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An extensive (or nerdy) look at the statistics shows that, over the course of the past two seasons, our debutants have improved on average by 1.77kg from first start to second. Had Wishful Realizer ran better by that much on debut at Werribee he’d near enough have dead-heated! So today the relevant question is: does he find himself in a stronger, weaker, or similar level of maiden at Pakenham this evening?
In being beaten just under a length and a half by Vogue Empress first time up, WISHFUL REALIZER (Race 3, Andrew Mallyon) certainly got off to a positive enough start, all the more so given he did more early work than those he ended up finishing behind. He's up to 1200m now in a move which his pedigree suggests ought to help. As for today’s opposition, it seemingly revolves around No Drama Darci given her most recent second to the useful filly Notation would set a clear standard. That came fifteen weeks ago, though, so he does have his well-being to prove. In the frame in both starts to date, Jennikay borderhops from SA and isn’t the most straightforward to assess as a result, whilst newcomer Destacado represents the Hawkes yard.
The answer to the question, then, would appear to be determinant on whether No Drama Darci can replicate her form from Geelong in early-October. If not, a 1.77kg step forward should see Wishful Realizer bang there in the shake up.
It’s the next rung up the ladder for the lightly-raced, fast-progressive Mosh Music today, stepping out into Metro company for the first time following on from her highly taking successful handicap debut at Geelong.
MOSH MUSIC (Race 5, Dean Holland) could hardly have developed more encouragingly since a backward debut, improving no end to break her maiden at the second time of asking at Geelong before proving a subsequent 34-week absence to be no issue back there in a BM64 on Boxing Day, the style and substance of that success pointing to bigger things ahead, starting today. Naturally enough she’s in deeper now, though set against that is the fact that the race has cut up, down to just five, Mosh Music the one with all the unexplored potential with the other four those with the more established form to their name.
Pure Scot’s early ability has tapered off somewhat, though she underlined that she remains a force from this sort of mark when runner-up in a BM78 at Bendigo on her penultimate go. She was a sound fourth of 14 at Flemington next time, and for all she has no residual potential to offer, the lesser depth to today’s race gives her reasonable enough claims here. Cash Affair is still on the up, even if her rate of improvement is less steep than Mosh Music’s, and consistent to go with it, putting up a series of three good runs at Flemington since winning at Bendigo in November. She finished off well over 1400m most recently, and now tries 1600m for the first time. She looks assured of putting up another good display, though the question is whether she can up her game to the same extent as Mosh Music.
Like our runner, Miss Adequate won a BM64 at Geelong most recently, though she hardly cut the same impression in doing so, and after 18 starts the strong feeling is that a 2kg rise for that success seems likely to do for her. Likewise, it’s not easy to be too positive regarding the chances of Ice Girl on the basis of her recent displays, seemingly just going through the motions most recently.
Werribee today, and at least one more winner in the offing with a little bit of luck. Here’s why…
The first thing to say about the maiden ROCKY ROAD (Race 3, Dean Holland) contests is that it’s winnable. That’s a euphemism for saying it’s a really weak race. Summing that up is the fact that the horse challenging Rocky Road for favouritism is Peppino, a seventeen-race maiden whose limitations are pretty well exposed by now. By contrast, after just three starts Rocky Road remains with a good bit of upside to him, especially as having raced solely over 1200m to date, the step up to 1400m now can draw more from him. He was coming back from an absence at Seymour last time and should be better for it, Swiss Hero having yesterday underlined the potential benefit of a comeback run. It would be disappointing if he didn’t fare best of those with experience today, and any threats are more likely to emerge from the debutants, no fewer than three coming from the Darren Weir yard, and a three-year-old filly in receipt of all the allowances going trained by Matt Cumani.
Later on the card MIA GEORGIA (Race 7, Jessica Eaton) has a bit more to prove right now, things not having gone all that smoothly for her since she broke through at Pakenham in August. She’s just half a kilo above the mark from which she won there now, meaning she has some potential from a handicapping viewpoint, but she’ll need to show more verve than when a well-held sixth at this track last time. She takes a drop back to 1400m now, a trip over which she ran well when a close (and somewhat unlucky) fourth at Tatura a few runs back, and if she can replicate that kind of form she’s certainly got a big chance this afternoon. In her favour is the fact that the race has cut up quite a bit, an original field of eleven now down to seven, she has a handy inside draw, and if the application of winkers can have a revivifying effect she could yet be a big player. We’ll see whether she’s on one of her ‘going’ days.
A couple of runners, seven hours apart, today, with hopes firmly behind Swiss Hero at Hamilton, concrete expectations in San Remo at Cranbourne.
It hasn’t been a straightforward path for SWISS HERO (Race 2, Neil Farley) to this point, niggles and setbacks setting him back, his development limited to two starts thus far, but there was clear encouragement to take from the second of those, ten months on from the first, improving as the race wore on to finish mid-pack at Werribee on Christmas Eve. Everything about that run suggests it’s one he’ll step up on, perhaps markedly so, this the first time he’s got to the track with a run behind him, and the move up to a mile sure to suit him down to the ground. A couple of the others in today’s line-up have clearly achieved more in their careers to date, Diamond Arrow perhaps chief amongst them, but he certainly doesn’t possess the same scope for progress as Swiss Hero, meaning that he’s by no means one to write off today, with a top three finish seemingly well within his grasp.
On the face of it, SAN REMO (Race 6, Damien Thornton) fluffed his lines at Warrnambool in light of his romp over today’s course and distance in mid-December, but the run of the race was against him, leading out a closer’s race, and back at the scene of that most fluent of victories he really ought to get back to winning ways this evening. He’s evidently very much at home at the track and over the marathon trip, the latter really the making of him in fact, and he finds himself in a BM78 best described as threadbare now, a race short on numbers and depth, with San Remo’s recent winning form making him a standout. Now, he did finish behind the reopposing Weave at Warrnambool, though that one wasn’t ridden quite as positively there, benefiting to an extent, and it would essentially be surprising were the form to be upheld here. Benall showed a bit more spark here last time, and on the balance of probabilities he is more likely to offer a somewhat sterner challenge.
The good news is that Untouched gets a run from fourth emergency in the opener at Geelong today. The less good news is that a couple of the other emergencies to have got in finished some way ahead of her at the same track on Boxing Day.
UNTOUCHED (Race 1, Jordan Childs) showed some speed from the gate on debut, encouraging in itself, though she's going to need to build on the mid-part of her race, unable to maintain that prominent early position before plugging home. She's sure to know a lot more with that initial experience under her belt, with the winkers now there to assist in that respect, though with Maozi and Frankie Pinot having finished several lengths ahead of her on that occasion, it's probably more realistic to envisage her progressing enough to get closer to them as opposed to turning the form around. As well as those with a run to their name, the race also features a clutch of newcomers from top yards.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” On the surface, it may seem overblown to apply the words of Maya Angelou to anything related to horse racing, and specifically today the Australian career of Prinz Hlodowig, but then again racing is but a microcosm of life, the lessons we learn in one directly relatable to the other. Churchill and Angelou wouldn’t have had much in common, but he said something similar of the virtue of perseverance: “If you’re going through Hell, keep going!”
It has been a lengthy road for PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 5, Jordan Childs) to this point, plenty of water having flowed since his sole win as a two-year-old in France, but there’s nothing ungenuine about him and he served notice at Geelong in October that his time was near, going down by the narrowest margin there in a race that has worked out pretty well. A subsequent eight-week pause, combined with a drop back in trip, dulled him somewhat at Flemington just before Christmas, though that run should have brought him back to a peak, and at his peak a handicap mark of 69 is clearly a viable one. Today's twilight meeting at Caulfield offers him a chance to put everything together for the first time since that September day in Normandy back in 2016.
Amongst the opposition there are two horses that stand out as clear and present dangers, though how big a player The Gatting Ball is rests to a very large degree on whether you take the view he ran as well as he did at Moonee Valley last time in spite of working through the worst of the ground, or because he took the shortest route. I’d be inclined toward the latter position without being in any way confident. Franked appeals slightly more after just two starts in this country and with more to come, latterly better than the result when fifth behind Bringit, also at the Valley.
Mornington and Warrnambool host racing this afternoon, and it’s at the latter venue that we’re triply represented. Very high, medium, medium – in that order – is the degree of chance that can be assigned to those three runners.
Starting with our best chance: RAFFINE (Race 3, Jordan Childs). Now, it’s true that in strict numbers terms she went backwards from a very good debut at Geelong when only fourth of nine as odds-on favourite at Terang second time up. It’s also true that the bare facts of that latter run don’t tell anything like the full story. She got no run at all behind Uncle Larry, never getting an out, ending up having no more than a glorified gallop, and there’s little question it would have been a wholly different story with a different path through the race. We’ve found her what looks a great opening in which to gain compensation today, kept to 1400m and in a race restricted to fillies and mares. Of those fillies and mares Raffine comes up against, none have achieved anything remotely close to the form she achieved at Geelong, and a mere repeat of that effort should see her win readily. She’s well enough drawn and, barring any colossal lack of racing luck as at Terang, she really should be winning. Odds against look big.
FASHION STOCK (Race 4, Neil Farley) is a slower burn than Raffine, stamina more than speed her calling, and with that in mind she’s now up beyond 2000m, fitted with winkers too, and combined those factors can see her show more than in three runs to date. Whilst she didn’t continue her bit-by-bit progress at Geelong most recently, the testing conditions were likely no good to her there, and now returned to a sounder surface she should be back on the up. There’s nothing especially daunting about the to-date achievements of those she comes up against in what is a fairly modest maiden today, Westham probably just about setting the standard, albeit an exposed and far from insurmountable one, so there’s definitely scope for imagining Fashion Stock can take a good step forward and get amongst the principals.
What to make of BLANCO CARA’s (Race 6, Jordan Childs) debut run for the yard at Bendigo? Whilst there was enough there to build on, the most pertinent factor appeared to be that a mile is simply too short for her, lacking the requisite change of gear when push came to shove. She gets an additional 435m to play with now and that, combined with the extra sharpness that comeback sighter will have given her, suggests she can be a whole lot more competitive here today. With question marks of one sort or another hanging over all of her seven opponents in today’s BM64, we’re very much hopeful of seeing her make a much bigger impact for us at the second time of asking.
It might be a Dry January for many, but hopefully not Fastnet Latina. On a competitive, high-quality card at Caulfield he'll be attempting to regain the winning thread and quench his thirst having currently gone 637 days between drinks.
FASTNET LATINA (Race 6, Jordan Childs) has of course had his troubles since that last success, at Morphettville in April 2017, but he has showed on a couple of occasions since returning to action that all of his old ability remains intact, most obviously so when finding only OTI playmate Romancer too strong in the Donald Cup on his penultimate start. If he was coming here straight on the back of that effort he'd surely be vying for favouritism this afternoon, and given his subsequent Pakenham run is best ignored (came back mildly lame), there's certainly a case for saying he represents some value in today's line-up, back in peak condition as he is. There is due to be some rain about at Caulfield today, and if that were to hit and have an impact on the state of the ground, then some questions would be raised, Fastnet Latina never having raced on ground softer than good. That slight concern aside there's plenty to like about his chance over his optimum trip at a BM84 level which looks just right for him at present.
Black Sail has long since had a tall reputation, and it's one to a large extent he deserves, a smart performer after all. Though he's perhaps not quite as good as he's threatened to be on occasions, often failing to justify market support, so for all he's a big player once more this afternoon he's by no means home and hosed. The ex-Kiwi Mission Hill appears the most interesting of the remainder in what feels a winnable handicap of its type.
Of course, a new year – and arguably time itself – only really has any significance when viewed through the lens of being an artificial, conceptual man-made construct, and it would be ludicrous to take seriously any belief that in a world more than 4.5 billion years old January 1 is in any meaningful way distinct from December 31: there’s nothing new about it at all. A very happy 2019 from all at Alexander Racing, and may it firmly be a case of New Year, New Cheer! We're counting on Man Alive getting us off to a flier at Sandown today.
There's no getting away from the fact MAN ALIVE (Race 4, Jordan Childs) failed to come up to our expectations at Moonee Valley last time, though it wasn't the longer trip that was the issue - he remains a stayer above all - seemingly as much as the track's tight, cambered figuration which seemed to unsettle him, off balance and off an even keel. He's well worth the benefit of the doubt given the positives he had amassed prior to that, and another crack over this sort of distance at a track that should be more in keeping with his style still promises to provoke a significant chunk of improvement from one so lightly raced. Indeed, Man Alive is comfortably the least exposed runner in today's BM64 field, so hopefully he should be progressing whilst others have plateaued. There are in-form horses to be wary of, however, chief amongst them dual Mornington winner Negasi who narrowly failed to bring up the hat-trick when just touched off over today's course and distance last month. True Gent finished ahead of Man Alive at the Valley, though given the excuses we've advanced ifor that run it's perhaps best not to read too much into that particular strand of form.
2018 has certainly been an interesting year. A bit too interesting sometimes. Interesting in the way the Chinese intend as a curse. If nothing else it has made for a steep learning curve, lessons in experience money simply can't buy. We get to have the last say over the year, however, and enter 2019 on the right note as San Remo, confidence bucked and buoyed at Cranbourne, can make it back-to-back wins in the marathon event at Warrnambool's curtain-dropping meeting this afternoon. May 2019 be boring by comparison!
SAN REMO (Race 4, Jordan Childs) certainly wasn't winning out of turn when breaking his Australian duck at Cranbourne last time, and he showed there - as he had at Moonee Valley the time before - that he's ideally suited by these proper staying trips. The ease and style of that success suggests that having found both his niche and the winning groove he's not about to relinquish either all that readily, and there's certainly no way you could envisage the reopposing Stanaway pair that chased him home at a respectful distance - Ventura Highway and Crafty Cruiser turning the tables. The danger in what feels a two-horse race if ever there was one is clearly the in-form Duke of Oz.He's yet to try a trip of 3000m+ but served notice at The Valley last time he could well be suited by it, though he is a 1kg 'wrong' with San Remo and doesn't arrive with such a fluent, authoritative win behind him.
Our work will be concluded relatively early at Seymour today, with three runners contesting the opening three maidens. There looks to be a strong enough chance that at least one of them will enter 2019 with that all-important first win under her belt.
In the opening three-year-old contest over 1300m, newcomer ROMAIYA (Race 1, Jordan Childs) is a Pierro gelding we like a good deal. Out of an unraced Commands daughter of the Group 1-winning mare Bonanova, he’s a half-brother to a maiden winner, and is also from the family of Fraternity and Telesto. Tentatively, that points to Romaiya being most effective at around a mile you’d think, so today’s starting-off point looks natural enough whilst giving him a base to build upon. For all Anamagic and Swirl Girl have placed efforts to their name amongst today’s opposition, the form they ran to in achieving those doesn’t amount to all that much, and it’s easy enough to imagine the bigger dangers lurk amongst Romaiya’s fellow debutants. He’s got a handy draw along the inside so long as he has the wherewithal to take advantage of it from the gate.
Next up, LAMINGTON DRIVE (Race 2, Jordan Childs) steps out for the first time over 1400m. He’s also a three-year-old gelding, by Highly Recommended and out of a High Chaparral half-sister to eight-time winner (at up to 2000m) Darci Coup. His pedigree looks more about stamina, longer trips likely to come into play at some stage, so we’ll see where we are with him after this introductory, getting-to-know-you run, and take things from there. This race sees those with experience offering rather more established form than in the opener, Tavsomefun and Happily To Be already having done more than enough to win a race of this nature.
It can be third time lucky for SERGEANT DOYLE (Race 3, Jordan Childs) in the maiden for fillies and mares which follows. A very good third on debut over 1100m at Bendigo, her effort was blunted somewhat when filling out the same position at Geelong in very testing conditions 15 days ago, and the visual evidence of that effort suggests she’ll be more at home returned to a sounder surface. She takes another hike in trip, up from 1300m to a mile now, and she gives the firm impression she’ll be suited by it having stuck doggedly to her task in spite of the going at Geelong. She’s also got an inside draw to play with which does nothing but add extra lustre to her already strong claims. Necessitas has been fairly highly tried to date and will rate more of a danger back down in grade, whilst Croatian showed a lot more back from an absence at Kyneton. Nevertheless, Sergeant Doyle really should take plenty of beating.
As of yet Azurite hasn't quite fully capped off his revival, for that to happen we need to get him back winning, but even so in his last two starts he's done more than enough to show that all the old ability remains intact, and at The Valley today he's got things much more in his favour.
It's worth underlining just what a stiff task AZURITE (Race 7, Jordan Childs) was facing in open company at Flemington last time, right up against it at the weights, and he ended up running another very creditable race, his second on the spin, to show that his time needn't be far off returned to calmer waters. That's the scenario he faces this afternoon, back into a BM78 at a track he's performed well at in the past. With the possible exception of Chapal, who sneaks in off bottom weight, there's nothing overtly threatening amongst the opposition, and so long as he turns up here and replicates the form he's been showing of late it's difficult to envisage Azurite not being right in the thick of it come the end. He's suited by a good test at this trip nowadays, and with Goodwood Zodiac, for one, looking assured of going forward, there's hope things will be run at a reasonable enough gallop this afternoon.
It’s usually best not to overindulge on Christmas Day if you’ve anything to do with racing, as Boxing Day is always a hectic hullabaloo of races, meetings, runners here there and everywhere. This year is no different as we have six setting out from Miners Rest, the majority heading to Geelong, though the tough and consistent Chippenham is travelling to Caulfield with an eye on a big-money payday.
CHIPPENHAM (Race 5, Stephanie Thornton) has been nothing but a credit to himself for some time now, all heart and reliability, finishing out of the frame for the first occasion in a long while at Pakenham most recently but still running well in finishing a close fifth to Amadeus, with whom he reoposses this afternoon. He’s effectively 1kg better off with that rival when Steph Thornton’s claim is taken into account and it wold be no great surprise to see those two-inform horses coming to the fore today. That’s allowing for the fact that as this is a valuable handicap with Ulmann topping the weights from a mark of 99, both are somewhat inconvenienced by the circumstances relative to a few others. Current form often counts for more than that, though, and with conditions bound to suit ideally Chippenham will surely be right there in the firing line once again.
Over at Geelong, we unleash two two-year-old fillies in a field comprised entirely of newcomers. STAR JAN (Race 1, Theodore Nugent) is a Starspangledbanner filly out of a full-sister to the classy dual 7f Grade 1 winner in Hong Kong Joyful Winner. Star Jan’s half-sister also broke her own duck over the same 1100m trip over which she starts out this afternoon. Obviously she brings potential to the table in the form of that pedigree, one which backs up the impression she’s given us that speed should prove a strength of hers, so hopefully she’ll show up brightly at the first time of asking.
UNTOUCHED (Race 1, Dean Holland) holds some similarities to Star Jan in that she is also out of a sister (or a half one, at least, in her case) to a Group 1 winner, that being 2010 Epsom Handicap winner Captain Sonador. The dam of Untouched won a race over 1600m, whilst she is by first-season sire Wandjina, one who looks sure to impart more than his fair share of speed to his progeny. Clearly, then, there are equivalent positives to take from her own breeding ahead of this racecourse debut. Both of our runners are well enough drawn, next door in four and five, and it will be interesting to see how they fare in relation to each other.
Plenty of fully exposed maidens go to post in the following staying event, though after just four starts VELOUCHER (Race 2, Patrick Moloney) isn’t one of those, the most lightly raced in the line-up in fact. He was rather disappointing at Seymour last week and will need to step up on that run now, though his preceding run at Hamilton indicates he’s capable of doing precisely that. He goes further up in trip now, and is fitted with winkers, whilst the pace make-up race suggests things could pan out in his favour, seeming unlikely to be overly pressured up with the pace. Whilst his claims do rely in large part on the limitations amongst the remainder, he’ll surely be in a better position to take advantage than he was last Thursday.
Off since her second-up maiden win over this same course and distance back in April, MOSH MUSIC (Race 4, Dean Holland) returns to make her handicap debut at BM64 level. She clearly improved massively from first start to second during that opening prep, though we’d expect her to be more tuned up for this opening to her second one. She takes her place in what is a competitive looking heat, with the in-form Kednelly and fellow handicap debutant Blue Earth both looking dangerous. This is a good starting-off point for Mosh Music, and she should put up a positive display whilst also telling us a lot more about what way we plan for her future.
ZUERS (Race 5, Dean Yendall) has been progressing bit by bit in three runs since returning to action, enough to think she’s going to be a more serious proposition over what may just be her optimum trip of around 1200m. Dean Yendall maintains the partnership and the pair have a handy-looking barrier in two to work from. Current favourite Explicitly looks overbet as things stand, there looking to be little reason he should be less than a third of the price of Zuers given their respective profiles. It’s not easy to be dogmatic all things considered, but it may just be that Zuers represents our best chance of a winner today.
‘Tis the season to be jolly grateful if you get through it all in one piece. With that in mind, we’re happy to concentrate on Werribee rather than the usual Christmas inanities on Monday, though any early present would be most welcome, and we have four runners who’ll be attempting to provide just that.
The ground is currently rated Soft 5 at Werribee, and WISHFUL REALIZER (Race 2, Andrew Mallyon) makes his debut in a three-year-old maiden which has already cut up, an opening field of fourteen now down to nine. Even before considering a potential lack of strength amongst the opposition, there’s a good deal about the pedigree Wishful Realizer can call upon. He’s an I Am Invincible gelding, the leading producer of winners in Australia, out of a dual mile winner by Commands named Prinny’s Girl. The dam has already produced a couple of winners from both foals to race. He’s not been done any favours with a wide barrier particularly given the 1010m trip, though the scratchings do at least help some in that regard, as does the aforementioned lack of proven, solid form amongst his rivals.
In the following maiden GO FERRANDO (Race 3, Neil Farley) has probably got a taller order on than when failing to justify favouritism at Hamilton last time, with the three-year-olds First Water and Rebel Romance looking to have a bit more about them in this line-up. However, Go Ferrando is still on the right track more generally, and it’s possible over this sort of trip this third run back from a break will see him spot on fitness-wise. The potential for there being a bit more cut in the ground may give him the opportunity to show a degree of further improvement as well.
SWISS HERO (Race 5, Neil Farley) has met with a couple of setbacks since finishing in behind at Ballarat on debut in February last year. He was off the pace on that first try, both literally and developmentally, and for all the physical niggles he has progressed physically in his time off, so he should offer a good deal more this time, especially as he moves up from 1200m to 1400m. Like Wishful Realizer, Swiss Hero has been dealt a wide draw to overcome, but also like that one he features in a race which looks weaker than an average maiden on quality.
MIA GEORGIA (Race 6, Lucinda Doodt) is returning from the City having fared with respectably when mid-pack behind Esposito Gold at Moonee Valley most recently. She’s proving consistent enough even if her handicap mark would just appear to sum her up at present. She should give it another good go, though whether she can improve to the extent likely to be required to challenge recent course winners/improvers in Diplomac Jack and Silverhawk is another matter. She’s yet to race away from good ground, so if it remains on the soft side that is something of an unknown (but at least is a factor through which she could plausibly improve some).
It's a Saturday at Flemington, so typically competitive fare then, and we'll be crossing our fingers for the best from our trio of runners who are all in at the deep end to one degree or another.
It was great to see AZURITE (Race 4, Lucinda Doodt) show so much more verve when third at Pakenham last time, but we're asking even sterner questions of him now. Into an open handicap, he's up against it on paper, though with Lucinda's 3kg claim he does at least receive all the weight going. The longer trip could potentially help him find more, too, 2500m very possibly what he's crying out for nowadays.
PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 8, Jye McNeil) goes the other way trip wise, back down to 2000m having been pipped on the line at Geelong. He's had an eight-week break since that run and is in good form, though today's race does look a fair bit deeper than that latest contest. He could run really well and not quite make the first three this afternoon.
ONEHUNDRED PERCENT (Race 9, Stephen Baster) has more to prove than the first two as things stand, limited encouragement to take from his last four runs now, and that why he's a big longshot in today's line-up. We'll keep on working until we find the key to him, and maybe a return away from softer ground could just act in his favour today. Something needs to!
We're off to the Valley with Man Alive this evening, a longer trip there promising to unlock some of that residual potential. Despite what went on at Warrnambool he remains one to be excited about, a bona fide stayer in the making.
MAN ALIVE (Race 6, Craig Williams) is comfortably the least exposed of those taking in the BM64 that comes sixth up, and on top of that, he's even more comfortably the least exposed when it comes to a shift up to 2500m, the stretch in stamina looking sure to suit him down to the ground. Fair enough, he comes up against a couple of last-time winners in the form of Duke of Oz and Franked, but they emerge from a BM58 and a weak Gawler maiden respectively, nothing that need worry us unduly. It's time to get our wallets out and bet like men!
We're back in action! One winner, and one nearly-winner at Seymour this afternoon.
ROCKY ROAD (Race 3, Dean Holland) is in a deep enough race numbers wise, but a fallow one in terms of quality. He's done more than enough to win this with previous efforts and it will be disappointing to say the least if he can't come up trumps today. He really should win, it's difficult to put it more plainly than that.
If Rocky Road just needs a straight track and a fair wind to get off the mark, then VELOUCHER (Race 4, Dean Holland) probably requires a bit more. He's given hope that the step up in trip will help him deliver more on his potential, notably so when strong through the line at Hamilton last time, and we're hopeful he'll be able to maintain a more forward pitch during the run this time.
It’s all about ‘momentum’, or so say lazy sports/politics/business analysts. If against all received wisdom they are on to something, however, then San Remo’s intervention on Saturday, turning a rainy day rosy at the last, will carry over. Rondelle, Rocky Road, and Blanco Cara: they’re the names to conjure with – in the order they race – at Horsham, and latterly Bendigo on Sunday afternoon.
RONDELLE (Race 2, Jordan Childs) failed to set the world alight first up at Bendigo 19 days ago when her rawness, as well as for sure something of a class gap, saw her struggle, never a factor from the outset. She’s better than that – or at least she’ll want to be – without a doubt, and now gets the opportunity to prove as much in rather calmer waters. The satellite images suggest it’s raining over Horsham as I type, though more patchily than heavily. Still at present the ground rates a Heavy 8, so we’re sure to be dealing with testing enough conditions for inexperienced horses. Her pedigree ultimately provides limited evidence either way as to whether that should prove a blessing or a curse.
We’re on much sounder ground – if you’ll pardon the paradoxical pun – in predicting that ROCKY ROAD (Race 3, Jordan Childs) should be well suited by the give underfoot. His sire Magnus won his Group 1 (The Galaxy) on soft ground, and we know from first-hand experience that his half-brother Buena Veloz thrives in such conditions. On top of that, arguably far more pertinently in fact, Rocky Road himself showed a natural aptitude when just run out of things on debut when the ground was officially ‘soft’ on debut. He probably bettered that run, in form terms, when runner-up to Blood Oath at Echuca later in August. He’s back from a lay-off now, and in a race with a mite more depth to it than Rondelle’s, though he’s not up against anything that threatens him when it comes to form already attained, so it ought to be third time lucky.
Considerably more experienced yet, in many ways, more difficult to assess is Proven Thoroughbreds’ BLANCO CARA (Race 8, Neil Farley), up at Bendigo. Introductions first: she’s a five-year-old daughter of Cape Blanco, who won three in her time with John Thompson, and unsurprisingly given her sire proving her stamina at up to 2400m give or take the odd yard. From a low weight, she was last seen finishing a very good third to Lovani at Hawkesbury in April over 2000m, form that even over this shorter trip looks stand-out stuff. Whether or not she can reproduce it off a 35-week absence, change of scenery and back at a mile only time will tell, but it does at least point to there being races that can be found for her when everything is in line.
With plenty of rain about as we speak, it’s difficult to be entirely sure how the tracks around the state are going to ride this afternoon. We’ve runners at three different meetings, and this is how we assess their chances with that caveat in mind.
The first meeting at Flemington since a post Spring Carnival renovation has rain forecast, and the likelihood of the ground rating as a Soft 5 or 6. ONEHUNDRED PERCENT (Race 4, Ethan Brown) is our representative, and he is joint top weight dipping into a BM64 for the first time in a while. Whilst he made a successful racecourse debut on a soft surface, he struggled to get competitive when the mud was flying at Ballarat last time. He didn’t get home in more testing conditions over a longer trip, and returns to what would no appear to be a more comfortable 1200m for him. With blinkers and tongue strap retried, hopefully we can start to see some sign of a resurgence.
The weather has already had a big impact over at Geelong where the track is already a Heavy 10 and the list of scratchings is long and getting longer. If getting the go-ahead, SERGEANT DOYLE (Race 2, Neil Farley) might face a notably small field, and there’s cause to think she should handle the conditions rather better than others. Her sire, Per Incanto, has a pretty good record when it comes to producing soft-ground performers, whilst there’s evidence in her dam’s side, too, to think she could cope. On top of that, her good staying on third at Bendigo on debut points to there being a good deal more to come from her not granted a more thorough test of stamina.
FASHION STOCK (Race 5, Neil Farley), could potentially prove a revelation now getting the opportunity under such conditions. Her sire, Tavistock, has a notably good record when the ground is testing. Fashion Stock will clearly need to build on what she’s achieved on either outing either side of a 33-week absence, but she has the benefit of the latter of those behind her this time and faces radically different circumstances now.
How things will go at Cranbourne remain to be seen. Still officially a Good 4, the meeting offers SAN REMO (Race 3, Jordan Childs) what looks a prime opportunity trying 3000m for just the second time. The first saw him run a fine race to finish an oh-so-close third behind Truly High and Penthouse Playboy at Moonee Valley a month ago. He meets the runner-up again here, but that one hasn’t been anything like as good in another couple of runs since that encounter, whilst we arrive her fresh. Bouffon is attempting to stretch his form and his stamina over a wildly different trip, leaving him with a good bit to prove, whilst 11-year-old Crafty Cruiser is just $5.50, giving some idea as to the lack of depth amongst the field. Put simply, today must surely be the day for San Remo.
Two meetings. Two runners. Two winners. Or so goes the plan. It’s a tall and steep ladder Write Your Name is attempting to climb, and the next rung on his upward journey comes at Sandown later. Before that, Raffine should have too much in hand of her rivals to get off the mark at the second attempt at Terang.
RAFFINE (Race 4, Neil Farley) was strong through the finish when runner-up on debut, as if the move to 1400m will see her being an even more formidable proposition five weeks on. That piece of form is the single best recorded by any of the opponents she faces today, and with improvement anticipated on top of it, it really would be disappointing if she failed to go one better.
WRITE YOUR NAME (Race 3, Jordan Childs) is an exciting prospect, that much we’ve known for a while, and one who can be said to be unfortunate not to be unbeaten in three starts thus far. He’s ascending the ranks, into a BM70 now, and his scope for progress is broad, certainly enough to think he’ll take the rise in grade in his stride. He’s fitted with blinkers for the first time in an attempt to keep his mind on the task at hand and alleviate any residual greenness. He stands out in a seven-strong field and should go some way to justifying the high hopes we have in him.
Speed is the order of the day – and the order of Zuers’ play – at Ararat today. She drops back to a sprinting trip, with the view being taken that will suit her best, still young in her career after all and capable of adapting and adjusting.
Things haven’t quite gone to plan with ZUERS (Race 6, Dean Yendall) since she broke through at Geelong in the autumn, but she’s been given more of a chance by the handicapper now, down 1kg since her last run and eased in grade to boot, so the surrounds of today’s race feel more amenable. She’s well enough drawn in four, albeit in a field down to eight at the time of writing, no great depth amongst them for her to worry about. A lot, maybe all, depends on how she copes with the increased emphasis on speed. It could just prove the making of her.
An intriguing Saturday in store with no fewer than six runners across the two meetings, compromising one certainty and a clutch of others who warrant close attention on what promises to be a very exciting afternoon.
Let’s start with the certainty. MISS CARBONI (Race 2, Neil Farley) is our one runner at Stawell and she would appear to have her maiden at her mercy, the form of her debut second at Terang giving her a distinct and commanding edge over everything else in the field with experience. As such, the only question mark concerns the Busuttin/Young newcomer Hershiser, and with that one looking likely to need further on paper and in due course, there doesn’t seem much or anything in the way of Miss Carboni going one better than at Terang.
Life is going to prove a mite more competitive at Pakenham, and WEE GILLY (Race 2, Ethan Brown) returns to the track since a break 2kg higher in the ratings than when winning a heavy-ground BM78 at Cranbourne in August. That rise is offset to some extent by Ethan Brown’s 1.5kg claim, and she wouldn’t be out of this if proving herself equally adept away from testing conditions now. The onus is on her to do that, however, with all of her form to date having come when the mud is flying. Today’s is a fact-finding mission as much as anything, then.
AZURITE (Race 4, Jordan Childs) continues to get no respite from the handicapper, as evidenced by the fact he has to concede weight all around in the BM78 over 2000m. He was by no means discredited when mid-field, not that far off the principals, at Sandown last time, but it equally wasn’t an effort which suggested he’s imminently set to come from out of the cold in a race containing the quick-progressive Mr Quickie.
In an open handicap over a mile, FASTNET LATINA (Race 6, Craig Williams), strictly speaking, has a bit to find with some of those above him in the weights, but there are holes in the profiles of each of them, and that gives him a strong chance in a race which promises to suit his style. He did enough in the Donald Cup last time to show all his old ability, as well as his sound attitude, remain intact, and it’s difficult to see him not being bang there come the end this afternoon. He rates our best chance at Pakenham today, and a return to winning ways in what is a valuable contest would be richly deserved for connections’ patience.
LORD FANDANGO (Race 7, Jordan Childs), Lord Fandango, Lord Fandango. Where to begin? Pushing the pace was obviously no good to him at all in the Ballarat Cup, as evidenced by his tame check-out in the straight, and it’s reasonable enough to strike a firm line through that effort as a result. All of his efforts leading up to that run suggest his time is nigh, more than ready to win a race of this nature, and the return to 2500m will be in his favour this afternoon so long as he can get into a rhythm settled further back from his widish draw. Kiwia and Dal Harraild have a lot to like about them, but if you chose to ignore Fandango’s last run, there’s no chance he’d be anything like the price he is here now.
The superstar that is CHIPPENHAM (Race 8, Linda Meech) races today off the same weight as the mercurial and deeply handsome serial non-winner So Si Bon. You’d have got long odds against the possibility of that ever happening twelve months ago, testament to Chip’s residual, non-stop improvement even at the age of six. In a set weights race, Chippenham is poorly off with five of his rivals, So Si Bon chief amongst them, but at least three of those have major question marks hanging over them, and it’s not going to prevent him from running yet another big race. Once more he’s a banker for the first three, probably two, hopefully one.
Three runners today, split between Mornington and the Valley. Three winners = the beau ideal. Two = fine work all round. One = fair enough. Zero = find someone, anyone, to blame.
Starting off at Mornington, GREYAZZ (Race 4, Jordan Childs) is, as his name would imply, a grey gelding, three years old, and by Dalghar. She’s out of a Green Desert mare who has so far produced five of six winners to race, and is also a close relation to Alkaadhem, a Marcus Tregoning-trained, Sheikh Hamdan-owned galloper (around 10f) I was strangely fascinated by a long time ago. Never felt he reached his full potential. Certainly not the first from that yard the same could be said of. Greyazz is up to speed, enough to think she should play a part at the first time of asking. We’d be hoping as much from her given her credentials, a feasible race, and a handy inside draw.
Strictly speaking DISCREET CHARM (Race 6, Jordan Childs) has to rate our best chance of the day. On the sly, there was quite a lot to like about her comeback/stable debut on Lakeside a couple of weeks ago. 1200m isn’t her trip and she shaped thusly, lacking the initial speed to play a hand but doing good work come the line. She’ll benefit no end from the step up to 1500m today, and to gild her already golden lily further, she finds herself contesting a weak race. Really weak, an open goal she really ought not miss.
