THE Phillip Stokes stable will be hoping to start the New Year with a bang when up-and-coming sprinter Defiant Dancer tackles the $160,000 Group 3 Standish Handicap at Flemington today.
The first Group feature of 2021 will hopefully paint a better picture of just where they will target the horse during next year’s Adelaide Festival of Racing in Adelaide in May.
“I won’t get carried away, we’ll try and get the (Group 3) win out of the way and go from that,” Stokes said on RSN radio.
“I’ve trained a fair few out of that mare (and) Group 2 was the best with Samara Dancer.
“I’ve very happy with where he’s drawn, he’ll get his chance. We were happy with his work on Tuesday and he goes there in good order.”
Defiant Dancer has always promised plenty.
He finished runner-up at his first two starts before bolting in at Morphettville by 5.5 lengths in August last year, earning a tilt at the Caulfield Guineas Prelude. He finished down the track behind Alligator Blood before following with a solid fourth in the Gothic Stakes over 1400m behind Alabama Express and running second to Heart Of Puissance over a mile at Moonee Valley.
But keeping him back in distance has ultimate uncovered his best, while the horse is a glowing example of how Stokes’ two-state operation is working harmoniously.
He was prepared in Adelaide, trialling at Murray Bridge in early November, before his first-up win at Pakenham on December 5.
He backed-up that performance with a three-length Flemington win over 1200m on December 19, prompting a tilt at the Standish.
Defiant Dancer is marked a $3.50 favourite for the Standish ahead of Sirious Suspect and Graf. The latter is a son of former local mare Dinkum Diamond, who won three of six starts for the Leon Macdonald stable before going to the breeding barn.
The Stokes stable, which produced its 1000th winner at Morphettville with Symphonette last weekend, has a busy start to 2021.
It has runners at Murray Bridge and Flemington today, plus Gawler and Caulfield tomorrow.
Impressive last-start Gawler winner Terbium tackles an 1100m race at Caulfield.
“We were going to give him a little bit longer between runs, but he’s done so well in Adelaide and he arrived here great,” Stokes said.
“He obviously likes Caulfield. I think he’s back to where he should be and should run really well.”
IMAGE: Defiant Dancer wins at Flemington recently. PHOTO: punters.com.au