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Adelaide trainer Phillip Stokes rarely goes home empty handed after a foray across the border.

On Saturday at Flemington, Stokes saddles runners in two Group races on the Newmarket/Australian Cup program.

More Than Exceed tackles the Group Two Sires’ Produce Stakes with Counterplay to contest the Group Two Kewney Stakes.

A winner in Adelaide, More Than Exceed ran in last month’s Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m), finishing 10th behind Written By.

Stokes said the two-year-old was lost around Caulfield in a high pressure race but is expecting less pressure on Saturday with the distance rise.

“He copped a bit of buffeting and that sort of thing but he took a lot out of the run,” Stokes said.

“He worked well at Sandown on Tuesday and I feel he’ll be better at the 1400 metres on the bigger track.

“It’s a hard race but I think he’ll run better.”

Stokes said More Than Exceed would be spelled after Saturday to concentrate on the spring.

“I think he’ll make a nice miler,” Stokes said.

“We’ll start off aiming at the Caulfield Guineas and work it out from there.”

Stablemate Counterplay won her first two starts as a two-year-old but has been winless in seven subsequent starts.

She recorded placings at last year’s Caulfield Cup carnival, including one in a stakes race.

Now Stokes would like to see the filly graduate to success at black-type level.

He said she had improved on her last-start fourth behind Kewney rival, the unbeaten Summer Sham, at Caulfield on February 24.

“On the days when we’ve had her right things haven’t panned out as well as we might have liked,” he said.

“She tries very hard, she works well and I think I’ve got her as good as I can get her.

“She’s drawn in the middle of them to get the right run so hopefully it works out well for her.”

 
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