Showdown! - Orpheus, Mr Universe face off in Racing Hall of Fame Stakes trophy
Speedy four-year-old, MR UNIVERSE, faces ORPHEUS in another DaCosta-Nunes showdown for Saturday's feature, the six-furlong Racing Hall of Fame Stakes trophy for open allowance runners.
It will all come down to how sharp ORPHEUS reports off a near four-month lay-up to tackle lone speed MR UNIVERSE, who has had four runs under his girth, including two wins, since returning from an 11-month break in March.
As usual, MR UNIVERSE's weapon will be blinding speed, which he used to lead the Lotto Sprint when promoted to the level on May 26, though no match for the cavalry charge won by stablemate SHE'S A MANEATER.
Nunes also has BILINGUAL in the event but there is little, by way of speed, that the four-year-old filly can offer to help ORPHEUS, leaving her stablemate with the awful job of having to chase MR UNIVERSE from the start.
Whereas MR UNIVERSE will have the pace at his mercy, ORPHEUS' helper will be the back end of the event, the last furlong, territory in which DaCosta's speedster is known to shorten at six furlongs against good company.
Extremely versatile, ORPHEUS is no slouch and doesn't necessarily need a horse to go head-on with MR UNIVERSE to wear him down in the last half-furlong. Nunes has done a great job of nursing the 2016 Derby awardee back to peak form, confining him to sprints and middle-distance events, epic battles featuring his stablemate, SIEMPRE BUENO, and Richard Azan's MONEY MAGNET.
On March 7, ORPHEUS was charging at SIEMPRE BUENO, losing by only a length at five furlongs straight in a fast 57.4, burdened with topweight 126lb. MR UNIVERSE won at the distance on May 19, posting a comfortable 58.1 but that was with 115lb in overnight allowance company, beating SARAH LEE and LORD EQUUS.
Cooled out by Nunes since, ORPHEUS gets a six-pound relief in the scale, coming in at 120lb, not too far off MR UNIVERSE's 115 to collar him at the money end of the race. Shane Ellis, however, can't afford to fall asleep aboard ORPHEUS. Gary Richards is riding in great form and will make him pay by stealing a march with MR UNIVERSE.