All eyes will be on Hawkes Racing’s burgeoning talent Masked Crusader when he makes his stakes debut against a small but select Inglis 3YO Guineas field.
The three-year-old will back-up in the $200,000 feature at Rosehill on Saturday after a stunning Sydney debut last weekend when he barely got out of second gear to trounce older horses.
He returns to his own age group in the Inglis Guineas (1400m) and while markets have him an odds-on favourite, he does meet some seasoned rivals including last-start Hawkesbury Guineas winner Dawn Passage.
Co-trainer Michael Hawkes has a high opinion of Masked Crusader but, loathe to get carried away with off-season form, he says the horse still has everything to prove.
“He’s not surprising us with what he’s showing but he’s still got to do it. He’s still a baby,” Hawkes said.
“He took on the older horses and flogged them last start, now he’s back to his own age and weight but there’s a couple of smart ones in there.
“Dawn Passage is coming back to the same scenario, he’s coming from Group level back.
“But he hasn’t put his foot wrong since his Wyong debut and he’s going in the right direction.”
Raced in similar interests to star sprinter Chautauqua, Masked Crusader has been managed patiently.
He was gelded early and has gone on to win three of his four runs, his only defeat coming when he bungled the start on debut at Wyong in November.
“He wasn’t a handful, but he was starting to go the wrong way and that’s why we decided to geld him,” Hawkes said.
“That’s why he has probably turned out the horse he has. His attitude is good, you wouldn’t even know he’s in the stable. He’s very quiet and relaxed.”
Masked Crusader has been given an easy week ahead of his bid to give the Hawkes stable and jockey Tommy Berry successive Guineas wins after they claimed the race 12 months ago with Wild Planet.
Stablemate and last-start Hawkesbury Cup winner Amangiri is also expected to be hard to beat in the Listed Dark Jewel Classic (1400m) despite a 4kg weight rise.
Raced by Hawkes’ wife Clare and mother Jenny, Amangiri is a family affair and heads markets for her assignment, which has attracted a full field of 16 mares.
“She’s a big girl so she will be able to carry the weight,” Hawkes said.
“She’s drawn well to get a good run. She is back to 1400 (metres), we’ve freshened her up and she’s flying.”