More competitive doings at Moonee Valley. MIA GEORGIA (Race 4, Lucinda Doodt) is in a representative race of its type, a BM64 restricted to fillies and mares, and a race containing some potential. Like Discreet Charm (and also Nations), the move to 1600m promises to suit Mia Georgia's style, everything she’s done to this point suggesting it can draw improvement. It will need to given her mark is on the high side relative to her tangible achievements over shorter trips, but the strength of her finish when going close at Tatura last time suggests she shouldn’t be too far away now.
We have three runners each with a live chance at Hamilton this afternoon.
Go Ferrando (Race 1, Jordan Childs) finds himself in a maiden lacking much in the way of strength or depth. With the step back up to the 2200m trip that brought about his best effort at Geelong in August, and with a recent first-up run under his belt, he looks to have plenty in his favour. In receipt of the allowances the three-year-old filly Mandayana is likely the one he'll need to beat.
Veloucher (race 4, Dean Yendall) is a work in progress, his first two starts all about building up know-how, and his cause today is likewise aided by pitching up in a field lacking much in the way of standout quality. As such, we'd be most disappointed were he not up to making a far bigger impact than hitherto.
As befits a handicap containing a number of unexposed sorts, Nations (Race 5, Jordan Childs) finds himself in an altogether more competitive affair. He was a shade disappointing at Donald last time, though he didn't really enjoy the run of the race there, and he we certainly believe we're still to see the best of him. The way he's been shaping suggests the step up to a mile can extract more from him, and if that is the case, he'll be a live player back down at BM64 level today.
Man Alive transitions into handicap company at Warrnambool on Sunday having broken his maiden at the third time of asking. He’s taking on far more experienced rivals all of a sudden, leading to the age-old question: which is better, to be battle-hardened or to remain open to ample improvement?
It’s a question that can only be answered on a case-by-case, or rather race-by-race, basis, with the broad assumptions underlying it very different each and every time. One thing that points to MAN ALIVE (Race 4, Declan Bates) being one of those lightly-raced types with a lot of upside is that in his three runs the level of improvement he’s shown from first start to second, and from second to third has come in chunks. It was enough for him to win at Donald most convincingly, where the step up to the 2000m trip he also faces today clearly helped him amply. The merits of that effort suggest an opening mark of 61 may well not be beyond him even before allowing for the further progression that, by rights, should be forthcoming. Set The Bar High has had far more racing, but is one to take seriously in races of this nature, his recent close third at Donald having come on the same day as Man Alive’s maiden win and with a better time figure attached to it. Elsewhere, Bronski and Miss Americain still haven’t had too much racing and can be viewed as being somewhat on the up.
David vs Goliath is a Biblical tale and, as such, one not to take too seriously. If we were to, however, we’d uncover a multitude of reasons as to why David was, in fact, odds-on favourite to beat the Philistine giant. First up, Goliath must have been, if supposed records are remotely accurate, suffering from acromegaly, a growth disorder which at the time almost certainly would have created severe vision problems, why he was reportedly hand-led to the battlefield, if not with tunnel vision then as blind as a bat. Second, David’s all-round maneuverability and agility has long since been understated, a skilled athlete even before he took up the slingshot. So, third, his weapon of choice. Hugely unusual, properly left-field, and something Goliath had never had any reason to come across before. Something that took him completely out of his comfort zone. It meant that, fourth, David was fighting from afar, ambushing a foot soldier who had no experience of anything other than hand-to-hand combat. Finally, Goliath was – of course – an overwhelming favourite. How could he not be? A 6ft 9” armour-plated monster. And what pressure does that add? Pressure enough, sometimes, to put you off your game entirely!
Does this all add up to overwhelming outsider AZURITE (Race 8, Zac Spain) winning at Sandown today, pulling off his own David vs Goliath triumph? No. No, it doesn’t at all. It’s just fanciful fluff I made up. Azurite’s form simply hasn’t been good enough in three starts since returning from an injury-enforced absence to show that all of his prior ability remains intact. His last win did come at this track, though over further (2400m), and hopefully if and when he does manage to show a bit more spark this afternoon, then it may be back over longer trips that he eventually surprises (or perhaps doesn’t surprise) some more obvious Goliaths.
Every successful yard relies on having a strong conveyor belt of young horses coming through all the time, constantly supplementing the older and more established performers. Bendigo – the “nursery of champions” – witnesses something of a bright new dawn for us today and will hopefully see that production line in good working order, with two newcomers entering the fray and another having just her second ever start.
SERGEANT DOYLE (Race 2, Jordan Childs) is the name given to two separate characters in both 28 Days Later and The Alienist. In both, Doyle is a he, but our version is a three-year-old daughter of Per Incanto. Her sire tends to impart speed, and she starts over 1100m in a maiden restricted to fillies. Her dam, Kincia, may ultimately prove to inject a bit more stamina into the pedigree, and has produced five winners to date, including a dual Cup winner in New Zealand, so maybe she’ll benefit from a bit further in time. Either way, today’s race rates a nice starting-off point for Sergeant Doyle, even if form standout Dame of Thrones could be too clued up and battle-hardened at this stage.
Making her debut a bit later in life is four-year-old Teofilo mare RONDELLE (Race 3, Neil Farley) in the following 1400m maiden. She’s the first foal of her dam, Besant (making her a close relation to Go Ferrando), who herself was a fair dual winner at around this sort of trip before going on to prove her stamina at up to 2000m. The sire of Cross Counter, Teofilo is far from a one-trick pony, however, equally adept at promoting speed in his stock. Rondelle ought to be sharp enough for a test such as this so long as she’s sufficiently professional from a tricky enough draw in eleven.
FASHION STOCK (Race 3, Declan Bates) was a bit off the speed at the first time of asking when seventh of ten behind the useful Multaja at Werribee back in April. She was run off her feet on that occasion, the 1100m trip on the short side with greenness an accompanying factor. She has a future, no question, and can be expected to show a good deal more now taking a marked step up in trip and with the benefit of that initial experience under her belt. She’ll be a fair bit more competitive this afternoon.
It has been a frustrating Spring what with one thing and another. Moving forward, there’s plenty to reflect and work on as we strive to meet the lofty standards we set ourselves day in and day out. That said, winning our home Cup here at Ballarat would at least make up for some of what has gone before! Ballarat’s big day is upon us, and whilst for the time being the intensity of the racing might be winding down elsewhere, that will not be the case here today. Enjoy the show!
SO FAR SOKOOL (Race 1, Lucinda Doodt) has yet to fully click since returning from injury, and we’ll certainly hope and need to see a lot more like her prior form now. She drops back to 1200m having been inclined to overrace last time, whilst Lucinda Doodt comes in for the ride for the first time, in so doing lessening her burden by 3kg. This mares BM78 represents the lowest grade she’s contested for some time, so hopefully the change in environments brings about sees the SFSK of old reappear.
ONEHUNDRED PERCENT (Race 6, Jordan Childs) has just been bubbling under since joining us, far from discredited when just under four lengths off the principals in the China Bowl at Ararat most recently. This race isn’t as hot as that one, dipping back into a BM70 now, and the run patterns of his efforts this season indicate that he’s well worth trying over today’s mile trip, indeed hopefully he’ll show plenty of benefit and end up emerging from the shadows as a result of it.
One of the principals in that China Bowl was of course CHIPPENHAM (Race 7, Linda Meech) who ran a fine race, another career best, to go down so narrowly to Choisborder in what was a valuable contest at Ararat. That, coupled with his Warrnambool win that preceded it, goes to show that he has found further improvement since coming back this prep, and hopefully the upward curve can be maintained this afternoon. He’s just as effective over 1400m as slightly shorter, Linda Meech maintains the ride, and he doesn’t know the meaning of running poorly, so another bold and courageous display would appear assured.
There’s no use bemoaning the luck that hasn’t been with LORD FANDANGO (Race 8, Jordan Childs) when instead it is far more worthwhile crediting him for the big efforts he’s been putting up in face of misfortune. The Ballarat Cup may not have been his chief target early in the Spring, but this is where we are today, and we certainly won’t care a jot if it offers some redemption! He certainly did nothing wrong in the Zipping Classic last weekend, simply left poorly positioned in race won from the front. The 2200m trip is probably shorter than ideal now, so hopefully the refitting of blinkers can counter that to an extent. He obviously has hordes of Weir-trained runners to get the better of (Kiwia very possibly chief amongst them), but if Jordan can get him in the right position to challenge and he gets a strong shot at them in the straight it will still take something very good indeed to hold him off.
Terang isn’t renowned for hosting the strongest of maidens, and we have runners in a couple of winnable looking such races there on Friday, one a nicely-bred debutante, the other a more exposed fella who has done enough to give him a sound chance of breaking his duck.
MISS CARBONI (Race 1, Jordan Childs) starts out in the opening maiden for three-year-old fillies. She’s a chestnut daughter of Helmet, a sire whose reputation took a much higher standing earlier this year with Thunder Snow’s Dubai World Cup success. Meanwhile her dam is a dual 1200m winner who has so far produced a couple of multiple-winning sprinters. Miss Carboni ought to be well at home over today’s trip with that pedigree in mind, and she’s got a handy inside draw to go with it. Of the four of today’s eight-strong field to have raced thus far, recent Ballarat third Valse is the one who looks to set the standard. Though after four runs, it’s hardly an imposing one. With that in mind maybe it will prove to be the Darren Weir-trained newcomer Peppering who will be the more pressing danger. However, she’s got rather more stamina than speed in her pedigree, so whether she has the pace to cope this afternoon remains to be seen.
There’s a more palpable lack of depth to the maiden in which SKALACCI (Race 5, Andrew Mallyon) goes again later in the meeting. So even with seven previous attempts under his belt, he still looks to have a clear chance on form against today’s bunch of opponents, his last three runs enough to suggest he can come good in a small race of this nature. The winkers are off today, and he looks nailed on to get into the places at the very least. The market would suggest Nashville Sound and Swanky Cat are the pair to be most worried out, though the former has only raced under very testing conditions thus far and is coming back from a lengthy break, whilst the latter hasn’t exactly been looking the most genuine in his races of late.
With just seven career starts under her belt, four-year-old Discreet Charm joins Team Alexander with plenty of residual potential. That potential stems not just from the ability she's already shown in NSW, but also a classy pedigree as a half-sister to the Group 1-winning Vanbrugh.
Formerly with John Thompson, DISCREET CHARM (Race 8, Jordan Childs) was a soft-ground maiden winner just over a year ago before having her sights raised. She ended up a bit out of sorts when last seen in April, but has had a nice seven-month break since then as well as the change in scene. She's just the sort who we feel can do really well for her owners, and hopefully she'll do plenty to further boost the good family name. Starting off for us over 1200m at Sandown this afternoon may be asking a bit much of her, a little further likely to suit best ultimately and finding herself in a competitive enough race for one conceding match fitness, but it should at least give us a sound base on which to build. Expect her to come into her own back around 1400-1600m in due course.
Mia Georgia has two big things in her favour at Tatura this afternoon. A drop in grade immediately sees her competitive, but Alana Kelly's 3kg claim is even more of a positive as it's very possibly the most useful plus to have going for you at present.
MIA GEORGIA (Race 6, Alana Kelly) has run okay in BM64's since winning at Pakenham when last at BM58 level, certainly well enough to make her of firm interest now back down in grade. She's been eased a notch by the handicapper which will help, though she can only really have a chance from this weight with the help of Alana Kelly. She is flying, and there's no question she is incredibly good value for 3kg, an assistance which gives Mia Georgia a favourite's chance up against a group which haven't achieved the same level of form as her today.
There’s no time to lament the way certain races are run (Ben Melham and Kerrin McEvoy surely got away with daylight robbery yesterday!), we’ve got no fewer than eight, count them, eight runners across the two meetings today. It’s very much all hands on deck.
Let’s start off with our likeliest winner. We’ve found MAN ALIVE (Race 1, Declan Bates) a weak maiden to contest at Donald, and he should be winning it. There are only the five runners for starters, all of them more exposed than our boy. They’re also exposed as being modest, a label Man Alive can jump away from after his narrow defeat at Stawell last time. A reproduction of that effort should be enough, but after just two runs and with his stamina now drawn out up to 2000m there really should be more to come. He looks banker material.
In the following maiden, over 1350m, MAZY MOTION (Race 2, Alana Kelly) makes her debut in a slightly (but only slightly) more competitive field. She’s bred to go, by Denman and out of a useful mare in Flying Hula. She was more of a stayer, her best wins coming at 2000-2500m, so Mazy Motion may need more of a trip before she shows us all of which she’s capable. What is a clear benefit to her chance is Alana Kelly’s superbly valuable 4kg claim.
NATIONS (Race 5, Declan Bates) started off life in handicaps with a stiffish enough opening mark, his close – and gallant – third at Geelong coming in a weak race of its type. He should still be improving, however, we’re just five starts into his career after all, and today’s BM70 is notably uncompetitive for the grade. He should go well with all that in mind, though the in-form class-dropper Duecourse is firmly the one to beat.
The Donald Cup represents a drop in grade for FASTNET LATINA (Race 7, Declan Bates), and a welcome one as he whirs himself back into top gear. He looks tailor made for a race of this nature, catching a light weight whilst those above him in the handicap have questions to answer. The return to a mile will suit, whilst there’s been more than enough spark in his comeback runs to think all the old ability still remains intact. The same cannot as of yet be said of AZURITE (Race 7, Lucinda Doodt), and he has a lesser chance in the same race no question. Whilst he goes well fresh, he probably needs further and, disadvantaged at the weights, we’ll know a lot more about where we stand with him after this return from a break.
Over at Geelong GO FERRANDO (Race 2, Fred Kersley) returns from a spell over a trip that may prove to be short of his optimum. He ran his best race to date when upped to 2200m on the synthetic track here last time in early-August, giving every indication there that the longer trip spurred the improvement. As such, he should come on from today’s outing, and come into his own, when back over further. The year-younger VELOUCHER (Race 2, Jye McNeil) ought to have a better chance in the same race. His debut was encouraging enough, particularly because he also found the emphasis too much on speed. With stamina more the order of the day now taking a marked hike in trip, he can display a lot more of what he’s capable. High Done sets a standard, but it’s one we’d like to think he’ll be able to progress enough to meet.
ZUERS (Race 4, Jordan Childs) didn’t blow anyone away with her comeback here earlier in the month, but it’s once more a case of being inconvenienced by an insufficient trip as much as anything. 1200m isn’t really her bag and she couldn’t muster a change of speed when required. She’s got more turf to work with now, as well as blinkers, and the combination of the two can bring about a livelier display. Whether or not it will be enough is another question. Parsifal’s Secret Vega/Write Your Name form looks dynamite in the context of today’s race.
Let the chips fall where they may at Sandown today, but it feels the day that the cards finally look to have been dealt in our favour. In terms of Lord Fandango in the Zipping Classic at least, whilst Spanner Head’s toughness and reliability in the face of some stiff tasks mean she’s a big player once more.
The Group 2 Zipping Classic is the day’s highlight and it’s shaped up into a fascinating contest in which a case – some decidedly stronger than others – can be made for each of the eight runners. LORD FANDANGO (Race 8, John Allen) was over his colic issue last weekend pretty much as soon as it emerged, and he arrives here hale and hearty, and with unfinished business on the agenda. He’s been in better form than the bare facts of the results leading into this have shown, arguably unfortunate not to win the Bendigo Cup most recently, and he’s fresh and ready to roll heading into a race which looks right up his street. The very much in-form John Allen partners him for the first time.
Comparatively, Who Shot Thebarman and Ventura Storm arrive on the back of tough runs in the Melbourne Cup. Whilst it has consistently proven folly to write off the old man of the party, he does appear vulnerable to younger legs nowadays. Ventura Storm wasn’t discredited at all in finishing tenth at Flemington, and if over recent exertions he ought to go well once again. Libran has been running well enough to think he will be a player, a place player, though his limitations are established. The Taj Mahal is the likeliest winner, his form prior to the Gold Cup at Moonee Valley (won by Ventura Storm) the best on offer, but question marks exist after that lesser display from which he returned lame. His stablemate Sir Isaac Newton has a deal more on his plate, his form running up to today a level or two below that achieved by the rest of the field. Dal Harraild was narrowly in front of Fandango at Bendigo, but he enjoyed the better run through the race that day, and it would be disappointing if we weren’t able to turn the form around. The mare Our Libretto is the up and comer, reeling off a four-timer prior to finishing mid-pack in a clustered Matriarch Stakes last weekend. She’s best not judged too harshly on that, and is of interest trying 2400m for the first time.
Put simply, each of Lord Fandango’s seven rivals have their weak sides, and we’re extremely hopeful to be coming into today arriving at a peak after a somewhat frustrating campaign hitherto.
There's nothing frustrating about SPANNER HEAD (Race 10, Jye McNeil), and she owes nobody anything. That’s the first point to make about a terrific mare who has been competing most valiantly in some tough races this campaign. She’s taken her form to another level since winning at Flemington in August, warranting another crack at Group 3 company in today’s finale. It may well be that the intermediate trip of 1500m is her optimum. She has a length and a half to make up on favourite Our Crown Mistress (though is 0.5kg better off) from the Begonia Belle on Cup day, though does have a few others held on that performance. She’s sure to give it her very best once more, and nowadays doesn’t feel remotely out of place in this sort of company. It would be a surprise, and a disappointing one at that, if she failed to make the first three this afternoon.
San Remo has taken a while to break through in Australia, close on occasions without as of yet getting there, but we’ll keep on trying until we find the right shape of key for him. He’s got more ground, more track to work with this evening at the Valley, something which should help no end as the one thing he isn't going to do is stop galloping.
It’s tough to crab SAN REMO (Race 6, Declan Bates) in terms of attitude or application, not doing too much wrong at all in his Australian career to date for all he’s yet to get that landmark first success over here. He is a little one paced, however, good a grinding rather than quickening, so with that in mind the move up to a stamina-testing 3000m ought to give him greater options at Moonee Valley today. Hopefully he will still be able to go forward from his wide barrier, and apply some pressure in the race, only this time with longer to stick in there and plug away.
He does come up against a few in-form gallopers, though like him they don’t have much of a gear change amongst them, with the likes of Ascot Red, Truly High, and Penthouse Playboy all blessed with a lot more stamina than speed.
The absolute first thing you learn is that there are are no lie-ins in this game (alas), but today, for once, it’s at least a long wait before Shehroz graces the track in the finale at Pakenham tonight.
SHEHROZ (Race 8, Declan Bates) is putting together something of an in and out record for one with a likeable 30% strike rate. When he’s good he’s been very good, when he’s less impressive he’s been a bit underwhelming. Take the convincing Ballarat success (over today’s 1200m) last month being followed up by a somewhat one-paced run at Bendigo. We’re rooting around to find an answer to this lack of consistency, but over and above that it may just be him, difficult to read, like the rest of us simply having good days and bad days, meaning it would be no surprise at all to see him bounce back decisively this evening. He certainly seems in very good order, and he still has potential if he can be focused in the right direction, so hopefully we see his ‘A’, as opposed to ‘B’ or ‘C’, game today.
The most intriguing race on tomorrow’s card at Bendigo is the 1400m Class 1 event that features a clutch of unexposed potentially very useful handicappers. Write Your Name firmly tops that list, and will be bidding to gain compensation for his narrow Echuca reverse.
On the face of it, it was slightly disappointing WRITE YOUR NAME (Race 6, Jamie Mott) failed to maintain his unbeaten record at Echuca, just unable to reel in Secret Vega. But he shaped with a great deal of promise all the same, unfortunate not to win having suffered a blocked run before displaying signs of residual inexperience, and he’s surely going to carry over a bundle of further improvement to today. What’s more Secret Vega has franked the form most encouragingly by running a belter when a close third to Ringerdingding at Flemington on Saturday. All of these things point to Watch Your Name putting up a big effort this afternoon, and he certainly looks the correct favourite.
There are, however, a trio of lightly raced runners who warrant respect. Mr Genoa has proven popular in the lead-up, so it would hardly be a surprise were he to take a big step forward from what was admittedly a pretty underwhelming start for Darren Weir recently. Friedensberg is also entitled to come on for his reappearance, though he will need to as this looks stronger, whilst the returning King Tycoon is the other member of the nine-strong line-up who remains open to progress as a handicapper.
It's with both hope and anticipation that we venture to Kilmore today anxiously looking for Skalacci's breakthrough. He's getting there, and it will come sooner rather than later, so fingers crossed today is the day.
SKALACCI (Race 4, Andrew Mallyon) has finished placed on his last two outings, including over this course and distance last time. That race was a weak one, however, and he'll have needed to have progressed for the run if he's to go one better here. There are grounds for thinking he can put it all together a bit more efficiently this time, particularly that he's building his proficiency with experience.Tour Down Under is an understandable favourite, but we'll be looking to take advantage of any chinks in that one's armour.
First things first: Lord Fandango is perfectly well within himself this morning having developed a very minor case of colic on arriving at Flemington yesterday which necessitated him being scratched. Second things second: the show moves on to Ararat today, where we're chasing some fine China.
The China Bowl is a smart and valuable handicap in which CHIPPENHAM (Race 7, Linda Meech) and ONEHUNDRED PERCENT (Race 7, Dean Holland) are set to line up. Chippenham clearly arrives on the up and up, and the conditions of the race would look to favour him a shade more than his stable-companion. Whichever way you look at things he ends up running well, as it will seemingly only require another modest degree of progress from one who is pulling that out all the time for him to record further success. It isn't possible to be quite as positive about the prospects of Onehundred Percent, arriving as he does with something of a cloud to banish. He's without the blinkers this time, and we need him to start showing more of which we feel he's capable.
Sssh. Just don't tell him. Lord Fandango has no idea the Melbourne Cup has already been run and there seems no point breaking his illusion, as to him today is the day, and he's ready to go out and grasp the big-race glory that has just been eluding him of late. Meanwhile, there's also familial pride on the line for Wheal Leisure at Flemington today, a big sister ready to put a younger one in her place.
Of course the Queen Elizabeth is 'second preference' for LORD FANDANGO (Race 5, Kerrin McEvoy), but then again it's hard to think of a single member of the twelve-strong field that wasn't aimed at getting into the big race. As it works out he gets to form one of a notably strong three-pronged OTI challenge in an extremely valuable and prestigious back up. Fandango showed at Bendigo recently just what sort of order he is in, and hopefully the nature of the race won't necessitate him having to get quite so far back this time, with an inside draw certainly encouraging on that score. It's a warm race, of course, a Group 3 with a number from Bendigo meeting again, and it would certainly be disappointing if he didn't come out on top of those.
We've asked some big questions of WHEAL LEISURE (Race 6, Mark Zahra) this campaign, and she hasn't wilted in face of them. But she is far from the easiest to place, with nothing 'easy' set up in the programme for one with her ability and rating, and the Matriarch Stakes this afternoon furnishes her with a new set of circumstances. A set weight race rather than a handicap, she's also back in trip to 2000m, something that will only work if the first-time blinkers do. If she doesn't fight them in the early stages, we're hoping they'll enable her to focus more and show off her latent ability in the latter part of the race. Maybe they'll also prevent her from recognising her long-lost half-sister Temple of Bel and expending too much emotional energy there!
Everyone wants to dine at the top table. For that reason it isn’t always able to fandango your way into a free seat, so for this year at least we’ll make do with having to samba onto the slightly smaller tables at the same feast. Either side of Finche becoming a household name by winning the big one, Mirette, So Far Sokool, and Spanner Head will be bidding to gorge themselves on some of the available glory on Melbourne Cup day.
Make no mistake, today is a big day for MIRETTE (Race 6, Jordan Childs), as we are desperately keen for her to prove that her close sixth in the Thousand Guineas is a stepping stone for her into the big time. The Jim Beam Black Stakes is sponsored by a whisky, and the elements of it are a cocktail for success, representing a drop to listed grade, and perhaps an even more relevant drop back to 1400m, where her speed can shine. The form book would have that sixth to Amphitrite as being the best performance achieved amongst today’s field, and it seems more likely that the trio to be more concerned about are the unbeaten pair Beauty and Notation, and a wide draw in 14. If Jordan is able to safely negotiate the last-named, we'll be very hopeful she'll be able to overcome the other two!
The day will be done for many by the time the Group 3 HKJ Club Stakes is run, whilst for those lamenting lost Yucatan dollars it may represent a ‘getting-out’ stakes, but it’s a race that has our full interest, one we’re targeting full bore. SO FAR SOKOOL (Race 10, Mark Zahra) hasn’t quite refound her best since coming back from injury, but she’s not far off, her Caulfield effort last time not really one to judge her on given things didn’t go her way, and should she regain the spark that underpinned her Bendigo Guineas win over this trip she’ll be a major factor in today’s line-up. Current form may suggest SPANNER HEAD (Race 10, Jordan Childs) has the slightly better chance, however, having excelled herself over this course and distance the last twice, winning a BM84 prior to putting up a career best to finish runner-up to Eckstein in listed company a month ago. A repeat of that run will see her finish in the top four or five at worst in this big field, and as ever we know she’ll be giving it her absolute maximum.
Feedback is always welcome. Doubtless you’ve heard as much, or some variant upon it, when someone is attempting their utmost to create something that appeals to all manner of people. At its best it can be hugely helpful, pointing out flaws, assisting in the refining of hard work. So to yesterday’s very welcome feedback from someone who gave his name only as Steve. Quote, verbatim (bar the *), “Stop talking sh*t about your horses on Facebook you grubd I will never buy a horse with you bookie loving cheats.” Regrettably Steve didn’t go into detail when it comes to what a ‘grubd’ is, so we’re struggling to refine and make better ourselves when it comes to that part of his otherwise very well put together point. ‘Talking sh*t about’ our horses? Steve, mate, unfortunately we are simply unable to operate at a 100% strike rate. If only it were the case. Nobody would ever lose! We work with what we have, and by that I mean we strive endless hours to do the best by, and get the absolute best from, the wonderful horses we’re very lucky to have in our charge. We’re very honest about their capabilities, and we’re exceptionally fortunate to have owners who are very understanding of the vagaries that racehorse ownership entail. ‘Bookie loving cheats.’ We’re extremely sorry you backed one of ours and it didn’t win, Steve. When the fun stops: stop. There’s some honest and heartfelt feedback for you! ‘I will never buy a horse with you’ We’ve discussed the matter at length, but Alexander Racing has made a collective decision and we’re fairly happy to conclude we wouldn’t want to train a horse for you, so maybe it was never meant to be Steve Grubd.
If, Steven (you're a 'Steven' to both me and your mother), you'll forgive such bluntness, then SKALACCI (Race 2, Andrew Mallyon) really should be going close, if not outright winning, the second race at Kilmore today. It’s a race without much depth to it, so it will be disappointing to say the least if he isn’t up to going very close indeed. Bertie Went Bang looks the one to beat on paper, and you’d have to think Skalacci would be more than capable of giving that one plenty to think about from his inside draw.
The following race sees TOM’S KNIGHT (Race 3, Neil Farley) make his debut. He’s a Duporth half-brother to a number of multiple winners, including at around today’s trip of 1200m. He should have the ability to make an impact at the first time of asking, like Skalacci having an inside draw to work with and in a race that doesn’t seem to feature too much in the way of strength. He ought to go well at the first time of asking.
Later on, SAN REMO (Race 4, Declan Bates) takes his chance at the Valley this evening in a BM70 that has a familiar ring to it. Familiar in that the Darren Weir-trained pair Truly High and Ocean Walzer are horses we’re beginning to know well. Prinz Hlodowig had the first-named fairly and squarely in his wake at Geelong last week, whilst San Remo was just behind Ocean Walzer – who has won since – when running well at Ballarat a month ago. They're both likely to be bang there, and given the weight pull San Remo now enjoys with Ocean Walzer, there he should be a big part of the argument too.
It’s probably fair to say the racing Gods were having a day off from looking down favourably upon us at Bendigo yesterday. Fandango will be the key take away, the suspicion being that under different circumstances things could have been, well, they could have been, but I’ll take the opportunity to talk up Shehroz’s very big effort completely against the grain behind Lord Sundowner. That obviously raises great hope for next time, but we can’t all be that patient, so we’ll be looking for today’s Geelong quartet to be offering up more immediate deliverances.
NATIONS (Race 4, Declan Bates) gets the ball rolling in a tightly-knit, small-field Class 1 handicap. There isn’t much to choose between all five of the runners on paper, all bar the more exposed Pritchett remaining with some potential to speak of. Nations will be looking to come on from his own sound return to action in what was a stronger race at Cranbourne a couple of weeks ago, and he has a bit of added distance today to help him do precisely that. This isn’t a contest for hard and fast conclusions, with both Mr Quickie and Supre both looking capable of their own progress, and track position is likely to be key in a race that could well develop into something of a burn up.
In the following maiden for fillies and mares RAFFINE (Race 5, Declan Bates) makes her racecourse bow in what looks a very winnable race of its type. A chestnut four-year-old Toorak Toff daughter out of an Eire mare, Raffine has the highly-tried Judy In Disguise to beat amongst those with experience, though it would be no great surprise if this ended up being fought out by newcomers, with Dalmatia and Diamond Bliss looking another couple of likely types on paper. Fitted with a tongue strap, Raffine has the speed to make her presence felt over this 1200m trip, and we’re hopeful she’ll have the know-how to come out on top at the first time of asking.
ZUERS (Race 7, Ben Allen) makes her return from six months on the sidelines in a BM58 over 1200m. Heavy ground seemed to be the undoing of her on her handicap debut when last seen, a line best put through that effort, and she remains wholly unexposed as a handicapper. She has winkers in place for this comeback, to help ensure her focus is on the task at hand, and returning to the scene of her maiden win, it’s not difficult to make a case for her in a field full of more exposed rivals with decidedly patchy profiles. Zuers made all when scoring that breakthrough success, and it’s probably important not to try and blunt her early speed too much, even though utilizing it from a wide draw will require some finesse on Ben Allen’s part. If the pair of them are able to adopt a handy position without giving too much away, she ought to take the beating this afternoon.
Last and, according to current odds, least likely of the four to be winning today is MIA GEORGIA (Race 8, Lewis German). That’s hardly a cut and dry statement though, with each of our four runners bracketed in the $5 - $8.50 range, and it also doesn’t appear to reflect the way in which the final race on the card has cut up, the four scratched runners leaving a depleted field of seven. Mia Georgia and Lewis German have already struck up a handy partnership, and she actually stepped up on the form of her maiden win when fifth of nine behind Our Girl Silke trying a handicap for the first time at Ballarat a month ago. That run came off an interrupted preparation, of course, and it’s too soon in her development to think there shouldn’t be a few more lengths of improvement to come from her.
We’re at that time of year were rare are the days when the racing isn’t to be savoured. Today’s Cup meeting at Bendigo dwells on the point, Country racing at its finest, and our four runners will be looking to do all they can to make the occasion even more memorable.
Kicking off his career in ‘the Nursery of Champions’ VELOUCHER (Race 2, Dean Holland) finds himself in a warm race of its type. The sole debutant in the race, he finds himself taking on at least four rivals it’s possible to argue have already achieved a level of form good enough to win an average maiden for the track. Veloucher is a three-year-old son of Fiorente out of a Zabeel mare named Prominent. She won over 2200m, though with all four of her offspring to have raced winners, she seems to have passed on as much if not more speed than stamina, a couple of those successful over 1000m. All this concludes with it being difficult to say, from a pedigree standpoint, just where Velouter’s future may lie. What we do know is that he’s worked as if having plenty of ability, and it’s exciting to see him start out in a race featuring plenty of proven form so as to be able to get a useful early handle on him. That quartet he has to match up with (in approximate order)? Scipio, Jawwaal, Suburbia, Shake On It.
If not a total surprise then it was at least a very welcome bounce back onto an upward plane from SHEHROZ (Race 7, Declan Bates) when he recorded his third career success from just nine starts at Ballarat earlier this month. The strength of his finish to get up in the dying strides pointed towards 1200m being right at the short end of his optimum sweet spot, so hopefully today’s 1300m will prove to be right in the middle of it. He has the obligatory 2kg ratings rise to contend with for that win, though that needn’t prove an obstacle if he maintains the path he’s on, still lightly raced and unexposed enough to imagine there’s further potential to tap into.
The Bendigo Cup is as warm and competitive a handicap as the prize money warrants. Furrion is understandably favourite with the move up to 2400m promising to be the making of him, whilst Patrick Erin faces a different set of circumstances than for his Group 1 Metropolitan win, and Dal Harraild should have plenty more to offer in this country. The last-named finished fourth to Champion British stayer Stradivarius in the Goodwood Cup in late July, but he was a couple of places behind our own LORD FANDANGO (Race 8, Damian Lane) in the Herbert Power and there’s no standout reason to make you think they’ll finish in a different order this afternoon. Whilst this time around Lord Fandango hasn’t quite found the same spark as this time last year, it needs remembering he has much more on his plate from a handicapping perspective and with that in mind he’s been far from discredited the last twice. He's far from done being in the spotlight, though, that much we do know, and we feel as if he’s now primed to have his biggest day of the season in a race which promises to be run to suit.
FASTNET LATINA (Race 10, Declan Bates) continues his renaissance in the closing event of a cracking meeting. His comeback has gone really well thus far, building on his mid-field Benalla run to finish a good fourth to Manuel at Caulfield last time, and there’s little or no reason to imagine he won’t take another step forward here and now. He was caught wider than ideal last time but gets the inside draw here, and hopefully Declan can find an inside path without too many hitches. With two wins from his last three it’s not too difficult to see why Superhard is popular, but at the same time he does look a prohibitively short price as things stand given the extra improvement he needs to find now, and he looks easy enough to have reservations about. Akkadian and Montaser warrant some sort of respect, but all told there’s nothing in there to be too concerned about should Fastnet Latina come on again to the extent we’re very hopeful he will.
‘Man Alive!’ It’s a pretty outdated phrase by now. Like a pre-millennial OMG, or maybe even WTF. There shouldn’t be any need to use it about the horse himself today given that his debut run was promising enough to suggest ample improvement will be forthcoming second up, and therefore shouldn’t be the cause of undue surprise. For example, nobody should be left needing to exclaim “OMG, did you see Man Alive bolt up at Stawell? WTF? WTAF? Man alive!”
Admittedly seventh of eleven doesn’t sound overly promising on the face of it, but look a little deeper and it was in fact a perfectly encouraging start by the son of Reliable Man at Bendigo, beaten under five lengths, and more to the point, doing so against the grain of a race dominated by those racing to the fore. Matters were compounded when MAN ALIVE (Race 3, Declan Bates) had no room to work with in the closing stages, just as he was finding his stride. The move from 1300m to 1600m will surely help him show more of what he’s capable now, and he looks nailed on to get a place at the very least. Winning will obviously require improvement of a greater order of magnitude, largely due to the presence of the twice-placed Dunmam, who has achieved more to date and to whom we have to concede 2.5kg.
Take my arm, take my hand
Make your mark like a man
Write your name, gonna write your name
Hurts so good, love and pain
When all fades, you remain
Write your name, gonna write your name
So said Selena Gomez on Write Your Name from 2013’s Stars Dance. We don't know for certain she was referencing today's racing at Echuca, but it's probably fair to asume she was.
WRITE YOUR NAME (Race 7, Dean Holland) wasn’t contesting the strongest of maidens at Ballarat on debut, but even so it was hard not to be impressed by the way he powered clear to make a winning start. He overcame signs of greenness to do so, and also highlighted that he’s going to be much better suited by trips longer than 1200m in due course. Therefore, he transitions into handicap company today from an initial mark of 63 over 1412m, giving him more time to show us what he’s really all about; more time for him to make his mark like a man.
