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Rising Romance has twice gone close in Group One races at Flemington this season and David Hayes rates her the pick of his stable’s three runners in a competitive Australian Cup.

Hayes and co-trainer Tom Dabernig will be striving for back-to-back Australian Cups on Saturday after Spillway defeated stablemate Extra Zero in a photo-finish to last year’s weight-for-age 2000m feature.

Extra Zero is back again as an outsider in Saturday’s race but it’s Rising Romance who Hayes has on top of the trio which also includes Geelong and Sandown Cup winner Almoonqith.

Rising Romance finished second in the Group One Makybe Diva Stakes and Group One Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington during an up-and-down spring campaign and Hayes has been happy with her two runs leading into the Australian Cup.

The mare hit the line strongly late for sixth in the Peter Young Stakes last start, won by Australian Cup favourite Bow Creek.

“She got caught up and only got out late and ran a very good last 100 metres but the race was over,” Hayes said.

“She was never a threat but it wasn’t because of her ability, it was because of the bad luck she had.

“She might get the breaks (on Saturday). She’s got a good barrier and she’s been set for it.

“I’m pretty confident she’ll really perform well.”

Rising Romance will be ridden by Craig Williams who combined with Hayes to win the 2009 Australian Cup with Niconero.

The imported Almoonqith won the Geelong Cup and Sandown Cup in his first Australian preparation and tackles Saturday’s race in his second run of the autumn.

Whatever he does Hayes expects him to keep improving heading to The Championships in Sydney.

“He’s got a lot of condition on him and we haven’t pushed him really hard going into this race because we’re hoping to peak in Sydney for the Sydney Cup,” Hayes said.

“But his work on Monday suggests he’ll run well.”

Extra Zero almost caused a boilover last year when nosed out by Spillway as a $101 chance.

He is again the outsider this year at $35 but Hayes would not be shocked to see the nine-year-old running into the placings again.

“I think his form is similar to last year and he’s a horse that when he’s huge odds, you can’t leave him out,” Hayes said.

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