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Fillies lead Randwick stakes challenge

Mike Hedge

The talented fillies Calliope and Pearls head the Godolphin challenge on a program of stakes racing at Randwick on Saturday August 20 that heralds the commencement of Australia’s major racing season.

On a day when the royal blue colours will be carried in five stakes races, the two fillies stand out among a team that ranges from three-year-olds on the way up, to the six-year-old G1 campaigner Hartnell and the veteran sprinter Generalife.

A winner in sensational style at her first race start last October, Calliope (John O’Shea/James McDonald), who runs in the G2 Silver Shadow Stakes, hasn’t started since finishing down the track in the G1 Golden Slipper.

Calliope, represents both the challenges that confront a trainer and the pleasure of handling a high-class galloper.

“She’s had her problems in the gates, which is well-known, but we’ve tried to keep her in a positive frame of mind since her trial last week, keep her relaxed and happy,” O’Shea said.

“I think she’s ready to run well first up after a nice trial and some first-class work at home. There’s no doubt she’s a very talented filly who I’d like to progress to a race like the G1 Thousand Guineas later in the spring.

Pearls (John O’Shea/Brenton Avdulla) is a year older than her stablemate and is yet to show the same quality, but her trainer is looking for her to step up during a preparation that commences in Saturday’s G3 Toy Show Quality.

“This time last Spring she won a nice race (G2 Tea Rose Stakes) and I’m fairly optimistic that she can find that level again,” O’Shea said.

“In the Autumn she didn’t quite find her form, but she looks a picture at the moment and she’s been working accordingly.”

Hartnell (John O’Shea/James McDonald) commences his Spring campaign in the G2 Warwick Stakes which at 1400m is well short of his preferred trip.

“He ran exceptionally well in a barrier trial last week and his work has been encouraging since,” O’Shea said.

“The Metropolitan is the race for him and it would be good to give him his chance to win another G1 this Spring.”

The three-year-old Kent (John O’Shea/Jason Collett) returns from a short break in the G3 Up And Coming Stakes in what will be a significant step up in class.

“He’s only lightly-raced but he’s continued to improve with each run,” O’Shea said.

"He’s come along fairly quietly – had one trial since he last raced a couple of months ago and he handled himself well without being pushed on a heavy track.

Generalife (John O’Shea/Brenton Avdulla) and Vashka (John O’Shea/James McDonald) are both first-up in the G3 Show County Quality and their trainer believes both are capable of forward showings.

At Saturday’s Kembla Grange meeting the major interest will be in the performances of Retaliation in the Benchmark 65 Handicap and Fragonard who runs in a Class 1 event.

Both three-year-olds won at their only starts and O’Shea is anticipating testing them at stakes level later in the Spring.