Co-trainer Ben Hayes adopts harsh Underwood test with Cox Plate linked to Mr Brightside

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LINDSAY Park coach Ben Hayes has welcomed the opportunity to test Mr Brightside against ‘the best’ in Sunday’s Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Sandown.

A star-studded field are set to battle it out in the build-up to Cox Plate, including multiple Group 1 winners I’m Thunderstruck and Zaaki.

Zaaki was due to race in Sydney last Saturday but trainer Annabel Neasham pulled the pin, keen to give him an extra week to recover from his maiden Tramway Stakes victory on a heavy track.

Zaaki is a $2.10 favorite in the Underwood market of TAB pre-nominations of I’m Thunderstruck ($3.50) and Mr Brightside ($4.50).

Hayes can’t wait for the Underwood acid test.

“I own it. That’s what people want to see, the best against the best,” Hayes said.

“I think that will determine who is the best, which will be interesting.

“It’s a great stage for him and then we have some great options for the Cox Plate, whether we go two weeks (Caulfield Stakes) and then two weeks in the Cox Plate.

“Lots of options and everyone thinks the same.”

Mr Brightside has never run beyond 1600m before, but on recent performances the extra distance shouldn’t be a problem.

“From what we’re hearing right now (Zaaki factor) it’s going to be one of the best Group 1s of the year so far, we can’t fault the horse,” said Hayes.

“He did everything right, did his last race in great order, likes wet tracks, we are nice and confident before the race.

Mr Brightside won the Group 2 PB Lawrence Stakes in style, then blasted his opposition in the Cox Plate qualifying Group 2 Feehan Stakes.

“He still has improvements to come which is exciting, to win a Cox Plate he probably needs to improve so hopefully we will see that next Sunday,” Hayes said.

“It’s been our plan all this time (Underwood), 1800m is a big step, it’s a trip he’s never been on and he’ll certainly answer the questions that are probably running against it.

“It’s not everyone’s grand final, we’ll all be at similar places in the build-up, I’m sure everyone will have a bit more improvement to come.”

Originally published as Co-coach Ben Hayes embracing stern Underwood test with Cox Plate linked to Mr Brightside

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