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Cepheus makes return ahead of Stradbroke mission

Fri 24 May 2024

By Glenn Davis

Trainer Matthew Dunn believes Group 2 winner Cepheus is a genuine chance to give him his first win at the highest level in next month’s Stradbroke Handicap at Eagle Farm.

However, the Murwillumbah trainer fears Cepheus will be vulnerable when the gelding makes his winter return in the Group 3 BRC Sprint over 1350 metres at Doomben on Saturday.

Cepheus hasn’t raced since a short two-start autumn campaign in Sydney and is coming off a last start 12th in the Group 1 George Ryder at Rosehill on March 23.

“He just didn’t handle the shifty track in the George Ryder,” Dunn said.

“There are not many imports that don’t like wet tracks but he’s hopeless on them. His entire campaign last time in was ruined by soft tracks and bad gates.

“I’m just praying for a firm track on Saturday and hope the weather stays fine up to the Stradbroke.”

Dunn declared Cepheus, winner of the Group 2 Shannon Stakes and $1.5 million Alan Brown at Rosehill last spring, is injury free after missing the entirety of 2022 with injury.

“He bowed a tendon a few years ago but he’s fine now and is injury free,” he said.

Cepheus will go straight into the $3 million Stradbroke after his hit out in the BRC Sprint.

“I want to give him one run and then go second-up into the Stradbroke,” Dunn said.

“He’s been struggling for fitness as all he’s doing is working on the track each morning and it’s all been on soft tracks.

“He’s a good fresh horse but he’s a terrible track worker and gets smacked by maideners in track work.”

Dunn has no concerns about a three week break after the BRC Sprint before he tackles the Stradbroke.

“At his best he’s a realistic chance in the Stradbroke,” he said.

“He’s had a trial and a jump out already but because he goes so well fresh I want to give him a three week break after Saturday before the Straddie.

“That way, I have a window to trial him somewhere if I need to."

Cepheus will be ridden by James Orman in the BRC Sprint but no rider has yet been booked for the Stradbroke.

The Natalie McCall-trained River Lad is the only horse to win the BRC Sprint and Stradbroke double in 2014.