Japanese sensation Brave Smash is set to return to winning form at Moonee Valley on Friday night after opening odds-on favourite for the Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m). Brave Smash has only made four appearances in Australia since debuting for Darren Weir in spring, but the classy import has more than stamped himself as one of the best sprinters in the country and will be extremely difficult to beat in the Australia Stakes from barrier 2 and with Craig Williams in the saddle. The Tosen Phantom entire ran on well to finish a close second behind multiple Group 1 winner Vega Magic in the Listed Regal Roller Stakes (1200m) first-up, before justifying his clear favouritism with an easy win in the Listed Chandler Macleod Stakes (1200m) a fortnight later. While he faded late to finish second behind Bons Away in the Listed Testa Rossa Stakes (1200m) on September 23rd, Brave Smash had absolutely not luck in running in the $10 million The Everest (1200m) last time out on October 14th, but still managed to run on for third. Only six horses will step out in the Australia Stakes field and Weir will saddle three, after also accepting for last-start winners Ken’s Dream ($12) and Stellar Collision ($20). The two horses that punters have so-far rallied around apart from Brave Smash however, are the Group 1-placed Mr Sneaky and the Lindsay Park-trained Thronum. Mr Sneaky returned to racing in career-best form in spring and was unlucky not to secure a maiden win at the highest level. The High Chaparral gelding was an easy winner of a 1200m race at Caulfield when resuming at $9 odds, before producing a smart turn of foot to run on for second behind Theanswermyfriend in the Listed The Sofitel (1400m). Mr Sneaky took up the running in the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) third-up on October 1st and appeared to have the race won until he was headed late by stable mate Santa Ana Lane, in what was easily the best performance of his 15-start career. He had clearly had enough by the time he finished towards the tail of the field in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) on October 14th and he won’t have an issue finding a position on pace in this small Australia Stakes field. Thronum has interestingly receive the greatest share of bets in our Australia Stakes market at the time of publish and while he remains the sole occupant of the third line, he is $7 into $6 and subsequently a clear market mover. The Snitzel entire as shown above-average ability throughout his entire racing career to date, but was kept away from racing for more than a year before debuting for Hayes, Hayes and Dabernig in November. A five-length winner at Bendigo first-up, Thronum was last seen finishing a credible third behind Jungle Edge in the rain-affected Group 3 Kevin Heffernan Stakes (1300m) on November 18th. The horse is yet to be defeat first-up, having posted three wins from as many fresh attempts. The Peter & Paul Snowden-trained Flippant ($10) resumed for second in the Group 3 Standish Handicap (1200m) on New Year’s Day and rounds out the 2018 Australia Stakes field.