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Faster Fox faces Caulfield test

*Article by Carl Di Iorio for

New-found gate speed from yet another wide barrier draw may assist Barbie's Fox ahead of what looms as a campaign-defining run at Caulfield on Saturday.

Barbie's Fox surprised many, including her Cranbourne-based trainer Louise Bonella, when she jumped quickly and settled third before winning at Benchmark 78 level, against male opposition, over the mile at Sandown Lakeside on July 21.

Apprentice Lewis German seized the initiative aboard Barbie's Fox last start and retains the ride ahead of Saturday's $130,000 Thank You MRC Members Handicap (1700m), a fillies and mares Benchmark 84 handicap.

"I thought she'd be midfield but she jumped away that well, she took advantage of that quick start and it's a lot easier winning races towards the front than from behind," Bonella said.

Barbie's Fox ran third in the 2019 Group 2 Thousand Guineas Prelude (1400m) as a $61 outsider and has proved to be a consistent performer in town since, winning two metropolitan races with German aboard each time.

Recent performances have indicated that Barbie's Fox is capable of transitioning into the lower tiers of Stakes company this season, with her progress through the grades seemingly hampered by continually jumping from wide barriers.

Barbie's Fox has drawn barrier seven of nine for this weekend's race and should the Foxwedge mare contest the event as expected, would result in the five-year-old starting from the second half of the field in 11 of 14 starts since the 2019 Thousand Guineas.

"Drawing those barriers … getting back and either going around everything or trying to find holes through the field, it just doesn't always work out," Bonella said.

"But if she can jump and race close (to the leaders) in a race there's less pressure, I'd be pleased."

The early settling position for Barbie's Fox could be decisive on Saturday, with just three of the nine competitors considered 'on-pace runners'. Horse For Higher will start from barrier two, while Leale (barrier eight) and So You Assume (barrier nine) are the only horses drawn to Barbie's Fox's outside.

So You Assume defeated Horse For Higher by four lengths in a fillies and mares Benchmark 78 handicap over the mile at The Valley on July 31, with the race on-pace dominated as the first 1000m was run in a pedestrian 1:03.35 before So You Assume asserted herself.

Saturday's Caulfield meeting is expected to be held on Good ground, which holds little fears for Bonella, who will be guided by this weekend's result before making plans this spring.

"Good ground shouldn't be a problem over this distance, she's performed alright on dry tracks but she's just better than them on the wet," she said.

"I didn't give her a long spell at the end of her previous campaign and we're getting to the back end of her prep now, so whether we give her runs in Stakes company this spring, we'll just play it by ear."

So You Assume is $2.90 favourite with Sportsbet to win at Caulfield on Saturday, with Barbie's Fox next in market order at $4.50.


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