There is some residual potential amongst the opposition, principally with narrow maiden winner My Boss, whilst Parsifal looks the one with the most established previous form. All told, though, it will be disappointing if Write Your Name and Dean Holland are unable to maintain their 100% record en route to bigger and better things.
There are reasons to be bullish about both our runners at Ballarat this afternoon. These are those:
WILD BREEZE (Race 3, Jye McNeil) outran her odds to be beaten just three and a half lengths into fourth behind My Boss at Bendigo a fortnight ago, and just normal progress from that racecourse debut should be sufficient to see her in the thick of the action now. However, in the days since she’s given us the distinct feeling she has come on a good deal more than that for the experience, leaving us excited to see what she can now do over 1400m and kept to her own age and sex. Her current price could easily understate her chance by some margin.
Amongst the remainder Sealed is clearly the one to aim at, her form in twice hitting a place good enough to think it should just be a matter of time before she gets off the mark. That said, she’s got a wide draw to overcome this time, and there’s just about enough reason to believe we may be able to improve past her.
Favourite at the time of writing, ONEHUNDRED PERCENT (Race 9, Damien Oliver) has, on paper, a much more obvious chance than his stablemate. He was denied his chance at Cranbourne on Sunday following the abandonment of that meeting and instead now gets redirected closer to home. The comments that were made ahead of that intended run still apply today. He promises to be more at home back up at 1400m, and if that is indeed the case he should come on for his highly encouraging comeback run here early this month. There’s one added advantage to today’s race as opposed to that he was due to contest on Sunday: there doesn’t look anything as potentially dangerous as Cochada amongst his rivals. The in-form Maxey Campo ought to go well (even if the drop back from a mile may not be ideal), but he doesn’t possess the same raw potential as Cochada.
It’s Geelong Cup day, and we’re delighted to be represented by Wheal Leisure in what is a fascinating renewal of the big race - she’ll be doing all she can to keep those pesky European invaders at bay! Earlier, Prinz Hlodowig looks to hold a very good chance in the curtain-raiser.
Starting off with PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 1, Jye McNeil), and it surely is just a matter of time before he comes good. He’s been doing very little wrong of late when the luck hasn’t really been with him, working home well behind Not An Ambiturner at Bendigo most recently despite having been caught wide throughout. He could probably do with a more solid pace to run at, and it is slightly concerning that he doesn’t look likely to get that here, with Rex Bell the only one sure to go forward. If he doesn’t get too far back, however, he will once again be finishing to good effect, and with that first part of the race in mind we’re fitting him with winkers. If they do the trick, it's certainly no stretch to see him getting his head in front this afternoon in a BM78 which doesn't have much strength and/or depth for the grade.
The first thing to mention about WHEAL LEISURE (Race 7, Jye McNeil) is that she excelled herself in the face of a very stiff task in The Bart Cummings. The second thing to mention is that she’s going to have to do so all over again today. The intriguing Juddmonte import Finche tops the weights on a mark of 107, 12kg (or 14kg including the mares allowance) higher than Wheal Leisure, yet she receives just 5kg, so she’s clearly up against it. But that certainly needn’t preclude a big showing, as when she finished less than a length and a half off Vengeur Masque in this race twelve months ago. We know she’ll give it her all and, like Prinz Hlodowig, she should still be running on once others have cried enough.
It is probably fair to say that, on paper, this running of the Geelong Cup looks a notch or two stronger than last year’s, the lightly raced and sharply progressive Withhold having been right to the fore of the betting for the Melbourne Cup ever since his impressive Northumberland Plate success. Along with Chris Waller’s two ex-French performers, the aforementioned Finche and OTI’s Casterton, he represents a formidable if slightly unquantifiable challenge from the Northern Hemisphere.
With his comeback run and stable debut under his belt, will Onehundred Percent come on and prove himself, well, 100% at Cranbourne today? We're expecting so, and we've got Ollie booked to bring him home in front.
Whether there was a bit of rust in his system or he simply needs further than 1100m nowadays, there was a lot to like about ONEHUNDRED PERCENT's (Race 7, Damien Oliver) close fifth to Cappanello at Ballarat earlier this month, particularly the closing end of the race, strength through the line certainly indicating that he's simply that much more about stamina than speed by now. As such, we've moved him back up to 1400m for this second up run, and he looks to figure in a good spot this afternoon, especially with the race having begun to cut up a little (last-time winner Tanto Bianco and the potentially dangerous Wassergeist amongst the scratchings), to the extent that it would be disapointing should he not get back to winning ways under Damien Oliver. There's just one potential spoiler to that envisioned scenario: Cochada. The Sale winner performed to an above-average level on all three starts in maidens and clearly has potential now transferring to handicaps. This is a stiff enough introduction, though, beginning at BM70 level, and there's just a suspicion that he's going to prove more effective at a mile sooner rather than later.
We’re looking to sneak one under the radar today, as on a relatively low-key Saturday for us, with attention centred on Caulfield, our focus will be on OTI Racing debutant Tigre Royale at Bendigo.
TIGRE ROYALE (Race 2, Dean Holland) is a three-year-old New Zealand-bred son of Redwood, himself a Group 1-winning son of the mighty High Chaparral. He’s a sire responsible for an increasing number of exciting performers, notably so Caulfield Cup contender Night’s Watch, though he’s always likely to impart a fair degree of stamina (his Group 1 success having come in the 2400m Northern Dancer Turf Stakes) and, as such, Tigre Royale starts out over 1600m. There may be a bit more speed to come from the dam’s side, as Tigre Royale is a half-brother to a winner over 1400m, out of an unraced Hold That Tiger half-sister to another winner at that trip.
We’re most hopeful that Tigre Royale will be very competitive at the minimum this afternoon, and it’s certainly not a stretch to imagine he could follow the path of Write Your Name by getting off the mark at the first time of asking, especially as there’s not an especially high level of form to aim at amongst those with experience.
We may have a few higher rated horses in the yard, but it’s hard to think of any that have compiled such a solid, extensive record of consistency and reliability than Chippenham, who is back in action at Warrnambool today. Put simply, when the chips are down, Chip’s one to have around.
Backing up the point is that CHIPPENHAM (Race 4, Lucinda Doodt) has steadily increased his rating throughout his career, leading us to think he’ll be able to defy a mark of 74 this prep. He was doing especially well for female jockeys last prep, winning for Tahlia Hope and putting up his two (admittedly only slightly) lesser displays from his last seven when partnered by Jordan! Lucinda Doodt, who partnered Mia Georgia to success for us earlier in the year, comes in for the ride now and takes a valuable 2kg from Chip’s 62kg impost.
Chippenham has done the vast majority of his racing on good ground, but soft conditions are no cause for concern given he won on one of the only two occasions he’s encountered them before, whilst his 3-1-1-1 record over 1300m (as opposed to his usual 1400m) also looks a positive. In a race in which there doesn’t look to be an abundance of early speed, we are expecting that he’ll be sharp enough on his return from a 7-month break to be able to adopt a prominent pitch. There’s nothing that looks particularly daunting amongst the opposition, with the mare Duecourse perhaps the one with some residual potential, and the race looks a great spot for Chip to get back up and running.
Our two runners at Caulfield this afternoon carry the colours of OTI Racing and feature in the same warm BM84 handicap that comes third up. Some tend to think it not ideal to have stablemates facing off against eachother, but either way what it does give you is twice the chance of having a winner!
As was seen at Kyneton yesterday, and is hard to ignore, there's plenty of rain around at the moment, including a thunderstorm due for the Caulfield area this afternoon. Whether or not that hits before, during, or after the third race on the card remains to be seen. Currently we're looking at a Good 4 surface and (unlike Kyneton, say) Caulfield's track won't deteriorate too drastically. Softer ground would, however, be something of an unknown for FASTNET LATINA (Race 3, Jordan Childs) who has raced solely on good ground in Australia (raced on firm in the USA). On the other hand, one thing we do know that will be in his favour is the move up from 1200m to 1400m on the back of a firmly encouraging return from more than 16 months on the sidelines on Benalla Cup day. He looked to show that all of his ability remains intact there, and can improve on the run now covering this extra ground. He will need to improve, though, as runner-up on that day, and one who is also looking to get back to a more suitable 1400m was the highly progressive Fifty Stars, sure to be a warm favourite today. We've got just over three and a half lengths to make up with that rival, though one thing you would say is given the length of Fastnet Latina's absence prior to the comeback, there is just the chance he'll improve more substantially for the run.
It's very hard to split Fastnet Latina and SO FAR SOKOOL (Race 3, Ben Allen), and how you do so maybe depends on how you view their most recent runs. SFSK was also coming back from an absence, 22 weeks in her case, that comfortably her longest since she began her career in fact. She finished down the field at Moonee Valley, but was beaten just over four lengths, and mindful of the injury she'd suffered prior to that it has to go down as a pleasing enough return. Given everything, there must be a chance she just needed that run a fair bit, and another who's back up to 1400m now, she can show the benefit. Indeed, more proven if there's rain about, if she can get back to the form of that clear-cut Bendigo Guineas success, then she'll surely give all of them, Fifty Stars included, a good deal to think about today.
It's currently raining in Kyneton, and it remains to be seen how much of an alteration - if any - that has on the ground currently rated a Good 4 ahead of a meeting in which San Remo bids to build on some sound recent efforts in defeat.
SAN REMO (Race 7, Declan Bates) should be suited by the step up to a more extreme 2800m trip judged by the way he's been running recently, though whether soft ground will be ideal as well is something of an unknown. He's yet to fully prove himself when the mud is flying, not that there's a great deal in his pedigree to suggest it should be an issue. What we can say is that in terms of opposition, today's BM64 represents his most inviting chance since arriving in Australia, and that combined with the positives he's been showing in stronger races of late, mean that he's just about the one to beat so long as the ground remains suitable. Elsewhere, Pollinator is back up into a grade in which she's struggled in otherwise, whilst She's Deluxe looks to have been allotted a stiff enough opening mark for her synthetic maiden win at Pakenham.
A cursory view of the formbook may suggest Skalacci is up against it at Echuca this afternoon, but a more detailed analysis reveals he's actually a major player.
Form figures of 8059 aren't overly inspiring, it's hard to disagree, but SKALACCI (Race 3, Andrew Mallyon) has actually achieved more to date than they would imply. He has his work cut out in warm company the first twice and then was a lot better when fifth at Donald, and it's that run which points to him having a big chance today. We tried him in a visor last time, but it was probably more a tough, wide trip that did for him in the event there, never really able to land a blow and yet in the end not totally discredited to be beaten just over six lengths. With the headgear off, today he has one big factor in his favour: the race is threadbare thin - with plenty of dead wood knocking around. If he can put everything together (and with fingers crossed that Weir's newcomer is nothing to write home about!), a slight improvement on that Donald fifth could well be enough to see him break through.
The morning after the day before! What to say about four horses who performed with admirable credit amidst adversity? That's for the longer term, the post-mortems still ongoing! Right now, Sunday offers the chance of quick redemption via handicap debutant Nations at Cranbourne.
NATIONS (Race 4, Jordan Childs) has been off six months since winning a Benalla maiden that was strong for a race of its type. He achieved a level of form that day that should see him competitive from a mark of 62 in a BM64 over the same 1200m trip even before considering the progress he should have made in that time, simply through growing and muscling up. I'm not sure what we've done wrong with the draw 'Gods' of late, in what way we've offended them, but twelve is something we'll have to overcome. If Nations and Jordan are able to do that there's little reason to suspect they should be far away. The one concern would be that the lightly-raced mare, Vitani, has got into the race lightly off the same mark. She represents a noteworthy danger.
Saturday 13th October 2018. Win, lose, or draw it is going to be a date and a day to remember. It’s probably going to be a pretty futile effort keeping a lid on the excitement over the upcoming hours, so instead let’s breathe in and try and take a rational look at the chances of our fantastic four at Caulfield and Morphettville this afternoon.
MIRETTE (Race 6, Jordan Childs) is first to go in the Thousand Guineas. There are no two ways about it, the jump from a Benalla maiden to Group 1 company is a huge one, and normally you’d say too wide a gap to bridge. The reasons that may not hold true in Mirette’s case are that she’d had better form in the book going back, and was merely putting it all together for the first time at Benalla to win in effortless fashion, value at least the same again over the official four-and-a-half length winning margin. Runner-up Junipal has since gone on to give the form a timely boost in winning his maiden, lagging up by ten lengths at Donald.
If nothing else Mirette certainly gave the impression she’s worth a crack in this company, with extra benefit certain to be drawn from the move up to a mile. Officially speaking she is the lowest rated of the field of fifteen, but then again she does arrive with a rather more positive profile than a number of others who’ve been taking beatings in hotter races hitherto. A bit more luck with the draw would have been handy, widest of all something to be endured, but with Jordan riding as well as he is at the moment we’ll be counting on him managing to find a charmed run through.
The unbeaten Smart Melody understandably is the focus of most attention on the back of her two wins in Victoria, notably in the Prelude a fortnight ago, a race in which the first six all reoppose. She enjoyed a perfect run on that occasion, and looked just to be coming to the end of her tether nearing the finish, so it’s not too difficult seeing Thrillster, who was caught wide throughout, turning the form around this time.
Moving on to SACCHARO (Race 9, Jordan Childs), who lines up for the Caulfield Guineas itself. Like Mirette, the draw hasn’t been overly kind on him, due a break, and due to break from twelve. He comes here on the back of a very good second to Amphitrite at Flemington, and with that filly another engaged in the Thousand Guineas, it would indeed be encouraging to see her running on strongly to finish a fine second to Mirette! Saccharo has a very progressive profile and it’s impossible to know where that rate of progression may come to an end, and for that reason it seems to make sense to test him highly early on to see how well he can match up at this stage. As in the Thousand Guineas, there’s a lot to be said for coming here on the up and up as opposed to having been knocking your head against a wall in more traditional trial races, and that’s something we’re counting on being in our favour.
Dual Group 1-winner The Autumn Sun naturally enough arrives here as the one to beat, but he needs to show he can do it left-handed now, and anyway you never want to be too wary of just one horse. There are a number of others in the line-up who look relatively vulnerable meanwhile, and so long as we get the better of them you just don’t know how well Saccharo could end up running.
The final race on a jewel-encrusted ten-race card is none other than the Herbert Power. We’ve been here before, of course, and on any other Saturday LORD FANDANGO’s (Race 10, Ben Allen) bid to win the race again would dominate all other thoughts. Well, as it is, he’s certainly far from the forgotten horse, and indeed on the book he clearly has a more obvious chance of winning this afternoon than either Mirette or Saccharo. We were thrilled with his comeback third in the Benalla Cup as he could barely have shaped more promisingly, and if, as it looked, that puts him spot on for today, then he appears nailed on to be bang there come the finish. He’s just 3kg higher than for last year’s success, and reopposes his OTI ‘ownermate’ Gallic Chieftain on the same terms as twelve months ago. Between them they must hold excellent claims, as that one himself was a fine second in the JRA Cup last time. Without knowing precisely what the Aidan O’Brien-trained Yucatan will bring to the table, there doesn’t look too much else to be especially concerned about, and the one thing we do know is that Lord Fandango will be right at home under today’s conditions.
Last but by no means least, the ultra-exciting PETRELLE (Race 7, Morphettville, Craig Newitt), who didn’t make her engagement at Caulfield, looks firmly the one to beat in the listed Durbridge Stakes at Morphettville. She’s two from two, and the ease with which she went about things at Bendigo last time strongly suggests she belongs at this level and indeed higher. She’s taking on some exposed sprinters today, and whilst eight-year-old Casino Wizard is the best of them, it would be somewhat disappointing if our wholly unexposed four-year-old wasn’t able to improve right past her. Petrelle is another who has drawn out wide, but such is her speed we’ll be backing her to overcome that slight disadvantage. She moves up from 1100m to 1200m now, but she certainly wasn't stopping at Bendigo, and if anything it may even provoke even more from her.
It’s not unheard of for PR initiatives in racing to backfire - *cough*, Opera House, *cough* - so when one works out well it’s worth applauding. The Hotham is one such, celebrating as it does the age-old adage that success is achieved through the persistent refusal to be bowed by failure – by trying, trying, and trying again. The race makes for a worthy centrepiece to today’s action, though all that said we can’t be too upset not to have a horse in the yard who qualifies for it! Instead, our three runners feature on the ‘undercard.’
It’s not the Hotham, but WRITE YOUR NAME (Race 4, Dean Holland) makes his racecourse debut in a maiden comprising a number of very experienced maidens, something which automatically points to his chance. He’s a lovely three-year-old Written Tycoon colt out of a useful six-time winning mare in Jillimarg. He starts off over 1200m, and that’s the same distance over which both his half-siblings have won races to date. It’s not at all difficult to see why he looks to have strong claims in a race of this nature.
Our other two runners for the day are going head-to-head in the closing BM64, also over 1200m. WANNA BE GOOD (Race 9, Neil Farley) and SHEHROZ (Race 9, Declan Bates) arrive here on slightly different flight paths. Wanna Be Good remains with a largely upwardly-mobile profile, off seven weeks since a sound fourth to Muraahib in a BM70 at Pakenham where the synthetic surface probably didn’t play to his strengths. He ran really well at Ballarat three starts ago (had Choisborder behind that day), and looks a major contender this afternoon on all known evidence with conditions looking sure to suit down to the ground.
Shehroz, on the other hand, is on something of a retrieval mission backing up quickly from his run over 1100m at Kyneton a week ago. Admittedly he endured a pretty tough run without cover there and didn’t see which way the progressive Lagerfeld went. The return to 1200m should at least help, and hopefully the application of blinkers will lend some renewed vigour to his effort this afternoon.
With half an eye on Caulfield this Saturday – a day which promises to be a day of days – the luck of the draw hasn’t been especially kind on Saccharo or Mirette, but that doesn’t diminish the building hope and excitement from pervading all here at Alexander Racing. There’s a lot more to get invigorated about, though, including the three we have looking to get the party off to an early start at Bendigo on Wednesday.
We’ve got a couple of highly promising newcomers starting out in the opening 1300m maiden. MAN ALIVE (Race 1, Declan Bates) is making his debut relatively late, a four-year-old now, but he’s bred to be good, a Reliable Man half-brother to the Group 1-placed Reminisce out of a Zabeel mare who won twice over 1400m. He fetched a pretty penny at the sales, and now is the time for him to begin making up for lost time and paying some of that back. WILD BREEZE (Race 1, Jye McNeil), meanwhile, is a three-year-old filly, but one who has in common with Man Alive a really exciting pedigree. She’s by Toorak Toff out of a smart mare in the US named Amazing, who was best around a mile. A home bred, she carries the famous colours of Rosemont Stud and promises to be plenty sharp enough for the test she faces first up. On balance, it’s hard to split the pair, both with the clear potential to be getting up and winning much sooner than later.
The penultimate race on the card sees PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 7, Jordan Childs) looking to continue his steady but sure development into a competitive handicapper in this country. He endured a tough run at Mornington last time and can be marked up on the nuts and bolts of that run, to the extent that he looks a little overpriced at current odds given this doesn’t feel quite as strong a contest as that one. It remains the case that the stamina test of a 2400m trip will ultimately see him at his best, so we’re hoping for a big run granted a bit more luck in running this time around.
Big jobs for top girls at Flemington this afternoon: both Spanner Head and Wheal Leisure will be co-opting the role of David in a scenario in which they come up against a whole host of Goliaths. The funny thing about that old tale? David won!
SPANNER HEAD (Race 3, Jordan Childs) first up in the Paris Lane Stakes has more on her plate than she had when successful against mares at a less exalted level last time, but she’s well worth her chance in this grade – if for no other reason than her excellent record around Flemington. Her clear-cut success over course and distance last time provided further evidence of this, and whilst today’s opposition represents another jump up entirely, then we’re fully convinced she’ll run up to her determined best today, and it will be fascinating to see just how far that gets her. Other runners may be coming here via stronger races, but it is at least worth something that Spanner Head arrives as the only last-time winner.
If Spanner Head looked to have a bit on her plate, WHEAL LEISURE (Race 7, Jye McNeil) has more of an all-day, all-inclusive breakfast in The Bart Cummings. So it’s good to know her appetite is a healthy one. The race offers Melbourne Cup ballot exemption, something which #55 Avilius may or may not need, but either way his presence gives a lop-sided feel to this handicap. Wheal Leisure offered plenty of encouragement with her comeback run over a wholly inadequate trip, but wasn’t quite as good last time, though in fairness the enforced hiccup to the training schedule does provide some kind of excuse. We’ve got a whole new set of circumstances now, right up to 2500m, and as when she was a closing third in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes last year, the stamina test needs to prompt better from her. She’s up against it for sure, but it would be at your peril that you’d discount her from showing up really well in face of the task.
Kyneton is the venue for a bumper meeting this afternoon, and our representative will be the Declan Bates-ridden Shehroz in the eighth of ten races.
In winning two of his first four, SHEHROZ (Race 8, Declan Bates) just threatened to be operating at a higher level than he has managed in three subsequent outings. That said, there’s been no real shame in either effort this season, especially as he was in a notably warm race of its type behind Red White And Blue at Sandown most recently. He was competing over 1400m there but now drops back to 1100m. Whilst it’s worth noting that he made a winning debut at Colac over 1100m, and won his other race over 1200m at Geelong, he’d rather given the impression he was going to prove more at home over further on other starts. There’s a chance that impression has been a false one though, hence another try in face of a speed test here. Regardless of whether it works or not, Shehroz is not one to give up on just yet and this will – if nothing else – sharpen him up on the back of the enforced six-week break from action. The bang-in-form Lagerfeld looks very much the one we all have to beat this afternoon.
Quantity and quality are the twin themes for today as we have no fewer than six runners stepping out at Ballarat – a busy day all round.
First of all, STRYKER STAR (Race 2, Jye McNeil) bids to step up on what she achieved when mid-pack at Swan Hill on debut six weeks ago. One note of encouragement when it comes to her claims of doing so is that the form of that race won by Yulong January has been working out well, whilst another should be that she goes up to 1400m now, and the manner in which she shaped first time up suggests the longer trip will help considerably. She faces horses with more obvious claims on the face of it today, but regardless we’ll be looking for a definitive step in the right direction.
Two representatives in the following three-year-old maiden, with CONVICT SAM (Race 3, Jordan Childs) getting his career underway over 1600m. He’s a chestnut son by Fiorente out of a Host mare, and as that breeding would intimate he’s going to be more of a stayer in due course, hence starting out over a relatively advanced trip. We’re looking forward to getting the wraps off him this afternoon and letting him show us what he’s about. SKALACCI (Race 3, Neil Farley), meanwhile, has been relatively highly tried, but showed the benefit of a drop in grade when three lengths fifth of nine to Tavirun at Donald last time. The form of that race isn’t the easiest to assess with confidence (Miss Hellbender was third), but it clearly marked a step forward in his progression, and if the move up to a mile draws more from him he would appear a definite player today.
SAN REMO (Race 5, Declan Bates) appears to have an unhealthy knack of winding up in races more competitive than you’d expect. He did lots in a couple of runs in stronger Sandown heats than this last month to show that his time is not far away, hamstrung by being caught wide on the more recent occasion. Whilst that leaves him with strong enough claims this afternoon, he does bump into three rivals in Ocean Walzer, Rakti Roulette, and Penthouse Playboy who are all very much on the rise. He looks assured of running well, and it’s a case of hoping firmly that he can outmuscle that trio when the chips are down.
MIA GEORGIA (Race 6, Lewis German) comes into this having won two of her last three, including her maiden, helpfully enough, over today’s course and distance. She was fully entitled to win what was a weak synthetic handicap at Pakenham last time and has a standard 2kg rise to cope with now. She’ll need to come up with more now if she’s going to defy the hike, this a stronger race all round, but the return to grass certainly won’t hurt, whilst Lewis German again claims 2kg off her back.
Whilst we may well be tired by the time the finale comes around, hopefully ONEHUNDRED PERCENT (Race 8, Jordan Childs) won’t be, as he looks to represent our best chance of the day. The son of Hinchinbrook made a fast start to racing for Henry Dwyer, winning three of his first four, including a noteworthy defeat of Prevailing Winds in quite a valuable race at Caulfield over Christmas. Things weren’t so good with his sights raised the next twice, but there were valid excuses, and naturally enough we hope that a change of scenery and the time away will have freshened him up well. We know he goes well off a break, and he does look to be very feasibly handicapped in here off a mark of 72. All his wins have come at 1100m, and with a few scratchings coming through the negative of his wide draw is becoming mitigated somewhat. He has very strong claims indeed.
There has been plenty to take away from the last couple of days, lots of positives, lots of excitement, and today Prinz Hlodowig gets his turn to add to it all stretching out to a trip which really could prove the making of him at Mornington.
PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 6, Jordan Childs) has shown a little bit more with each run to date, albeit not enough to get involved in the finish. Now for the first time he’s up to 2400m, a trip which looks to be the one he’s been crying out for all along, his efforts so far all marked out by an inability to quicken at a key stage. Alongside the stiffer stamina test, he gets an ease in grade, down into a BM70 now, so there are twin causes for optimism ahead of this afternoon. Set against that, the likely favourite Steel Prince is on the upgrade at a rather swifter rate of knots, and he’s the one they all would appear to have to beat.
A scrappy win would have sufficed in the circumstances, but Petrelle instead produced the most dominant handicap display of the season to get the show back on the road for all of us here in style. Perfect timing, too, as Friday sees a host of highly-rated runners turning out in her wake, including no fewer than three big hitters in the colours of OTI Racing.
We get underway in the opening maiden at Benalla with MIRETTE (Race 1, Jordan Childs). She has already shown form well in advance of what would usually be required to win a maiden, including when runner-up in BM64 grade at Sandown on her comeback. That came over 1300m, and she looked inconvenienced by the drop back in trip, her wheels spinning initially before picking up to finish best. She’ll be suited by a mile in the fullness of time, but the return to 1400m today should be enough to see her go one better acknowledging she faces a rival in Junipal who made a very good start himself at Moe earlier in the month.
A year ago the Benalla Cup was the source of great #scenes as LORD FANDANGO (Race 8, Jordan Childs) emerged with his biggest success to that point. He was competing from a mark of 73, making him some 7.5kg out of the handicap when victorious that day, so how things have changed. Now he’s running off 102, and is conceding a minimum of 3kg to all his rivals. He’s earned his big rating, of course, but that’s not to say the repeat won’t prove more challenging than the initial win. Fandango was tuned up for last year, but this time around it marks his return to action, with even larger targets ahead more the focus now. We’ll obviously be looking for a prominent, positive run, but it’s not difficult to imagine a horse like Mr Garcia, fully up and running in his prep by this point, may be a tricky one to give the weight to first up.
The final race on an absorbing Benalla card sees the long-awaited and hugely-welcome return to action of FASTNET LATINA (Race 9, Jordan Childs). The ex-American-trained gelding took to Aussie life like a duck to water in the first half of last year, rattling off a quick-fire four-timer before being placed in valuable 1600m handicaps at Caulfield and Flemington. He’s been kept off the track since then but returns in full working order now, albeit in a very hot looking race of its type over a trip – 1206m – which is possibly just shy of his optimum for all he doesn’t lack for pace. Given the 16-month absence, however, it’s more a case of crossing fingers that Fastnet Latina comes through unscathed and ready to build on the run during the course of an uninterrupted prep.
On a day of welcome returns, there are two more in the form of Friday night action at the Valley, and more importantly, that of SO FAR SOKOOL (Race 8, Ben Allen) who bids to prosper under the lights in the BM90 that wraps up proceedings this evening. The Bendigo Guineas winner was an unfortunate fourth in the Group 3 James Carr over at Randwick when last seen five months ago, getting struck into by another runner there and coming back with a deep cut to her off-hind fetlock. In hindsight she got off lightly, as under different circumstances such an injury could well have been career-ending. Fortunately she’s back raring to go now, and there’s no let up in her schedule, in deep here up against the likes of Isaurian, King’s Command and Choisborder. It remains to be seen whether she is that little bit more effective over 1400m than today’s 1200m trip, but she does at least have course form to call upon, Moonee Valley the scene of her breakthrough Australian win last December. She’s a tough, doughty galloper who can show up well, and it’s great to have her back in one piece and going great guns again.
***PICK 6 CLAXON SOUNDED***
Saccharo ran a belter at Flemington, and excitingly we can now look onwards and upwards with him, but even so winners are what we’re all about, and Petrelle is to our Pick 6 competition what Mo Salah is to the Fantasy Premier League: everyone and their dog has them included, and they all expect both to score.
For those who are unaware of the splash PETRELLE (Race 6, Jordan Childs) made on her debut at Ballarat back in April, visually she could barely have been more impressive in defeating Rebel Rose a length and a quarter, doing so under a hard hold and essentially making mincemeat of a fair enough field of maidens. The bare facts and figures of that performance obviously will needed to be built upon, but Petrelle looks, acts, and feels like a mare with more than a touch of star quality. Now is the time for her to make up for lost time and start sky-rocketing though the ranks. At the top of the handicap, Beeokay is a great gauge by which we can measure Petrelle, as he himself has being doing good, incrementally progressive work in sprint handicaps for Linda Meech in recent times. That being said, we’d certainly hope to be beating her - and the rest - given the potential for the big time that Petrelle certainly possesses.
The strongest iron is forged by the hottest fire. So too is caramel. There is to be no gentle easing back into the ways of day-to-day racing here at Alexander Racing, as sugar-sweet Saccharo plunges deep into the furnaces of one of the most hotly-competitive three-year-old handicaps of the season thus far at Flemington on Wednesday. The result: a weirdly delicious iron horse caramel, of course.
We hold SACCHARO (Race 3, Jordan Childs) in high regard, and his race-by-race progression, culminating with his maiden success at Sale has been all about building confidence and know-how, understanding enough to get the better of things for that win whilst doing plenty to suggest that there’s a fair bit more in the locker. There’s clearly going to need to be, as he now faces a field full of winners, including no fewer than nine last-time ones. One of the more pleasing aspects of his Sale win was that he achieved it in spite of a tough enough trip, working hard early and wider than ideal for the most part, and given a more suitable run through we can expect him to find a fair few lengths above and beyond the normal improvement of a lightly-raced horse. This is a race long on potential for sure, but you expect nothing less going to Flemington and, all told, it will be disappointing should Saccharo not emerge with his reputation further enhanced.
The betting is centred around Amphitrite, overly so in these eyes. The step up in trip may help some, but there’s little or no chance she has as much of an advantage over the others that would warrant her current price. The once-raced Wangaratta winner Big Night Out may wind up being inconvenienced by a wide draw, but it would still be him and recent Geelong scorer Thousand Wishes who ought to warrant more respect.
Ross had it right all along. We were on a break! Whilst the timing and the impact of the last few weeks has clearly been unfortunate, following protocol and resolving the issue at hand in the ‘proper’ way feels like something that perversely can only help and make the stable grow stronger. Spirits are at an all-time high as we get right back into action by diving into the deep end at Caulfied today. When you need a heroine to call upon there are none better than Wheal Leisure!
There was little disguising the promise of WHEAL LEISURE’s (Race 2, Jye McNeil) comeback run over a totally inadequate 1400m at the track last month, all her best work there coming when the race was run, and a slight drop in grade allied with a longer trip will be right up her alley now. Now, 1800m still isn’t her ideal, and classing today’s race as a class-drop is slightly disingenuous given the strength there is to this BM78, the likes of Lucky For All and Al Galayel upwardly mobile (and at longer odds Pleasuring is a definite player), but Wheal Leisure has been kept ticking over during the ‘break’ and she ought to give a good account of herself. Naturally enough, her run today will be measured as a bell-weather test for the form of the yard as a whole, and we’re very much positive that once more the test will come back all clear!
Seconds out. Round Two. The first three home from a BM70 at Sandown a fortnight ago are set to go at it again on Hillside this afternoon, with San Remo fancied to gain his revenge on Mirimar and Steel Prince. Here’s why…
It’s hard to argue with the view that, as well as he ran, SAN REMO (Race 7, Jordan Childs) was no better than third best last time, with Mirimar having beaten him fair and square from a similar position and Steel Prince arguably disadvantaged in coming from further back. However, every race is different, and at the revised weights San Remo – strictly speaking – should emerge best of the three this afternoon. OTI's son of Frankel is 2.5kg better off with Mirimar for a 1.3 length beating, and 0.5kg better off with Steel Prince for 0.3 length. With 1kg representing about 0.7 length over 2400m, if the race were run inside a calculator San Remo would turn the tables on the pair of them. Obviously it’s not that straightforward, though, with the first fly in the ointment being the change of rider on Mirimar. Stephen Brown replaces Patrick Moloney, takes 3kg off his back, and renders our calculations null and void!
Furthermore, Steel Prince – like San Remo not long in this country since coming over from Ireland – may be capable of better still given he's just getting up to speed and the patient ride he received from Mark Zahra last time arguably didn’t see him to fullest effect in a race where the pace didn’t really collapse. In San Remo’s favour is that he’s also showing race-by-race improvement, is clearly well suited by the 2400m trip, and will want for nothing in terms of assistance from the saddle with Jordan retaining the partnership. This is all a long and convoluted way of saying that there should be precious little between the three of them again this afternoon, and given that San Remo is a considerably bigger price than the other two as things stand, he certainly appeals as the value selection.
Obviously there are others to consider, though of them it’s only really the mare Street Spun who looks threatening. Were she to run well she’d be giving a big boost to the form of Wee Gilly having finished a good second to her at Cranbourne where she gave the impression the return to 2400m would be in her favour. She does go well for Dwayne Dunn, though, so it remains to be seen whether she’s able to reproduce quite the same form for a different rider now.
The widely unsought return of an irregular series which contrasts Alexander Racing inmates with their illustrious (or usually not) movie namesakes. Today: Rocky Road (2014). Glee star Mark Salling plays a man who loses his job as a trader at a prestigious Wall Street investment bank, so he moves back in with his parents. He eventually settles in, takes a job at his father's ice-cream truck business and rediscovers home. If that summary sounds about as deadly dull as it can get, then I’ve watched the trailer so you don’t have to: it is. A 17% score on Rotten Tomatoes feels incredibly generous. Our own Rocky Road would surely score a lot higher on any aggregate rating service you’d care to mention, something he should prove at Echuca today.
In rather outrunning his odds to finish a close third to Street Style at Warracknabeal on debut earlier in the month, ROCKY ROAD (Race 2, Jordan Childs) did plenty to show that it’s just a matter of time before he’s winning races. He showed his professionalism by adopting a prominent pitch from the outset there, so hopefully he’ll be able to put that early speed to good use to overcome a wide draw today. With normal improvement coming from first start to second he should be right in the mix in what looks a similar standard of 1200m maiden. Amidst inexperience, Blood Oath made an encouraging start himself behind Clarice Cliffs, and of those to have run he looks the one to be most wary of. Bonaparte is really well bred, out of a half-sister to Sizzling, and is clearly a newcomer who merits respect.
If Prinz Hlodowig has just been quietly tipping away thus far, there were green shoots of progress amidst his effort at Flemington earlier in the month, and hopefully that’s something he’ll now be able to build on racing at country level at Cranbourne on Sunday.
In the race won by The Statesman on Aurie’s Star day, PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 9, Jye McNeil) was noted doing some good late work to finish just over five lengths off the winner, and that despite being kept more towards what looked the disadvantageous inside portion of the track. That was 2000m, today is 2080m, and it looks like being a trip he can prove effective over. The outside draw in twelve is far from ideal, so there’s still a fair bit that could go against him.
Given that Prinz Hlodowig is available at around $81 at the time of writing, it seems incongruous that a horse who finished just a length and a quarter in front of him at Flemington and is now 0.5kg worse off should be a hot $2.60 favourite for today’s race. That doesn’t tell anything like the full story of Haripour’s effort, though, as he came home full of running having failed to get an opening at any stage. It’s easy to see why people want to be with him today, though he does look overbet as things stand, with Urban Ruler – a slightly less unlucky-in-running sixth in the same race – appealing as an equally likely candidate.
