Timeform's Head of Australia, Gary Crispe, previews the Tattersall's Mile at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
"The winning combination of leading rider Chris Munce and top weight Belltone loom as the obstacle for most runners in the field."
Saturday's feature at Eagle Farm is the listed Tattersall's Mile (06:50 BST) over the 1600m on the spacious Brisbane course, a race that assembles some old foes lining up for battle again.
The winning combination of leading rider Chris Munce and top weight Belltone loom as the obstacle for most runners in the field. The son of Brahms brings impeccable form lines plus a strong overall career record to the race and is the Timeform top-rated runner on adjusted weights.
Belltone has won his last two outings, both in listed company, first at Ipswich in the Eye Liner Stakes over 1350m a race that has proved to be a very strong form reference, then in the Glasshouse Quality at the Sunshine Coast over 1400m twenty-one days ago.
The prospect of a slow to heavy track should not be a concern for Belltone who handles all types of going with equal dexterity. Upon first glance, however, the 1600m may seem an issue as Belltone has never previously won over that trip, but significantly he has performed well over 1500m and 1640m at the end of a preparation back in 2010.
Belltone, who has shown a distinct liking for Eagle Farm, rises 2.5 kilos for his last start win, but Chris Munce who is a five time winner atop the Kelso Wood-trained gelding has been in great form and will ensure he is given every chance to prevail again.
The hardest to beat on Timeform adjusted ratings look to be Carry Me Bluey and Topping.
Carry Me Bluey notched his first win from six runs this preparation last time out at Grafton in the South Grafton Cup over today's 1600m journey with star country apprentice Alannah Fancourt in the saddle. On that occasion, Carry Me Bluey got back early and covered ground but when produced in the straight sailed up to the leaders in the closing stages to win well. That run followed an equally eye-catching effort in the Quality Tatt's R C Mile at Eagle Farm when a close up fourth behind Firebolt.
On Saturday Rick McMahon will be in the saddle for the first time and although the gelding will be conceding a big start again from the half mile, I can see him getting into the race late. He definitely needs a shade of luck, but he loves the big Eagle Farm course where he is a two time winner including once at 1600m. Interestingly Carry Me Bluey and Belltone have met twice previously with the decision going Belltone's way on each occasion and by a decisive margin of around three lengths each time.
While the aforementioned pair have been racing for some time, Topping coming into the race third up from a spell and is the fresh horse on the scene.
Trained by Tony Gollan, Topping has been runner-up on both occasions since resuming, first up over 1400m at the Gold Coast then 1600m at the Sunshine Coast. Both those runs have bought him close to peak form and I expect him to reproduce his best today. It is significant that leading senior rider Jim Byrne who has been successful on Topping previously and has excellent record with the Gollan stable is in the saddle again. Topping is drawn well and travels handy in the race, all attributes that should stand him on good stead.
Another in-form galloper Adnocon is hard to line up. He is another at the start of his preparation racing just twice since a spell, but comes into the event a last start Eagle Farm winner over 1200m plus he has a weight pull against Belltone. Last start when second up, Adnocon won the listed Ascot Handicap in quite impressive fashion running right to his master Timeform rating in the process and the manner of the win does suggest he has more to give.
Whether he can do that jumping from 1200m to 1600m in the space of 14 days is the query. As a younger horse he did jump from 1000m to 1615m at Doomben and only just got beaten so there is a history there to say he is capable of doing it. When resuming Adnocon was a close third to Belltone in the Eye Liner Stakes over 1350m, but on Saturday meets that galloper 2.5kgs better - quite a significant turnaround - for a narrow defeat.
Two gallopers worthy of consideration for the multiples are Pepperwood and Vonusti.
Now seven, Pepperwood was an upset winner three starts back this track and distance but has failed to run to that form since.
A five-time Eagle farm winner, Pepperwood needs to be taken on trust to produce his best but he is definitely one to consider for the exotics.
It is hard to know what to make New Zealand galloper Vonusti's first Australian start when well beaten behind Belltone in the Glasshouse Stakes at the Sunshine Coast last time out. He was unfancied in betting but after travelling handy to the turn dropped out very quickly to finish 11th. That form is well below his best New Zealand efforts that include placings at Group 1 level at this distance. He has the ratings on that form to be right in the finish and is clearly worth another chance, at least for the placings.
Belltone's task will not be easy but, with a super Chris Munce ride, the lightly raced six-year-old can complete a treble of listed victories.
Back Belltone @ $2.60 in the Tattersall's Mile at Eagle Farm (06:50 BST)
Get FREE Timeform Star Ratings & Verdicts for racing in Australia and New Zealand at timeform.com/free/