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06/08/02 Bel Esprit Rearing to Go
Brilliant Victorian colt Bel Esprit looks in fabulous shape for his racetrack return in Saturday week's listed $80,500 Mitchell McKenzie Stakes (1000m) at Moonee Valley.

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The air of optimism and confidence around the unique surrounds of Macedon Lodge this morning were nearly as strong as the wind that met him head on when he galloped along the uphill straight track.

John Symons, the colt's trainer and head of Macedon Lodge, has confirmed the colt is almost certain to step out in the Mitchell McKenzie at Moonee Valley.

"The only way he won't run is if it is wet," Symons said. "If that is the case then we'd give him a couple of more weeks off and run in the McNeil Stakes."

Stable foreman Geoff Dixon intends to trial Bel Esprit at Moonee Valley next Tuesday in preparation for his return.

"He's working better than he was before the Blue Diamond. We're expecting really big things from him this preparation," Dixon said.

Symons, who is currently holidaying in New Zealand, is expecting the colt to win. The trainer won't be on track when Bel Esprit resumes.

"I'm not really worried about not being there," Symons said. "It's really only a trial for him anyway." The trainer also added that the Group One winner was going "as good as he ever had" in preparation for his tilt at the Spring Carnival.

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Bel Esprit has not started since his first racetrack defeat in the Golden Slipper earlier this year. On that occasion the colt had absolutely no luck being blocked away behind runners for much of the race.

Prior to that the colt had reeled off a string of wins including the Group One Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield and the Group Two Maribyrnong Plate at Flemington.

A son of Royal Academy, Bel Esprit has strengthened, entering the stables some 50 kilograms heavier than when he left for a spell.

"He's filled out very well and has now developed into a really lovely horse," Symons said.

Since entering the stable this time in the magnificently built colt has stripped off about 20 kilograms, but is clearly a much stronger horse than he was during his breathtaking autumn campaign.

The colt has already been nominated for two feature races this spring including the Group One Cox Plate and the Group One Caulfield Guineas.

"My gut feeling is that he wont be able to get the trip for the Cox Plate," Symons added. "He just seems to be too brilliant."

"At this stage we will firstly aim at the Manikato Stakes and probably then work toward the (Caulfield) Guineas," he added.

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Connections, meanwhile are bracing themselves for one of their toughest decisions to date - choosing a replacement jockey for Wayne Treloar.

Treloar is currently riding on a stay of proceedings after suffering a rare suspension on the weekend. No matter what the result of the upcoming appeal is Treloar won't be able to partner the colt in the Manikato Stakes.

"It doesn't matter what happens in his appeal," Symons said. "Smokey (Treloar) won't be able to make the weight in the Manikato."

Caulfield and Melbourne Cup winning Scott Seamer and leading international jockey Steven King are the front runners in the battle to replace Treloar. Seamer is familiar with the Macedon Lodge complex after having successfully linked with Ethereal who was based there over last year's Spring Carnival. King, who has recently teamed up with highly promising Oaks prospect Macedon Lady, lives locally at Riddell's Creek and would be able to ride Bel Esprit in trackwork, an important consideration for the stable.

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Treloar, after riding the colt in a stirring track gallop this morning, reported that he felt "enormous." He added that he "could hardly hold him," while he was working up the testing rising track into a stiff gale.

Bel Esprit will be having his first start with new shareholder Eliza Park, who will be standing the horse at stud at the conclusion of his racing career.

"We're thrilled to be involved with such an exciting horse while he is still racing, expecially since he seems to have come back in great shape," Eliza Park's Marketing Manager John Miller said.

Known fondly around the 75 strong stable as "Spike," Bel Esprit is expected to be too sharp in his Mitchell McKenzie run next weekend.

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