Business will be concluded fairly early this Saturday with both our runners appearing in the opening race at Donald, and we’ll be looking to return from there with a float containing a winner and a horse who has begun to show the contrary benefit of the cruelest of all cuts.
MISS HELLBENDER (Race 1, Declan Bates) showed a fairly useful level of form without winning as a juvenile, notably when just over two lengths third of 15 to Quezette-third Thrillster in a valuable Vobis race at Caulfield in April, strong through the line on that occasion to show that her future lies over further than 1200m. Unfortunately all didn’t go her way when taking in a Group 3 at Morphettville three weeks later, and she was roughed off thereafter. She begins her three-year-old campaign in much calmer waters, with a Donald maiden surely hers for the plucking, and it will therefore be no little disappointment if she fails to get off the mark this afternoon.
The form book does say that SKALACCI (Race 1, Neil Farley) has failed to beat a rival in a couple of starts so far, but it does equally show that, like Miss Hellbender, he too was contesting slightly better races than everyday maidens. He’s been off since running behind Vain-fourth The August in the Donald Classic around here in May, and in that time he’s undergone a gelding operation. It remains very early days for Skalacci, and we’d certainly be hopeful of seeing something a good deal more positive on this return to the track.
In the finale at Sandown Hillside today Shehroz has a small but potentially significant tweak in trip to help get him back on an upward curve.
It’s probably fair to say that SHEHROZ (Race 8, Jordan Childs) hasn’t quite fulfilled some fairly lofty expectations we’ve held in him in a couple of starts since making a winning return to action at Geelong in June. That said, he was pitched in deep at Morphettville on the first occasion, and then gave the impression that the 1200m trip is now on the short side for him when fourth to Miss Coolangatta at Warracknabeal a fortnight ago, outpaced before making some late gains. With that in mind, the step up to 1400m at Sandown this afternoon could be just what he needs, whilst his draw in seven looks okay, especially as there’s not much in the way of early speed towards his inside.
Naturally enough given the grade and money on offer, today's race has a competitive feel to it. It’s not too difficult to see why Lord Tennyson is popular in the betting, though he did take plenty of riding when runner-up to Saturday’s Caulfield winner Streets of Avalon last time and a sharper test of speed back at 1400m now may not prove ideal. The thrice-raced Red White And Blue looks a likely improver and could well be one to be more wary of.
It’s a run-of-the-mill meeting that Pakenham plays host to on Tuesday, and the race in which Mia Georgia makes her comeback from a 5-month break is perhaps best described as ‘winnable’.
MIA GEORGIA (Race 5, Lewis German) hasn’t had much racing relative to most of her six opponents in the BM58 over 1200m, and on the face of it she looks a standout contender along with top weight No Alibi. Mia Georgia has run with credit first up previously, and should be ready to show up well so long as she isn’t inconvenienced by the switch of surface, this her first go an synthetics. She has a wide draw to overcome, though hopefully in the smallish field that shouldn’t prove too much of a hindrance for her and Lewis German to overcome. Lewis has had a good deal of experience for a claimer, and his 2kg helps offset Mia Georgia’s hefty impost. No Alibi clearly looks the chief danger judged on her Geelong success two runs back, though it's worth noting she wasn’t quite as good when around this track next time and arguably isn't the most reliable of performers.
When a race is worth targeting, it’s well worth targeting. Hence two runners in the bet365 3yo Maiden which opens proceedings at Swan Hill today.
The first of our debutantes is a homebred half-sister to Spanner Head and Wanna Be Good by Fighting Sun. NORD AVENIR (Race 1, Neil Farley) is bred to win races, and she'll probably specialise at around about a mile in time, but she shouldn’t lack for toe starting out over 1200m. A fairly wide draw in barrier 11 isn’t ideal, so hopefully Neil will be able to track across without giving up too much ground.
Arguably bred a bit more for early speed is STRYKER STAR (Race 1, Lachlan King), a Stryker daughter out of a winner around this trip in Murray Star. She’s more favourably drawn in one, and gets a kilo and a half off her back courtesy of Lachlan King, so if the hustle and bustle of racing isn’t too much for her she should go well.
Unexposed and progressive, we get a good chance to gauge the precise nature of Wanna Be Good's improvement as he has his sights raised a little further on the synthetic track at Pakenham this afternoon.
Truth be told the form of the Echuca race WANNA BE GOOD (Race 5, Neil Farley) won six weeks ago hasn’t worked out especially well thus far, but set against that he ended up a decisive enough winner and his overall profile is of one who could well find a 2kg rise within his compass. This will be his first try on an all-weather surface but there’s no real reason to imagine he’ll have any problem adapting, particularly as he’s related to all-weather winners. He’ll be ridden to settle off the pace by Neil Farley, so his chance would be aided by likely front-runners Seattle Boom and Fille de Charlie setting a sound gallop.
This should prove a thorough test of Wanna Be Good’s mettle, as just a cursory glance at Muraahib’s profile shows what he’s potentially up against today. Muraahib was running third behind the likes of Merchant Navy and Booker this time last year (and an unlucky-in-running third at that), and as Wanna Be Good is going up in class so Muraahib is down in grade.
Aretha Franklin was truly an inspirational figure, and her voice was and will remain simply incomparable. So, if what I write next appears to relate her to a horse, then that is not in any way meant as a mark of disrespect. Rather more, it should indicate the R-E-S-P-E-C-T we all should have for Wheal Leisure, a Natural Woman who, like the Queen of Soul, is more than capable of punching well above her weight in a man’s world.
Shoe-horned introductions aside, WHEAL LEISURE (Race 4, Jye McNeil) is a noteworthy runner at Caulfield this afternoon. Whilst she may to need to Say A Little Prayer (sorry) with 1400m being shy of her optimum, her record first up is an excellent one, having beaten our very own Lord Fandango over a mile at Bendigo on a memorable day this time last year. As that win underscored, she doesn’t lack the gears for shorter trips, especially when fresh, but just tends to become more comfortable over further as a campaign wears on, versatile distance-wise more than anything. What’s especially important is that she retains focus during her race and has sufficient time to fully unwind in the straight. With the race cutting up, and the more one looks at the opposition, the more confident I (for one) become in her running a big race over a track at which she asserted Girl Power in style by winning the Inglis Cup last term.
Sale is often the venue for fairly useful maidens and Saccharo contests precisely one such today, though having gone close with Mirette and San Remo at Sandown yesterday, he also shouldn’t be too far away.
Of the line-up for the 1422m three-year-old maiden, no fewer than five of the nine with experience have finished runner-up in brief careers to date, and all three of the newcomers are worthy of note. SACCHARO (Race 3, Jordan Childs) belongs in the first camp having finished a length and three-quarters behind Tavisan at Cranbourne last time. He gave the impression there that the extra distance could help him pull out more now, just lacking the winner’s turn of foot then, and he showed with his sound debut effort that today’s forecast less testing conditions are just as suitable. He looks assured of going well and ought to be bang there in the thick of it come the end.
That said, there's some question over just what he's up against. Duke of Magnus is the one to have raced who needs fearing most, especially as he was better than the result over a shorter trip here a fortnight ago, caught wider than ideal before doing his best work in the closing stages. Meanwhile, it would be no surprise whatsoever if the newcomers representing Shadwell/Hayes (Mawaard) or Mick Price (Maliseet) proved some way above average. A race to watch then, for now and the future.
For a maiden Mirette retains the potential for good races, so her three-year-old debut at Sandown today holds the promise of being the start of something really exciting. San Remo is our other runner on a competitive card.
MIRETTE (Race 2, Jordan Childs) holds the arguably dubious distinction of being one of the better maidens in training, she really showcasing both her ability and potential when an unlucky three-quarters of a length second to Vassilator in a valuable Flemington race back in May, caught in her run there and never quite able to get to the winner. A maiden is clearly hers for the taking, but we’re setting her a stiffer task first up this prep in the hope it can more smoothly transition her to the better races in which we believe she belongs. She competes from a mark of 64 and, having trialled encouragingly last week, it’s one she’s capable of defying. The opposition isn’t going to be any pushover, a clutch of three-year-old fillies with the room to improve significantly, though Mirette’s chief market rival is Fiera Vista, and the form of her maiden win looks decidedly ordinary relative to her current price.
It’s been a case of marking time with SAN REMO (Race 4, Jordan Childs) in the early days of his Australian career, as had been the case with OTI Racing’s Wee Gilly until Sunday insufficient emphasis placed on his stamina to date, but he’s up to 2400m now and hopefully that will correspond with a marked upturn in his fortunes as the son of Frankel contests a BM70 from a reduced mark of 64.
With the new season less than a fortnight old, a big-race double over the weekend hopefully serves notice of the scale of ambition and sense of forward looking shared by all of us here at Alexander Racing. Success breeds success, after all!
As had been stressed previously SPANNER HEAD (Jordan Childs) certainly wasn’t winning out of turn at Flemington on Saturday, this first success in the best part of a year certainly not for a lack of trying. Whether or not she has benefitted from the fitting of blinkers is open to some speculation, but one thing about which there can be no argument is that she gets on seriously well with Jordan Childs (her record for him is 4-10 compared with 0-12 for other riders), and the slight drop back in trip was in her favour having rather overraced at the Valley the week before. She underlined that she’s a smart mare when things go her way by winning conclusively by a length and three-quarters from Violent Snow, with another length and a quarter back to Chiavari in third. Whilst considering future targets for James Ch’ng’s mare perhaps it’s worth raising her sights markedly given that fourth-placed Bettyrae Ruby is herself rather outlandishly entered in the Cox Plate!
The highlight of Sunday’s Cranbourne meeting was a BM78 handicap, also for fillies and mares. WEE GILLY (Jordan Childs) came to Australia with a bit of reputation having already showcased a fair amount of ability in her native New Zealand, and it hasn’t taken long for her to prove herself another shrewd acquisition by OTI Racing. Even a cursory glance at her record in New Zealand shows you that stamina is the key to this daughter of Roc de Cambes, and the evidence of her first two starts in this country merely served to underline that. As it was the step up beyond 2000m proved just the ticket, albeit in harness with a cute ride by Jordan Childs who took the brave decision to round the field and strike on some way out and, for all she was ridden, she was never really in any danger of being caught from the home turn. A four year old with just seven starts behind her and still unexposed granted a test of stamina, Wee Gilly is an exciting prospect who can continue on the up for a while to come.
Massive congratulations to all connections and, of course, Jordan Childs! And fingers crossed this was just the first of many red-letter weekends to come this season.
Racing today at Horsham, itself a hastily rearranged make-up meeting for the one lost at Bendigo last week, has now transferred to Warracknabeal on account of rain. All the while, there’s also action at Geelong this afternoon/evening. We’ve a runner at each if I’ve not lost you!
First up, we have a newcomer starting out on the forecast Soft 5 surface at Warracknabeal. ABSOLUT ARTIE (Race 2, Dean Holland) is a well built and striking grey son of Artie Schiller out of a Secret Savings mare who has produced a winner over 1300m thus far. Absolut Artie beings over 1200m himself in what looks an eminently winnable race. The three of the seven runners to have raced previously have only shown a very modest level of ability, and there’s nothing immediately worrying about the profiles of the other debutants. It would come as a disappointment were Absolut Artie not to go very close first up.
Over at Geelong, EL RADA (Race 5, Lucinda Doodt) also looks to hold stand-out claims back in much calmer waters having found life in the city that bit too hectic for her the last twice. Previous to those two runs she won a BM70 at Ballarat over 1100m, and is now effectively a kilo lower in the weights than for that success with Lucinda Doodt being able to claim 2.5kg off her back. This will be El Rada’s first ever time racing on a synthetic surface, but there’s little reason to imagine she won’t prove just as effective on it as she is turf, with all-weather winners in her close family after all. So long as she proves at home under the conditions, she should take all the beating as the ‘class’ horse in the race.
‘God loves a trier, but hates a chancer.’ Here’s hoping that well-worn maxim bears out at Flemington today, as Spanner Head has been trying hard and richly deserves some reward for her efforts. Prinz Hlodowig, as things stand, arguably fits more into the ‘chancer’ category.
The first-time blinkers just took a bit of getting used to for SPANNER HEAD (Race 4, Jordan Childs) at Moonee Valley last weekend, that much evident in her tendency to race too freely through the early stages, but she ran another good race regardless in finishing fourth to the progressive Naantali. That little bit of keenness won’t necessarily be such a bad thing today given she’s back down to 1400m and, what’s more, the level of competition looks a notch below last week’s at this distance, with Godolphin’s unexposed Harmattan the only one who appeals as potentially being a cut above. Another factor which shouldn’t be underestimated is that she is reunited with Jordan Childs – who has partnered her to all three career wins – over the course and distance where they were last successful last September. Come on Spanner, today’s the day!
PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 6, Jye McNeil) hasn’t done enough to be of direct interest in two starts to date in Australia, but there is one major pointer to him running much more of a race this time: 1600m > 2000m. As we’ve said all along, he’s going to be all about stamina, something he underline in triplicate with the late work he was doing over the mile at Sandown last month. Today’s extra 400m may still not be enough for him to show all of which he’s capable, but it’s a major help, particularly in a race which promises to be run at a sound gallop. Prinz Hlodowig’s first prep in this country is all about building to a peak, and this promises to be a sizeable step forward in that all-round progression.
Racing is rather at odds with other sports in that seasons run into each other, with no break there’s little to distinguish the two; but these things matter, as between seasons horses celebrate birthdays, trainers have totals reset to zero, and jockeys effect a 5.5% pay rise. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Either way, it’s against a slightly different backdrop that 2018/2019 gets underway for Alexander Racing at Geelong this afternoon.
It’s also a change in circumstance for both our engaged runners in the maiden which makes up the second race on the card, as the 2200m trip will break new ground for both of them. It’s a notably stark step up in distance for GO FERRANDO (Race 2, Neil Farley), given his two starts to date have come at 1400m and 1600m. But this is the kind of test that is sure to prove the making of him, judged both on pedigree and the way in which he’s shaped so far, and the only problem today is that he’s not getting any luck with the draw. Incredibly, for the third race in a row he’s been lumbered with the widest barrier of all. Fingers crossed we’re getting out bad luck for the season out of the way early! As well as the longer trip, Go Ferrando is fitted with blinkers and encountering a synthetic track for the first time, so it’s a wholly different scenario for him, and if he can overcome the draw then we’d be hopeful of it provoking significant improvement.
It’s a quick turnaround for PHIL’S JOY (Race 2, Dean Holland), as for all it was last season that she finished fifth of twelve behind Vellaspride at this track last time, it was also three days ago! She stayed 1900m perfectly well then, just held back a bit by being caught wider than ideal in the run, and there’s little reason to imagine she shouldn’t find 2200m within her compass. She is a bit more exposed than Go Ferrando and in ten also hasn’t done particularly well barrier-wise, but the pick of her form so far again puts her in with a chance of making a place.
It’s at Geelong today that the curtain is drawn on a memorable season, and Phil’s Joy, who has transformed more than most during the course of the campaign having started it under a different guise, will be the yard’s 250th and final runner of 2017/18.
PHIL’S JOY (Race 4, Neil Farley) ran her best race on her comeback when just over a couple of lengths behind yesterday’s Donald winner Annanicolesnitz on the artificial surface at Pakenham. In light of that run she was a shade disappointing upped to a mile there next time, but mindful of the length of her absence prior to that initial return it could simply be that she bounced there, the fact she was caught wide compounding matters. A lack of stamina certainly wasn’t the issue at play, indeed she goes further up in distance now, and that ought to aid her cause. The Chris Waller-trained Invention looks the form pick, though behind him there isn’t much to choose between a number of others, Phil’s Joy included, so any improvement on her part can see her reach a place at least.
There's a bumper ten-race card on a soft track to get stuck into at Cranbourne this afternoon, and we have runners with chances in two of them.
On the face of it, SACCHARO (Race 2, Dean Holland) should have a really good chance of winning his maiden twenty-three weeks on from his debut, though he does contest a race featuring a number of unknowns. His fourth at Bendigo first up looks to be comfortably the best piece of Australian form in the book, and he’s trialled well since then so is entitled to run a good race. Just how he measures up against New Zealand import Tavisan remains to be seen, however, that colt having contested Group races in the spring after all, whilst Messrs Weir, Price, Freedman, and Ellerton/Zahra all saddle newcomers that warrant respect.
In the feature race, SAN REMO (Race 8, Declan Bates) is back from the City and has a step up in distance to suit as he continues to try and get up to speed in his new homeland. There were positives to draw from his Australian debut at Sandown, but he was unsuited by racing much more forwardly there last time and it was ultimately no great surprise to see him drop right out. Declan Bates resumes his partnership with the son of Frankel, and they’ll bid to drop in a lot more now. With the emphasis more on stamina it will certainly be disappointing if he doesn’t get back to running with a lot more encouragement in what is a slightly less competitive heat.
Sandown is the venue for racing on Wednesday, and the stable is well represented for what looks set to be a suitably competitive meeting.
THE HOUSEMAID (Race 3, Ben Allen) arrives on a high, at least as good as ever in winning over today’s trip of 2400m at Bendigo last time. She’s come up short on previous tries in the City, and this afternoon features in what is a particularly strong race for BM64 grade, but in her favour she has ideal conditions and inside gate to contend with. She will need to scale new heights to defy a 2kg higher mark than for that Bendigo win, and it’s maybe the case that to do so is asking too much – indeed running into a place is liable to require another career best – but everything is at least in place for her to give it everything.
We’ve another last-time winner lining up thirty-five minutes later in the shape of WANNA BE GOOD (Race 4, Jordan Childs), who was just as good as you could want him to be in scoring at Echuca earlier in the month, particularly as he gave the impression there that we’re still just scratching the surface of his ability. He’s yet to race beyond 1200m, but the manner in which he finished off, hitting the line hard, gives the impression there could be a good bit more to come as we begin exploring his stamina. He’s up to 1300m and on a likely softer surface now (has coped well enough with soft ground previously), though it will need to bring about further improvement given he’s contesting an appreciably deeper race, Holy Command a very promising type and Tagreeda having been flying high in taking on Nature Strip, no less, last time.
On the face of it, WEE GILLY (Race 6, Jordan Childs) didn’t offer up all that much starting out in Australia at Bendigo, but that was a ‘getting-to-know-you’ assignment as much as anything, the 1300m trip wholly inadequate for one who looks all about stamina. In the event and the circumstances she showed up well enough, predictably outpaced at the business end but sure to show the benefit for the experience now up beyond a mile. We’d be most hopeful that a handicap mark of 66 will prove well within her compass in due course, and today she finds herself in one of the races on the card lacking much in the way of depth. Softer conditions should see her in a better light this time, too, and it would be no surprise at all to see her take a bit of beating today for all that 2000m+ is likely to really be her bag when the time comes.
It’s a welcome return to the fray for AZURITE (Race 7, Lucinda Doodt) in the BM84 over 1700m. It’s the best part of a year since he was last racing, and just over a year since he defied a mark of 72 in a BM78 at Sandown over 2400m. He has twice won first up, though for one who stays as well as he does whether today’s race makes for enough of a test and he’s cherry ripe remains to be seen. Either way, he’s a horse with more than a touch of quality about him, and it would be great to see him run a race on which he can build up against race-fit and in-form rivals this afternoon.
Racing can be a cold and commercial business, if only because winning is worth so much. Yet all the same, a common and overlying thread that runs deep within the sport is the enduring admiration and affection the racing public holds for the horse. So if there is any morsel of comfort to be taken from the public death of Survived it is the realisation that for many people – both punters and professional – there are still horses that matter far more than the result.
What ultimately is horse racing other than a passing escape from the reality and mundanity of everyday existence? Fast or slow, the horses we race are the ones we look to to gild our lives, or at the very least to help us forget, albeit briefly, what all too often seems a nasty human world getting nastier all the while. Survived was only a racehorse, of course, unaware of the affection in which he was held, and he was by no means a superstar in terms of ability. But by plenty of other measures he was precisely that. It is an inevitable tendency for us to over-sentimentalise, even to anthropomorphise, the racehorse. Even though we know they are flight animals who behave instinctively, we ascribe to them human emotions and characteristics. But occasionally horses emerge that cause us to doubt the rationale.
Since coming to Australia an unprecedented trio of Mount Gambier Cups gave his career substance and context, remarkable for coming at a time after he’d looked to be done with, but his earlier achievements in New Zealand are equally worthy of emphasis. For a slow-burner he was also an early-bloomer, off the mark at the second attempt before progressing all the way through to winning at Grade One level as a three-year-old for John Bary. Front-running may not have been in his repertoire back then, but he was already displaying the toughness and fortitude that would come to define him. There’s a low-quality Youtube recording of his first Group Three win, a last-gasp success at Awapuni, the blurriness of the video unable to disguise the grit it took in him going from last to fast to first.
That initial improvement soon came to an end, and with it seemingly his future in the limelight, the move across the Tasman Sea being one made more in hope than expectation, but it’s testament to his durability and willingness that he would bring about his own renaissance in spectacular style. As a punter you could easily curse a horse so lacking in consistency, yet it was perhaps inevitable that he would sometimes be unable to give it his all so much did he give when he was at his best. Indeed, as a punter and a human seeking brief and glorious escape, nothing is so admirable and glorious in a racehorse than one who will battle, fight, and – terribly sad it is to say – die for you.
Facts and figures do little to relate what a horse such as Survived means to all those who knew him, watched him, and loved him, and they certainly can’t diminish the distress caused by his passing. However, for what it’s worth, he was having his sixty-fifth race on Saturday, of which he had won eleven and finished placed in another twelve, for career earnings just north of half a million dollars. He was, to date, the best of his sire Zed’s offspring.
There’s a split in focus this Saturday, one based on sex lines, girls heading up our Flemington challenge whilst the boys are leading the way at Morphettville. All told, there’s plenty to look forward to.
Starting closer to home, SPANNER HEAD (Race 2, Zac Spain) is back against her own sex for the first time in a while, and also back at the scene of her excellent run just off dead-heaters Balcazar and Jaminzah a couple of outings ago. A repeat of that run will see her take plenty of beating, though for all she ran respectably enough at Caulfield last time she wasn’t quite as good, arguably doing a shade too much too soon. Her burden is eased thanks to Zac Spain’s 2kg claim this afternoon, and she holds a clear enough chance against some of the usual names.
Zac Spain also gets the leg up on EL RADA (Race 4), who makes her return to action in a fiendishly competitive BM78 handicap over the straight 1200m. She goes well fresh, as she underlined when winning at Ballarat back in February, and she’s effectively competing from the same mark as then when the 2kg claim is accounted for. She’s yet to run over Flemington’s straight track, but she seems to be drawn favourably given there looks to be plenty of speed around her amongst those drawn low. All in all, and without underplaying the strength in depth to the race as a whole, there’s quite a lot to like about her chance today.
We’ve a couple of runners from opposite ends of the experience spectrum at Morphettville, with SURVIVED (Race 1, Declan Bates) – 64 starts and more than half a million dollars behind him – turning out again in the opening BM82 over a mile and a half. It ultimately comes down to which ‘Survived’ turns up, and if it’s the one who was only just touched off in a similar event here back in May then he’ll put his early speed to good use. He’s well drawn to do so in barrier one, and there’s very little that looks set to take him on up front, The Willybe perhaps the one to be wary of on that score.
By contrast, SHEHROZ (Race 4, Declan Bates) is just getting up and running now, two from four in his career to date, and a three-year-old with plenty of residual potential. Today’s BM70 is a warm looking contest, with plenty of similarly upwardly mobile three-year-olds, Holy Freeze and Amberdi chief amongst them. Shehroz will certainly have to build on the bare nuts and bolts of his Geelong win returning to turf, but there’s good reason to imagine he’s capable of doing precisely that given it was his first start for 21 weeks after all.
A sizeable step forward can be expected from our one runner at Echuca today, more than likely enough to give him a great chance of getting off the mark at the second time of asking.
In the circumstances there were plenty of positives to draw from the debut run of GO FERRANDO (Race 3, Neil Farley) at Bendigo twelve days ago. That was a stronger race than that for which he lines up this afternoon, and in it he was caught wide throughout, nonetheless sticking to his task throughout the straight to finish mid-pack, just over five lengths off Judicious. The step up from 1400m to a mile will play to his strengths, and with the know-how gleaned from that first run, he can be expected to play a much bigger hand in the finish tackling more exposed and/or limited rivals now. The one drawback as regards his chance is that he’s once again drawn out wide, twelve of twelve this time, and it’s just a case of fingers crossed that it doesn’t handicap him too far.
It’ll be a lengthy wait until the lucky last at Sandown this afternoon, and hopefully a worthwhile one, as that’s where our sole runner today figures to hold a major chance in the 1400m BM70 contest.
PLUS EFFRONTE (Race 8, Declan Bates) is rising six and thirteen races into her career, but she remains gradually progressive, underlining the fact by running a career best over today’s trip on Hillside when last seen nine weeks ago. She was sandwiched between Barthelona and Kaching on that occasion, and that pair have done wonders for the form since by racking up another couple of wins apiece. Put simply, Plus Effronte looks well handicapped in being able to compete from a mark of 68 once more. In addition, 1400m looks to be her optimum distance and ground conditions will suit a-okay. She draws to get an inside run under Declan Bates from barrier one, and granted average luck in running she should take a good deal of beating.
Amongst the remainder, Like To Think So is more obviously upwardly mobile having won his last two, but this rates as a significant hike in class and he has a wide draw to overcome, so it’s more likely to be the consistently dangerous Paremuus Boy who proves the bigger threat.
Tom’s Star gave the impression he’s just beginning to find his feet at Geelong last time, so we’re looking for him to build on that run back at that venue today.
The step up in trip and switch to a synthetic surface were two new conditions TOM’S STAR (Race 1, Neil Farley) looked comfortable enough with when four lengths sixth of twelve to Raziel a couple of weeks ago, and given that was just his third start in total it’s not unreasonable to expect ongoing progress from the son of Hussonet. He will need to find it to match Northset and Henleys Hero, runner-up and third respectively on that occasion, now, but those rivals and likely favourite Four Koalas are more exposed than our boy. He’s again got an inside draw in his favour, and further incremental improvement may be enough to see him placed this time.
Prinz Hlodowig is on offer at big odds at Sandown today, and that’s no great surprise given the evidence of his Australian debut, but he’s just getting up to speed at present and there should be a whole lot more to come from him in due course.
The key to PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 7, Jye Mcneil), as has been the case with Lord Fandango and numerous other OTI imports from Europe, is that he’s a stayer in essence, 1400m no good to him at Flemington and a mile likely to be too sharp again today. He’s presently just acclimatizing and building up to a peak, something which will hopefully reveal itself by the time he’s back around 2000m and beyond. That said, we're clearly hoping beyond hope to see a good deal more from him this afternoon than was the case at Flemington.
It’s a run-of-the-mill meeting at Pakenham this afternoon, and Alexander Racing is doubly represented in the maiden and handicap, both over 1200m, that top and tail proceedings.
ROGUE (Race 1, Dean Holland) finished down the field on her recent debut at Geelong, though she wasn’t beaten all that far and our runners have typically been showing substantial improvement from first start to second. As such, we’re hopeful she can play more of a hand here. In opposition there are some newcomers which look interesting in paper, though those with experience haven’t achieved all that much.
With his sights lowered, there was a lot more to like about UNYIELDING’s (Race 8, Michael Poy) second start since making the switch from Nick Olive, finishing runner-up to Mint On Moseley on the artificial surface at Geelong. There’s probably a case for saying that today’s race is a smidgeon stronger than that affair, with some in-form players holding sound credentials. In Unyielding’s favour is that he’s back in the groove, fully effective under these sort of conditions, and once again has Michael Poy’s claim to help offset his big weight. He looks to hold sound each-way claims at the very least.
It’s off to Pakenham we head on Sunday with a couple of maidens seeking a breakthrough win that would extend the yard’s current run of success.
MAZZIOTI (Race 1, Jye McNeil) will have to show a good deal more than when finishing well held at Geelong first up. The heavy ground was probably a bit much for one so inexperienced then, so we’ll see how she gets on with the synthetic surface now. Either way, she should be more clued up with that experience behind her and features in a maiden with some good yards represented but not much in the way of worthwhile form amongst the rest.
Trying out her new name for the first time, PHIL’S JOY (Race 3, Neil Farley) actually took a step forward in form terms when fifth behind Annanicolesnitz at this track on her return to racing. That was certainly enough to suggest she appreciates the different surface, whilst the way she made up ground late on then suggests the step up to 1600m could draw more still from her. With a nice draw in two she’s not totally out of this, looking to hold a bigger chance than her current odds might indicate.
The mighty Nature Strip tops the list of sporting attractions this Saturday, followed by England vs Sweden, but the card at Echuca is a pretty appealing one, too, and on the back of his positive return from a break Wanna Be Good has very strong claims in the 1200m handicap.
The Class 1 handicap features is contested largely by unexposed three-year-olds, the exception being a no-hoper, and WANNA BE GOOD (Race 7, Neil Farley) looks to be one of several with their best days very much in front of them. That was the takeaway message from his reappearance at Ballarat last month, doing well to split Order of Command and Choisborder on just his second outing in handicap company. He’s racing over an extra 100m this afternoon, something which could help judging by how he shaped there, just found wanting for a turn of foot when it mattered, and he’s proven his effectiveness on the softish ground. Whilst there are a host of lightly-raced runners in opposition, there's a strong case for saying that Wanna Be Good has the most solid form and best credentials of the lot of them.
Alexander Racing is 99 not out, needing just one more winner to hit triple figures, and there’s plenty to get our teeth stuck into at Bendigo today, the yard quadruply represented in looking to get to that landmark success.
First up we have a debutant in the 1400m maiden, as GO FERRANDO (Race 3, Neil Farley), a three-year-old gelded son of Teofilo. He’s related to a galloper who was best at around 2000m, so it could well be that he’ll require a stiffer test of stamina in due course. Fitted with a tongue strap for this first start, his wide draw isn’t ideal and he’s up against a number of rivals who’ve already achieved a reasonable level of form.
An hour later, THE HOUSEMAID (Race 5, Ben Allen), who has just been bubbling under of late, looks to hold sound each-way claims with conditions to suit. She ran as well as she ever has over this course and distance when a narrow third on similar ground here last October. That was from a 1kg higher mark, so she is clearly one of the more interesting ones from a handicapping perspective.
It was an encouraging return to action from SUPREME HARMONY (Race 8, Neil Farley) at Ballarat a fortnight ago, one he can build on with the cobwebs now dusted away. He did good work all the way through the line there, and hopefully will be able to muster his effort earlier now. If there’s a likely improver in today’s line-up he looks to be it, still lightly raced after all, so we’re hoping for a progressive prep from him now.
Perhaps the most intriguing runner of all this afternoon comes up in the lucky last. WEE GILLY (Race 10, Jordan Childs) is OTI Racing’s latest recruit, and her profile is certainly an appealing one. The daughter of Roc de Cambes raced just four times for Bill Thurlow in her native New Zealand, off the mark at the third attempt over 2200m in a Waverley maiden before really serving notice of her potential class to finish a close running-on third in the listed Warstep Stakes. The evidence of her running style suggests she’s going to need longer trips than today’s 1300m to come into her own, but she starts off in Australia at a realistic level and is one to keep a close eye on.
The wait until the finale race for our sole runner at Geelong this afternoon can be a worthwhile one with Buena Veloz looking to hold very good claims at a reasonable price.
BUENA VELOZ (Race 9, Jordan Childs) has only encountered a synthetic surface once previously, but he did more than enough to show that he’s fully effective on it over what was an insufficient 1300m trip. With two of his last three runs on turf having been good, under Jordan Childs in a BM70 on the first occasion, and then when strong through the line over a mile at Bendigo most recently, Buena Veloz shapes as if capable of defying his current mark when things fall right. Today could well be the day, 1900m probably just about his optimum distance, giving him time to unwind to fullest effect and with Jordan back on board. The market is dominated by the three-year-old Aristobeaux, runner-up all three starts since a debut success, but even allowing for the potential for further progress, the level of his form doesn’t warrant such a short price. Truly High perhaps posed a greater all-round threat, so his withdrawal boosts Buena Veloz’s chance still further.
The racing at Caulfield this afternoon is competitive, as a Saturday meeting should be, and Spanner Head is one of those at the forefront of proceedings as she arrives at the very top of her game.
SPANNER HEAD (Race 2, Jordan Childs) ran a belter from out of the weights in BM90 company at Flemington earlier in the month, her narrow third to dead-heaters Balcazar and Jaminzah justly earning her a 1kg rise in the handicap. That form clearly entitles her to a big say in this lower grade, with the drop back to 1600m neither here nor there. She’s not yet able to boast the same fine record around Caulfield as she is Flemington, short of her best on both previous runs here, but that small quibble aside she’s expected to be right there in the thick of it again. Back amongst the winners after his brief spell in the naughty corner, Jordan Childs resumes his partnership with Spanner Head, and they are due to break from stall nine.
The fly in the ointment with regards today’s race is very much Al Galayel. Unexposed and progressive in a light career for Luca Cumani back in the UK, he’s now with Ciaron Maher and the way he pulled clear with another rival at Sandown on his Australian debut suggested he had more than a touch of star quality about him. If that’s the case the rest could be racing for second here, a race Spanner Head has excellent claims of winning!
Once more the action takes place on the all-weather surface at Geelong this afternoon, and again we have a three-pronged attack to look forward to.
Having run to a similar level in a couple of starts to date, TOM’S STAR (Race 3, Jordan Childs) faces rather different circumstances today, with the hope being that a combination of a synthetic surface, a longer trip, and first-time blinkers will provoke a chunk of improvement from him. If the headgear perks him up, then the stiffer test of stamina could well be just what he needs. Plenty of those he comes up against now have had a lot of chances without showing much, so maybe he’ll be able to sneak into a place this time.
In the following maiden we have an interesting debutante for Dycer Racing. The intriguingly-named ROGUE (Race 4, Dean Holland) is a two-year-old daughter of Bel Esprit, a half-sister to a couple of fairly useful winners between 1200m and 2000m. One of those siblings, Thunder Rain, made a winning start to her career, though Rogue is conceding experience all round this afternoon. She should know her job well enough, so if handling the surface, and not living up to her name too literally, she has the potential to show up well in what is a fair race of its type.
One positive for the chance of UNYIELDING (Race 7, Michael Poy) in the BM58 over 1200m is the fact it has cut up considerably, just seven holding their ground at the time of writing. Unyielding was doing his best work come the end starting out for us at this track last time, so the extra 100m he has to play with now should be in his favour. He’s down a couple of rungs in grade, with Michael Poy taking 2kg off his back, so there’s quite a lot to like about his chance and he looks overpriced at around $12 as things stand. One impediment to his chance of success could be the presence of the unexposed likely improver She’s Nic’n Off; but, as the old saying goes, you should never be afraid of one horse.
There’s plenty to look forward to on the artificial track at Geelong today with Alexander Racing having three runners across the card.
First up is newcomer CALLIANDRA GIRL (Race 2, Neil Farley), a three-year-old Lucas Cranach filly, who steps out for the first time in a run-of-the mill maiden over 1200m. Her pedigree suggests she’ll certainly benefit from longer trips in due course, but she begins at a realistic level so hopefully she’ll have enough about her to make some kind of impact against today’s rivals.
BYE BYE LOVE (Race 6, Declan Bates) was seemingly flying too high at Sandown last time, and in the event she wasn’t disgraced in the race won by the improving Sasko. She should be more at home back down in grade now, whilst she also returns to the 1900m trip over which she won at Kilmore last month and has winkers in place to provide added impetus. She’s one of the more likely ones in today’s line-up, albeit she could struggle to live with another class-dropper in the form of Cadabra if that one is on a going day.
