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The decision to run Speak Fondly in the Golden Rose might have been a late one but punters have been quick to latch on to the Gai Waterhouse-trained filly.

Speak Fondly has continued to firm for Saturday’s $1 million Golden Rose (1400m), Sydney’s first Group One race of the season.

An $11 chance after she backed up her Silver Shadow Stakes win with victory in Saturday’s Furious Stakes, Speak Fondly is now the $6 third favourite behind Exosphere ($3) and Press Statement ($3.80).

Waterhouse was left without a confirmed runner when former favourite Vancouver was taken out last Friday.

The owners, including Coolmore Stud where the Golden Slipper winner Vancouver will stand next year, decided to pull the pin on the Golden Rose after a less than impressive barrier trial earlier in the week.

His program will now be centred on next month’s Caulfield Guineas.

Exosphere, one of three runners for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin, will be ridden by James McDonald with Sam Clipperton gaining the ride on Holler, an $11 chance.

Hong Kong’s champion jockey Joao Moreira will ride the third pick of the Godolphin trio, Shards ($13).

Moreira rode three winners at Sha Tin on Sunday, the opening day of the new Hong Kong season.

He will be accompanied on the flight from Hong Kong by Australian ex-pat Brett Prebble who rides Speak Fondly.

Prebble missed Sunday’s meeting after a fall in a barrier trial a day earlier but is expected to be passed fit to ride.

The Golden Rose has a field capacity of 16 but it is estimated 13 horses will be declared on Tuesday.

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