BENDIGO trainer Shane Fliedner will look to put the seal on an outstanding year for Hi Stranger in the $160,000 Lord Stakes (1700m) at Caulfield on Boxing Day.
The versatile five-year-old gelding has won four races from 13 starts during the calendar year and Fliedner would undoubtedly love to add another at Listed level before the curtain comes down on 2021.
A remarkable haul for Hi Stranger during 2021 has included a pair of country cup wins at Echuca and Kilmore, back-to-back victories at Caulfield and Moonee Valley in July and August and a fifth in the $150,000 Listed Golden Mile on his home track at Bendigo in March.
He has also been placed on four occasions, most recently at his last start on December 4 at Pakenham behind the emerging Tony and Calvin McEvoy-trained gelding Frankie Pinot, while conceding plenty of weight to the top two placegetters.
Fliedner anticipates Hi Stranger will be his usual consistent self on Sunday.
"He's ready and he's well. If he gets the right run in the race, he won't be far away," he said.
"He had an easy week after the last start and from there he's had a normal two weeks.
"There's no real speed in the race, which is my only concern. It's not a pacy race, so he will have to race a lot closer.
"But when he won the mile at Caulfield (in August), he was running fourth or fifth throughout, so he wasn't far away. He was on speed that day, or just off the leaders, so something similar will happen for him.
"Given the right run, I suspect he will look the winner at some stage in the straight."
Hi Stranger conceded a whopping 9kg to the winner last start at Pakenham and 7kg to the second placegetter Holbien, who is in Sunday's field.
The difference this time around will be 4kg.
Regardless of what eventuates on Sunday, Hi Stranger will be sent for a spell ahead of an exciting autumn campaign.
"As far as handicaps go now, most of those lighter weighted horses are all going to get 6kgs on him all the time, but he's forced into running in these type of races for a while," Fliedner said.
"He'll probably really start to shine again when the tracks start getting softer, closer to winter.
"But we will see what races are around in the autumn."
A remarkably consistent performer throughout his career, Hi Stranger has won eight of 35 career starts and been placed on 11 occasions for earnings of nearly $700,000.
He will again be ridden by Damien Thornton, who has been in the saddle for three of the horse's wins and three placings.
While it has been a wonderful past 12 months for the son of Zoffany and Luxury Suite, it has been an equally prolific year for Fliedner, who dominated the recent Bendigo Trainers Group horse of the year awards for 2020-21.
The former jockey won both the leading trainer and strike rate awards, while his charges won the horse of the year and best sprinter awards (Hi Stranger), three-year-old of the year (Air Defence) and stayer of the year (Queen Guinevere).
Fliedner is likely to see out 2021 with a few potential runners at Moonee Valley and Echuca on New Year's Eve.
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