In the following BM64 over 1200m the unexposed SHEHROZ (Race 7, Declan Bates) returns to action after a five-month interval. He won a Colac maiden at the first time of asking before showing improved form when mid-pack switched to handicaps on the turf course at Geelong next time. He wasn’t so good over a longer trip when last seen (had excuses), but resumes back in distance and still open to improvement. Whether today is the day or not remains to be seen, with the quick-progressive Milord and two-year-old Celebrity Reign amongst the opposition, but he’s certainly not one to give up on given his overall profile.
With conditions set to race on the testing side we have three runners to sift through at Ballarat this afternoon, and those who show enough stamina to stick around for the last race on the card should be rewarded.
MIRZAKHANI (Race 1, Declan Bates) will need to build on what she achieved starting out on an artificial surface at Geelong three weeks ago where she looked ill-equipped for the relative test of speed that 1300m provides for. As such a step up in trip to a mile should help her show more of what she is capable, particularly as she is entitled to be more fully clued up all around this time. Declan Bates is again in the saddle and, if handling the going, the pair of them will hopefully be able to get closer to the principals than was the case at the first time of asking.
Coming back from a lengthy absence in the BM64 over the same 1600m trip is SUPREME HARMONY (Race 6, Dean Holland), who has been off the track since his first prep racing last year and is now bidding to make up for lost time. He was quick to find his groove then, breaking his maiden at the second attempt on the back of a flashy debut second. He struggled to make the same impact in a handful of handicaps thereafter, graduating to longer trips, and it will be interesting to see how he goes back over a mile. There’s quite a bit of depth to today’s comeback race, but at the same time he himself remains lightly raced and with potential, certainly so from a mark of 60.
We’re waiting to the closing race on the card for undoubtedly our best chance of a winner today where WANNA BE GOOD (Race 9, Declan Bates) attempts to continue his all-round progress with racing. He closed well from off the pace over 1100m on a soft surface at this track last time, in the manner of one who can break through in a handicap soon. Indeed with an extra 100m to play with today could well be the day, particularly as he has a nice draw to play with in five and a likely sound enough pace to work in behind. Holy Freeze has an altogether similar profile and shapes as if the one and only danger amongst his rivals. He’s never encountered heavy ground before, but if handling it – and there’s no reason to imagine he won’t – then he ought to take plenty of beating this afternoon.
Prinz Hlodowig: it's a bit of a mouthful, but practice getting your tongue around it as OTI's latest import is potentially exciting and we're hoping to be hearing plenty more about him after today's Australian debut.
A French-bred Rajsaman half-brother to a Group Three winner, OTI Racing’s PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 4, Ben Thompson) has already flown pretty high himself in an abbreviated European career for Mikel Delzangles, notably so on his final two starts as a juvenile when splitting the very smart pair Frankuus and Waldgeist before performing with credit behind the latter in a hot Group One. Given that level of accomplishment, his three outings the following year proved a damp squib, the time coming for his switch to Australia after the latest of those. He’s been gelded since coming here, something which may allow him to get back to showing all of that latent ability. He starts off over 1400m at Flemington this afternoon, and whilst that’s a trip that may well prove on the sharp side in due course (he’s proven over 2000m and may well get further), it’s worth underlining that the BM78 grade he’s tackling represents a drop in grade for him relative to the Stakes races he was contesting in France. Potentially one for high-end races in the future, Ben Thompson takes the ride and they begin from the rails barrier.
Geelong is the venue for the Victorian debut of Unyielding, a four-time winner who has joined us from Nick Olive. He’s a five-year-old son of I Am Invincible who races in the colours of Proven Thoroughbreds. Let’s take a closer look at how he might be expected to get on this afternoon…
UNYIELDING (Race 8, Declan Bates) has a mark of 61 to contend with, 3kg higher than from which he won on the synthetic surface at Canberra for the most recent of those successes, and it’s proven too high an obstacle to overcome the last twice. His ability to handle this kind of surface is a plus, though set against that he will now be racing left-handed for the first time in a 27-race career. He’s equally effective at 1100m and 1200m, so the trip should be no issue, and a seven-week break isn’t too much of a concern given he has a pretty good record when fresh. The biggest unknown with regards his chance is how his interstate form matches up against experienced locals and, in truth, he’s in a BM70 lacking in strength. Clear Signal is the only one who arrives in obviously good order given the manner of his course and distance success a fortnight ago, but he has plenty more on his plate taking a sizeable jump up from BM58 company.
Unyielding tends to be ridden patiently, tactics which could prove beneficial in a race which looks to have an abundance of pace in it, and Declan Bates will be looking to tack across from barrier nine.
Frankel broke new ground as a thoroughbred, in terms of style and substance, and his offspring represent some of the most exciting performers around. San Remo, then, is OTI Racing’s latest intriguing import from Europe who starts out on his new career at Sandown today.
Over and above having Frankel as a father, SAN REMO (Race 6, Declan Bates) is bred in the purple, a half-brother to two dual-Group/Grade 1 winners in the shape of Make Believe and Dubawi Heights. San Remo unsurprisingly started off in exalted environs at Ballydoyle with Aidan O’Brien. With so much to recommend him on paper, his record of one win from nine starts in Ireland means he failed to meet expectations. Even so, he reached a useful enough level of form in handicaps at around a mile and a half after breaking his duck over 2000m, plenty to show that he could have more to offer in Australia now that he has been gelded. Beginning off over 1600m at BM70 level presents San Remo with a markedly lesser stamina test, though Make Believe (and, of course, Frankel) excelled over a mile, and it will be interesting to see how well he adapts to the change in conditions and environment at the first time of asking. Either way, we'll be hopeful San Remo can progress as his stamina is drawn out during the course of this first prep.
Some recent name changes of note include Heinz’s Salad Cream to the remarkably vile sounding Sandwich Cream, Swaziland's peculiar switch to eSwatini, and Meghan Markle's class-vaulting rise to the Duchess of Sussex. To that list add Brunilla > Phil’s Joy.
As Brunilla the daughter of Wanted raced three times last year, showing clear ability on each occasion without getting involved in the finish. She now returns from the best part of ten months off, a physically as well as nominally different animal, and her pedigree has been received an upgrade in the interim, too, her half-sister Faraway Town having won a 1200m Group 3 at Randwick in February. PHIL’S JOY (Race 2, Declan Bates) comes back trying a synthetic surface and fitted with winkers for the first time over 1400m at Pakenham this afternoon. Hopefully she’ll show something to build on under Declan Bates, though it’s worth nothing her wide barrier in eleven isn’t ideal.
A big day at Edenhope. The one we've all been looking forward to. That's right, it's the Jimmy Tarpot backwards race. A bunch of 'retro-runners' will presumably largely fall over and fail to break the freakish record of the race's eponymous instigator: 100 yards in 14 seconds. Survived and Tom's Star are on the undercard.
It’s obviously stretching things to suggest some of the horses in the opening maiden could struggle to sneak under Tarpot's time, too, but it’s no exaggeration to say it’s by no means a strong race of its type. TOM’S STAR (Race 1, Declan Bates) didn’t cut much ice when starting out at Warracknabeal a fortnight ago, but he was learning on the job and, with sights lowered, should know a good bit more now. It’ll be disappointing if he can’t make the frame at the very least given the lack of established form on offer amongst his rivals.
SURVIVED (Race 8, Ben Thompson) was right back on his mettle at Morphettville on the same day Tom’s Star was making his debut, headed off late when runner-up to Gracena, and he figures from the same mark in the Apsley Cup now. If he runs to the same level he’ll surely take all the beating in what looks a race lacking the same strength and/or depth. Adding to his chance is the way in which the race is likely to pan out, nothing obvious looking set to pressure him up front, and if he’s able to get in the same good rhythm it's likely to prove difficult for any of the others to get past him come the business end.
If a horse has ever had everything in its favour to run above itself, then it’s Spanner Head at Flemington today.
Sure, SPANNER HEAD (Race 4, Jye McNeil) is in deep, 4kg out of the weights in a BM90, but it’s not as competitive a race as you’d expect for the money on offer, and she goes into it in really good form, better than the bare facts of recent results would suggest. Caught wide when just off Silvera at Cranbourne last time, things panned out against her, and she’s due some racing luck now. The added distance will help, her more so than the aforementioned (and favourite) Silvera. All told, if she gets a clear run at things Spanner Head can outrun her odds and maybe even cause an upset here; she certainly has a big one in her and today could just be the day.
We’ve got a couple of runners to look forward to at Ballarat this afternoon.
THE HOUSEMAID (Race 5, Declan Bates) finished down the field when returning at the track last month, but the mile trip was no good to her on that occasion, well short of her optimum. Soft ground is fine for her, as evidenced by a career-best third in a BM70 at Bendigo last October, and the move up to 2000m now should see her in a much better light. Declan Bates has a good record when partnering The Housemaid and the pair are drawn in barrier nine.
In the finale WANNA BE GOOD (Race 8, Declan Bates) makes his return from a five-month absence. He’s lightly raced with just four runs behind him, a 1000m maiden win at Werribee amongst them, and has improvement to find in order to be competitive in handicap company. There’s good reason to think that with more time under his belt he can progress, that maiden win emphasizing the fact that a lack of a recent run need be no drawback.
It’s another rung up the ladder for the upwardly mobile Bye Bye Love as she races in the city for the first time at Sandown this afternoon.
In winning a BM58 at Kilmore last month BYE BYE LOVE (Race 2, Harry Coffey) recorded a clear career-best, and further improvement will be required now she tackles BM64 company, but there’s at least one reason to imagine she can continue on the upgrade. Stamina looks the key to unlocking her best efforts, winning her maiden over the longest trip (2100m) she’s encountered to date, and facing soft ground when successful at Kilmore. Today she’s right up to 2400m, and the hope is that the stiffer test will provoke the chunk of further progression she needs to match some of those with better form she now meets. Harry Coffey excelled to get her up on the line last time and continues his partnership now.
Buena Veloz suffered a grim trip round at Geelong last time, an effort that can be excused, and he gets another chance to prove the value of his previous Sandown run when taking part in the feature race at Bendigo this afternoon.
Lucinda Doodt takes the ride today, claiming 2kg on top of the half kilo ease in the handicap Buena Veloz (Race 6, Lucinda Doodt) has come in for since Geelong, meaning he has just 55kg to carry now back in a BM70. Soft ground is forecast today, and his record on it is now two from six, while the slightly shorter 1600m trip is perfectly well within his range. He’s drawn barrier eight of 16, so we’re hopeful he gets a clean run this time and is able to bounce back to the level of that Sandown career best. He would hold a sound chance in an open contest of its type if doing so, with the classdropper Summer Glen looking the one to be chiefly wary of.
As I’ve just discovered, a quick way of melting one’s mind is to google and then try to understand the work of the late – and Wikipedia tells me, great – Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani. Suffice it to say, she was operating on an entirely different level to most of us: who knows, maybe we’ll be able to say the same of her equine namesake one day!
Taking on her elders on debut, MIRZAKHANI (Race 3, Declan Bates) receives weight all round at Geelong this afternoon as she lines up for a fillies and mares maiden over 1300m. She’s by Anacheeva out of the dual scorer A Little Knowledge (wins came at 1400m and 2200m), making her a full-sister to a two-time winner in Singapore Southern Man. Both those wins came over sprint trips and on Polytrack, raising hope that she’ll have sufficient speed today and will handle the synthetic surface.
As is often the case in races of this nature, those with established form haven’t achieved much to write home about, Clever Dolly arguably the pick for all she’s fairly well exposed and possibly flattered by her standout effort. The All Too Hard filly Sparkling Flyer is the other newcomer worth bearing in mind for the Hawkes team.
Another first-timer this afternoon, this time at Geelong, as Steam Roller starts out in the opening two-year-old maiden over 1407m. There’s stamina in the pedigree, so we’re hoping he doesn’t flatten out in the closing stages…
By a Melbourne Cup winner in Americain, out of an unraced daughter of More Than Ready, STEAM ROLLER (Race 1, Dean Holland) is a gelded half-brother to a maiden winner (1950m) from the family of the top-class middle distance performer Kalanisi amongst others. He’s just one of two newcomers in today’s line-up, and a few of those with experience have shown enough ability to think they can be winning sooner rather than later. Longer trips are likely to suit in due course, but Steam Roller is a nice individual who will hopefully get on well with Dean Holland this afternoon and have a positive first experience of racing on which he can build.
Two runners at opposite ends of the experience spectrum on Saturday, once more unto the breach for Survived, newcomer Tom’s Star with his career all in front of him.
SURVIVED (Race 6, Dean Yendall) is off to South Australia once more, this time to Morphettville, where he carries top weight in the BM82 over 1950m. He’s run a couple of lesser races since showing his form, though the ground was softer and the competition greater than ideal at Caulfield last time, and his handicap mark is now down to 81, 2kg below that from which he won the Mount Gambier Cup in December. Dean Yendall partners him for the first time and their styles promise to complement each other, whilst barrier one is a bonus. There does promise to be competition for the lead, Temps Voleur, Allez Tara, Gracena, and Tiger Tim (if getting a run) all promising to press forward.
Meanwhile at Warracknabeal TOM’S STAR (Race 2, Declan Bates) starts out in what looks a very winnable maiden over 1200m. By Hussonet, he’s a gelded half-brother to a winner at around 1400m out of an unraced sister to multiple Group 1 winner All Time High. He should be sharp enough for a race of this nature on debut, with the fact that the pick of those with experience – Tamerett – sets only a modest standard enough to suggest he has a good shot at making a winning start.
A change of fortune is what Electric Tribute is due, and a quick turnaround is what Spanner Head gets, as both feature with realistic chances this afternoon and evening respectively.
Let’s start off with ELECTRIC TRIBUTE (Race 6, Declan Bates), who hasn’t really started off this prep, but it’s too soon to write him off, with sound excuses the last twice, down in class, and now beginning to look dangerously well handicapped. He lines up in the BM64 over 1425m at Werribee today, where the soft ground should be in his favour if anything. He obviously has less on his plate now, this less competitive, and a return to form will make him a very dangerous proposition indeed. Declan Bates rides and the pair are drawn in barrier seven.
Cranbourne stages the final of the Mornington Mile series this evening, and SPANNER HEAD (Race 7, Ben Allen) is back against the boys five days on from her respectable effort behind Single Note at Bendigo over the weekend, with the in-form Ben Allen retaining their partnership. Conditions weren’t as testing as forecast on Sunday, and it may just be that slightly softer ground now will help her find that little bit extra which could be required today. That run confirmed that she’s bubbling under right now, close to reaching a new peak and proving that she’s capable of defying a mark of 74. Silvera is sure to be dangerous, his claims there for all to see, but there’s little or no reason to imagine Spanner Head won’t be right there and thereabouts.
Spanner Head tops the adjusted ratings for the Fillies and Mares BM78 at Bendigo today, so with trip and ground in her favour here’s hoping she and Jordan get reasonable luck in running and can justify the figures.
With soft ground forecast it’s well worth underlining the record SPANNER HEAD (Race 4, Jordan Childs) can boast under testing conditions, one from two on soft and runner-up to Egg Tart on her sole outing on heavy. Her comeback run over 1400m behind the upwardly mobile Flying Murty at Caulfield was sound, all the more so given she didn’t get much room to play with, and that should put her spot on for this given a two from four record second up off a break. Spanner Head is racing back from town today, and giving weight away all round as a consequence, but that’s no bad thing in reality, the make-up of today’s race favouring those towards the top of the handicap (the bottom three are competing from out of the weights). There doesn’t look to be too much pace in the race, and the hope is that she can race prominently enough without being caught too wide.
The action is early at Flemington today, Mirette up against a useful field of juveniles in the opener, an old rival amongst their number.
Bronski Beat had MIRETTE (Race 1, Jordan Childs) just over two lengths back in second when winning on a heavy surface at Bendigo last time, though he had everything going his way that day, including race fitness, so the hope is that Mirette is able to come on sufficiently for that first start in eighteen weeks to turn the tables on the Weir runner. The 1400m trip on a soft 5 surface should suit as well as could be hoped, and Jordan Childs has a handy enough draw from which to be positive on her in stall five. The question that remains to be resolved is whether the form of that Bendigo race matches up with that achieved by a couple of others in today’s field, with the other past winner Vassilator and Dalswinton likely major players if taking to a softer surface than they have encountered hitherto.
The bigger the field, the bigger the certainty. Buena Veloz’s return to form at Sandown was no flash in the pan, instead foreshadowing a further step forward at Geelong today, and despite having fourteen rivals to contend with he has race conditions even more in his favour now.
The softer ground that has been the norm in recent weeks plays to the strengths of some more than others, and BUENA VELOZ (Race 7, Dean Holland) is better suited than most, both his handicap winnings coming on a soft surface. With that in mind his Sandown second came at an apposite time, bouncing him back to form just as the going was coming his way, and the nuts and bolts of that run read well in the context of today’s line-up, this a lesser race back from the city, one longer on quantity than quality. Buena Veloz was poor on his one previous try on Geelong’s turf, though that’s not too big a stick with which to beat him as he simply wasn’t as good a horse then and was caught wide from the outset. Even if stall eleven is wider than ideal, there’s little else not to like about his chance this afternoon. Truly High and, more so, Iheartpoppy are the pair to beat with Found Out seemingly overbet, though the list of dangers would appear to begin and end there.
Bye Bye Love has more going for her today than has been the case of late, especially with a Group 1-winning jockey on board!
The handicapper is slowly relenting in BYE BYE LOVE’s (Race 7, Harry Coffey) case and, in truth, she needs him to, though that won’t help as much as the return to a longer trip, a test of stamina the making of her. She performed well the last - and only - time she encountered a soft surface, and that’s another reason to think she can lift up on recent efforts. Expect a whole lot more from Bye Bye Love this afternoon.
Competitive fare at Sandown today, the BM70 in which Plus Effronte takes her chance more open than the market may indicate.
Think Babe is a warm order, though for all his claims are sound his price looks shorter than they warrant at present, especially from his wide draw, and PLUS EFFRONTE (Race 7, Declan Bates) is one of a slew at longer odds who can’t readily be dismissed. Indeed, she looks way overpriced at $26 when looking closely at what she has going for her. Her overall profile remains a gradually progressive one, whilst her record with cut in the ground is positive, including when a good third over this course and distance last winter. She’s entitled to come on for her respectable fifth behind Lucky Fish at Bendigo on last month’s reappearance, to the extent that it would be no surprise at all to see her turn the tables with second-placed Kaching, with the return to 1400m sure to help. It’s very easy to envisage Kaching being bang in the thick of things come the end, consistent and in form, and wherever he is Plus Effronte should be right there too. Nicely drawn in a race not obviously due to be run at any great pace, and with conditions to suit, she should be able to adopt a handy pitch before pressing on.
The Housemaid has a good record fresh, is fully effective under testing conditions, and has Dean Holland in the plate: these are the reasons for being positive about her chance reappearing at Ballarat this afternoon.
With the track currently rated a heavy 9, the hope is that stamina is at a premium given THE HOUSEMAID (Race 7, Dean Holland) is well proven over considerably further than the mile at which she returns from the best part of six months on the sidelines. She’s capable of winning from her current mark having twice gone close from higher last prep, whilst both her wins have come when returning from a break. Whilst she won her maiden over 1400m, it does remain to be seen whether she’s capable of reproducing the best of her form at 1600m, though with underfoot conditions as they are the race is beginning to cut up, five out at the time of writing, and that can only help her chance. If something else happens to apply some pressure to likely pacesetter Gold Label Miss, that would certainly be to The Housemaid's benefit, too.
A Saturday that offers something for everyone up and down the country, and we have a trio of runners to look forward to, one apiece at Morphettville, Caulfield, and Donald.
Starting off with what is probably our strongest hope of the day: MISS HELLBENDER (Race 4, Declan Bates), who crosses the border to take in a valuable Group 3 at Morphettville. A maiden she may be, but she’s certainly above average, and the manner in which she ran in the Vobis race at Caulfield last time underlined that she deserves her place in this field. The strong-staying style of that run behind Thrillster was of one crying out for this step up to 1400m, and the feeling is that the conditions of today’s race could well see her take another sizeable step forward in form terms. Miss Hellbender’s dam acted well on heavy ground, raising hope that the forecast softer ground will suit, whilst her draw in four should enable her to get a more favourable run than when pushed wider than ideal at Caulfield. As befits a Group 3 she comes up against a number with winning form to their name, though with the possible exception of Tequila Time it’s difficult to make a cut and dried argument that any of them have more obvious claims than Miss Hellbender.
Conditions are also due to be unusually testing at Caulfield this afternoon, and that certainly won’t be to the detriment of the chance of SURVIVED (Race 9, Jack Martin), who has a sound record when the mud is flying. He’ll probably need every assistance going, pitched into something a bit more competitive than usual, and to that end Jack Martin takes 3kg off his back. There could be competition for the lead, which wouldn’t be ideal, though hopefully Survived and Jack can get into a good rhythm and sustain it.
Finally the Donald 2-y-o Classic sees SKALACCI (Race 3, Craig Robertson) make his second racecourse appearance having finished out the back at Bendigo a fortnight ago. The blinkers go on and he can be expected to come on appreciably for that run, more clued up in terms of knowhow, and facing different circumstances in terms of a longer trip and softer ground, both of which his pedigree provides encouragement for. Obviously this is a stronger race than he could have gone for, a Classic after all(!), and it will be interesting to see how far he improves and shapes up against rivals who bring more established form to the table.
Testing conditions look set to be the order of the day at Crabourne this afternoon, so Electric Tribute’s proven ability to handle them will hopefully hold him in good stead as he lines up in the lucky last.
Things haven’t really worked out for ELECTRIC TRIBUTE (Race 8, Ben Thompson) in three starts for us to date, shaping with some hope at Sandown only to go backwards for that at Ballarat last time. That last display is probably best forgiven and overlooked, however, helping force the pace fitted with blinkers in a race where it very much paid to be held up. The handicapper has offered some assistance since then, dropping him a kilo and taking his mark three points below his last winning one, whilst his winning form on soft and heavy ground suggests he should prove perfectly well suited by rain-softened conditions today. The blinkers are left off and Ben Thompson comes in for the ride.
Just the one runner at Sandown this afternoon as Buena Veloz bids to hit his straps now he’s back over a more suitable trip.
BUENA VELOZ (Race 4, Jordan Childs) was on the up when winning at Kilmore last September, but has struggled to make an impact in three starts since. He’s had excuses all along, however, forced into doing far too much early work on the first occasion, and operating over too short a trip on both runs since returning this prep. The handicapper hasn’t relented in this time, still 2kg above his last winning mark, and any easing in the ground would be welcome, but he is at least back up to a trip that is more within his wheelhouse now.
Truth be told, there are others amongst today’s field who appeal as being a little better handicapped as things stand, Hot Ruby and Doogans Rise chief amongst them, and they look the value plays, especially with the pace make-up of the race promising to suit one or both of them.
A win is often said to do a horse’s confidence the power of good and, whether that is an anthropomorphism or not, there does appear at least a kernel of truth to the idea. Take Connery; after going close on six occasions before finally getting the monkey off his back at Stawell, he’s now suddenly fast progressive and favourite for a big Saturday handicap at Flemington.
Twelve runners are due to contest the 1700m Super Vobis three-year-old handicap this afternoon, and CONNERY (Race 4, Ethan Brown) is handily drawn in four. This represents another rise in grade on the back of that Stawell success and his subsequent narrow victory over Union Dues at Sandown Lakeside last month. Encouragingly Filbert Way and Eramosa came out to give the form of that latter race a boost at Bendigo yesterday. Connery’s strength at the end of his races has been notable in winning, so the move up from 1600m could help him pull out further progress, whilst Ethan Brown comes in for the ride and takes 2kg off his back. All in all, then, it’s not difficult to see why he’s popular.
For a race of its type there aren’t any obvious big improvers in opposition, and it’s maybe the established form of Barbeque (and Jordan Childs…) that brings most threat to the table. Let’s hope the 2kg discrepancy that Ethan’s claim provides for can make all the difference!
In a CNN study, number one in the worst things ever said at a job interview was the guy whose in-running odds to get the post spiked like a final-fence faller when he sinisterly asked: ‘How many young women work here?’ If he’s not in prison, this fella will surely be itching to get his dole money on the three girls we have taking on their male counterparts at Bendigo today.
In the opening two-year-old maiden we have both MIRETTE (Race 1, Jordan Childs) and FASHION STOCK (Patrick Moloney) engaged, though the latter is fourth reserve. Mirette started off in a valuable race at Flemington on New Year’s Day, finishing fifth behind Crossing The Abbey and Khulaasa (subsequent Group winner), when looking just to need the experience for knowhow. She will improve, both in the short and long term, and really shouldn’t be long in winning her maiden. Up in distance, the dam's side of her pedigree is infused with stamina, whilst it also raises hope that she’ll handle today’s forecast more testing conditions.
FASHION STOCK didn’t achieve as much as Mirette on her own debut, though at the same time she did offer something to work on after a tardy start when seventh of ten to Multaja at Werribee last month. The longer trip should likewise help the daughter of Tavistock step up on that initial effort.
It’s a warm handicap which ZUERS (Race 6, Jordan Childs) contests later on the card, and even if it’s becoming cooler with each scratching, Haunted still sets a tall standard for Godolphin, his form with Flying Murty in fact looking downright intimidating in the context of today’s race. Zuers is clearly going to need to add substance to what she achieved in maidens, so hopefully a combination of a slightly longer trip and softer ground are the unknowns which could provoke such improvement in her first handicap.
Survived makes the trip out to Penola today, and maybe being in the vicinity of Mount Gambier will prompt a return to his swashbuckling best. Meanwhile, at Geelong, Mosh Music bids to show the benefit of her debut run.
The Millicent Cup at Penola features a host of Cup regulars, SURVIVED (Race 8, Declan Bates) chief amongst them. He gave it a good go at Terang a fortnight ago, and doesn’t have anything quite in the class of Swacadelic to deal with his afternoon. He just about looks the pick of them on figures, just holding the edge over We’re So Lucky on their Edenhope meeting, and is the one to beat with Declan Bates again taking the ride.
With just the six runners the opening maiden at Geelong is light on numbers. MOSH MUSIC (Race 1, Dean Holland) was too green to do herself justice at Kyneton on debut, so she will want to be displaying a greater degree of professionalism today. Whilst she does need to take a big leap forward to get involved here, the step up to 1525m will at least provide her with a better opportunity to do just that.
Spanner Head recorded a comeback win at Flemington last prep and, refreshed and revived again from a break of more than five months, we’re hoping she can repeat the trick at Caulfield this afternoon.
After that initial success SPANNER HEAD (Race 8, Tahlia Hope) didn’t make quite the impact we were looking for in two subsequent outings, though both were notably competitive affairs. Today’s race is also a grade above that she has won before, but it has cut up somewhat and doesn’t look as strong a heat as it might be, acknowledging the unexposed and fast progressive Flying Murty and the smart Leodoro need respecting. Spanner Head showed at Flemington that 1400m under these kind of conditions suits well and, possibly best when fresh, she should be coming on at the end under Tahlia Hope, hopefully well enough to run into a place at the very least.
Our runner at Benalla this afternoon really isn't asking for much: just a fair dinkum shot at showing us what he’s capable of.
NATIONS (Race 3, Jordan Childs) hasn’t really had the rub of the green in his nascent career to date. After coming back with an injury when making his debut at Sandown for Mick Price last August, he encountered abysmal, squally conditions starting out for us at Ararat a fortnight age. Nations showed something to build upon there all the same, well away before being tapped for toe mid race, sticking at it in the straight, very much in the mould of one that requires a longer trip. He’s up to 1200m today, though his dam, Soft Sell, was best around a mile and it may be that’s what he’ll need in due course. Conditions should be friendlier, if nothing else, and there certainly doesn’t appear to be any great depth amongst the opposition, so this should represent another step forward in his overall progression.
The big news from Bendigo in recent weeks has been the surge in interest it has received and subsequent mayoral response to its appearance in a Rick and Morty parody. The town is depicted as a barren wasteland and, whilst Mayor Margaret O’Rourke insists ‘any publicity is good publicity’, she did also claim to be ‘staggered’ by the vulgarity of the cartoon.
Barren wasteland ripe for mockery or not, the town’s racetrack does at least always attract a competitive programme, the last race on today’s of particular interest, whilst our two runners are respectively debuting and coming back from a break.
Toto Schillaci scored six goals at Italia ’90, thereby winning the Golden Boot. Schillaci won eight Group 1s and well over $2,000,000 for Lee Freedman in the early-mid ‘90s. SKALACCI (Race 2, Jordan Childs), then, has plenty to live up to. A chestnut two-year-old son of Testa Rossa, he’s related to a number of winners including full-sister the dual 1200m winner Deecember. The three in today’s race with experience have shown up well, setting a reasonable standard, though our two-year-olds are performing pleasingly at present, so hopefully Skalacci can continue the run. He may want a bit further than the minimum trip in due course, but in his favour is the fact he’s drawn to get a good position in barrier one.
PLUS EFFRONTE (Race 7, Declan Bates) didn’t always apply herself fully in her earlier days, but she seemed to progress both mentally and in form terms in the second part of last year, winning twice at Donald and running soundly over today’s course and distance when last seen back in November. The second of those wins came on her return from a similar absence, underlining her effectiveness when fresh, whilst the first success came under today’s rider Declan Bates. She should race prominently, and like Skalacci, has the benefit of an inside draw. She has further improvement to find to defy a mark of 68, but after just eleven career starts that’s certainly not out of the question.
It was at Echuca that Bye Bye Love first got onto the scoresheet back in November, so here’s hoping a return to the bordertown track will work in her favour this afternoon.
That breakthrough success came over 2100m, but BYE BYE LOVE (Race 6, Tahlia Hope) probably isn’t wholly dependent on such a thorough stamina test, putting up a reasonable first try in handicap company over 1400m when mid-pack at Kyneton on her return to action earlier this month. That should have blown away the cobwebs, and today’s mile trip should see her in a better light. She needs to find further improvement from somewhere, though there’s no great depth to the race, most just going through the motions at present, and she will at least still be finishing off under Tahlia Hope once others have cried enough.
Ballarat hosts a nine-race card this afternoon, and we’ve got three runners engaged to take part.
Whilst So Far Sokool’s injury struck a sour note on Saturday, it was a positive third run from Miss Hellbender returning from a break at Caulfield prior to that, and HINCHRIDER (Race 1, Jordan Childs) will hopefully follow in her hoofprints by progressing at the third time of asking off a similar pause. After a good debut over 1100m here in January, he struggled up in grade in the Blue Diamond next time, but will appreciate being back in calmer waters now. Notably calmer waters in fact, today’s a substandard race of its type for the track, and he ought to show up well up to 1200m. Dual runner-up Scottish Rogue has achieved most of those with experience, though his scope for improvement is probably limited by now.
In the following maiden HEARTWIND (Race 2, Luke Nolen) will bid to show the benefit of his debut experience having failed to make much of an impact first time up at Warracknabeal. The minimum trip was on the sharp side for him there, so hopefully the longer trip will draw a bit more out of him now.
In the concluding BM78 over 1600m ELECTRIC TRIBUTE (Race 9, Declan Bates) lines up for a diverted target having been scratched from an engagement at Pakenham on Thursday. The positives that we mentioned regarding his chance for that race remain true now. The return to 1600m. Check. Winnable mark. Check. Strong record third run back. Check. Blinkers back in place. Check. Only this time Electric Tribute has a good draw to work with to boot, set to get an inside run under Declan Bates from barrier one. He looks to have better win and place claims than his current odds would imply.
In 1704, unsuccessful playwright John Dennis premiered his doomed production, Appius and Virginia, at the Drury Lane Theatre. Reports say it had only one saving grace: the then revolutionary use of metal balls being rolled around a wooden bowl to recreate the sound of thunder.
No sooner had his play failed and closed than his ball-in-a-bowl idea was nicked - or ‘sampled’ as the modern saying goes - by the producers of Macbeth just up the road. Dennis’ irate response was recorded at the time, and still echoes now:
‘Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder.’
There's a very real risk both of our runners today will know the feeling. At Caulfield’s super rich Vobis meeting, the magnificent Nature Strip will be the one taking home thunder that might otherwise have belonged to the winners of any one of the other eight races, but with prize money this good he’s welcome to it, and MISS HELLBENDER (Race 3, Declan Bates) will hopefully be returning with more than her fair share of the spoils.
Only two of the fifteen juveniles that contest the two-year-old race have won thus far, yet there is a mammoth $300,000 up for grabs and Miss Hellbender looks well worth her place in the line-up. She progressed pleasingly from first start to second when chasing home the exciting Sebarate at Pakenham in mid-January. A maiden is clearly hers for the taking on that evidence, but with further improvement on the cards, she can have a big say against rivals that haven’t necessarily achieved much more than her to date. The wide draw in 14 is a concern, but given reasonable luck in running she should be finishing off strongly. Of the two prior winners Golden Script looks the stronger, and she’s probably the one to fear most from a notably more favourable draw.
Over at Randwick it could well be Tom Melbourne who finally earns plaudits, headlines, and thunder, as the shorter trip may just be what he needs to come good in the All Aged Stakes. Otherwise the redoubtable and fellow OTI Racing flagbearer SO FAR SOKOOL (Race 5, Blake Shinn) would be a worthy star of the show. She bids to add more lustre to her increasingly impressive campaign, tackling Group 3 company now and rightfully so given how she dominated the Bendigo Guineas last time. The 1400m of today's James Carr Stakes increasingly looks like her optimum trip, whilst she showed her effectiveness on right-handed tracks in her New Zealand days. She’s very much the one to beat on recent showings, especially as she receives weight from Frolic and Banish, both of who have back-class that would make them dangerous if returning to their best.
With winners on successive days this week, the onus now falls on Ustinari and Electric Tribute – especially Electric Tribute – to keep the successful run going.
USTINARI (Race 3, Jordan Childs) probably didn’t show enough to imagine he’ll be winning immediately when always off the pace on debut at Stawell seventeen days ago, but he does find himself in a slightly lesser contest at Werribee now and should be more at home over the longer trip, up to a mile from 1300m. Hopefully he’ll be capable of playing more of a hand in proceedings this time, though he’s drawn widest of the field of thirteen and would need to take a marked step forward if he’s to challenge the level of form already achieved by likely favourite Annunciate.
It certainly looks the case that, of the pair, ELECTRIC TRIBUTE (Race 7, Jordan Childs) holds considerably stronger claims of winning at Pakenham this evening. He stepped up from his first start for the yard when fifth to Hectopascal at Sandown most recently and now gets to compete from a lower mark than from which last successful in December 2016. He’s also back up to 1600m, the same trip over which that last win came and, perhaps most significantly, is refitted with the blinkers that provoked the improvement which saw him win back to back races for his previous yard. Whilst drawn wide, there doesn’t figure to be much early speed amongst the opposition, and Jordan should be able to get over and adopt a prominent pitch. All in all Electric Tribute is expected to play a much bigger role in the finish than in those two previous outings for us.
Connery and Buena Veloz managed a win between them when they set out to Stawell together earlier this month, and there will be no complaints if they achieve the same – or better – at Sandown today.
Despite taking seven goes to get off the mark, ATB’s CONNERY (Race 4, Jordan Childs) recorded form in defeat plenty good enough to win many a maiden and he remains a horse with a deal of potential. His Stawell win earlier this month has already been boosted with War Piglet’s subsequent success, and he sets out in handicap company now over the 1600m trip which may well prove to be his optimum. His opening mark of 61 is a viable one judged on what he’s achieved to date, before taking into account any room for further progress. Connery is a worthy favourite, though there is depth to the race and he isn’t the only one of interest today, a number of fellow three-year-olds just setting out on their handicap careers in opposition, though it’s arguably the four-year-olds Crystal Kingdom and, more so, Filbert Way who are particularly worthy of respect.
