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Australian Racing: Staunch to stand firm at Moonee Valley

There are eight meetings set to take place on Friday including at Moonee Valley, where an eight-race card is scheduled.

Race 5 Moonee Valley

Staunch @ 5.00

Race 6 Canterbury

Cirebon @ 3.20

Race 8 Werribee

Sassy Boom @ 4.80

Staunch set for Valley success

The fifth race on the Moonee Valley card is a Benchmark 64 handicap set to take place over the Cox Plate trip of 2040m.

A good 4 track is expected with Musgrave among those vying for favouritism for the Ciaron Maher stable.

The gelding has shown good form in defeat in four outings this spell with two of those efforts coming over this course and distance.

Both of those track and trip races came at this Benchmark 64 level, with the gelding finishing runner-up on each occasion including when beaten a length on his penultimate start.

The four-year-old raced from off the pace that day and had to race wide when upped to 2400m to finish fifth at Sandown Hillside subsequently.

The drop back in distance is a positive here, however, and this looks a highly competitive affair with the son of Preferment looking opposable in this field.

While STAUNCH finished behind Ciaron Maher’s gelding at this venue in December, that marked a below-par effort from the five-year-old who has placed in three of his last four outings.

The selection showed a liking for this track and trip when runner-up in a Benchmark 70 handicap on a good 3 track on 8th December.

The 5.00 gelding had Black Penn, who re-opposes here one place ahead of him when finishing two-and-a-half-lengths third in a Benchmark 64 handicap over 2025m at Cranbourne last month.

The pick raced on a soft 5 track that day and looks up to reversing form with Black Penn who has to overcome a wide alley in this event.

Cirebon to complete Canterbury double

The penultimate race on the Canterbury card takes the eye, with a field of nine set to go to post for a 1550m Benchmark 72 handicap restricted to fillies and mares.

A good 4 track is expected with Chris Waller’s filly Amati expected to prove popular, having registered two good efforts at this venue so far this spell.

The second of those saw the filly beaten just over three lengths when third of six in an open sex course and distance Benchmark 72 handicap last month.

That effort came on a soft 6 track and, while the switch to a sound surface is no issue, she is expected to find the in-form CIREBON too strong.

Trained by Sara Ryan, the selection saw off Amati among others when winning the previously mentioned Benchmark 72 handicap by over a length just over two weeks ago.

That success marked the 3.20 pick’s second in her last three starts, having recorded a two-and-a-half-length victory in a 1300m Benchmark 66 handicap at Scone three starts back.

Regan Bayliss’ mount has a decent alley in six and, while she front ran last time out, she has had success when ridden with more restraint in the past.

Werribee victory awaits Boom

The penultimate race on the Werribee card is a Benchmark 58 handicap contest set to take place on a good 4 track.

SASSY BOOM was returning from a break when beaten over four lengths into fourth in a 1200m Benchmark 64 handicap at Pakenham last month.

The 4.80 pick raced close to the speed that day, with her jockey Liam Riordan reporting a problem with her action on the soft 5 surface.

The three-year-old is expected to have improved for that effort and has an eye-catching jockey booking in Billy Egan.

A wide barrier is far from ideal here, however, with trainer Danny O’Brien boasting an impressive 42% strike-rate (5/12) here in the last 12 months and she can help him improve on that with a win.

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