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Grand National Hurdle winner Black And Bent has freshened up well ahead of kicking off an ambitious Melbourne Cup campaign in the Naturalism Stakes at Caulfield.

The six-year-old has been given an easy time since winning the Houlahan Hurdle at Sandown on August 28 and trainer Robert Smerdon wants to build him back up in distance with a start in Saturday’s 2000m feature.

Smerdon said the Naturalism would provide a bridge to the longer staying races for the gelding who has shown remarkable versatility on the flat as well as over jumps with 17 wins from 40 starts.

“It’s not a race he could win on Saturday,” Smerdon said.

“It is going to be a hot race but it keeps him ticking over towards a longer race for him next time which will be more significant for him going forward.”

Smerdon said more suitable races would be the Listed Ansett Stakes (2400m) at Mornington on October 1 or the Listed Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington the following day.

“I think he has freshened up all right but we will know more after Saturday,” Smerdon said.

After his last run Black And Bent spent a week on the water with trainer Peter Morgan and has been back at Caulfield with Smerdon since early last week.

“We didn’t have to do much with him,” Smerdon said.

The Naturalism was always going to be attract a big entry with the winner of the race exempt from the ballot for the Caulfield Cup.

For that reason it is paramount Caulfield Cup favourite December Draw, trained by Mark Kavanagh, wins the event to secure his place in the field.

Leviathan owner Lloyd Williams has five of the 31 Naturalism entries – Alandi, At First Sight, Base, Green Moon, and Midas Touch.

Cranbourne trainer Mick Kent has entered Unusual Suspect, who was an eye catching fourth in Saturday’s Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes, My Bentley, who was a first up seventh in the Makybe Diva Stakes, and Werribee Cup winner Montahlia, who is resuming.

Gai Waterhouse has nominated both Herculian Prince and Once Were Wild.

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