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Trainer Mat Ellerton says Crystal Lily is not quite at the top of her game for her first-up assignment in Saturday’s McEwen Stakes at Moonee Valley but believes her class will carry her a long way.

The Stratum four-year-old mare, who will go on to the Group One Manikato Stakes (1200m) under lights at the Valley on September 30, has been readied for the McEwen with two jumpouts which she won at Werribee and Flemington the past two Fridays.

“She still looks a bit off in the coat and a bit `wintery’, but she’s in good order,” Ellerton, who co-trains the mare with his cousin Simon Zahra, said.

“We’ll be looking for a good performance and improvement to come out of her.”

Crystal Lily hasn’t managed a win since her game effort to defeat Decision Time in the 2010 Golden Slipper.

But she has since managed four seconds, including three at the highest level, from seven appearances.

Crystal Lily chased home unbeaten champion Black Caviar when runner-up in both the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington and the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley.

Later on in the spring Ellerton and Zahra will consider a rematch with Black Caviar in the Patinack Farm Classic at Flemington.

Crystal Lily hasn’t raced since running second to subsequent Bobbie Lewis Quality winner Lone Rock in The Goodwood at Morphettville in May.

She will be ridden for the first time in a race by Craig Williams in Saturday’s 1000m Group Three weight-for-age event.

The Peter Moody-trained Kulgrinda is $2.50 favourite with TAB Sportsbet to complete a hat-trick of wins at her third outing of a preparation also directed to the Manikato Stakes.

Crystal Lily is considered the main threat at $4 with The Galaxy winner Atomic Force at $7.50, Queenslander Buffering at $8.50 and Hong Kong Group One winner Happy Zero at $11.

Meanwhile, dual Group One winner Response will play catch up in the Become A MVRC Member Hcp (1200m) after missing last Saturday’s Bobbie Lewis at Flemington due to a sore foot.

Dwayne Dunn will ride Response who along with Queenslander Woorim will carry equal topweight of 60.5kg.

“She’ll go two weeks to the Rupert Clarke instead of three now,” Ellerton said.

“She worked nice and strong on Tuesday morning and, touch wood, her foot is alright.

“If it’s all plain sailing with her from here on we may target the Myer Classic with her.”

The Group One Myer Classic (1600m) for fillies and mares is run on Derby Day at Flemington.

Response won last year’s Group One Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield with Woorim a half-length back third.

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