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The presence of Chautauqua in the Lightning Stakes forced David Hayes to rethink his strategy with Keen Array.

The three-year-old instead goes to the Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield on Saturday ahead of next month’s Newmarket Handicap.

Keen Array

Keen Array

Hayes, who trains in partnership with Tom Dabernig, said he feared Keen Array would be severely punished in the ratings if he toppled Chautauqua in Saturday’s 1000m-sprint at Flemington won by the Hawkes Racing-trained sprinter in a tight finish from Terravista.

“We were pretty close to running,” Hayes said.

“I know he would have got close but he would have got handicapped for it and I just thought it was handicapping suicide.

“He was 30 points out of the handicap against Chautauqua and at set weights Mr (Greg) Carpenter would have to kill him and it wouldn’t have been helpful for the Newmarket.

“If we run him in the Oakleigh Plate and he wins he gets a little penalty, so while he’s under 100 in the ratings he should run in handicaps.

“The Newmarket is his perfect race.”

The three-year-old has been trialling impressively in recent weeks in preparation for his return and Hayes is expecting him to get between 50 and 51kg.

He will be ridden by Stephen Baster who says he hasn’t ridden as light as he’s been asked to since his time in Singapore.

“I’ll have to go on the Singapore diet and work hard to get my weight down,” he said.

Keen Array hasn’t raced since finishing second to Japonisme in the Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington last spring.

Joining Keen Array in the Oakleigh Plate are stablemates Gregers and last year’s runner-up Fast `N’ Rocking.

Neither has raced since November.

“Gregers has been trialling well but I would think Keen Array has got more upside,” Hayes said.

“Fast `N’ Rocking has been unlucky at his last two Group Ones and was unlucky last year in this race and did run second in a Blue Diamond.

“He’s got a good Caulfield record.”

The Oakleigh Plate attracted 31 nominations including Flamberge, Bounding, Black Heart Bart, Dothraki and Smokin’ Joey with a capacity field of 18 to run.

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