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In-form Sydney colt Dawn Passage is the early favourite to win the Fred Best Classic at Doomben

In-form Sydney colt Dawn Passage is the early favourite to win the Fred Best Classic at Doomben and clinch his spot in the Group One Stradbroke Handicap.

The Group Three Fred Best Classic (1350m) on Saturday features a number of three-year-olds who also hold nominations for the Stradbroke Handicap a week later at Eagle Farm.

The winner of the Fred Best will be exempt from ballot for the Stradbroke.

Dawn Passage was installed $3.50 favourite for the Fred Best with the TAB on Monday, with fellow Sydney-trained Grand Piano next at $5.

Winner of the Hawkesbury Guineas and Inglis 3YO Guineas over 1400m at Rosehill at his past two starts, the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Dawn Passage is high up in Stradbroke betting at $8 but down the ballot at 37th.

He will have to rely on attrition, or winning the Fred Best, to make the field.

Doncaster Mile-winning Sydney jockey James Innes Jr has travelled to Queensland and is undertaking 14 days of isolation in a bid to ride the colt at a light weight in the Stradbroke should he make the field.

The Fred Best Classic has attracted 24 nominations with a field limit of 16 plus emergencies.

The John Thompson-trained Grand Piano has beaten older horses in benchmark races in Sydney at his past two starts while last-start Gold Coast Guineas winner Hightail and last year’s Magic Millions 2YO Classic winner Exhilarates are also among the nominations.

The James Cummings-trained Exhilarates is also among 26 nominations for Saturday’s Listed Helen Coughlan Stakes for fillies and mares, another race in which the winner can secure a Stradbroke berth.

Exhilarates’ stablemate Trekking is the defending Stradbroke champion and on Monday was the $6 favourite to go back-to-back on Saturday week after winning the Group One Goodwood in Adelaide at his most recent start.

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