Wide draw against Highlad in Classic

Highlad (nearest camera) about to get the better of Manhattan Street in the Wanganui Guineas.

Highlad (nearest camera) outfinishing Manhattan Street in the Wanganui Guineas.

Damien Oliver will need all his skill and guile to give Cambridge three-year-old Highlad his best possible chance at Caulfield tomorrow.

The champion jockey will guide the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained youngster from the outside gate against a strong line-up in the Gr.3 Ladbrokes Classic.

Highlad also drew wide when ridden into third by Oliver last start in the Listed UCI Stakes, but Baker won’t be weighing the champion jockey down with pre-race instructions.

“We will leave it up to Ollie,” said Baker. “He’s won 105 Group One races.”

Highlad has had only three starts with his domestic form including a victory in the Listed Wanganui Guineas before heading to Melbourne.

“We are pretty happy with him,” said Baker. ”He has taken improvement from his last run.

“He did a lot of work into a strong wind last start. It was also his first run for a month and he stuck on well. I think he’s a pretty good horse.”

Another bold showing from Highlad tomorrow would confirm his place in the Gr.1 VRC Derby.

“He coped with a good track at Flemington, but would be suited by the jar being out of the track,” said Baker. “A bit of rain wouldn’t hurt him.”

Oliver will also partner Highlad’s stablemate Eleonora in the Gr.3 Ethereal Stakes.

The Makfi filly was never clear when she was unplaced in the Gr.2 Edward Manifold Stakes over 1600 metres in her last start and she is being aimed at the Gr.1 VRC Oaks.

“We are pretty happy with her and we do think she’s a stayer,” said Baker.

Oliver is in good form, having won the Gr.3 Blue Sapphire Stakes at Caulfield last Wednesday, but it came at a heavy cost. He incurred a 20-meeting suspension, which is to be served after tomorrow, on a reckless riding charge over an incident 700 metres from the finish.

“I was shocked to be honest. There’s no way it was reckless riding,” said Oliver. “I’ll be putting in an appeal and I’ll take it from there.”

– NZ Racing Desk.