Aside from reigning WA Horse of the Year, Ihtsahymn, Saturday’s Listed Birthday Stakes (1200m) at Belmont Park is not one of the strongest editions of the race.
With honours in last year’s Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m), Group 2 WA Guineas (1600m) and Group 2 Cox Stakes (2100m), Ihtsahymn is the class horse in the $100,000 feature.
But combined with top weight of 62kg, having his first start since April, commencing from the widest barrier and racing over an unsuitable distance, the Ihtiram gelding will be severely tested.
“The weight and barrier won’t make his task easy at all,” said trainer, Fred Kersley.
“I really have an open mind on how he might go.
“It’s hard to measure the form of his rivals who are lower rated than him.
“His first-up form is not flash and that also remains a query.”
Although the Birthday Stakes is not insurmountable for Ihtsahymn it does leave the door ajar for the remainder of his eight rivals.
Seeking to cash in and capitalise with his Hurricane Sky gelding, Fiddler’s Elbow, is Myalup trainer, Justin Warwick.
The five-year-old displayed signs of being a feature race horse earlier this year when he produced a sequence of four consecutive victories at Ascot.
His winter campaign hasn’t reached the same heights and he is yet to shed his Belmont Park hoodoo, but he did perform with merit.
He raced on seven occasions for four placings including twice to the highly promising Trading Day and once to boom mare, Cool Trade.
Warwick enters the Birthday Stakes with a degree of optimism after Fiddler’s Elbow returned from an eight week spell on September 20.
He finished fifth in a field of seven but blitzed home to run the final 600m in 33.65sec. when less than a length from Jack ‘N’ Sam.
“I thought the horse went super and he ran the fastest final sectional of the meeting,” said Warwick.
“He should be in for a nice preparation and with some nice races coming up we can see where he is at.
“He hasn’t won at Belmont but fingers crossed he can measure up to the grade.
“He has drawn well and I reckon we are in it right up to our ear.”
Fiddler’s Elbow, who has one win and a third from two second up attempts, has drawn gate three for apprentice Lucy Warwick.
He is quoted a $4.80 chance on Tabtouch, sharing second favouritism with the Jim Taylor-trained Mendicity.
Heading the market at $3.20 is Trade Fair mare Fuchsia Bandana for the inform Darren McAuliffe stable.
Ihtsahymn is at $8.