BUENA VELOZ (Race 7, Tahlia Hope) was down the field (though not beaten far at all) on the same Stawell card at which Connery won on April Fool’s Day, though that came over an insufficient 1300m trip and it was his first start for six months. He’s up to 1400m today, which will help some for all it may still be on the short side, and should be more forward with that spin under his belt. He remains 2kg above his last winning mark, though Tahlia Hope comes in for the ride and takes a valuable 3kg off his back, and the pair are handily drawn in three. Even so, there are others who appeal as being better suited by the demands of today’s race, and Buena Veloz probably has place claims at best.
Without in any way wishing to tempt fate, our runner at Geelong today looks 'lock of the week' material, everything in place for her to get a first win on the board at the fifth attempt.
It’s difficult to see where ZUERS (Race 4, Jordan Childs) will come unstuck this afternoon, and it will be disappointing indeed if she remains a maiden by the close of play today. Her form in finishing runner-up the last twice - including when resuming and being caught wider than ideal at Warracknabeal a couple of weeks ago - is superior to those she comes up against now, even before considering the half kilo she receives from the older mares. She’s drawn much more favourably this time, against the rail in one, and should have little difficulty in attaining a forward spot given her proven early speed. The slightly longer trip (1312m) is just as good for her, and it really should be a case of point, shoot, and score for Jordan Childs.
Things did not go according to plan at Randwick yesterday, Lord Fandango pulling his chance away, and it’s to be hoped that with two runners there could be some consolation in the offing at Terang this afternoon.
Whilst the Sydney Cup proved a bitter disappointment for us, for Dean Holland it was a case of so near yet so far, he and Zacada edged out in a thrilling finish by Who Shot Thebarman. It’s back to reality for all involved now, and Dean partners HEARTWIND (Race 3, Dean Holland) in the 1200m maiden. His debut at Warracknabeal late last month contained only mild promise for the short term, greenness an issue but also looking to lack the basic speed for the 1000m trip. Hopefully the son of Ustinov can show the benefit of that initial experience upped in trip today.
The feature race today is the Terang Cup, and if it’s a Cup race then there’s a good chance SURVIVED (Race 6, Declan Bates) will be rocking up. He hasn’t quite been at his best since successful in the Mount Gambier version back in December, though he probably had a bit much on his plate at Albury last time and dropped back below his last winning mark, he should be more at home amongst the jumpers and sluggards he encounters now. Declan Bates again comes in for the ride, and the pair of them will again be looking to go forward from stall two.
Stamina is the watchword for today. Just over ten hours before 40 horses line up for the Grand National over four and a half miles, OTI Racing's Lord Fandango stretches out to two miles for the first time in the Sydney Cup at Randwick. And it promises to be the making of him.
His Peter Young run aside, FANDANGO (Race 8, Craig Williams) has been bubbling under so far this prep, again threatening a bigger display under more suitable conditions when a close-up seventh on soft ground in the Manion Cup at Roshill most recently. In truth, his credentials for this race were better advertised when even closer up in the Australian Cup, behind a couple of today’s rivals (Almandin, notably) there, but again strongly hinting at having a load more to come up at 3200m. For what it’s worth the longest trip he’s tackled to date was 14 furlongs at York, and it resulted in his best European run, even there shaping as if crying out for further again. Craig Williams comes in for the ride and they should get a soft run of it from stall two.
Almandin comes here resurgent on the back of his Tancred win, but he now has to concede a lot of weight all round, and we’re now 5.5kg better off for finishing just under a length behind him at Flemington. Similarly, we’re weighted to turn the tables with Ventura Storm, and it’s not at all difficult to make the case that Lord Fandango is the pick of the weights today. With ground conditions back in his favour, and that all-important longer trip sure to be right in his wheelhouse, it’s…well…it’s all very exciting…!!
Closer to home, NATIONS (Race 3, Declan Bates) starts out for the stable in the 1100m maiden at Ararat. A three-year-old son of Magnus out of a fairly useful performer at around a mile, Nations had one go for Mick Price at Sandown last August, and it’s best to strike a line through that run. He got no cover, was given a considerate time, and came home with a lacerated leg when down the field on that occasion. He surely has more ability than the bare facts of that effort would suggest, and should show more in these calmer waters. That said, the warm favourite Seized does has form to his name which could and should see him take an ordinary maiden with ease.
The second leg of a heady weekend sees two fascinating contenders representing the yard on a warm programme at Ballarat this afternoon.
Let’s start off with the exciting debutante PETRELLE (Race 2, Jordan Childs), who begins her career at Ballarat over 1100m. She’s bred in the purple, by Fastnet Rock out of Grade 1 winner Mani Bhavan, and is a most exciting prospect. Her dam enjoyed her red-letter day as a two-year-old in the seven-furlong Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, taking her record at the time to three from three, so Petrelle’s pedigree points to precocity as well as a high level of ability. Her chance this afternoon looks very strong on paper, admittedly conceding experience to all but one of her rivals, but the standard achieved by those to have run is none too intimidating.
Petrelle’s future is exciting, and so is that of the unexposed TEMPLE OF BEL (Race 5, Fred Kersley), who was taking big leaps forward when last seen and looking on the verge of breaking into the big time. She joined the yard after a promising debut, and took little time to build on that encouragement, winning her maiden in most taking fashion at Bendigo in September before taking out a very warm 3yo BM70 handicap over a mile at Caulfield the following month. Temple of Bel was chased home by Black Sail, Vin de Dance, and Villermont then, and they have all boosted the form on a number of occasions since. She’s been given time having met with a slight setback, and resumes back at 1400m (won maiden at the trip) still long on potential. Today’s BM64 does look stronger than standard, Temple of Bel one of six last-time winners amongst the nine runners, and one of those is the very promising Mr Storm. It promises to be a fascinating race between the two, and fingers crossed Temple of Bel returns ready to take the next rung up the ladder.
The Group 1 events at Randwick today both attest to and serve to underline its Championship status, Weather With You and Egg Tart in particular looking well overpriced in the Derby and Doncaster Mile respectively. In truth, however, the whole card is studded with stars, Wheal Leisure herself in action on the undercard, whilst we also have a runner apiece at both of this afternoon’s meetings in Victoria.
WHEAL LEISURE (Race 6, Kathy O'Hara) ran on from well back to finish fifth to Bonneval in the Australian Oaks on her last visit to Royal Randwick this time last year, enough to show her effectiveness on the track if nothing else. She has more cards in her favour this time tackling the Group 2 Chairman’s Handicap over 2600m. It’s well worth bearing in mind that she ran as well as she ever has on the only other occasion she's tackled today’s trip – when a close third in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Flemington back in November. With the step up in distance in mind Wheal Leisure shaped with plenty of encouragement when third behind Willi Willi in the Albury Gold Cup last time, strong at the line having been caught in a tough spot, crying out for the return to this kind of stamina test.
The make-up of the race, with 105-rated Ventura Storm topping the handicap, means Wheal Leisure is caught out of the handicap, though by no means disastrously so, and the strong suspicion is that today’s conditions – in particular the suitability of them – will count for more than precise weights and measures. We’ll be hoping for a sound pace to run at and, to that end, Cismontane and Imperial Aviator are likely to be pressing on. Alward has been looking on the verge of breaking through of late, clearly unlucky more than once, and duly warrants plenty of respect, but speaking with full objectivity Wheal Leisure appears to have as at least as good a chance as any of the remainder.
Closer to home, the 1400m Bendigo Guineas offers OTI Racing's SO FAR SOKOOL (Race 8, Nikita Beriman) the chance to take her form onto another level. There are some intriguing contenders in the line-up, some like Black Sail, Muraahib, and Cao Cao having promised plenty initially but with their bubbles burst by now. Sircconi boasts the best form by dint of his handicap exploits, whilst Holbien, Mahamedeis, and Tavistock Abbey remain on the way up (the last-named particularly interesting starting out for Anthony Freedman).
On the face of it So Far Sokool looks one of the more exposed contenders, but in truth she’s still showing signs of progression, her improvement coming bit by bit rather than all of a sudden, and she looks well worth her place in today’s race having put up a career best to finish a close third in a BM78 at Mornington last time. That came over 1200m, and the most notable aspect of her effort was her strength at the finish, so the return to 1400m (she was beaten the shortest of short heads when previously running over today’s course and distance) will very much be in her favour.
The juvenile maiden at Werribee in which FASHION STOCK (Race 3, Mitchell Aitken) is due to get her career underway for ATB has cut up somewhat, five having scratched at the time of writing leaving ten due to go to post. The three of those that have previous experience to call upon don’t set a demanding standard, and it’s likely that the newcomers representing Godolphin (Multaja) and Darren Weir (Pineapple Boom) will offer the greater challenge. Fashion Stock is a Tavistock filly out of a five-time winner in New Zealand (from 1400m to 1800m) and is drawn along the rail under Mitch Aitken.
We have a couple of fillies turning out at Kyneton today, one making her racecourse debut, the other returning to action after a mid-season pause.
The opening race is a three-year-old maiden over 1200m in which last-time runner-ups Red Devil and Toorak Warrior are likely to attract a good deal of support. Stepping out for the first time, MOSH MUSIC (Race 1, Jordan Childs) is one of three newcomers in the line-up, and is set to be partnered by Jordan Childs. A daughter of Moshe, she is out of Greg Baker’s useful galloper Dirt Music. She imparts plenty of stamina, however, having stayed two miles in her prime and needed 1800m to get off the mark herself in her younger days. As such, we are hopeful MOSH MUSIC will show up well enough today, though it should be over longer trips that she comes into her own in due course.
Later, BYE BYE LOVE (Race 5, Thalia Hope) resumes off a 19-week break having got off the mark at the ninth attempt in a modest Echuca maiden when last seen. That success came over 2100m, though, and she makes her handicap bow right back in trip at 1450m today. She’s not exactly bred to be a stayer and remains unexposed faced with this sort of test, so it’s not out of the question that she’ll prove just as effective granted this sharper test. That said, she’ll need to be, and more, as her maiden form demands improvement even from a moderate handicap mark of 58.
It’s workaday fare at Ballarat today, and a few scratchings mean we’re reliant on Mia Georgia to fly the flag for the yard as she dips her toe into handicap company for the first time.
MIA GEORGIA (Race 7, Fred Kersley) may be the least experienced of the twelve runners taking part in the 1200m BM58, but she’s certainly well enough acquainted with the track. All three starts for us have come here at Ballarat, and she’s progressed by the run, displaying a likeable attitude in coming out on top in a fillies’ maiden most recently, beating Once Upon A Dream by half a length though arguably having a bit more in hand than that margin would indicate. That filly contests a similar maiden in Race 4 today, so fingers crossed she can provide a boost to the form by showing up well there.
A mark of 61 demands further improvement now handicapping, but Mia Georgia is developing on the job, pointing to there being more to come in this company. She receives age and sex allowances, as well as Fred Kersley’s 2kg claim, obviously is perfectly at home under todays conditions, and is reasonably enough drawn in barrier six.
Sandown is the venue for racing this Easter Monday, and if the highlight on the card is seeing whether Esperance can begin to belatedly add substance to the hype with which his career got underway, then for us it’s determining how well Electric Tribute has come on for his recent stable debut.
That comeback outing came over an insufficient 1200m and, with that in mind, there were positives to draw from it. He kept on well enough towards the inner having raced further back than ideal, all without being subjected to an unduly hard time. ELECTRIC TRIBUTE (Race 5, Fred Kersley) is back up to 1400m now, and is drawn to get an inside run once more. The most recent of his three handicap wins for Matt Laurie came from a mark of 69 at Flemington in December 2016 and, now back down to a rating of 68, he’s evidently well treated if he benefits sufficiently from his reappearance to get back to that kind of peak form. It’s certainly not out of the question that he could do just that given that there have been excuses for a number of those lesser runs in the interim and he looks set to have conditions to suit this afternoon.
Adding to Electric Tribute’s claims is the fact that this is a relatively weak race for the grade, with the more likely players such as Toorak Cowboy and High Hopper more exposed and reliable than progressive, and New Zealand import Patricia Anne appeals as being the likeliest winner simply by dint of bringing something different to the table.
On Easter Sunday we celebrate the fact a dead man came back to life: the original and best April Fool, of course. With that in mind, do take care when devouring Easter Eggs this morning, there must be a good chance they’ve been targeted with pranks in mind. Happily, there’ll be no fooling around at Stawell today, and when you read in the paper tomorrow that Connery has belatedly broken his duck it will be April 2nd, and therefore no word of a lie.
That’s right, it has been a long time coming, but surely today’s the day CONNERY (Race 1, Jordan Childs) gets his head in front and resurrects all the high hopes we have in him. He’s done pretty much everything but win in his career to date, agonizingly close on a number of occasions, and this looks the weakest maiden he’s contested thus far, so there really should be no excuses if he comes up short once more. Indeed, he’s a long way clear of the rest of the field on figures and, no problem with his attitude for all those near misses, he looks rock solid banker material.
Heartwind found himself rather tapped for toe starting out at Warracknabeal yesterday, but we have another debuting son of Ustinov this afternoon and hopefully USTINARI (Race 2, Jordan Childs) will be better equipped for this initial racecourse experience. He starts out over 1300m and is bred to go a bit, a half-brother to four winning sprinters. Amongst the opposition, those to have raced don’t set too imposing a standard, Escaday pretty well exposed as modest by now, and Laoban Tai Tai only marginally better herself on the evidence of three starts so far. Furrion, a son of Camelot, makes plenty of appeal on paper first time up and is likely the one to beat.
Our third and final runner at Stawell is BUENA VELOZ (Race 4, Jordan Childs) on his return from a six-month absence. He enjoyed a productive first prep for the stable last year, winning two of his seven outings, in the process progressing from a rating of 59 to 65. Both those wins came on soft ground, but he did win his maiden under less testing conditions and he doesn’t seem dependent on getting some cut. However, the return to a shorter trip may result in this being too much of a speed test on his reappearance. Hopefully he’ll be up to defying his new mark in due course, though maybe when he’s back over a mile and beyond.
We have three runners to look forward to this afternoon – one at Caulfield and a brace at Warracknabeal – and each of them would appear to hold claims of varying strength.
CHIPPENHAM (Race 3, Tahlia Hope) figures in a fiercely competitive $60,000 BM78 handicap at Caulfield, and he’s one of a clutch of contenders who can be given a good chance faced with ideal conditions. Whilst no better than mid-pace in a large-field race at Ballarat most recently, Chip put up the two best efforts of his career twice previously over the Caulfield track on good ground. He came out on top on the first occasion when partnered by Tahlia Hope and the pair are reunited again now, meaning we have the benefit of her invaluable 3kg claim. Also dropped 0.5kg since Ballarat, drawn ideally in five, everything looks in line for Chippenham to run to his best, and doing that should see him go very close indeed.
Competitive as it may be, the one to fear in the line-up is very much the relatively unexposed and fast-improving Godolphin three-year-old, Catesby. He looks something of a plot horse (anyone?), and arrives here on fire seeking a hat-trick. Expect fireworks if he continues along the progressive path.
Over at Warracknabeal HEARTWIND (Race 2, Declan Bates) steps out onto the track for the first time. He’s a three-year-old gelded son of Ustinov. He starts out over 1000m, and whilst his sire has had some offspring prove effective enough at the trip, he’s liable to come into his own over a bit further in due course. Either way, he’s not in too deep starting out, and we should at least know a lot more with this initial run under his belt.
In the following maiden, this one coming over 1200m, ZUERS (Race 3, Declan Bates) makes her return after a five-month pause. She’s coming back at the right level, her past efforts in advance of those achieved by the rest of today’s field, notably so her close second to a Darren Weir-trained newcomer at Stawell most recently. To gild the lily she gets all the allowances going as a three-year-old filly, and the hope is that she’ll have the wherewithal and be alert enough to overcome her wide twelve draw. If she does, she should win.
It’s Albury Gold Cup day and that means two things: it’s two years to the day since Tom Melbourne last won a race, and both Survived and Wheal Leisure are crossing the Murray to line up for this year’s renewal.
The presence of Supply And Demand – last seen finishing out the back in the Australian Cup – makes for a very lop-sided handicap, as in running from a mark of 104 he keeps all of his fifteen opponents bar SURVIVED (Race 6, Declan Bates) out of the weights. Survived, himself no stranger to lumping big weights in Cup races, this time squeaks into this race with a 54kg impost. Without being ridden as forcefully as usual, he ran well enough behind Divine Sanction at Edenhope last time, enough to think he can go well again from his inside draw acknowledging there could be competition on the front end and this rates as a better grade of race. Declan Bates is back in the saddle.
Whilst Survived can make his presence felt, the less exposed and more upwardly mobile WHEAL LEISURE (Race 6, Dean Yendall) looks to hold better claims of coming out on top this afternoon. She’s struggled to get involved in two starts back since her mid-season break, not really going with her usual zest at Flemington last time. Far less headstrong, she gives the impression she needs a bit of prompting now, and we’re hoping the application of cheekpieces will do the trick here. The make-up of the race certainly promises to suit, things sure to be run at a solid, if not strong, tempo, and the return to 2000m gives her more time to hit full stride in the straight. She’s drawn in stall three under Dean Yendall, and given average luck in running she can make far more of an impression than recently, meeting all bar Supply And Demand and Survived on advantageous terms.
Elsewhere, Supply And Demand has all that weight to carry, though if he were to bounce back to the pick of his form he’d have a sound enough chance of conceding it. Sin To Win is relatively well treated, just 1kg ‘wrong’, and he seems the chief rival amongst the field of sixteen having finished ahead of Wheal Leisure at Flemington last time. Nothin’ Like Harry’s career is little more than five weeks old, and it would take a remarkable effort if he’s up to playing much of a hand, looking very much overbet at the time of writing.
Another day, another Cup to target. Whilst Wheal Leisure acquitted herself in finishing third at Albury yesterday, today Lord Fandango bids to go a couple of places better in the Manion Cup at Rosehill. Also representing OTI, but this time closer to home, So Far Sokool holds good claims on her return to action at Mornington.
For LORD FANDANGO (Race 3, Jordan Childs), it’s all about the trip. First, the interstate trip to Sydney, and then, more pertinently, the step up in trip to 2400m. Notwithstanding a subdued display in the Peter Young on his penultimate start, his prep so far has been all about winding up to a peak, building up to prime over this kind of distance. With that in mind it was encouraging that he stayed on to finish close up in the Australian Cup at Flemington last time, an effort which points to a big run in this lower grade this afternoon. He’ll be racing right-handed for the first time since his three-year-old days in Europe, though there’s no reason to imagine doing so should be an issue, less so anyway than the heavy going underfoot, and it’s that which could prevent him from showing himself off to maximum effect – all his best runs to date have come on a sounder surface. With nominal top weight Foundry scratching, Lord Fandango is conceding weight to all bar one of his opponents (Singing also carries 57.5kg), but in doing so he is forcing the majority of them to race from out of the handicap.
SO FAR SOKOOL (Race 4, Dean Holland) will have less testing conditions to contend with at Mornington, and she looks in a nice spot on this return from an 11-week break, taking on older mares in the main and arriving with a generally progressive profile. She starts back at 1200m, though whilst having proved her stamina for further, she is equally effective at this trip. Racing in BM78 grade, she carries a handy 55.5kg and is well drawn in four. Hopefully she’ll be ready to go well first up, as if she runs to her best she would have a very good chance in this company. The unexposed Freehearted is on the rise and the one to beat.
A competitive Friday twilight meeting at Moonee Valley has the clash between Cliff’s Edge and Astoria in the Alister Clark as its highlight. Earlier on the card our attention will be focused on the BM70 handicap for fillies and mares as EL RADA (Race 4, Jordan Childs) seeks to follow up last month’s Ballarat success.
The scratching of Sister Kitty Mac means El Rada is conceding weight all round having been bumped up 2kg for her three-quarter length defeat of Bob of The Head last time. It’s worth noting that third-placed He’s The Sheriff has franked that form since, finishing runner-up at Swan Hill before getting his head in front at Corowa last week. This will require another career best from El Rada, though she is at least back against her own sex now and has the benefit of an inside draw under Jordan Childs, so if the gaps come she again promises to play a big hand at the business end.
Amongst a slew of other last-time winners in the line-up, Scoliaro threatens to go well granted conditions which suit, whilst the lightly raced pair Working From Home and Ruchla almost certainly have a good deal more to offer.
Today has the potential to prove a red-letter day for us here at Alexander Racing, with Wheal Leisure and Lord Fandango the big guns representing the stable at Flemington, whilst Survived is out to chalk up another Cup success at Edenhope.
WHEAL LEISURE (Race 2, Dean Yendall) is back up to a more suitable trip – albeit 1800m is still shy of her optimum – having been outsped over 1400m in the Mannerism on her recent return to action. She’ll be all the better for that outing and is sure to be more competitive in this BM90. She won the Inglis Cup at Caulfield on her second run back last prep and now competes from a handicap mark of 84. She’s long since given the impression that she’s worthy of such a rating, and the hope is that there’s sufficient pace on today to help enable her prove as much. There’s little question that chief danger is the Darren Weir-trained Kings Will Dream, fast progressive and on a five-timer having hit the road running since coming over from Britain.
The day’s highlight is the Group One Australian Cup, and LORD FANDANGO (Race 8, Jordan Childs) goes to post bidding to take his form onto the top tier. Like Wheal Leisure, he’s going up to a more amenable trip, and whilst he has a disappointing display in the Peter Young to put behind him, there’s good reason to give him the benefit of the doubt for that effort, caught wide and never comfortable in the conditions. We’re fitting him with blinkers in an attempt to give him an added edge and hopefully spark him back to his best. With the Lloyd Williams-owned pair, The Taj Mahal and Homesman in the line up, there promises to be a sound pace to the race, something which will certainly suit Fandango who will be much more home granted an end-to-end gallop as opposed to a burn up. Conversely greater competition at the head of affairs is likely to play against the hopes of form horse Gailo Chop, who has been able to control things from the front in winning Group races at Caulfield the last twice.
Meanwhile over in Western Victoria ten runners are due to go to post for the Edenhope Cup. SURVIVED (Race 7, Jarrod Fry) once again has top weight to carry, as well as a lesser effort at Great Western last time to put behind him, but we know full well that if the mood takes him he’s capable of getting right back on his ‘A’ game under conditions that suit. Also in his favour is that by dint of being top weight and a lofty handicap rating, Survived does ensure that all bar Ancient King are competing from out of the weights. There doesn’t figure to be a great deal of pace in the race, so Survived should be able to adopt his usual prominent pitch from stall two without facing too much in the way of pressure.
Today is surely the day. It would take a freakishly large cherry to get six bites at, but that is what Connery is having today, and if his breakthrough success has to date taken a while longer than may have been anticipated given the level of ability he’s displayed, his chance at Ballarat this evening is a clear and obvious one.
The best race CONNERY (Race 3, Jordan Childs) has run to date came over today’s mile trip at Bendigo in November when touched off by both Civil Disobedience and Found Out. He performed respectably coming back from a break over today’s track last month, though was patently inconvenienced by the drop back to 1400m, tapped for toe at a key stage. He boasts the best form of the eight going to post for today’s race, and it will take greater than usual improvement amongst the less exposed contingent to match up. Jordan Childs retains the partnership and they look well positioned to go forward from stall three.
It’s a tightly-knit handicap that MACATTACK (Race 6, Jordan Childs) contests at Bendigo this afternoon as she bids to follow up her Valentine’s Day success at Sandown. Ten mares are due to go to post and there’s not a great deal to choose between them on the face of it, with pretty much all of the ten having recent form to their name which entitles them to respect.
None more so than Macattack given that Sandown win represented a career best. There was precious little in it, however, she getting the better of a tight finish in beating Isle of Capri and Gondoliera. Whilst she’s up a couple of kilos in a BM70 now, she is against her own sex rather than in with the boys, and has conditions to suit – equally effective over 1400m as she is 1600m – under Jordan Childs, for who she has recorded her last two victories. As such, we’re hopeful of another bold showing.
As trappy a contest as it looks like being, it could be that the pick of the opposition may be provided by course specialist Go Down (her affinity for the track perhaps no coincidence given her dam is Go Bendigo!) and the quietly progressive Miss Adequate who ran a fine race in a better grade at Flemington ten days ago and is partnered by Damien Oliver.
The action at Caulfield on Saturday has left plenty to chew over, though one of the overarching stories of the day was Jordan Childs’ Group 1 breakthrough success aboard crack juvenile Written By in the Blue Diamond Stakes. Jordan partners Chippenham in the feature event at Ballarat this afternoon on a day we also introduce a newcomer in the opening two-year-old race.
SWISS HERO (Race 1, Declan Bates) is a two-year-old son of Pierro out of Group-placed mare Snow Hero. He starts out over 1200m, though time will tell whether that proves within his wheelhouse trip-wise – his Group 3-winning half-brother Hvasstan was best around 2000m. He’s shown definite ability in his work to date, and today should offer a good opportunity for us to see precisely where we stand with him.
It’s impossible to quibble with CHIPPENHAM’S (Race 8, Jordan Childs) form of late so well is he running, not just reliable but also incrementally progressive. After winning at Caulfield in January, he acquitted himself with great credit when third to Manolo Blahniq there earlier this month. He competes again from a mark of 75 this afternoon and looks assured of giving it another good go over what increasingly looks his preferred 1400m trip. Whilst further success will surely require him to eke out a bit more improvement, it could just be that star man Jordan is just the man to provoke such an uplift!
A cracking day’s racing lies in store at Caulfield this afternoon with Group 1 action coming in the Futurity, Blue Diamond, and Oakleigh Plate, the last-named being the vehicle for the mighty Snitty Kitty to showcase her dazzling, blistering speed. The meeting has depth and quality running through it, though, and two of our flagbearers take their chance in the races which bookend that trio of Group 1s.
First up is WHEAL LEISURE (Race 5, Dean Yendall), who makes her return from a fifteen-week break in the Group 3 Premier Signs Mannerism Stakes. She underlined how effective she can be fresh when beating Lord Fandango at Bendigo on her comeback this season before going on to win a very valuable conditions event at this track. That Geelong success came over a mile, however, and that seems to be at the very lower end of her trip range, so today’s 1400m may well prove on the sharp side. There’s good prize money on offer, however, and with the scratching of Exocet and, more notably, Petition, the race is beginning to cut up. Silent Sedition is liable to take the beating for all she has to concede weight all around, but Wheal Leisure should be strong to the finish under Dean Yendall, and hopefully that will be enough to pick up a place at worst.
The Group 2 Carlton Draught Peter Young Stakes is the final race on the card and sees LORD FANDANGO (Race 9, Jordan Childs) make his second run back from a mid-season break. He was behind Gailo Chop and Harlem at the same track a fortnight ago, a perfectly encouraging effort given the race made for a wholly insufficient test of stamina. He renews rivalry with that pair today, though with an extra 200m to play with things are likely to be a lot closer. That said, 1800m is still very much on the short side for Lord Fandango – he underlined his effectiveness over a good deal further in both the Herbert Power and Caulfield Cup after all – and a horse like Hartnell will surely have too much speed for him when it counts. He’ll do his best, that’s for sure, consistency fast becoming his calling card, but don’t expect to see Lord Fandango hitting his peak until he’s back at a mile and a half and beyond.
A Patent is a bet consisting three selections in seven combinations: three singles, three doubles, and a treble. Anyone seeking to get stuck in to Sunday’s card at Ballarat may want to bear this in mind, as Mia Georgia, Connery, and El Rada all line up with excellent chances and a $1 Patent at current prices will net in the region of $50!
In the three-year-old and up maiden over 1100m MIA GEORGIA (Race 3, Neil Farley) arguably boasts the most obvious chance of the trio on the back of her improved display over course and distance returning from a seven-month absence. That third-placed effort behind Branksome Chimes has been franked well enough by the winner since, and today’s race looks easier insofar as there’s a dearth of established form on offer amongst those to have raced previously. As such, any dangers are liable to come from the clutch of newcomers in the line-up, notably the Darren Weir-trained pair Reilmartini and Fast Evolving Girl.
In the following 1400m maiden for three-year-olds, CONNERY (Race 4, Jordan Childs) returns to the track from a three-month break seeking to build on the form he showed when finishing in the frame on four previous tries, particularly so when just failing to reel in subsequent Tasmanian Derby winner Civil Disobedience at Bendigo most recently. As that effort underlines he’s already achieved more than enough to win a race of this nature and should be fit and raring to go this afternoon, so it will certainly be disappointing if Connery remains a maiden this time tomorrow.
The last – but by no means least worthy – of the triumvirate is EL RADA (Race 8, Jordan Childs), who lines up in the closing BM70 handicap over 1100m. With the scratching of the unexposed Esperance, the race suddenly has the look of a relatively weak one for the grade, the large majority of the field arriving with question marks over their current wellbeing and/or level of form. For all she’s been let up for nine weeks since finishing third to Trogir at Caulfield before Christmas, the same cannot be said of El Rada, as she’s repeatedly been knocking on the door of late and looks on the brink of breaking through to score her third career success. Both of those wins have come at Ballarat, raising hopes that today is the day that she both gets back to winning ways and seals the final leg of the all-important Patent!
Having frequently been told growing up to lower my sights, I now understand the importance of not aiming too high and pitching oneself in at a realistic level, something one assumes Jimmy Nail's (pictured) acting career has taught him. Along similar lines, it’s to be hoped that a drop in class reaps rewards for CROCODILE SHOES (Race 6, Fred Kersley) at Ballarat this afternoon.
It remains the case that OTI Racing’s son of Galileo has yet to fully find his groove in Australia, including on both starts since joining us, but today surely offers him his best chance yet to do so. Now down to a mark of 61, BM58s are within his range, especially with Fred Kersley lessening his burden by a couple of kilos. As positive, arguably, as the lesser level of competition, is the step up to more of a staying trip at 2000m, seemingly important to him judging by the way he shaped at Terang last time, too one paced to maintain his effort at a crucial stage.
A further plus is that the race looks light on depth, with the betting having Party Host as the likeliest winner, and whilst he has hit – and sustained – a sound vein of form, he neither has pretensions to be much better than this grade, nor offers anything in the way of value at present odds.
The Metro card at Sandown Hillside this evening concludes with a rock-hard 1400m handicap, one both long on numbers and depth, and the generally reliable MACATTACK (Race 8, Jordan Childs) will be attempting to get back on track having chucked in a rare modest run at the Valley just before Christmas.
Macattack and Jordan Childs are drawn one, and the previous time the pair of them raced over this course and distance from the innermost barrier Macattack put up arguably her career best when a narrow third behind Fille Champagne and Invictum Domina in a BM70 just over a year ago, underlining that conditions should prove ideal today granted luck in running. She does have that much lesser effort at Moonee Valley last time to put behind her, and there’s no obvious excuse for that display, but you should always be prepared to overlook one bad run, and it is after all built into her odds now.
Admittedly the race is teeming with realistic alternatives (though the dangerous looking He Ekscels has scratched), from the unexposed pair Montevideo and Weapon, to the in-form Our Chiquilla and the second-up No Commitment.
At Ballarat today we get our first opportunity to see MIA GEORGIA (Race 3, Neil Farley) stepping out in the yard’s name since she made the transition from the care of John Moloney.
She’s a Snitzel filly from a family choc-full of winners (her dam, Game Serena, was Group placed and won seven times from 1000 to 2000m), so even though she finished down the field in a couple of starts at two for her previous stable, neither effort was devoid of promise, and she can be expected to progress with time and experience. It will certainly be interesting to gauge where we are with her today as she go up slightly in trip from 1000 to 1100m. She’s drawn wider than ideal in stall 12, though that should at least allow her to avoid too much in the way of trouble.
In all likelihood Mia Georgia is liable to require a sterner test to be seen at her best in due course, so whilst we obviously hope she’ll be up to speed and have progressed sufficiently to take a hand in proceedings this afternoon, as much as anything the race will serve as a useful getting-to-know-you outing for all concerned.
As a streetfighter and hardy traveller, a trip into the Grampians will hold no fears for SURVIVED (Race 5) today as he bids to add to his trophy haul in the Great Western Cup on that picturesque track’s day in the spotlight.
Success in this race will take Survived’s career earnings beyond the half-a-million-dollar mark, a testament to his longevity and durability, and he’s clearly the best horse in today’s six-strong field. Naturally enough this means he concedes upwards of 5kg all round, though his presence does also leave all bar one of his rivals out of the handicap proper. Vianden is that one opponent and, another Cup specialist, is also clearly the main danger given his fine recent form.
As we know however, Survived is a very tough nut to crack, and back in trip the onus will be one he and Declan Bates to make the race into a thorough test and draw the finish out of Vianden, whose stamina for this distance isn’t entirely assured. One thing is for sure, if it comes down to a battle any horse which manages to get past Survived will certainly have earned it the hard way. Here’s hoping he can repel all-comers once more!
It’s something of a retrieval mission for STAR D’VEGA (Race 5, Declan Bates) at Mornington this afternoon as, having hosed up to break her duck at Geelong, she rather let the side down when well held in handicap company at Hamilton last time.
In assessing her chance of getting back on the up and up, it’s worth noting first and foremost that she’s contesting a weak BM58, even more so than was the case at Hamilton, whilst she’s also been eased 0.5kg by the handicapper. That said, whilst the style of her maiden success was indeed taking, there was – to be blunt – next to no substance to it, meaning that she’ll always have more on her plate in handicap company. If, however, a line can be put through her subsequent run she arrives here with considerably more appealing claims than the majority of those she comes up against, with both sex and age allowances lightening her load.
The other three-year-old in the line-up, the Snowden-trained Californiagrandcru remains a maiden yet is probably the rival to be feared most, doing more than enough when runner-up last time to suggest he’s not far off getting his head in front. Zoffman finished ahead of Star d’Vega at Hamilton, though generally speaking he’s opposable enough, and it’s more likely the case that the consistent course winner Princess Anacheeva will be a bigger danger.
The action is close to home this evening as Ballarat hosts an eight-race card, and the stable is represented by a couple of young horses just setting off on their careers.
First up is HINCHRIDER (Race 3), a two-year-old debutant who contests the 1100m maiden. He has an appealing pedigree, as a son of Hinchinbrook out of Red Centre. His dam has produced six foals to race thus far, all of which have won, notably so smart ten-time winner Too Many Reds. Hinchrider is a lovely individual, one who certainly has a promising future. He’s had a couple of jump-outs to date, though he’s still likely to show the benefit of this debut run under Jordan Childs, both in terms of peak fitness and know-how, so we’re hopeful of a positive showing safe in the knowledge that he’s sure to progress.
He concedes racecourse experience to Tony McEvoy’s Roobeena amongst others, her debut runner-up effort having come in the Group 3 won by Setsuna at Flemington back in November. She’s fitted with a tongue strap now and is entitled to take all the building with her sights lowered now.
A couple of races later SHEHROZ (Race 5) – again partnered by Declan Bates – gets his second crack at a handicap having finished mid-field in the race won by Astro Castro at Geelong early this month. He was caught wide on that occasion and is value for better than the bare result. Shehroz made a winning start over 1100m, but he gave the impression at Geelong that a further rise in trip up to today’s 1600m should be in his favour. It’s still very early days, this just his third start after all, so hopefully there’s more to come, and his current odds of $6.50 would appear to fairly reflect his likely chance.
CROCODILE SHOES (Race 8) heads to Terang this afternoon on the back of an encouraging debut for the yard at Werribee on Christmas Eve, and there’s good reason to imagine he can show the benefit of that outing sufficiently to win his first race since coming to Australia.
