Grand Duels in for busy festive season

Smart sprinter Grand Duels will be out for successive wins on his home track at Caulfield in Sunday’s Listed Christmas Stakes.

Trainer Byron Cozamanis had originally been aiming the seven-year-old at the Group Three Standish Hcp (1200m) at Flemington on New Year’s Day.

But he’s now looking at starting Grand Duels in the Christmas Stakes (1200m) on Boxing Day as well after the gelding landed his first win at Caulfield on December 4.

“He came through the race really well and he’ll run in the Christmas Stakes,” Cozamanis said.

“I’m still looking at running him at the Standish as well.”

Steven Arnold will ride the topweight who will carry 59kg, 5kg above the limit.

Cozamanis said Grand Duels had had soundness issues but had been a wonderful money-spinner for his connections with eight wins and eight placings from 35 starts and prizemoney of more than $600,000.

“He does a lot of swimming and doesn’t gallop much between runs,” the trainer said.

The Marechal gelding is a dual Group One placegetter having run third to Weekend Hussler in the 2008 Newmarket Handicap and third to Scenic Blast in the 2009 Lightning Stakes.

Noted for his straight course ability, Grand Duels hadn’t won since the Listed Aurie’s Star Hcp (1200m) at Flemington in August 2008 until posting wins at two of his past three outings.

He came from the outside barrier, 16, to win the Listed WH Wylie Hcp (1100m) at Morphettville on September 11.

Cozamanis said Grand Duels pulled up sore across his hindquarters when he failed on an unsuitably slow track when finishing 12th to Temple Of Boom in the Listed Swisse Vitamins Stakes (1100m) at Flemington on Oaks day.

He then bounced back with his Caulfield victory over the Rick Hore-Lacy-trained mare Big Spirit who will miss Sunday’s race to be reserved for the $100,000 Premium 0-95 Hcp (1000m) at Moonee Valley on New Year’s Eve.

There are 28 horses among the weights for the Christmas Stakes and riding engagements at this stage include Jamie Mott for the Danny O’Brien-trained Keano, Ben Melham for Jim Conlan’s Huxssen and Dean Yendall for the Chris Hyland-prepared Commanding Hope.

Meanwhile, the Eric Musgrove-trained Rabbuka heads the weights for the Listed Lord Stakes (1700m) in which there are 13 horses among the weights including the in-form Mick Price-trained mare Aloha and Tony McEvoy’s Rockwood.

Acceptances close at 9am (AEDT) on Thursday for the Boxing Day meeting.