Baker and Forsman on Classic trail

Owner John Rattray (left) and Murray Baker will be hoping for more joy with Bonneval on Saturday.

Owner John Rattray (left) and Murray Baker, pictured with Bonneval after her Group Two triumph. They are hoping for Group One success with Bonneval on Saturday.

A rare chance to pull off back-to-back Australian classic wins has Cambridge trainer Murray Baker buzzing.

Baker and co-trainer Andrew Forsman produced Jon Snow to win last Saturday’s Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick and on Saturday the duo has Bonneval as a leading chance in the Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) at the same venue.

“All you can do is give it a shot, but the filly is healthy and happy and we’ve had no hold-ups along the way,” said Baker from Sydney. “She’s settled in well over here.”

Jon Snow gave Baker his 19th Australian Group One win and fourth Derby triumph in Australia after Nom Du Jeu, Lion Tamer and Mongolian Khan. His sole Oaks win came through Dowry in the Gr.1 South Australian Oaks (2500m) at Morphettville in 2004.

Baker said Bonneval was just his third Australian Oaks runner after Let’s Sgor (10th in 1991) and Staring (fifth in 1992).

Like Let’s Sgor and Staring, Bonneval won the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham leading into the Sydney Classic. Only the prospect of a rain-affected track and the right-handed way of going at Randwick is giving Baker any cause for concern.

“She’s only had one start right-handed and that was when she got pulled out of the Eight Carat Classic when she choked down,” said Baker.

“But we’ve given her a lot of work right-handed so we don’t expect any problems there. She does stay. She’s out of a Zabeel mare and how she goes just depends on how she handles the track.

“Hugh Bowman rode her in her track gallop on Tuesday and he was happy. She’s a nice, relaxed filly, quite a good size, and I’m sure that if she can handle the conditions she’ll run the trip all right.”

Baker is putting his faith in Bonneval’s ability to handle a rain-affected track down to her sire Makfi, the sire also of last year’s Oaks winner Sophia Rosa, trained by Baker’s great adversary and training neighbour, Stephen Marsh.

“The Makfis seem to handle the wet,” he said. “He left the Oaks winner last year and we train Eleonora, who was third in the Victorian Oaks, and she definitely handles a soft track.”

Baker and Forsman will also shoot for further feature race spoils on Saturday with Saracino tackling the Gr.2 Arrowfield 3yo Sprint (1200m) at Randwick and classy mares Mime and Charmont contesting the Gr.1 Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa.

“Saracino does like a wet track,” he said.”He’s had three starts right-handed and hasn’t gone that well, but he’s in form, winning the Wellington Guineas last start.

“He’s fresh and seems a happy horse. He’s got a terrific jockey in Damien Oliver, who has won on him before (in the Gr.2 Danehill Stakes at Flemington last September).”

On Mime and Charmont, Baker said: “Both are really well. They are going to get their chance. Mime has trained on really well since Auckland (second in the Gr.2 Westbury Classic), but there’s not a lot between them. Charmont is working well and we’re really happy with her.”

– NZ Racing Desk