With events of the IndianOil Barbe Cup still lingering, preparations for the third classic of the season steps up significantly in this Saturday’s 15th meeting, with the tenure of the Group 3 Radio Plus 16th Anniversary Trophy – Winter Stakes, which is also the opening leg of the Stayers’ championship.

Eight horses from six different yards have been entered in this 1850 metre contest, featuring classic winners and numerous Group race winners. With Mauritius experiencing quite a cold spell, the ingredients in this main race are there for a red hot contest.

Last year’s race was won brilliantly by Solar Star, who had Girish Goomany on board. Following in 4th position, he accelerated decisively in the final straight, beating Disco Al, Scotsnog and Bouclette Top. Although it would prove to be his sole win of his debut season, it was enough for him to be crowned champion stayer for Rameshwar Gujadhur’s yard.

The Gujadhur stable have been victorious in the previous two Group races. They are bidding to make it a hat-trick on Saturday, and DISCO AL (Imran Chisty) is more than capable of going one better from last year. This son of the late Captain Al ventures out for the second time this season, following his eye-catching performance on the final Saturday of May. He finished 6th, 3.9 lengths behind Elusive Path, but it was his finish which made an impression as he clocked the best chronos over the final 600 metres.

Having benefited from that run, he looks to be in vastly improved condition. He will appreciate the step up in trip and he is bound to run a cracker this time round.

On the back of a memorable 2016 for PARACHUTE MAN (Richard Oliver), 2017 was a year to forget, as he was simply unable to exert his authority. This two-time classic winner made his return to competition in the 12th meeting following a very long break, and he showed up well, landing 5th, 4.9 lengths behind Karraar. It is worth remembering that he was running over the 1400 metres, a trip too sharp for him.

He has come out very well from that run and his showings in training have been first rate. He has a genuine chance of rediscovering the winning touch on Saturday.

DAWN RAID makes his third start of the season. He made an instant visit to the winner’s enclosure in his first run, after coming out on top in an enthralling duel with Easy Lover, before finishing runner-up to stable mate Ten Gun Salute in his latest. He remains in top order and with the in-form Robbie Fradd on board for the first time, he warrants the greatest of respect here.

SOLAR STAR was a slight disappointment in his previous showing. He was only good enough for 4th, 3 lengths behind Ten Gun Salute. He is capable of doing better and the fact he is tackling a much longer trip stands him in good stead. Juan Paul Van derMerwe rides him for the first time and a repeat of last year’s win is well and truly possible.

DREAMFOREST (Roby Bheekary)  is representing Preetam Daby’s yard in this Group 3 contest. He caused a major surprise in the 9th meeting, opening his Mauritian account in the process. Still in good nick, he will relish the longer trip and if he can reproduce his winning run last time out, he is not prevented from going far.

OUR EMPEROR (Kersley Ramsamy) makes his debut for the yard of Alain Perdrau here. A son of Dynasty, he is a genuine stayer having won four times in his homeland, including a Group 3 race over 3200 metres. It is correct to say that his connections are aiming for the Maiden Cup with this four-year old. He has shown a lot of potential in his gallops and is a runner that is worth keeping a close eye on.

Stable mate M L JET (Derreck David) has not shown much so far in 2018. There have been some signs of improvement however and it is worth remembering that he performed quite strongly in the second half of 2017, particularly over staying distances. He is capable of making his presence felt in this.

ONE COOL DUDE (Dinesh Sooful), the second runner of Ricky Maingard’s yard, completes the line-up. He remains far from the form that saw him win and contend for the major Group races earlier in his Mauritian career and based on his performances this season, his chances appear to be slim.