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Linebacker poised to peak in Champagne

A plan three months in the making will come to fruition on the final day of the Sydney autumn carnival when Linebacker (NZ) chases a Group One win in the Champagne Stakes at Randwick.

Trainer John O'Shea earmarked the final leg of the two-year-old triple crown as a target for the youngster before he had raced, and despite an early hiccup when Linebacker (NZ) was scratched at the barriers for his scheduled debut at Warwick Farm, it has been smooth sailing.

The colt put four lengths on his nearest rival when he belatedly made his first appearance at Hawkesbury in February, then dug deep to reel in Anode and claim the Group 3 Baillieu (1400m) at Rosehill at just his second start last month.

O'Shea purposely bypassed the Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) to concentrate on the Champagne Stakes (1600m) and he is happy Linebacker (NZ) will arrive at Randwick on Saturday ready to peak.

"This is the race we've set for him since January, so everything is on track really," O'Shea said. "I thought he was a little new when he won at Rosehill, so that brought him on and he's going to run the best race of his preparation."

A field of eight will contest the juvenile feature and while the race is low on numbers, it is high on quality.

Sires' winner Manaal will bid to make it a Group 1 clean sweep for the two-year-old fillies so far this season, with the girls also snaring the Blue Diamond Stakes (Hayasugi) and Golden Slipper (Lady Of Camelot).

Anode went down narrowly to Linebacker (NZ) in the Baillieu and is back for a return bout, while last weekend's impressive Fernhill Mile winner Broadsiding is set to back up for Godolphin.

Manaal is a $2.30 favourite in early markets, ahead of Linebacker (NZ) at $2.70 and O'Shea agrees the Michael Freedma -trained youngster is the horse to beat.

"She's a good filly," he said. "You've also got Anode… and you've got the Fernhill winner, so it's a good Group One."

Fillies have won seven of the past 20 renewals of the Champagne Stakes with She's Extreme in 2022 the most recent.

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