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Mick Price�� trio lead the field in Blue Diamond Stakes


Trainer Mick Price saddles up three runners in Saturday's A$1.5 million Blue Diamond Stakes (G1 1200m), on his home track Caulfield, and remains optimistic about his prospects of winning the race for the second time despite all three drawing badly. 

Price has the favourite Extreme Choice from gate 13; second favourite Flying Artie who's drawn 17 and China Dream who was allocated gate 14 when the barriers were drawn. 

"I don't think it's all over by any stretch of the imagination," Price said after the draw, "Extreme Choice has got gate 13, which after the scratchings will mean gate 11 and we'll just hope that from that position we can get a nice slot-in spot.

"China Dream's drawn 14 but he's a horse who will go forward so that in a way could offset the awkwardness of the gate. Flying Artie certainly has a tough gate and we're just going to have to look at how we get around it but I've got Damien Oliver on board and champion jockeys make great decisions in these times," he said.

Six Blue Diamond winners in the past 20 years have drawn double figure barriers with three scoring from barrier 15.

While Extreme Choice holds favouritism, the stablemate Flying Artie has attracted strong support after Oliver chose to ride him ahead of the stalemate. Oliver rode both in their lead-up wins with Flying Artie an impressive Blue Diamond Prelude winner on 13 February despite drawing 13. 

Seven of the past eight Blue Diamond winners have run first or second in either of the two Caulfield lead-ups to the race - the Preview or the Prelude. The runners in that category this year are Flying Artie, Star Turn, Samara Dancer and Concealer. 

Price won the Blue Diamond in 2012 with Samaready, ridden by Craig Newitt who takes the ride on the Oliver 'reject' Extreme Choice. Even so the trainer is inclined to think the race still owes him more after his 2003 winner Roedean lost the race on a positive swab. Roedean had been treated with an ointment which she had licked from her leg, leading to the positive test.

The 1100 metres Oakleigh Plate and the 1400 metres Futurity Stakes are the two other Group 1 races on the Caulfield card. The three-year-old filly Heatherly and the gelding Keen Array of the same age, both on the minimum weight, head the betting in the Oakleigh Plate. 

The race has certainly fallen within the grasp of the three-year-olds with 13 of that age winning the feature sprint in the past 30 years and each of them carried more weight than this year's contenders. Only two of the 13 were fillies but they include Miss Kournikova who was prepared by Heatherly's co-trainer Mathew Ellerton. 

Ellerton's now training partner Simon Zahra said that Heatherly "presented the stable with their best chance for some time to win a Group 1 race."

The Futurity Stakes is something of a remake of the G1 Orr Stakes, at the same course and distance on 13 February, with seven of the first eight to finish lining up again. 

Suavito, who won the Orr Stakes courtesy of a great ride from Luke Currie, is third favourite for the Futurity behind Hucklebuck and Turn Me Loose who finished third and fourth respectively behind her. 

However, Suavito did win the Futurity Stakes last year and has a little history on her side with three horses completing the Orr Stakes and Futurity Stakes double in the past six years. 


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