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The defending champion is out but an array of equine talent will still do battle in Australia’s first Group One race of the year at Caulfield.

Premier Victorian trainer Darren Weir’s strong hand in Saturday’s C F Orr Stakes (1400m) has been reduced to two runners after last year’s winner Black Heart Bart was scratched on race eve because of a reported foot issue.

Weir still has the $4.20 favourite Tosen Stardom and fellow Japanese import Brave Smash ($8) among the remaining 13 runners which feature six individual Group One winners.

Tosen Stardom’s main rival in the latest market is Godolphin star Hartnell who was a convincing winner of the Group Two P B Lawrence Stakes over the same course and distance first-up last campaign, his only win for the spring.

The James Cummings-trained seven-year-old gelding is due to start two barriers inside Tosen Stardom, who has the widest gate.

“His win in the Lawrence was probably his best performance last time in and although Craig (Williams) might have to make use of him from his wide gate, I think he can run really well,” Cummings said.

“He looks good and he’s feeling well.

“What I like is that he is carrying good condition into Saturday’s race. When he’s got that bit of condition on him, I feel that he races very well.”

Caulfield Cup runner-up Single Gaze has been back in Melbourne for a couple of weeks preparing for her return in the Orr, and her Canberra trainer Nick Olive believes the mare has improved again.

Single Gaze has the Australian Cup (2000m) as a Melbourne target third-up before she head to Sydney for the Ranvet Stakes (2000m) and BMW (2400m).

“She’s going fantastic,” Olive said.

“I wouldn’t change a thing with her preparation to be honest. Obviously it’s a little bit too short on Saturday, I think, but she could still run a cheeky race.”

Single Gaze has barrier one and Olive is hoping his stable star has enough early speed to put herself in a good position over the shorter distance.

“If she can jump and be in the first half of the field, I expect her to finish there,” Olive said.

“But if she misses the start and gets back near last on the fence, she’s no chance.

“We’ll be aggressive out of the gates and if she can be in the first five, I think she’ll run a really cheeky race.”

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