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A steep weight rise and wide barrier have dampened trainer Steve McKinnon’s enthusiasm for Orbit Express’ bid to win successive Group Three Victoria Handicaps at Caulfield.

The seven-year-old won last year’s 1400-metre event with 54.5kg but will carry 58kg on Saturday.

He has also drawn the outside of the 12 runners, which is a similar scenario to last start when he got back in the ruck and didn’t recover.

“He’s a genuine horse and the handicapper eventually catches up with them, so I think he’s got the job ahead of him, especially from the barrier,” McKinnon said.

“At seven years of age, whether he is a 3.5kg better horse than last year remains to be seen.

“I suppose he has won a couple of races since then, including a Listed race two starts ago, but you have got to be a bit guarded.

“It is also going to make it tough from the gate he’s got.

“The horse is fine but I was hoping that he could draw around five or six.”

Only two horses have won the Victoria Handicap twice, the last being Debrief (2002-03) while Jet Fighter also won the event in 1987 and 1988.

Orbit Express’ jockey Steven King knows the gelding well having finished fourth on him to Masked Assassin in the 2009 Victoria Handicap before steering him to victory last year.

King got him home in the Listed TAB First4 Jackpot Stakes (1400m) two starts ago.

Meanwhile, David Hayes is optimistic about the first-up prospects of last year’s WATC Derby winner Chartreux in the Victoria Handicap.

Last spring he raced only three times before injury sidelined him.

“He is a bit short on his right distance but he’s a Group One winner and good horses can sprint well fresh,” Hayes said.

“In the spring he struggled a bit and got injured, but he’s come back this time bigger and stronger.”

AAP TURF

 
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