OTI Racing’s son of Galileo remains with some potential, still lightly raced after all, whilst bred for better than he’s achieved to date, and he offered enough last time to think he’s just about to fulfil some of that latent capability from a reasonable looking mark. The step up in trip from 1600m to 1850m is sure to be in his favour this afternoon (his sole win – for Aidan O’Brien in Ireland – came over an extended 2000m), as is the drop in grade from BM70 to BM64.
Declan Bates again takes the ride, and the pair of them should be able to adopt a handy position from stall eight. Looking at the remainder of the field, it quickly becomes clear that today's race certainly isn’t the most competitive of events, with the likes of Set The Bar High and Toffatin both currently figuring at relative short prices yet both with questions to answer.
The cutest of animals, hellbenders are North America’s largest salamander – they can grow to over two feet long and weigh more than four pounds – and they have lots of wonderful aliases: these include snot otter, devil dog, mud devil, mud dog, and grampus. So if you’re in the market for an adorable pet to snuggle up to on the sofa, then look no further. If, alternatively, you’re happy with your dog and are in the market for a two-year-old to follow, then MISS HELLBENDER (Race 1) is the better option, and she can prove the point at Pakenham this afternoon.
The Written Tycoon filly is out of Salamander Bay – geddit? – and she made a very promising start to her career when working home well to finish fourth of eight to Native Soldier over 1100m at Geelong on Boxing Day. Both of her dam’s victories came over 1200m, and the step up to that trip at Pakenham today is certain to be in her favour, as should be the experience and knowhow she’s gained from that initial experience. She finished just behind Dulette on that occasion, but the respective manner in which the pair shaped would suggest Miss Hellbender and Declan Bates can turn the tables now, particularly as this time they are ideally drawn in stall one.
There are a few other form lines to contend with amongst the other once-raced opponents, never easy at this stage of the season. The Lindsay Park-trained Seberate's debut run came in a more valuable contest at Sandown, and he’s pretty short as favourite, presumably largely on that basis. The bare facts of that form don’t appear much – or at all – superior to that of the Geelong race, though, so the disparity in prices is hard to justify.
His comeback blip aside, CHIPPENHAM (Race 6) has been the model of consistency in recent times and is surely due further success given the agonizingly narrow margins of defeat at Tatura and Sandown the last twice. Well, Caulfield this afternoon is as good a place as any in which to record career victory number five, and the make-up of the race strongly suggests he’s the one they all have to beat.
Chippenham has proven himself over this sort of trip, will have no issue with the underfoot conditions, and could just get a soft time of it from the inside gate. Tahlia Hope again takes off a very useful 3kg, and from the same mark as when so, so close at Sandown, that means he once more carries 57kg. He’s yet to run at Caulfield, but there’s little or no reason to imagine he won’t prove himself as effective there as he does everywhere else.
The mare Ceylon may just about be the pick of the opposition on the back of her Cranbourne success, but this marks a rise in grade and it will certainly require her producing a new level of form. The Great Artiste arrives looking for a hat-trick under Jordan Childs, but the same is even more true of him, as it’s not too difficult to pick holes in what he’s actually achieved in winning at Horsham and Warrnambool.
It’s very difficult to identify any other likely improvers amongst the field and, in short, Chippenham looks about as rock solid a bet as you could wish for in a race of this nature: tough, reliable, and handicapped to win.
WANNA BE GOOD (Race 7) delivered an early Christmas present by getting off the mark at the third attempt – second real attempt given he was brought down on debut – on the day before. At Ballarat on Tuesday he makes the transition into handicap company, with his potential for further improvement surely fully intact.
Both Wanna Be Good’s completed runs, a runner’s up effort that worked out well six months before that Christmas success at Werribee, have both come at the minimum trip. He moves up to 1200m now, and he gives the firm impression he’ll be suited by having the extra emphasis on stamina. An opening mark of 62 obviously demands some degree of improvement now he contests a BM64, but that should come with racing and three-year-olds are typically worth being positive about when taking on older horses in such races, and he’s one of just two in this line-up (Matt Cumani’s filly Chalcidian being the other).
Chalcidian herself is worthy of plenty of respect, whilst the unexposed four-year-old mare Nil Desperandum is sure to prove popular as she brings a two-from-four record into the race, though neither look to represent anything in terms of value as Wanna Be Good does at his current price of around $11.
A sound pace should help enable Wanna Be Good to work into things and hopefully prove strong to the line. To that end, the likes of Elle O’Love, Fortify, and Astro Miss will all likely be looking to press on, and that should allow Jordan Childs to get another good tune out of Wanna Be Good after forming a successful partnership with him at Werribee.
A couple of debutants combine for Alexander Racing in the 1400m maiden at Kilmore this afternoon as BRIDEGROOM sets off down the aisle of his career under Neil Farley, the best man who has his first ride for the yard in the early days of a sabbatical from England.
To Bridegroom (Race 2) first of all: he’s a Moshe colt out of the unraced but aptly named Herecomesthebride. He should be well enough tuned up for this racecourse bow, having worked closely with first-time winner Shehroz. He certainly doesn’t look to be pitched in too deep in a race which appears to lack too much in the way of potential or proven quality. The market would presently have things between Lindsay Park’s fourth-time starter Invincible Rock and the Hawkes-trained newcomer Girl Gone Flyin’. The first-named has looked far from straightforward in his career to date and looks one to take on for the time being. Girl Gone Flyin’ meanwhile has a very appealing pedigree and is surely the one of the pair to be feared.
Now a quick word on 25-year-old Neil Farley. Based in Yorkshire, he partnered more than 150 winners back in the UK, primarily for trainers Declan Carroll and Eric Alston, and he took little time to get off the mark here in Australia when partnering Gondoliera to success for Nick Smart at Burrumbeet on New Year’s Day. Here’s hoping Neil enjoys a productive and successful time in Ballarat!
It’s movie review time. With ACT OF VALOUR turning out at Caulfield on Sunday, let’s take a look at action flick Act of Valor which – Americanised spelling apart – shares his name. Now obviously I’ve not watched the film as by all accounts it’s dreadful. The filmmakers attempted to sell it to the paying public thusly: “An unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking, Act of Valor stars a group of active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs in a film like no other in Hollywood's history. A fictionalized account of real life Navy SEAL operations, Act of Valor features a gripping story that takes audiences on an adrenaline-fueled, edge-of-their-seat journey.” Reviewers received it somewhat differently, however, “hilariously bad”, “despair-inducing” and “military-sanctioned exploitation drama”, amongst some of the summations. So along with its 25% Rotten Tomatoes score I think it’s fair to say it’s one to avoid.
On the evidence of a couple of starts this term, the same may be true of Act of Valour for the time being. He seems to need the handicapper to relent a bit more before likely to be of any real interest, seemingly still too high on his current perch of 76, whilst he has had problems of his own, also doing himself no favours by overracing when out the back at Bendigo last month. He’s back down to 1400m today with Andrew Mallyon acting if not as Navy SEAL, then at least the man charged with conducting a successful mission against the odds.
With last-time winners Cullingworth, I Boogi, Simply Splashing, and Trogir amongst the opposition, as well as a likely type in the Waller-trained The Avenger, we’ll be happy with a simple improved showing from Act of Valour, positives that can be taken over to next time. There does at least seem to be a great likelihood of that happening than a successful release of Act of Valor 2: Beached SEALS any time soon.
‘One for one with loads to come’ is a well-worn phrase (even though I’ve just made it up) which applies not just to ambitious men in the early stages of a successful career in the porn industry but, more pertinently to our interests, that most exciting of horse: a first-time winner heading into handicap company. A test of ability as well as potential, similar to that hypothetical porn star’s test of ability, length, strength, girth, and stamina.
Stamina, at the very least, should be the strong suit for SHEHROZ, who overcame both a lack of trackcraft and basic early speed to surge toward an ultimately impressive first-up win at Colac a couple of weeks ago. Partnered again with the tremendous Declan Bates - himself no stranger to girth, strength, and coming on time - Shehroz now goes up in trip from 1100m to 1300m, the added distance – or length – certain to play to his strengths.
The test now comes against seasoned handicappers, allotted as he is with a blind and unthinking handicap mark of 63. He’s certainly better than that if progressing as seems likely, his potential long overreaching the bare nuts and bolts of that debut success. His far more exposed opponents aren’t all that imposing so long as he’s learnt sufficient professionialism first start to second. It would be easy and crude to make another analogy with our pornstar at this point, but it’s unnecessary, and I won’t. Suffice it to say, Shehroz is over the odds at twice the price of Simply Invincible given his profile and near certain upward trajectory. I'll leave things with one more overused trope - overused because there's more than a kernel of truth to it - the sky's the limit for Shehroz.
As the wry ancient Chinese curse has it: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Whatever your point of view on all manner of issues, pro or anti, red or blue, reactionary or liberal, Swift or Perry, 2017 certainly proved to be an interesting time. Personally speaking, I could do with 2018 proving a little less ‘interesting’. Well, all apart from on the racing front, of course, long may that continue to excite us as much as always. It’s been a marvellous twelve months for all here at Alexander Racing, and so many thanks are due to our magnificent staff, keen supporters, and equine stars, as we head into the New Year bidding and building towards bigger and better targets!
And what better way to start 2018 could there be than by getting off the mark for the calendar year at Flemington this afternoon. In the very first race of the year our second juvenile of the season makes her racecourse bow in a valuable seven-runner event over Flemington’s straight 1000m under Jordan Childs. MIRETTE is an Unencumbered filly out of the unraced but well related Lady Zabeel who has already shown us lots to be positive about in a couple of trials. She really fills the eye physically, all length and strength, looking far from out of place when beating older horses on her second jump-out.
Our first two-year-old runner of the campaign, MISS HELLBENDER, made a really positive start at Geelong on Boxing Day, raising hope that we have a bunch of juveniles we can be quietly excited about. Mirette will certainly tell us a good deal more, and it’s worth noting that she’s in a race which may well not take the winning it might for the money on offer. The three of her rivals to have experience haven’t done much to write home about, so it remains to be seen what the other three newcomers have to offer.
Our two runners bookend Flemington’s meeting, and in the finale we have another excellent opportunity to get 2018 off to a flying start with SO FAR SOKOOL. She’s found her mark in no uncertain terms in recent times, progressing at a rate of knots now and she looks to have a great chance of supplementing her Moonee Valley success in this BM70 for fillies and mares. She only fended off Divine Command by a narrow margin for that previous win, but she was probably value for credit over and above the bare facts, forced to race from some way out over the longer trip yet still having enough up her sleeve to hold off a closer. Ben Allen resumes his partnership with So Far Sokool and the pair look well enough drawn in eight in a race which looks longer on numbers than depth.
From all here at Alexander Racing, we wish you all a very successful, happy, and productive (but not too interesting) 2018!
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
A lump of coal to boys who are nasty and lewd,
Instead gifts will go to those who Wanna Be Good,
Maybe at Werribee Santa will strike with glee
For third time is surely the charm for the son of Bel Esprit,
Back from a break, his first start since May,
Stronger and fitter expect Childs to make hay.
Hussini is surely the danger for Beriman and Eurell,
Though how much she’ll improve for debut is hard to tell.
Christmas spirit is a global affair, all rich food laden with booze,
Expect plenty of both to greet Crocodile Shoes,
His journey to Oz from Ballydoyle has been tricky day after day,
But now Santa has delivered him direct from his sleigh,
Expect his future to come as a stiffer stamina test awaits,
For all we hope for a bold showing first up under Declan Bates.
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Today our hopes are with ACT OF VALOUR who lines up in Race 6 at Bendigo. His first start for the yard at Moonee Valley was okay, but there’s plenty of reason to imagine he’ll do all the better with that effort under his belt, shaping on that occasion as if the lack of a recent outing just told come the end. He’s up to a longer trip this time, but it’s a trip over which he was successful on his sole previous try at it.
He looks sure to prove competitive in this afternoon’s BM78 contest, acknowledging there are dangers elsewhere in the field, principally the as yet fully exposed pair Godolphin’s Ancient History, and Dareen Weirs Andrea Mantegna. Jordan Childs comes in for the ride on Act of Valour and the pair are drawn in barrier four, so should be beneficially positioned to enjoy a prominent pitch and avoid any trouble during the race.
Many eyes will be on a finely-poised Test match at the WACA I’m sure, but during the afternoon session we have a couple of runners worth watching: one at Caulfield, one at Colac.
Looking at EL RADA (Race 2) at Caulfield first. She’s consistency personified, give or take, running her usual sound race when a close-up third at Ballarat late last month. The evidence of that run points to her reaching up to a new high this time, with the step back up to 1200m sure to suit, strong through the line as she finished off there. She and Jordan Childs have a wide barrier to overcome in 16, but if they are able to settle in without being caught too wide they are assured of going well. Whilst there are interesting rivals up against her, such as the unexposed Don’t Blush Baby, it’s difficult to pinpoint anything with obviously stronger claims than El Rada.
In other news, racing is back at Colac, and we have a nice newcomer for the 1100m maiden that comes second up. SHEHROZ (Race 2) is a son of Al Maher out of debutante winner Queen of Roses. Her career lasted only five starts, but she proved her ability with that first-time win, and we’re hopeful that Shehroz will be similarly clued up enough to make a similar impression on debut. In his favour is the fact that it certainly doesn’t look the strongest of races, to say the least.
So what’s in a name this time? Chippenham doesn’t share his name with any movies IMDB tells me, but he does with a historic market town in Wiltshire, England, just down the road from villages actually called Tiddleywink and The Shoe. So much for Australia having the best place names! How historic I hear you ask. Well pretty remarkably Chippenham was the birthplace of 9th Century king Alfred The Great, 21st century future Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn, and deft, sprite-like 1990s genius, the tragically injury-cursed Norwich City forward Darren Eadie. So there you have it, nothing too grand to live up to Chip!
Onto the serious subject of CHIPPENHAM’s (Race 6) chances at Tatura today, the first thing to say this BM70 represents a drop in grade in terms of competition, back from the city after failing to land a blow at Moonee Valley first up from a six-month absence. It is easy enough to forget that run anyway given he was trapped wide throughout, and he should be all the better for the blowout, especially now that he’s up to a trip which – whilst as far as he’s ever gone – does promise to prove more suitable nowadays. The forecast soft ground certainly shouldn’t be an issue given his success at Sandown back in May, whilst the three barrier looks good for he and pilot Linda Meech. A bold bid is anticipated. It’s worth stressing that there’s nothing that stands out amongst the opposition, with the consistent Downhearted and rounding-into-form Hussy’s Glow the two likeliest threats.
A couple of scratchings have turned a potentially hectic Saturday into a more peaceful one, as we have just the one runner to go to war with this afternoon, but it promises to be a lively one as Macattack has found herself in a race with a good winning chance.
MACATTACK (Race 2) has her second run back from a break at Pakenham over 1400m. She made a sprightly return to action at Sandown Lakeside last month when going down narrowly to Taddei Tondo. She gave vain chase on that occasion, strong through the line, and the extra 100m in distance will be in her favour if anything. That was a BM70 and this is a BM78 and she is a shade out of the weights, but set against that this doesn’t look like a particularly strong race of its type, with few arriving at the top of their games, and her current form should count for plenty, making her a leading player. She’s drawn in barrier nine for Ben Allen.
It’s taken a while to get So Far Sokool (Race 8) up to speed this season, but she’s firmly there now and looks poised to get a first success in Australia to her name under the lights at Moonee Valley this evening.
That’s because she now has some positive, strong formlines to bring to today’s BM64 for fillies and mares having twice gone close at Bendigo and Sandown in November, both those efforts in fact featuring in races which looked to be rather stronger than where she finds herself now. She’s up a bit further in trip, racing over 1514m now, but she certainly wasn’t stopping over 1400m last time and given the tight nature of the Moonee Valley layout she should have things to suit under Ben Allen, with barrier six a pretty reasonable one.
In terms of the opposition, the unexposed Loreto is perhaps the one who could prove the biggest danger, though she certainly has to build on the bare form of her two starts thus far. All told, this looks like an excellent opening for So Far Sokool and it will be most disappointing if she’s unable to take advantage.
Plus Effronte represents the yard in the finale at Bendigo today as she bids to transfer over her fine form from Donald in what looks set to be the most competitive race she has yet contested.
PLUS EFFRONTE (Race 9) really seems to be learning with racing, more amenable now and more straightforward, and that progress has revealed itself with wins at Donald on two of her last three starts, including under today’s partner Ben Allen on the latter occasion. She has trip and ground to suit and shouldn’t really have any excuses from barrier seven. The only realistic concern is that this does look a considerably deeper race than those she’s been winning, with several intriguing contenders amongst the rest of the field. Topping that list, naturally enough, is the unexposed Seven Year Reward. Three from four in his career to date, he only narrowly went down at Moonee Valley last time and rates a huge chance at gaining compensation now.
Flash rain has been causing a fair amount of carnage in recent days, not least at Mount Gambier yesterday, though Sandown’s card this afternoon doesn’t look like being impacted and that’s where Act of Valour is due to take in the concluding 1300m handicap.
In truth some rain wouldn’t go amiss as far as ACT OF VALOUR's (Race 9) chance goes – we know he acts particularly well on a soft surface, though it’s by no means essential given he’s also enjoyed his fair share of success on good ground. More important, though, is that he shows the benefit of last month’s return from a break, as he cut little ice over 1200m at Moonee Valley on that occasion for all he wasn’t beaten all that far. He does hold a sound two from five record second up, offering hope, and with Ben Thompson again in the plate has the inside draw from where he’ll ideally be able to achieve a prominent pitch. He can be competitive from this kind of mark, and we’re hoping he’s able to prove as much this afternoon.
He's likely to be available to back at a pretty long price, in part because there wasn't a great deal in that Moonee Valley run, but more due to the competitive nature of the race. In a big field there are plenty who can be given a sound chance.
The ‘three-peat’. Aside from it being a horribly contrived word, it tends to represent a level of greatness in sport: to come back and win the same thing again and, for good measure, go about it all and prove yourself once more. In racing Arkle’s trio of Cheltenham Gold Cups in the 1960s and Makybe Diva’s three Cups from 2003 and 2005 perhaps stand out as the greatest examples of the achievement. Whilst Survived may not be elevating himself into that rarified company by winning today, he is seeking his own bit of history in ‘three-peating’ the Mount Gambier Gold Cup.
SURVIVED (Race 8) is, as we know so well by now, as tough and resolute as anything when he’s on his game, though predicting when that will be isn’t the easiest of tasks, hence a rather in-and-out profile. Since winning the cup at Murtoa in October, he’s put in a lesser effort at Hamilton before running well enough on a deep surface at Naracoote. Fingers crossed everything should be in place for a primed Survived to go today, with the track obviously very much to his liking and conditions set to be much more in his favour. Declan Bates rode him to win that day at Murtoa and is reunited with the old boy now.
Bling Dynasty won at Hamilton when Survived didn’t give the best account of himself and is probably the chief danger, but either way there sure shouldn’t be much in it this time. Histoy beckons!
On the track's red-letter day in the limelight we have one runner at Ballarat this afternoon, and we’ll know our fate fairly early on as El Rada lines up for the BM70 handicap over 1100 that comes up second on the programme.
This looks a competitive enough race on paper, though certainly not so much that EL RADA’s (Race 2) chance should be dismissed or overlooked by any means. It’s well worth noting she won a similar event in this grade over course and distance here back in January – indeed, both her career wins to date have come here at Ballarat. She made an encouraging return to action when only just denied at Hamilton last month, and then was positionally all at sea at Moonee Valley last Friday, caught out the back and wide and doing very well in the circumstances. There should be no such excuses from draw three under Jordan Childs this afternoon, and she looks ready to hit a peak with so much in her favour.
There are some unexposed rivals to be wary of in the lower half of the handicap, Creativity and Via Balciano chief amongst them, but then again El Rada still hasn’t had all that much racing herself and her profile is that of one who can reaching greater heights.
What’s in a name? We’ve covered The Housemaid – one of our runners on Wednesday’s Metro card at Sandown Lakeside – before, so lets quickly check out Macattack. According to Urban Dictionary – a highly reputable source – amongst other things, a Macattack is: “the act of consuming considerable amounts of liquor and launching oneself onto an unsuspecting person to make out with them, usually in front of a large crowd.” Let it be known in the strongest possible terms, the equine Macattack fully distances herself, and absolutely abhors the type of behaviour which regrettably shares her name. No, she just likes to run quickly and try to win horse races.
So, to Wednesday’s racing. THE HOUSEMAID (Race 4) goes first as she comes back from a short six-week break, having last been seen running a career-best narrow third to Khezerabad in a BM70 at Bendigo (with subsequent BM96 runner-up Sherlock Holmes back in fourth). Time and experience has shown that The Housemaid is well suited by a good test of stamina, something for which tomorrow’s 2400m trip should provide, and any rain between now and post time certainly wouldn’t go amiss for all she has proven her aptitude on an array of surfaces. Further positive as regards her chance are that Ben Allen claims a key 1.5kg and there promises to be a reasonable pace to run at.
MACATTACK (Race 7), meanwhile, resumes from a good deal longer off the track. She was last seen when down the field at Hillside over a mile more than six months ago, but she lost a plate on that occasion and it’s not a race on which to judge her. Her previous close third at Lakeside in a BM70 gives a much better guide as to what she’s capable of, whilst her record fresh is a good one, winning at Geelong when last coming back from a break. Her stamina is proven at up to a mile but we feel she’s equipped enough to cope with tomorrow’s 1300m trip. The make-up of the race suggests this may not be the most competitive of BM70s ever run, the bulk of those from whom she’s receiving weight largely going through the motions at present. It would certainly be disappointing were she not ready to go very close indeed.
Hot on the heels of Plus Effronte’s breakthrough success at BM70 level at Donald on Sunday under a cool Ben Allen ride, we’re very hopeful of recording wins on successive days courtesy of BYE BYE LOVE (Race 1) at Echuca.
The daughter of Domesday has been good in finding just one too good on her last couple of runs, clearly well suited by the increased emphasis on stamina she’s encountered since being hiked up in trip. She finds herself competing over 2100m tomorrow, and in a race where there don’t appear to be an abundance of likely dangers. Indeed, it looks to shape into a virtual match between Bye Bye Love and the Darren Weir-trained Maheera. The latter is another three-year-old filly who can probably boast the best level of form of the two. She, however, has a lesser effort to put behind her. Harry Coffey takes over in the plate aboard Bye Bye Love and we’re quietly confident she can get that deserved first success under her belt at the sixth time of asking.
We have a couple of fillies taking the trip over to Donald this afternoon, and both look to hold sound claims in their respective races, notably so one at longer odds in the precursor to the Donald Cup.
First up, STAR D'VEGA (Race 2), who put up her best effort yet when just edged out of things at Horsham a fortnight ago. She’s certainly improved since having her stamina drawn out, and gets a longer trip still to target today at 2000m. Again she gets all the allowances going, and it’s very difficult to see her failing to be in the thick of the action come the end. Her chief rival is likely to be OTI’s other runner, class-dropper Mighty Quinn.
Later on the card PLUS EFFRONTE (Race 6) makes a welcome return from a four-month absence in a BM70 contest over 1350m. This is a higher grade for her, but there are reasons to be firmly positive about her chance. She was successful here at Donald on her penultimate start when she also encountered a soft surface (the ground is currently forecast to be a Soft 5). What’s more, she’s been inclined to go well fresh in the fast, so with a little luck a combination of those factors will see her bang there this afternoon from a handy draw in three under Ben Allen.
Will it be fourth time lucky for MR CONNERY (Race 3) at Bendigo this afternoon? Here are a few reasons as to why we’re very hopeful it will be.
Given the manner of Mr Connery’s debut second, it may have been easy to assume that he’d have been quicker in getting off the mark. Whilst that hasn’t come to pass, there have been positives to take from both the intervening runs, latterly when finishing just over a length behind Boorooj at Seymour. The winner was well fancied for a listed event on Melbourne Cup day on the back of that, giving some idea as to the perceived merits of the form. Additionally, back in third at Seymour, was Civil Disobedience who reopposes this afternoon. There’s no obvious reason as to why the form shouldn’t be confirmed.
We’re exploring a still longer trip now, up to a mile, and there’s no reason judging by his style of racing or pedigree to imagine it shouldn’t suit. As is typical for Bendigo, he’s contesting an above-average race of its type, coming up against a number who have shown aptitude enough to think they won’t be maidens for too much longer, Fulton Street just about the pick of them. His form matches up closely with Mr Connery’s, though, and with a bit of racing luck hopefully it will be us who get off the mark today.
The final day of the Melbourne Racing Carnival at Flemington provides WHEAL LEISURE with an opportunity to turn around some Geelong form and enjoy her finest hour to date in the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
She’s got tables to turn from her run in the Geelong Cup because each of the first five from that race reoppose one another. Now, we mentioned at the time that Wheal Leisure’s fifth placing didn’t reflect full credit on her effort, even allowing for the fact she did herself no favours in the early part of the race, so we’re confident she’ll be able to get the better of those four rivals so long as she applies herself fully. The extra distance of this race (2600m) is certainly no bad thing, and the Flemington track really should play to her strengths as well.
The added depth to this race comes from the fact that the first three from the Bendigo Cup – Qewy, Kiwia, and Violate – are now thrown into the mix too. It’s perhaps stretching things to think the last-named may be capable of reversing form, but the first two certainly do represent runners with excellent credentials. All in all, a top three finish for Wheal Leisure would be something to be very happy with, particularly if she displays a bit more enthusiasm at the front end of her race.
Always forgive one lesser run. One of the oldest saws in racing applies to THANOS (Race 5) today as he looks to get back to the good efforts that were marking out his season before he struggled to perform with quite the same vim and/or vigour under a bigger weight at Stawell a couple of weeks ago.
The weight on his back shouldn’t be an issue today, as he goes up from BM58 to BM64 grade, and if that last run is ignored it would be easy to make a strong case for his chances. He should be up with the pace for Declan Bates and he encounters conditions we know he handles well. Whilst it’s possible to make vague arguments for a handful of his opponents, none of them particularly stand out, suggesting that it could well be a very winnable race of its type.
Racing’s great day in the limelight is here. As a fantastic Flemington card reaches its fever pitch with future three-time Melbourne Cup winner Almandin going and doing the hard yards of winning his piffling second, earlier on we look forward to running SPANNER HEAD in the TAB.com.au Trophy, the second race on the programme.
It’s a hot, high-grade handicap, no question, but it should also prove a bit more to Spanner Head’s liking than the Grade 3 in which she struggled to get competitive at Caulfield last time. She's been working well, and the return to Flemington is a definite plus, for one, the long, galloping straight and little bit of extra distance giving her all the more time to unwind. Jordan Childs takes the ride and the pair have the outside gate to overcome.
The dangers in the line-up are, as one would expect for a race of its nature, plentiful. Invincibella for Chris Waller looks the strongest of these on the back of her good third in the Tesio Stakes, whilst Tahanee – sixth in that race herself – looks as if she’s just bubbling under at present and could well strike at any time.
Whoever you side wide, and wherever you’re watching, a happy Cup day to you all!
As Flemington thoughts move directly from Derby Day to Cup Day, it’s the tragic, feted lot of Kilmore’s bet365 Maiden Plate Day – yes, the ‘big one’ itself – to be lost somewhere in the backwash. It’s obviously to be hoped that Bye Bye Love is mature enough to contend with the magnitude of the vast crowds, the auditory overload, and all-round unremitting intensity in the build-up to finally break her duck at Kilmore tomorrow.
First up, can she win? BYE BYE LOVE (Race 1) is in a shallow race in terms of established form, 10-start maiden Stately Boy having achieved most to date yet still unproven beyond a mile. The twice-raced The Endorser may be a more viable danger as he looks the more likely of the two to be suited by the hike up in distance. Bye Bye Love’s best effort to date, meanwhile, came over 2000m for Tahlia Hope at Warrnambool last time, and drawn 5 the pair look well positioned to go forward and make the most of her confirmed stamina.
Second, will she win? There's probably a 30-35% chance of her doing so, meaning current odds of $4 are fair enough.
There’s no way of saying that the opening maiden on Friday’s Horsham card is anything other than an ordinary race – well actually there is: it’s a notably poor race – but it should at least suit STAR D'VEGA (Race 1) as she gradually finds her level.
On the face of it, beating just one home, Star d’Vega’s latest run behind Plato at Bendigo was uninspiring to say the least. However, it came in a considerably stronger event than that she contests now, and it actually rates as her best effort to date. She’s back up to 1800m again now, which will help, though not as much as the distinct lack of depth amongst the opposition, something which is best underlined by the fact that Jimmie Jim – a 19-race maiden – currently figures as a short-priced favourite. With that in mind it’s best to concentrate on the unexposed pair in the line-up, namely Star d’Vega and Noble Rocks. With all the allowances going, Star d’Vega should be able to make her presence felt in the finish under Declan Bates.
It hasn’t been a case of so cool so far for SO FAR SOKOOL (Race 7), unable to make a meaningful impact in three Australian starts to date, but all hope is not lost given the latest of those contained some promise which she will look to build upon at Bendigo on Wednesday.
It’s certainly an interesting race she finds herself in, coming up against no fewer than seven last-time maiden winners. So Far Sokool herself has taken a different path, in too deep up against Houtzen, no less, on her penultimate start and then poorly positioned throughout last time. On that occasion she worked home quite nicely, albeit without ever threatening, and now she gets the opportunity to show whether a longer trip will help her fulfil her residual potential. She’s clearly not one for full-blown confidence as things stand, still with plenty to prove, but this is a race which should tell us a good deal more about what the future – both short and longer-term – holds for her.
After such a memorable day for the sport as a whole at Moonee Valley on Saturday, it feels as if we should get a little longer to be able to sit back and reflect on Cox Plate day and the mighty Winx. That’s not the nature of things, however, time waits for no man, and the show moves swiftly on to Hamilton for their own big day on Sunday.
EL RADA (Race 5) enjoyed a productive introduction to racing last season, winning a maiden at Ballarat on her second start before taking well to handicaps, including when successful in a BM70 from just 1.5kg lower than her present rating back there in January. She was over the top when failing to fire in a BM78 on her final outing of the campaign, but now returns with the possibility of having further improvement to come, this just her second preparation after all. She’s speedy, seemingly best at 1100/1200m, and figures to make her return to action in a BM70 that looks to lack the depth of many races at the level. She likely has most to fear from big class-dropper Falcool on his own reappearance, but beyond that there seems little to suggest that El Rada won’t have a big say in proceedings under Jordan Childs.
The feature event on the card is the Hamilton Cup, and our runner is becoming something of a specialist when it comes to such races. SURVIVED (Race 6) displayed all his tremendous battling qualities and bloody-mindedness when coming out on top in the Murtoa Cup earlier in the month, and he looks primed for another big showing in Hamilton’s version with conditions again sure to suit perfectly well. Survived fended off a short-priced Darren Weir-trained challenger in the form of Kiwia on that occasion, and he may well have to repeat the trick here as Andrea Mantegna looks likely to be sent off an odds-on favourite. He’s unexposed and sure to go well, but one things is for sure: if he’s able to get past Survived he’ll sure know he’s been in a race!
We didn’t get an opportunity to look forward to Wheal Leisure’s run in the Geelong Cup yesterday, so instead lets reflect, dissect, and pick the bones out of her noteworthy effort behind Vengeur Masque in the prestigious race.
First things first, WHEAL LEISURE arrived at Geelong on a progressive roll, her two from two start to the season made to look even better in hindsight by the subsequent performances of stablemate and Bendigo runner-up Lord Fandango.
In going from a mile, to a mile and a quarter and, yesterday, a mile and a half, Wheal Leisure has gradually been returned to the sort of trip that look sure to prove more like her optimum. She was coming up against Gallic Chieftain, who had found Lord Fandango a length and a half too strong in the Herbert Power at Caulfield last time, and was second in the betting after that one.
Her hold-up running style can have a tendency to leave Wheal Leisure a hostage to fortune in terms of how races pan out, and yesterday’s race somewhat underlined this point. She was lethargic in the gates, ambling into stride and settled towards the rear in a race which favoured those positioned closer to the front, unable to switch gears quickly enough as she stayed on down the outer from the home turn. She hit the line strongest of all, finishing less than a length and a half behind Vengeur Masque in fifth, all those ahead of her having made their runs from more forward positions.
Wheal Leisure was better than the bare facts and figures of the result, no question, and she remains upwardly mobile with her best days in front of her. We now have to try and teach her a bit more trackcraft and instill some urgency at the front end of her races, as that is where she can make things difficult for herself. We will look to dig deeper into her stamina reserves, too, with a couple of races at Flemington to think about next up, a choice likely to be made between a 2800m BM98 on Melbourne Cup day and the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) there on the final day of the Carnival.
We have a couple of runners with copper-bottomed chances of winning at Stawell this afternoon.
First up, ZUERS (Race 4) gets the chance to build further on an improved display five months on from her debut when fourth to Maximus at Geelong earlier this month. In truth, a simple reproduction of that effort is likely to see her bang there given she’s found herself in what looks a notably light race of its type. There’s every reason to think she’ll improve further, so with chief form danger Petronas a good deal more exposed, we will be disappointed if Zuers is unable to break her maiden under Linda Meech today.
Later on the card, THANOS (Race 6) is currently installed as favourite to defy top weight in the BM58 handicap over 2000m at 3:00pm and make it back-to-back successes following on from Murtoa earlier in the month. There’s no disguising the fact this is a more competitive event than was that, however, with a number of rivals looking to hold equally sound claims. In his favour has been his consistency, so win or place, we can at least expect Thanos to put up a bold show from a handy draw under conditions that we know draw the best from him. Liam Riordan comes in for the ride this time, with his 1.5kg helping to offset the rise in the weights Thanos has been subjected to.
Wow! We’re busy still trying to regain both our collective breath and composure after Lord Fandango’s outstanding effort at Caulfield yesterday.
It was a run which took Lord Fandango’s progression onto yet another level and showed us conclusively that he firmly belongs in the very highest grade, giving us plenty of mouth-watering opportunities for the future. He was just caught a bit wider than ideal during the run yesterday, and that possibly told come the end, but ultimately we can be nothing other than delighted with his effort. Credit, too, to Ben Allen who wasn’t overawed on the big stage despite copping another sting in the tail from the stewards for giving it his all in his bid to win. Lord Fandango gets a richly deserved holiday now, and we can look forward with anticipation to his return to the fray.
Now we all know Jane Seymour appeared as a Bond girl opposite Roger Moore’s Bond in Live And Let Die, not Sean Connery’s, at a stroke scuppering any jokes about CONNERY (Race 2) being effective over Seymour’s features today yadda, yadda, yadda. Running here instead of at Pakenham on Friday, Connery looks the sort who remains much more likely than not to get off the mark in a maiden sooner rather than later, the distinct promise of that debut outing still fresh in the mind after all. Today could well be the day, the 1300m trip allowing him a bit more space in which to operate, whilst it remains restating that his slightly lesser display at Moonee Valley second up was nothing to judge him on.
Boorooj brings sound looking NSW form to the table, and she demands respect as the chief danger, though it would be a shade underwhelming were Connery not to prove too good for the other runners in the field at single-figure odds, namely Mr So And So, Living Doll, and Vivendi.
So, a day of boundless possibilities dawns upon us, a day of huge potential, and as yet wildly unimagined drama, a day of history in the making. That’s right, feverish excitement pervades the air as Star d’Vega and So Far Sokool head down the road to run at Bendigo. We also have one due to run at Caulfield.
All joking aside, it is Caulfield Cup day, and we must start with LORD FANDANGO given he has such a big chance – one seemingly overlooked still by the bookies – in the main event. The rate of his ongoing progress in such a short space of time has been nothing short of remarkable to see; but therein lies the key: it’s ongoing progress, it’s still happening as we speak. Which is why he’s so worth his place in this year’s Caulfield Cup, and why he brings stronger claims than most to the table. It would be churlish to name the dangers in a star-studded field, but as with the spider, they should be more afraid of him than he is of them, so let’s just leave it with our own superstar. We’re happy with everything, from his draw, to this week’s preparation and, of course, Ben Allen, so here we go!
