Small field but all class in Launceston Guineas

The Kevin Sharkie Launceston Guineas over 2100 metres might have attracted only six starters but the presence of three interstate invaders has added a lot of interest to the Listed race for three-year-olds that carries prize money of $125,000.

Patrick Payne's gelding Dunkel is likely to start a warm favourite on the strength of his most recent win at Flemington over 2000 metres, in which he came from well back to defeat Soul Choice from the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott stable.

Payne has a good opinion of Dunkel and expects him to progress to the Tasmanian Derby next month with a Tasmanian win to his credit.

"Dunkel travels to Tasmania on Wednesday and will stay with Adam Trinder, which is how we normally roll when we take horses to Tassie," Payne said.

"The horse has done well since his Flemington win, so we expect him to run well."

Soul Choice was game in defeat when beaten a neck by Dunkel and her connections will have the option of progressing either to the Derby against the boys or the Strutt Stakes for 3YO fillies on the same day (10 February).

South Australian gelding Iknowhatyouredoing from the Richard and Chantelle Jolly stable at Morphettville has good recent form, although a maiden win and a second in a BM60 over 1 m hardly measures up to the form of Dunkel and Soul Choice.

Rowan Hamer has two of the three local runners in Royal And Tough and Araptor with the former his best winning chance.

Royal and Tough won three in succession before he chased home Russian Roni and Bello Beau in the Tasmanian Guineas (1600m) in Hobart three weeks ago.

He was game that day to finish almost five lengths from the winner at his third outing over 1 m, but he gives the impression he could be suited to 1 5⁄16 m, while Araptor has poor form but is bred to get a trip being by Alpine Eagle from former Tasmanian Oaks winner Petite Oiseau.

The Tegan Keys-trained Happy Clan is the remaining entry and while his form this time in has been below par, he did win the Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) last season and has finished off fairly at his last two outings, including his sixth of nine in the Tasmanian Guineas.

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