The Hawkes stable will send out two valuable stallion prospects in one of Australia’s premier sprint races at Flemington.
Three-year-old Exceedance and four-year-old Trope run in Saturday’s Newmarket Handicap (1200m) chasing a Group One win which would enhance their futures at stud.
Trope is yet to score at the highest level, his only victory coming in a maiden at Randwick on debut, but Hawkes says he has the potential to win in Group One grade.
Exceedance has already notched a Group One win against his own age in what is regarded a stallion-making race, the Coolmore Stud Stakes over Saturday’s course and distance last November.
He will be trying to win the Newmarket first-up as Redkrik Warrior did in 2017 when he became the first horse in 100 years to do so.
Hawkes, who trains in partnership with his father John and brother Michael, said Exceedance was fit enough and he was not put off by some who have suggested his recent Flemington jump-out was not up to scratch.
“Some people were a bit iffy about his jump-out. I wasn’t,” Hawkes said.
“I’ve seen a lot of horses leave it behind on a Friday morning.
“A furlong after the winning post, he was in front, so it was a 1000-metre gallop and he powered through the line.
“He wasn’t out there to have a gut-buster and he’s fit enough to win first-up.
“We don’t weigh them, but he’s bigger and stronger now than the spring.”
The Flemington track has had more than 71mm of rain since Wednesday night with the surface in the soft range on Friday.
Hawkes said those conditions would not pose a problem for Exceedance.
“We go just as good on a dry track but when you tick a box with a wet track, you stand there smiling,” Hawkes said.
“There will be horses in the Newmarket that can’t handle the track, but it’s a big Group One. They’ve got to run and we’ve been in that situation before.
“But a wet track, that’s not going to bother us.”
Trope heads to Flemington for the first time after running 11th behind Pippie in the Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield on February 29, his first run after a spell.
Hawkes said the track bias, favouring leaders that day, was against Trope.
“He’s only won the one race, but he’s been desperately unlucky in a number of others, so he is a bit of a chance,” Hawkes said.
“I don’t know which one I want to win and there’s a bit of a conflict of interest with both being expensive colts.
“As long as they both run well, I’ll be happy.”