman said.

McCall Looking To Colour Charge To Step Up

Consistent gelding Colour Charge has shaken off his injury problems and is set to propel his trainer Natalie McCall back into the limelight at Eagle Farm.

A last-start Sunshine Coast winner, Colour Charge makes his metropolitan open company debut in Saturday's Spring Carnival Hcp (1830m).

He has been consistent for McCall having won seven races and been placed a further seven times in his 29 start career.

McCall won the 2014 Group One Stradbroke Handicap with River Lad and also had considerable success with Lady Echelon.

However, with both horses now out of the stable, McCall has been low key with city runners and is gradually rebuilding her team.

"After River Lad left me he had stints with the Snowdens in Sydney and Kris Lees in Newcastle but he is retired now. Lady Echelon is also retired but they were both very good to me," McCall said.

"We are only a small stable so when you lose a few good horses it takes a while to replace them. Things have been going OK this season and I am looking forward to having more city runners."

"When we wanted to build the team I had a chat to Scott McAlpine at Eureka Stud and he suggested we take Colour Charge who is by his sire Red Dazzler. We gave $40,000 for him but he has more than repaid that," McCall said.

She believes Colour Charge is now ready to confirm his potential in better class.

"He had a lot of injury problems early in his career and that is why he is a six-year-old who has had only 29 starts. But there haven't been any problems of late and he is ready to show his best," McCall said.

She is confident Colour Charge will handle the new look Eagle Farm on Saturday although she doesn't want the track to be too wet.

Colour Charge has drawn barrier 11 on Saturday but it has not been a disadvantage to be away from the rails at Eagle Farm in the months since it re-opened after renovations.

McCall has also been helping her father, trainer Ray McCall, who has been in ill health in recent months.

"Since Christmas Dad has been very sick but they think they may have found what it is now and we are looking forward to him improving," she said.

Ray McCall is best known for training Top Echelon who went on to sire River Lad.