Courtesy of – River Lad will follow an unorthodox but proven path as he begins his bid to defend his Stradbroke Handicap title.

Most of River Lad’s Stradbroke rivals will follow the traditional way to the big race via the BTC Cup and Doomben 10,000.

However, River Lad will take his first steps to the Stradbroke on June 6 when he runs in the Group Two Victory Stakes (1200m) at the Gold Coast on Saturday.

Damien Oliver, who won the Stradbroke on River Lad last year, will be reunited with him in the Victory Stakes.

River Lad hasn’t raced since his three-start Melbourne spring campaign ended with an 11th in the Group One Emirates Handicap at Flemington on November 8.

Natalie McCall has had River Lad back at her Caloundra stable for nearly two months.

“Nothing really went right in Melbourne for him. He either got caught deep or the tracks were too hard,” McCall said.

“But he has spelled well and I am pleased with the way he has come back.”

She said after the Victory Stakes River Lad would probably miss the BTC Cup on May 9 and tackle the Glasshouse Mountain Stakes at the Sunshine Coast on May 16.

“River Lad will then also probably miss the Doomben 10,000 (on May 23) and go straight into the Stradbroke, ” she said.

“He is a horse who likes his races spaced and it worked last year so why not stick with it.”

River Lad was unplaced in the Victory Stakes last year and then won the BRC Sprint at Doomben before the Stradbroke.

This year the Sunshine Coast Cup-Glasshouse Mountains Sprint replaces the usual BRC Sprint day.

River Lad’s stablemate Lady Echelon is also back in work and will tackle races at the end of the winter carnival.

Lady Echelon hasn’t run since December but is pleasing McCall in track work.

“At this stage a race like the Gai Waterhouse Stakes at Ipswich late in the carnival is her aim,” McCall said.

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