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 racing.com 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.

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.

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."

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.