Rivalry flares up as foes return to Flemington straight

A wet Flemington track brings back happy memories for Wayne Hawkes.

It was just four months ago that his star colt Exceedance held off Bivouac in an exciting edition of the Coolmore Stud Stakes, and similar conditions to that afternoon are expected for Saturday's Newmarket Handicap.

Exceedance draws away from Bivouac on the line in the Coolmore Stud Stakes.Credit:Getty Images

The pair of group 1 winners are set to clash again, continuing a terrific season of duels.

Only a week ago Alligator Blood dismantled his peers in the Australian Guineas, crushing his rival Catalyst, and on Saturday two more foes will meet again.

"He's a bit of a pain, Bivouac, he likes beating us," Hawkes said.

"He's a great horse we have a lot of respect for.

"They're great horses and it would be great if they could run 1-2, because what they're telling you is the form in the spring is franked and it will be because they're high-quality horses."

The pair clashed four times in the spring – two wins to Bivouac and two wins to Exceedance.

But if anything is in Exceedance's favour, it's the wet track: both of Exceedance's wins came on rain-affected ground.

"We go just as good on the dry track but when you tick a box with a wet track, you stand here smiling," Hawkes said.

Exceedance wins the San Domenico on a heavy track in the spring.Credit:AAP

"You're not thinking, 'Gee it's tough'. There will be horses in the Newmarket that absolutely can't handle the track … but that's not our unluckiness.

"But we've had enough rain, we don't need any more rain. I'm glad the wind is picking up because that's going to help drying the track out."

Just one horse – Redkirk Warrior – has won the Newmarket Handicap first up and his trainer David Hayes has passed on some advice.

"David Hayes keeps telling me, he even told me this morning, that it's not hard to win the Newmarket first up," Hawkes quipped.

"It's only been done I think once in 133 years so it won't be easy.

"It's certainly going to be a great race. It's a time honoured event."

Team Hawkes also saddles up Trope, who ran a big race behind Arcardia Queen second up last preparation.

"He's a bit of a fluker's chance but he's a proper horse," Hawkes said.

"We've always had big raps on him.

"His racing pattern will suit [Flemington]: getting back, getting balanced, following a few horses and hitting the line strong."

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