Bonneval winning last year's Dato' (Image: Racing Photos)
Triple Group 1 winner Bonneval is back in Melbourne and ready to defend her Dato' Tan Chin Nam Stakes crown at The Valley on Saturday but trainer Murray Baker has warned she is not as forward as she was this time last spring.
The Kiwi mare is currently rated a $6.50 chance for the Group 2 for which Hartnell is a well-supported favourite, but her champion trainer explains a number of reasons why her preparations have been hampered.
"Unfortunately she's a bit behind where she was last year," Baker said on Friday.
"She lacks a bit of that fitness, that real hard edge you need for that sort of race.
"She had a lot of trial cancellations in New Zealand due to wet weather so she's only had the one trial.
"I don't really know what to expect from her tomorrow, I'd expect that she'd be running on but it's a hot field so who knows."
The daughter of Makfi has won seven times from just 12 starts, including the three Group 1s but hasn't been seen for almost a year after suffering a significant setback which put her in the paddock for the autumn.
"She hasn't raced since the Caulfield Cup last year, she went home after [that race] and she was a bit jarred up and we gave her a good spell," Baker explained.
"Then she tweaked her joint in the autumn just when we had her ready to run.
"But now we are pretty happy with her, she's sound and she's been vetted-out well so she just needs a bit of racing."
WATCH: Bonneval's Dato' win in 2017
However, the Cambridge-based trainer says Bonneval's work has indicated she can return to her best this spring although it's unlikely we'll see her attempt the Caulfield Cup again.
"Yes we are certainly confident she can get back there, in training she has been showing her usual ability and she's a lightly-raced horse, it's not like she's had big campaigns she's only had 12 career starts," he said.
"If she does measure up, she'll obviously contest the Underwood Stakes again [which she won last year] and then weight-for-age races.
"She'll run 2000m, she's won two Oaks so that's probably her go.
"A race like the Emirates Stakes could be her race."
Bonneval is the first of many quality gallopers that Baker and Andrew Foresman will target toward Melbourne's spring riches, and this year's team is set to again include Jon Snow and narrow Sydney Cup runner-up Zacada.
"Jon Snow is probably a bit more forward than Bonneval, we were fortunate enough to get two trials into him," Baker said.
"He ran fourth in the Group 1 over 1400m at Hastings last week which was a good run because he's not really a 1400-metre horse.
"He should improve I think ... he arrives on Sunday and he'll run in the Makybe Diva [the following Saturday] and we'd like to get him into Caulfield Cup.
"Zacada I think he is qualified for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, but whether he's good enough or not we'll try him out in the handicaps and see from there."