Versatile sprinter chasing Caulfield win

Trainer Phillip Stokes’ main focus will be on a rain sodden Randwick where he has Daqiansweet Junior contesting the Sydney Cup.

But he will also be keeping a close eye back home in Melbourne on his sole starter Yulong Defence in the L U Simon Builders Handicap (1100m) at Caulfield on Saturday.

Yulong Defence may not be a world-beater, but he has a sound record of three wins from 10 starts and Stokes is hoping he will add to that record on Saturday.

After starting out his career with Hawkes Racing for two unplaced runs, Yulong Command had been with Stokes since early 2021 and commenced his career with his new trainer registering wins at Cranbourne and Pakenham.

He has since added a win to his record at Moe on heavy ground, adding to his versatility.

Spelled after running second over Saturday’s course and distance on Boxing Day, Yulong Defence resumed with a sixth-place finish behind Forever Free over 1000m at Mornington on March 26.

Stokes was not worried by the performance, finishing under three lengths from the winner, noting the sprinter usually improves with a run under the belt, having won twice from three second-up attempts.

“His run the other day at Mornington was OK and I think he is ready to run a nice race and he keeps improving into a prep,” Stokes said.

“He was a pretty hard horse to train before, but he is getting better.

“He’s a lot more relaxed now and a lot more tractable so that makes our job easier.”

Jamie Mott, who has been aboard Yulong Defence in his three victories to date, will be reunited with the sprinter for the first time since finishing ninth over 1100m at Flemington on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

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