BAKER EYEING DOOMBEN 10,000 WITH CUDDLES

Sydney trainer Bjorn Baker remains hopeful Champagne Cuddles can smash her Group 1 drought in the Doomben 10,000 despite a wide draw in the 1200-metre feature at Doomben on Saturday.

The four-year-old has tried nine times for a breakthrough Group 1 win, including four this season.

She failed in the Epsom Handicap in Sydney last spring and the Newmarket Handicap in Melbourne this autumn before excellent performances when fourth behind Santa Ana Lane in the T.J. Smith Stakes and Pierata in the All Aged Stakes at Randwick.

After drawing barrier 10 in the field of 12, Baker was unfazed and is hopeful she can finally crack a win at the highest level.

“I would have preferred a better draw but her last two runs in the All Aged Stakes and T.J. Smith were terrific,” Baker said.

“She got held up a little in the All Aged and her T.J. Smith run against the best sprinters in Australia was a great run.”

Favourites Nature Strip and Osborne Bulls drew gates 11 and four respectively while the Tony Gollan-trained pair I’m A Rippa and Outback Barbie drew five and two.

Baker is chasing his second win in the weight-for-age feature with Champagne Cuddles, who is also aiming to become only the fourth mare to win the Doomben 10,000 since it became weight-for-age in 1997.

Baker won the Doomben 10,000 with Music Magnate in 2016.

Hot Danish was the first mare to win the Doomben 10,000 at weight-for-age in 2010 and was followed by Beaded in 2011 and last year’s winner English, when the race was reduced to 1200 metres.

The Doomben 10,000 was first run in 1933 with only four other mares – Flitter (1994), Maybe Mahal (1977), Hamurah (1938) and High Benia (1936) -winning the race when it was a 1350-metre handicap.

Queensland has been a happy hunting ground for Baker, who also won the 2014 Magic Millions Classic with Unencumbered.

Winning Rupert also won the G2 Champagne Stakes during the 2016 Winter Carnival before becoming a star the following summer winning the Listed Gold Edition Stakes at Doomben and G3 Vo Rogue Plate.

Champagne Cuddles headed north for last year’s Winter Carnival, winning the G3 Gold Coast Guineas in record time before Group 1 placings in the Kingsford-Smith Cup and Stradbroke Handicap and a failure in the G1 Tatt’s Tiara at Doomben.

“I enjoy coming to Queensland each winter and I aim for up there more so than heading to Melbourne,” Baker said.

“The fine weather is going to suit her a lot better but she’s quite adaptable on any track.”

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