Reformed barrier rogue Stratcombe faces his toughest test to date when he tries to complete a winning hat-trick in the Thoroughbred Club Cup at Caulfield.
The Stratum four-year-old, a $200,000 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale graduate, won two of his first five starts, a Wangaratta maiden and an MRC 0-68 Hcp at Mornington, as well as being placed twice at Caulfield.
However the decision was made to geld Stratcombe after he finished a disappointing 11th as favourite to Spurcific in a 1200m race at Flemington last June.
The handsome chestnut has pleased connections since with a second to Staralan in a Moonee Valley 0-78 Hcp (955m) before winning a 0-72 Hcp over the same trip at the Valley, both last month.
At his latest appearance, Stratcombe won a 1200m open handicap by four lengths from Johnny Fiasco at the opening Cranbourne night meeting on March 9.
“He’s going really well,” trainer Mick Price said.
“He’s up in grade. Obviously this is the hardest race he’s had to face.
“I know he’s had only three runs this preparation but he has done some hard racing.
“He puts plenty into it.
“We are testing him up in grade so we’ll see how he goes.
“He’s on his home track, has drawn a good gate (barrier two), he’s nice and fit so he should run well.”
Dale Smith takes over the reins from Craig Newitt on Stratcombe who is weighted on the minimum 54kg.
Smith has ridden the horse once for his Wangaratta maiden win.
Stratcombe is $2.80 favourite with TAB Sportsbet ahead of Valentine Miss at $4, Amaethon and Zedi Knight at $8.50 and Diplomatic Force at $11.
Far Horizons and Adamon have been scratched leaving a field of 11 in the $100,000 1200m event.
The Bill and Symon Wilde-trained Full Peal ($21) kicks off an autumn campaign aimed at the Warrnambool Cup (2350m) on May 2.
The Clangalang five-year-old won five straight before finishing fifth to Yulalona in the Group Three Summer Cup (2400m) at Rosehill on December 26.
The Wildes have won the past two Warrnambool Cups with Hissing Sid who is due to return from injury soon and is also being prepared for another crack at the Listed race.
Ill-fated Golden Slipper winner Crystal Lily’s half-brother Amaethon has to overcome the outside gate to win but he does run well fresh and has a good record at Caulfield.
Mark Zahra is back from a 22-meeting suspension and rides Mr Chard ($15).