Flemington New Year’s Day and Defiant Dancer chasing fifth successive win for Phillip Stokes

IN-form trainer Phillip Stokes is optimistic sprinter Defiant Dancer can measure up to Group 1 company in The Goodwood at the Adelaide carnival in May.

Although Stokes admits he is unsure where the four-year old “stands”, he has mentioned the 1200m sprint at Morphettville as a possible target if he continues to improve.

Defiant Dancer has shown off his true potential to claim four successive wins and the gelding will chase his first stakes prize when he contests the Standish Handicap over 1200m down the Flemington straight on Friday.

Nash Rawiller is the likely rider should Defiant Dancer receive sufficient weight.

“I’m not sure where he stands at the moment, he is sort of in between,” Stokes said. “If he keeps improving he might be a horse to take back to Adelaide for the Goodwood.

“If he keeps heading in the right direction. At this stage 1200m looks his best distance so we will keep him at that.”

Defiant Dancer was unplaced in two attempts at black type races last year, but Stokes said he was now a much more mature horse.

And that has been reflected in his form, winning in Adelaide at his final two starts in his previous preparation and then resuming with wins at Pakenham and Flemington.

His win over the Standish Handicap distance at his most recent run was ultra-impressive, charging clear over the final 200m to win the Benchmark 84 race by three lengths.

“He showed he wasn’t far off them in the preludes and that,” Stokes said. “He just wasn’t there, but he has got a bit stronger and he won a couple in Adelaide and got his confidence back.”

Stokes achieved a significant milestone on Saturday when Symphonette was successful at Morphettville to give him his 1000th winner.

“I’m happy with any win, doesn’t matter if it is Moe or Flemington,” he said.

The nine nominations for the Standish Handicap includes Graff and if connections accept, it will be his first run since finishing 6th behind Bivouac, Nature Strip and Hey Doc in the VRC Classic Sprint at Flemington on November 7.

Graff made his debut for trainer Danny O’Brien at his previous start when he produced his customary late burst to win the Group 2 Caulfield Sprint on October 17.

The five-year finished less than two lengths combined from the winners when fourth in the Newmarket and Lightning down the Flemington straight last year.

Originally published asDancer has the right moves for Flemington

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