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Casino Wizard hoping for more Christmas Handicap magic

Lee Creek will be hoping Casino Wizard can deliver him another timely Christmas present as he aims for his third straight Listed Christmas Handicap win on Saturday.

The eight-year-old is the gift that keeps on giving for the Mount Gambier based trainer and his connections. He has now won over $720k in prizemoney and four Listed races including his favourite feature, the Christmas Handicap.

The gelding won the 2016 edition at $8 before claiming last year’s feature as the $4.40 favourite and on Saturday he has been rated as a $6 chance to complete the Christmas Handicap hat-trick.

Emily Finnegan sticks with the horse after his last start in the Listed City of Marion where he was rundown in the straight to finish two lengths off the winner Illustrious Lad in sixth position. He’s drawn a lot better on Saturday than he did last start and while there will be a few younger horses looking to claim their first Stakes win, you just can’t write the old boy off in his favourite race on Saturday.

One of those younger horses looking to claim their first Stakes win is the Mick Price trained Nariko. The four-year-old mare lost the Listed City of Marion Stakes in a photo and she meets a similar field here on Saturday. While she didn’t win her last start, she beat the rest of the field by 1.3 lengths and will carry 54kg again on Saturday and looks mighty hard to beat from barrier two.

It could very well be a Mick Price quinella on Saturday, with his second runner, Princess of Queens a big chance in the feature. The mare just went down to the very talented Theanswermyfriend last start at Pakenham over 1200m where she came storming home from the tail to miss by half a length. She is Group 3 placed and has won at the track and distance, winning here in BM90 grade in September by 2.3 lengths. She’ll be ridden by 2008 Christmas Handicap winner Dom Tourneur.

The interesting runner in the field is the former Sydney sprinter, Takedown. Now in the care of Darren Weir, the six-year-old has contested 33 of his 36 career starts at Stakes Level and has one Group 1, two Group 2 and three Group 3 wins to his name. While he hasn’t won since the 2016 Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes, he is a very classy animal and Darren Weir is a master at getting the best out of new horses to his stable. Harry Coffey flies to Adelaide to take the ride and while he might not have tasted victory in a while, this is potentially one of the easiest races he’s contested in some time.

Last start winner Zalmona faces the biggest test of his career but was an impressive two length winner last start in BM82 grade. He won’t know himself with 54kgs on his back, not carrying a weight that low in over 18 months. The back marker will look to drop to the tail of the field from barrier nine and then watch for him late with Jamie Kah on his back.

The consistent Go the Journey is first up on Saturday for the Richard and Chantelle Jolly yard and the gelding will be hoping to go one better after running second in last year’s edition. He was first up in last year’s edition and has won twice first up from six starts. The in-form Todd Pannell takes the ride coming off a double at Strathalbyn on Wednesday. Lope De Capio was the 2016 runner up but just hasn’t found his best form this preparation.

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