Star jockey Hugh Bowman will be reunited with Australian Oaks winner Bonneval in pursuit of another Group One win in the Underwood Stakes.
Bowman rode Bonneval to an emphatic victory in the Group One Australian Oaks over 2400m at Randwick during this year’s autumn carnival.
The jockey was riding in Sydney when the New Zealand mare made an immediate spring statement with a first-up win in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes in Melbourne under jockey Damian Lane, but Bowman will be back aboard in Sunday’s 1800m weight-for-age race at Caulfield.
Bonneval clashes with Godolphin star Hartnell, who is the $1.90 favourite in the field of nine, and shares the second line of early betting at $5.50 with defending champion Black Heart Bart.
Co-trainer Murray Baker arrived back in Melbourne on Monday and is happy with Bonneval’s condition going into her second spring start.
“She’s just a pretty laid-back horse who doesn’t do a lot on the track but she seems in good order,” Baker said.
“This is a real test for her this week, so we’ll know where we are with her.
“This is her toughest test to date. We’ll know whether she’s back to handicaps or stays at weight-for-age.”
Baker said it was doubtful the reigning New Zealand horse of the year would aim for the Cox Plate.
“We’re looking at the Caulfield Cup,” he said.
Bonneval won both the New Zealand and Australian Oaks during her previous preparation and again showed her class when she powered home first-up, landing her fifth-straight victory.
Baker has won the Underwood three times with The Phantom (1990), Lion Tamer (2011) and It’s A Dundeel (2013).
The ride on Bonneval is part of a busy weekend for Sydney-based Bowman who will be in action at all three Group One meetings in Australia.
His book of rides at Moonee Valley on Friday night includes favourite Russian Revolution in the Group One Moir Stakes.