The first of our duo at Bendigo, STAR D’VEGA, comes back from an eleven-week break, one that hopefully will have seen her develop more from the filly who has struggled to make an impact in maidens to date. She should know more of what is required now, and hopefully that will show itself during the race itself. Andrew Mallyon rides.
Also for OTI, SO FAR SOKOOL is another who has some lesser work to put behind her. She was kicking heels with Houtzen last time, however, and this represents a major drop in grade and therefore a standout opportunity to show her true worth in Australia. The one positive to take from her two Australian starts so far is that she clearly retains speed, and hopefully she and Mitch Aitken can put that to good use and sustain it coming against lesser rivals now. She’s unquestionably well handicapped if her listed level form from New Zealand can be treated literally.
We have a runner apiece on Friday’s programmes at Warrnambool in the afternoon and Pakenham in the evening. Both go into their races maidens, but it’ll be disappointing if that’s still the case tomorrow night.
BYE BYE LOVE (Race 1) has still to achieve more than a modest level of form to date, and it was disappointing she was unable to do a little better than that when extending out to this 2000m trip at Mildura last time. She’s a stayer if she’s anything, though, so she’ll hopefully prove more at home over the distance this time. It’s worth noting that there’s very little to pick between Bye Bye Love and current favourite – and long-standing maiden – The Banana Stand based on their Geelong outing. Tahlia Hope rides her for the second time, and the pair at least will be spared a wide trip having drawn the inside barrier. In a race lacking strength and/or depth, Bye Bye Love holds reasonable each-way claims.
Over at Pakenham later, however, CONNERY’s (Race 2) chances are certainly stronger. The overwhelming promise of his fast-finishing debut remains fresh in the memory, and even if he wasn’t able to build on that in a stronger heat at Moonee Valley a fortnight ago, he did at least have excuses. He was unsuited by how that race developed into something of a burn up, positioned wider and further back than ideal with that in mind and never quite able to land a blow as a consequence. A wide draw in 16 could be tricky, but that is the biggest concern over his chance with the step up to 1400m surely in his favour, and if Jordan Childs is able to get him across well enough Connery should take lots of beating.
Sibling rivalry needn’t be looked at as a purely negative construct. Sure, stories of an elder sibling making life miserable for younger brothers and sisters are commonplace, but set against that there are also countless examples where the competition between siblings has seen each attain otherwise unthinkable achievements. Take, for example, the Williams sisters. Venus first emerged as the new star of tennis and has since enjoyed a remarkable career overcoming the odds. But her own elevation merely helped spur on her younger sister, Serena, into becoming the most successful tennis player of all time.
You got it! This shoehorned parallel sees Wheal Leisure as Venus and Temple of Bel as Serena, and tomorrow the younger sister takes her next step up the ladder in a BM70 at Caulfield.
Naturally enough the three-year-olds lining up for the Alannah Hill Plate over a mile are long on potential, five last-time maiden winners amongst their number, and the form of the race is sure to prove strong. TEMPLE OF BEL (Race 3) herself remains open to no end of improvement, with the step up from 1400m to 1600m sure to see her in an even better light now taking in a handicap, and we’re extremely hopeful of a very big run from her and Jordan Childs.
It’s not exactly the boldest of statements to say that Villermont is liable to prove the chief danger. The Maher/Purcell-trained colt is beautifully bred and cut a striking impression when getting off the mark at Benalla last time.
Temple of Bel isn’t the only one of ours with her sights raised tomorrow, as SPANNER HEAD (Race 5) gets a deserved opportunity in a Group 3 for the first time. On the face of it she has a good bit to find with the likes of Hell Or Highwater and Prompt Response in terms of ratings, but that’s essentially because they’ve had the opportunity to record lofty figures, something Spanner Head hasn’t so far.
The fact Spanner Head was up to speed enough to resume with a win is all the more encouraging given how good her second-up record is. What’s more, she reverts to a mile now, a trip over which she is even more at home than the 1400m of her comeback success. She’s tough, genuine, and consistent, and looks sure to be a big player with Jordan Childs again taking the ride.
Whilst thoughts remain firmly at Caulfield, either looking back at last weekend’s stirring success or forward to Saturday’s Cup meeting, there are of course more prosaic yet nonetheless pressing matters very much at hand. Chief among them on Tuesday is the workaday card at Kyneton.
Harry’s Colt was very much in need of the experience all round when struggling from the outset at Hamilton on debut, as green as grass in rear and never able to get competitive. He’ll clearly need to have learnt plenty from that initial run if he’s to cut more ice at Kyneton tomorrow, for all the maiden he finds himself in doesn’t look that strong on paper. He’s due to encounter less testing conditions than the heavy surface he competed on first up, so there’s a chance that will help him dleiver a more positive display, but until he shows more in the way of ability and tractability he can’t be considered a betting proposition.
Saturday is set to be a momentous day of racing nationwide. Over at Randwick The Everest will break records by becoming the richest race ever to be run on grass, whilst there are no fewer than four Group Ones up for grabs on Caulfield’s Guineas programme.
Heading the supporting card at Caulfield is the Group Two Herbert Power Stakes. It’s a race with a rich history, a number of horses having won it en route to landing that season’s Caulfield Cup (Master O’Reilly the latest in 2007) and Melbourne Cup (a double last achieved by Rogan Josh in 1999), and tomorrow’s renewal sees OTI Racing’s progressive stayer and Benalla Cup hero Lord Fandango takes his next step up the ladder.
Clearly LORD FANDANGO (Race 4) has a good deal more on his plate in this rarified company, but he’s certainly firmly worth his place in the race and he had a couple of tomorrow’s revivals Annus Mirabilis and Fanatic well behind him at Benalla.
What sets Lord Fandango apart from those he faces in tomorrow’s line-up is that he’s firmly following an upward path, still lightly raced in Australia and as a stayer overall, whereas his rivals have generally plateaued since reaching a very smart level of form. The 2400m and sound surface at Caulfield will suit down to the ground, and this represents an excellent opportunity for him to take his form onto the next level. Whilst he is obliged to race from out of the weights once more, that certainly proved no barrier at Benalla, and at the 53kg baseweight Ben Allen comes in for the ride. We’re very hopeful of a huge run from him.
There’s a somewhat unknown element to the challenge he faces, Wall of Fire and Kidmenever, both Europeans making their Australian debut, though on the face of it neither appears to boast form that makes them look obviously well treated.
The Hickmott/Williams challenge is, as ever, a strong one, comprising Foundry and Aloft. It’s possible to make a sound case for both, the former fresh from his Metropolitan success, the latter tuning up with a good run behind Almandin last time. It’s easier to pick a No.1 amongst Lindsay Park’s contingent, Boom Time looking a much likelier candidate than either Harlow Gold or the aforementioned Fanatic.
Despite that it’s very possible that Lord Fandango’s biggest rival of all will be sporting very similar colours, as OTI Racing have another intriguing contender in the form of Gallic Chieftain. Darren Weir’s charge was sixth to Jon Snow in the JRA Cup at Moonee Valley late last month when shaping for all the world as if the step back up to this trip will see an altogether stronger performance from him.
Bendigo is the scene for Wednesday’s action, and Von Classic Hero and The Housemaid are due to fly the standard tor Alexander Racing, with both heading there in expectation just as much as hope.
Chief amongst the positives regarding VON CLASSIC HERO’s (Race 3) chance is that he’s down in grade, back in calmer waters having run respectably behind Silvera at Flemington last start. That looks key, the make-up of today’s opposition far less daunting, all the more so given that the Ararat maiden won by chief market rival, the Weir-trained Teodora, was notably modest. She will be suited by the step up in trip, admittedly, but she needs to improve markedly to defy an opening mark of 63 all the same. On the other hand, from a mark of 69 Von Classic Hero is just one point higher than for his most recent win (and two lower than when going so close at Sandown in August), and has winning form over this course and distance, whilst Ethan Brown gets the leg up and takes 1.5kg away from his impost. All in all, Von Classic Hero looks to have a winning chance, one perhaps understated by his current odds.
Conversely, THE HOUSEMAID (Race 7) finds herself in something considerably deeper than what she has been used to of late, a point underlined by the fact that Sherlock Holmes and Tuff Bickie were just behind Anaheim at Caulfield recently. The Housemaid’s good form this season has come as her stamina has increasingly been explored (combined with patient tactics), so her hope here is that the longer trip of 2400m and likely stronger pace could enable her to transform herself higher still. She’ll certainly need to, particularly mindful of the great promise contained within that comeback run of Sherlock Holmes at Caulfield. With the mares allowance The Housemaid sneaks in at the bottom of the handicap proper on 54kg and Daniel Moor comes in for the ride.
With Winx making her first ever appearance at Flemington and facing a new challenge in the form of Humidor in the Turnbull Stakes, it’s understandable that Murtoa’s Cup meeting may be somewhat overshadowed on Saturday. Spoiler alert: She’ll win, and win with ease. Now we’ve got that out of the way, we can concentrate on a card at Murtoa that features Thanos and Survived.
Like Winx, THANOS (Race 4) is currently an odds-on favourite for his assignment. Unlike Winx, it’s not because he’s the best racehorse to have graced the track in years, rather that he finds himself in a 0-58 handicap that looks very much on the weak side. Indeed it’s possible to make a cogent case for just two of the runners, Thanos and Quarry Rock. Miss Hussoness did manage to break her duck last time, but she had to venture to Naracoote to do so and with the greatest will in the world the form is worth little.
Thanos meanwhile has been going close of late, most recently when just under a length third to Etah James at Ararat last week. His lack of toe at the business end has just been costing him, so getting his first chance up around 2000m is a move that will suit and can see him getting back to winning ways.
Whilst the challenge of Quarry Rock isn’t one to be dismissed too lightly - his second to Margot’s Boy at Tatura last time was certainly a creditable effort - the strength of that race was probably a notch below those in which Thanos has been competing, and he’s also exposed at this trip, so the suspicion is that Thanos will hold the edge between the two.
There’s a very warm favourite for the Murtoa Cup itself, with the progressive Kiwia understandably popular for the Darren Weir yard that also has second favourite Lucky Paddy engaged for good measure. He’s the youngest horse in the line-up and clearly on the rise, whereas the remainder are more exposed and have plateaued.
That much applies to SURVIVED (Race 6) for sure. He does, however, know how to win a Cup with both Australian wins having come in the Mount Gambier version! He’s also as tough and robust a galloper as there is going on his day, and he should be better off with his sights lowered somewhat having struggled to be competitive come the end at City tracks on both starts since the latter of those two successes. He’ll go forward under Declan Bates and will hopefully still be in there battling come the end.
A really interesting Friday is in store for our three runners across the meetings at Hamilton in the afternoon and Moonee Valley during twilight hours. The cause for interest? All three, to one extent or another, are heading out into the unknown, just setting out on their careers with all potential as of yet undented – or in the case of Run Charlie Run just setting out on their career for us.
Good ground has been the norm in recent weeks, but Hamilton’s surface is currently rated a Heavy 8, and it’s in the opening maiden there that HARRY’S COLT (Race 1) could make his racecourse debut (he also holds an entry at Murtoa on Saturday). A Sharkbite three-year-old out of Breezing Journey (making him a half-brother to stablemate Mr Bobbi, also owned by the Gull family), he starts out over 1100m in a race where there’s little in the way of established form amongst the opposition. He’s a lovely individual and should be tuned up enough to do himself justice so long as he handles the conditions. Naturally enough, only one jockey fitted the bill for Harry’s Colt – Harry Coffey: When Harry Met Harry.
Over at the Valley, CONNERY (Race 1) bids to build on the huge promise of his own initial experience of racing when an impressive late surge failed by the narrowest of margins to take him to a winning start at Cranbourne. He was conceding experience to the winner El Magnificence that day, whilst the strength of his finish underlined that stretching out from 1000m to 1200m can only help him build on that first run. Given the track, this is naturally enough a warm maiden, Connery looking very closely matched with Choisborder and Bequeathed on the basis of limited evidence to date. Seized, meanwhile was competing at a higher level last autumn, and with that the form in his book needs to be surpassed. Given all the positives surrounding Connery we’re extremely hopeful that he’ll be able to do precisely that under the guidance of Jordan Childs.
Last but by no means least RUN CHARLIE RUN (Race 4) is on something of a retrieval mission after fluffing her lines on her first try for us at Bendigo. She's shown herself prone to the odd poor run before, but she’s equally perfectly capable of bouncing straight back. An unpredictable mare, then, but if she’s on a going day she’s certainly got the speed and ability to outrun her likely odds in the 1000m BM64 handicap, especially as stall two is handy for one who likes to get on with things. Melissa Julius takes 3kg off, meaning she carries just 56kg. It’s hard to ignore the fact this race also represents the handicap debut of Seven Year Reward, the seriously impressive Geelong maiden winner first up for Greg Eurell. If he’s anything like the horse he appeared there he’s sure to take the world of beating, so a top three finish for Run Charlie Run would certainly rate as a positive result.
In an irregular series looking at movies that share a name with horses here at Alexander Racing, without having seen it I’m prepared to wager The Housemaid (Hanyo in Korean – we’ve all learned something today) has a lot more to offer than the Matthew Modine vehicle Bye Bye Love. Now the race the equine version lines up for here at Ballarat tomorrow may not be best described “a sexy thriller”, but it’s an interesting and competitive enough BM64 event all the same.
THE HOUSEMAID (Race 5) has really found her métier since tackling longer trips and being ridden more patiently, stamina more her strong suit than speed, and after coming good at Warracknabeal early last month, she did nothing wrong in going down by a narrow margin to Inastride at Swan Hill a fortnight later, particularly as she did best of those to come from off the pace. She can take some riding in her races, so it’s a positive that having struck up a decent relationship with her, Declan Bates again takes the ride, and hopefully the pair of them will once more get stronger as the race wears on.
Madam Stryker and Taken Time will hopefully ensure the race isn’t run at a dawdle, though neither of that pair hold obviously strong claims for figuring in the finish. That list is probably headed by OTI’s relatively lightly raced By Design, who shapes to be suited by this step up to the 2200m trip. Elsewhere Lynch Mob arrives in form and is worthy of respect, whilst towards the foot of the weights Bianajeuney is a surprisingly big price at the time of writing.
If the ‘A’ team of Wheal Leisure, Lord Fandango, and Spanner Head all came good last week, tomorrow at Geelong sees a trio of ‘Z’-listers turning out. That is no reflection at all on their relative merit or stable standing, merely the fact Zapping, Zuers, and Casino Blitz all have a 'Z' in their name.
First up, ZAPPING (Race 1) has his first start for the yard having made the transition from Tony McEvoy’s base in the five months since last seen. OTI’s New Zealand-bred five-year-old gelding remains a maiden after ten starts, but he’s shown sufficient ability – including when runner-up on three occasions – to show that he’s perfectly capable of winning a race. He was competing over longer trips than this 1755m when last seen, and the likelihood is that he’ll be at his most effective when back at 2000m and beyond. Either way, we should know a lot more about where to go with him after this first run back. Declan Bates get the leg up and current odds of $11 would appear to accurately reflect his chance.
The third race on the programme is a 1240m maiden which sees ZUERS (Race 3) step out for her second run, and she’s returning from a similar absence to Zapping. Zuers was just a couple of positions and a length and a half behind Temple of Bel, no less, on her Cranbourne debut. Now if she’s able to summon up the level of improvement as her stablemate has in the intervening period she’d take some beating tomorrow. She certainly should have more in the way of know-how and trackcraft, so it’ll be disappointing if the daughter of Stratum doesn’t take a step forward and make her presence felt to some degree under Michael Dee.
CASINO BLITZ (Race 6) has been knocking on the door throughout this prep, and he’s been doing little or nothing wrong in just failing to get his head in front – it’s surely just a matter of time! He has a slightly new scenario facing him tomorrow, encountering his longest trip (1755m) yet, and he gave the firm impression at Pakenham last time that it should be in his favour. He’s sure to be in the thick of it once more, even if in Skulduggery and Citrus Wish – more so than current favourite Sorenata – he faces a couple of rivals dropping back to country level and with good claims. Jye McNeil comes back in for the ride and the pair should be able to adopt a handy position from stall seven.
The season is really hitting full swing right now, so there could be no better time for the yard to enjoy such a red-letter streak last week. Here’s hoping there’s no end in sight for the run of success, and it’s the turn of BYE BYE LOVE to go into battle for the stable in the opener at Mildura on Tuesday.
We’ve not got to the bottom of Bye Bye Love’s (Race 1) ability in five starts to date, and the principal reason for that is that her stamina has yet to be fully explored. She underlined with the way she kept on from off the pace when fifth to Arcturos over a mile at Swan Hill last time that moving out to 2000m will only help her show what she’s really all about.
It will be disappointing should the three-year-old daughter of Domesday and her rider Harry Coffey not prove capable of playing a significant hand in the finish of what is a decidedly ordinary maiden this time. Best Man is likely to enter the barriers as favourite, but he doesn’t set an imposing standard and has found one too good on five of his ten outings thus far. Bye Bye Love receives 4.5kg from that rival, and 2kg from NZ import Beachwood, who may well prove the other chief danger.
Lord Fandango used the URMG Security Handicap at Bendigo as the perfect launching pad for his season when soaring new heights to take out the Benalla Cup on Friday, and now it’s Wheal Leisure’s turn to do just the same as she attempts to back up that comeback success in the valuable Inglis Cup at Caulfield on Sunday.
WHEAL LEISURE (Race 3) had three-quarters of a length to spare over Lord Fandango at Bendigo, and the reasons to be positive about her chance tomorrow are very similar to those for her stablemate at Benalla. First and foremost, she goes up in trip from a mile to 2000m, and the added emphasis on stamina will play to her strengths no end. The quality of her work since that comeback underline that she’s thriving, and in a seven-runner field rather lacking the depth that might be anticipated for a race of such value, current form and suitable conditions count for plenty.
Admittedly Hardham is liable to prove a tough nut to crack. A Group 2 winner at the trip last season, he was also third to Jon Snow in the Derby at Randwick and arrives here on the back of success in a competitive Flemington handicap a fortnight ago. He’s the pick at the weights and an understandable favourite.
That said, the overriding impression gleaned from Bendigo is that Wheal Leisure returns to racing with unfinished business to take care of, still relatively unexposed and on the up, and it’s difficult to know for sure just how high that level of progression will take her. We certainly hope she’ll have come on sufficiently to win the race for second at the very least and, who knows, maybe give Hardham something serious to think about.
Dean Yendall comes in for the ride.
Confidence here at Alexander Racing is buoyed heading into Friday’s Cup meeting at Benalla and a City programme under the lights at Moonee Valley. Three runners share the task of extending the yard’s run of success.
Benalla hosts its Cup meeting tomorrow afternoon, and the BM70 preceding the main event is run over the same C&D. In it BUENA VELOZ (Race 7) has his sights raised following his taking success at Kilmore earlier in the month. That win culminated a series of solid runs from this dependable performer, but it also marked an uptick of its own, the manner of the success notable for the zest with which he went and then his ability to pull out more and more for pressure, as if sure to be even better served by this 2046m trip, particularly encountering less testing ground
Hardern and Birds of Tokyo head the list of dangers, but in truth they appear to have more questions to answer than Buena Veloz himself, and with Declan Bates again coming in for the ride, they should take some beating.
In the Benalla Cup itself we look to LORD FANDANGO (Race 8) to build on the distinct promise of his Bendigo comeback behind Wheal Leisure. The presence of Annus Mirabilis at the head of the weights renders this a lop-sided handicap, and dictates that Lord Fandango competes on terms disadvantageous with his rivals than he would normally, but set against that we hold the view that he’s a well-treated horse and, as such, he could well prove up to overcoming that obstacle. He is up to a trip over which he will be more at home than the mile of his reappearance and should have underground conditions to suit.
Anaheim is sure to be popular on the back of his Caulfield success at the weekend, though he did enjoy a seamless run through on that occasion and has to prove himself in the same form just six days on. Moonovermanhattan may be a bigger danger for all that his overall strike rate is nothing to write home about. Regardless Lord Fandango’s claims are legitimate and he heads to the race with a leading chance under in-form Jordan Childs.
The first evening meeting of the Spring takes place at Moonee Valley later on, and Jordan will again be donning OTI’s silks as SO FAR SOKOOL (Race 3) lines up for the Group 3 Scarborough Stakes. She didn’t really get the chance to show us what she was all about on her Australian debut last month, as she was suffering from a minor throat condition. She’s well worth her place in this field, however, by dint of her achievements in New Zealand, and we’re really hoping that a 100% So Far Sokool is able to prove herself a player in the higher-end sprint races this season.
Naturally enough the spotlight will fall on Houtzen, who has already shown she can take high rank in the sprint division, and she should prove a great gauge as to where precisely we should be looking to head from here with So Far Sokool.
With Spanner Head delivered right on cue to make a winning start to a campaign which promises so much, Jordan Childs will again be partnering one of our potentially highly talented fillies at Bendigo tomorrow. The track is known as the 'Nursery of Champions', and in line with such a grand tagline Temple of Bel finds herself in an interesting maiden featuring a couple of highly promising types.
Wheal Leisure's half-sister TEMPLE OF BEL (Race 3) is certainly one of those given the way she shaped at Sale three weeks ago on what was her first outing for the yard, and only second all told. That came over 1200m, and she looked better than the bare facts of the result in finishing two lengths sixth to Our Crown Mistress, ridden with an eye to the future, and just getting going come the finish to underline that the 1400m trip she encounters now will suit all the more.
That Sale maiden was unquestionably a strong race of its type (runner-up Uptown Gal ran a mighty race when occupying the same position behind Leather ‘n’ Lace at Caulfield on Saturday), and Temple of Bel reopposes third-placed Hapuka now. On what was her debut, the Busuttin & Young filly really caught the eye with a late flourish that saw her make up a tremendous amount of ground to finish placed. The style of that initial effort certainly suggests she too will appreciate going up in trip.
Temple of Bel has just three-quarters of a lengths to find with Hapuka, so the pair of them are likely to be pretty evenly matched again now, and they certainly seem the pair to concentrate on in the race. Either way, both are unquestionably bright prospects who are sure to be getting off the mark much sooner than later.
There’s a tremendous City programme in prospect at Flemington on Wednesday, one which sees Von Classic Hero lining up before the familiar and unique face of Spanner Head returns to the fray.
First up is VON CLASSIC HERO (Race 1) in the BM78 handicap over 1630m that gets proceedings under way. He’s run to a similar level on all three starts since reappearing, most recently when mid-field in the race won by Groovin’ at Bendigo, and he gets the weight drop tomorrow courtesy of a rise into a BM78. His recent races have come under more testing conditions, and with a superior record on good ground, it’s possible the better surface forecast tomorrow will prompt a bit more from him. Jordan Childs gets the leg up, and the pair are drawn seven of 11.
Whilst the race isn’t exactly strong by BM78 standards, Violate comes into it on the back of two fine efforts behind the upwardly-mobile pair Theanswermyfriend and Mr Sneaky at Caulfield and here at Flemington on his last two outings, the latter effort particularly worthy of credit given he got no cover during the run. The mile trip is well within his compass, and the conditions of the race look to suit him down to the ground.
If Von Classic Hero rates a place option, Violate is very much the win bet in the race.
Later on the card, SPANNER HEAD (Race 5) makes her return to the track after the best part of five months off. The daughter of Helmet was a big improver during the course of last season, progressing from winning her maiden, a Sandown handicap and then well clear of the remainder when finding only Chris Waller's top-class Egg Tart too strong in a valuable race at Flemington in April. The nature of that progression and the strength of the form suggest she should remain one to be firmly interested in for a while to come, starting in the BM64 she contests tomorrow.
In a race in which it will likely pay to concentrate on the four-year-olds, Spanner Head and Tahi look to stand out in the field. The 1400m trip may ultimately prove to be on the sharp side for Spanner Head, but she has conditions to suit otherwise, whilst the unexposed Tahi comes into this from the opposite angle, needing to prove his stamina. His fine second to Hay Bale in a valuable 3-y-o handicap when last seen in July marks him out as being ahead of the handicapper, and he is bred to stay.
Either way, it’s fingers firmly crossed that Spanner Head can get her campaign off to a positive start under Jordan Childs and make the first three at the very least.
With conditions conspiring against Thanos at Coleraine’s truncated meeting on Sunday, he instead heads off to Ararat alongside Streets of Dubai with the pair set to line-up in the opposing divisions of the BM58 1600m handicap on ground currently rated as Soft 5.
Whilst the positives mentioned in conjunction with the chance THANOS (Race 7) held at Coleraine still apply in most part, notably the fact that first-time blinkers promise to spark a display to underline that he’s a well-handicapped horse, it’s also true that tomorrow’s race sees him in a rather more competitive affair and also kept to 1600m. Opportunities to race at 1800m can be thin on the ground, and he needs to run, so hopefully he’ll go with sufficient zest to reaffirm his effectiveness at the trip under Declan Bates and the track won't be subjected to any further rain.
Reigning In Paris arrives here in tip-top form on the back of last week’s Pakenham success, with Teodore Nugent alleviating 4kg of her 62.5kg burden. This is only his second ride, and it’s perfectly understandable that he looked something of a passenger in the saddle aboard Sacambaya at Casterton last week. His claim could easily become valuable with experience, but for the time being he’s probably a rider to watch.
The maiden winners Race Into Town and Etah James have only had four and two starts respectively, so remain with the capacity to improve. They’ll need to, however, as the balance of their maiden form suggests they haven’t been let into handicaps lightly. Race Into Town looks to have plenty of size about him and looked well suited by the demands of a highweight race when winning at Casterton, whilst Etah James’ win came over 2000m at Mildura since when she’s been given a four-month break.
Goonzales has only had a couple of tries in handicaps, and on the first of those he finished a long way adrift of Thanos at Donald. That obviously wasn’t his running at all, however, as he has since performed with a great of credit at Pakenham. The issue with him is that he is increasingly looking a synthetic specialist, and the soft ground could well be a problem again now.
The bigger threats look set to arrive in the form of Ella and Interchange Emily. The former is also fitted with first-time blinkers and gets a 4kg claim in the form of Thomas Stockdale. She’s just been bubbling under in recent runs, but conditions will be fine for her and she figures on a more than workable mark. Interchange Emily, on the other hand, signaled that her time is near when giving game pursuit to Beach Life at Geelong last week. She remains unexposed at the mile trip and is perfectly at home on this type of ground.
Half an hour later STREETS OF DUBAI (Race 8) is due to take in the second division of the same BM58 1600m handicap. He’s a horse who hasn’t really fulfilled his potential, and didn’t get a chance to on his first start for us since switching from Lindsay Park, suffering from a respiratory tract issue when mid-field at Kilmore earlier in the month. Whilst that shouldn’t hold him back now, he’s not exactly one for hard-and-fast confidence all the same, yet to really make an impact in handicaps since breaking his maiden, but the suspicion remains that he has residual potential to work with. Dean Yendall partnered him to his maiden success and comes in for the ride. The pair have a wide draw in 14 to overcome, and Streets of Dubai has still to prove himself fully effective on soft ground.
It would hardly be the biggest of surprises were Streets of Dubai to show the ability is there and flourish, but at the same time backing him to do so represents something of a risky proposition. It’s fair to say that, of the two, Thanos is the more likely to play a big role in the finish tomorrow.
Lightly-raced class dropper Sassoon dominates the betting, and it’s easy to see the upsides in his claims even if there doesn’t appear to be anything in the way of value about him at current odds. Further down the handicap and from inside gates Unicaja and I Can Stay All Day appeal a good deal more at far more workable prices, the former sure to be finishing off strongly, the latter well positioned to go forward.
It’s Coleraine Cup day on Sunday, and whilst the yard isn’t represented in that event, Thanos looks to have an excellent chance of landing the following race on the card.
Thanos is contesting a BM58 1800m handicap in which it’s fairly easy to whittle down the field to a small handful of potential winners, and he is certainly one of their number with plenty going for him. His previous two starts since returning from a break have come at around a mile, and on both occasions he’s performed respectably whilst shaping as if certain to be suited by the return to a longer trip. If a lack of requisite speed has compromised him in face of sharper tests of late, he has also looked to be keeping a little back for himself, tending to race a shade lazily, and with that in mind he’s being fitted with blinkers in a bid to ensure he keeps his mind firmly on the job at hand.
From a handicapping point of view, Thanos is one of three with a stand-out chance, though the other pair have a few more questions to answer than does he. At the top of the weights, Brigadier is taking a drop in grade having been competing in City meetings at Doomben when last seen. He’s coming back from a short break now and doesn’t boast the best of records fresh. Baja Moon is certainly well handicapped at present, and for all she’s also returning from a six-week break that’s not the concern for her so much as the trip – she seems most effective over further.
Amongst the remainder Red Sensation is a relatively short price, though perhaps overbet mindful of a somewhat unlucky-in-running display at Casterton last time that probably looked worse than it really was. A case can be made for Quedoutes on older form, but more recent efforts have been pretty lacklustre.
Declan Bates has a wide-ish draw to contend with, but his rivals to the inside tend to be ridden patiently, so the hope is that he’ll be able to tuck in no worse than mid-field. Thanos is currently priced up at around $4, and that looks an attractive bet.
Who is the best ever James Bond? It’s a question that gets bandied around with surprising regularity given there’s only one objectively correct answer. David Niven was too English, George Lazenby too Australian, Timothy Dalton was too rubbish, Pierce Brosnan too bland, Daniel Craig too blonde. Now, I’ll forgive anyone a fond reminiscence for the late, great Sir Roger Moore, but even he pales in comparison with Bond himself – Sean Connery.
Big shoes to fill, then, for ATB’s very own equine namesake, whose first mission – and he will accept it – comes at Cranbourne on Wednesday.
If his name is a fun starting off point, then CONNERY’s pedigree is a more tangible asset. He’s a three-year-old son of the exciting Pierro out of a useful performer Sean Baile Mor. She stayed well enough to finish placed in a Ballarat Cup, though equally she was by no means short on speed, and Pierro obviously brings plenty of that to the table himself.
Tomorrow’s debut comes in the opening race on Cranbourne’s programme, a three-year-old maiden over 1000m which looks winnable given those with experience haven’t done anything out of the ordinary thus far. Vibrato just about looks the pick, and he already appears crying out for further.
Jordan Childs is the man with the golden, umm, whip(?), and they have a handy draw in five. What Connery has shown us at home has certainly been encouraging and it would be disappointing were he unable to get in the shake-up (not stir-up), and fight out the finish. Take my word on that, for my word is my Bond.
As the 2017/18 season begins to hit full swing, the major races – and major intensity – of the Spring Carnival loom firmly on the horizon. For Alexander Racing, that shift of gear was reflected in the reappearances of Wheal Leisure and Lord Fandango on a cracking card at Bendigo on Thursday.
Competing at the highest level is always the ambition, but in racing to be able to do so requires a great deal of fortune, as Group One performers are not everyday commodities. We were lucky enough to get to such races courtesy of WHEAL LEISURE last season in what was a demanding introduction to racing for her. Whilst the highest grade proved just beyond her at such an early stage, she did nothing but underline her ability and she remains one to be most excited about as she embarks on what is after all only her second prep. Well, she could barely have made a better return to the fray. The 1600m trip of the BM78 race she took in is a bare minimum, so it was hugely encouraging to see her surge to the front inside the final furlong for Ben Allen, then prove strongest through the line in getting her campaign off to a winning start. She retains her tendency to prove keen during races, though with the freshness out of her hopefully this should prove no encumbrance to the bigger and better (and longer) races she can be expected to be contesting this term.
If the mile trip is a bare minimum for Wheal Leisure, then it’s the barest of bare minimums for LORD FANDANGO, something which made his own comeback, just three-quarters of a length back in second equally, if not even more, promising than Wheal Leisure’s. He was conceding his stablemate 3.5kg and emerges as the best horse at the weights on what was his first outing since May. More to the point, he’s a thorough stayer, making whatever he managed today, as the old cliché goes, a bonus. That he excelled himself with a run to match anything he’s achieved previously – including in Europe – opens up all kinds of options for his season, as when his stamina is brought into play he can be expected to leave even this level of form well behind. The soft 5 going was clearly okay for him on this occasion, but it’s probably the case he wouldn’t want conditions any more testing than that.
Unfortunately RUN CHARLIE RUN wasn’t able to put further gloss on the day on what was her own comeback, though it’s perhaps best to put a line through her effort as it in no way reflects her ability. She’s had problems in the past, but is a useful sprinter on her day and we’ll hopefully be able to coax that kind of form out of her once we get to the bottom of what was holding her back on this occasion.
With spirits buoyed by Wheal Leisure and Lord Fandango’s exploits at Bendigo, Swan Hill is the venue for a couple of runners attempting to build on that momentum on Friday.
First up is BYE BYE LOVE (Race 4) who contests an ordinary-looking maiden over a mile on a surface which currently rates as a Good 4. Just like the Matthew Modine vehicle with which she shares her name, the daughter of Domesday has her limitations, that much has been confirmed in four starts to date, and she’s in the right kind of race with that in mind. She achieved a bit more with her stamina drawn out at Geelong a month ago, beaten just four lengths, and she’ll hopefully be capable of taking another step in the right direction tomorrow, acknowledging her wide draw isn’t ideal. Recently back from injury, Tahlia Hope takes a handy 2kg off her back.
Holding a more clear-cut chance is last-time winner THE HOUSEMAID (Race 6) in the 2100m BM58 handicap. She underlined that stamina is her strong suit by grinding out the win over 2000m at Warracknabeal on what was her first outing for ten weeks earlier this month. There are no two ways about it, that was a weak race she was entitled to win, and she figures in something a bit more competitive now. That said, the complexion of the race promises to suit. With the likes of Fiona Crystal, Our Boy Charlie, and Welcome Stryker all likely to press on, things could be set up for The Housemaid to be able to strike late. Declan Bates partnered her to success last time and will hopefully be able to pounce at the right time to follow up.
A select squad of three head out on the road to Bendigo tomorrow on a day that sees some of the stable’s more highly rated prospects make their return to action.
A couple of those are actually contesting the same race – the mile URMG Security BM78 Handicap (Race 4) – and together with a trio of Darren Weir-trained runners, Ballarat accounts for five of the six who go to post. WHEAL LEISURE was something of a flagbearer last term, and it was because we rate her so highly that she was tested in line with that faith in her ability. Whilst she struggled to make much impact in Group Ones on her final two outings, she had excuses and hardly looked out of place, and there remains the prospect of further improvement to come during the course of her four-year-old career. Whilst it’s almost certainly the case that she’ll ideally want a longer trip than tomorrow’s mile to be seen to best effect, she’s by no means short on speed and will hopefully be finishing off strongly come the finish under Ben Allen.
LORD FANDANGO is a confirmed stayer, and he may find this an insufficient stamina test coming back from a break of four months. The European import took little time to adjust to Aussie life by winning at Ballarat second up last prep, though that came over 2000m and it’s back at that trip and beyond that he’ll again come into his own this time around. That said, he’s found himself in a small-field affair for this reappearance and if nothing else can at least pick up a healthy chunk of prizemoney.
Weir’s trio all have race fitness on their side and are headed by the fast-progressive mare Bonus d’Oro. She’s taken off recently and can’t be discounted from bringing up the four-timer. For Black Sheep this represents something of a drop in grade, whilst Kevin’s Time is a consistent sort who will be suited by conditions. Put simply, it’s a strong line-up to take on! Making up the sextet is the veteran Play Master, who beat Kevin’s Time over course and distance two back, but is weighted to come off second best with that one now.
Our third runner of the day is making not just her seasonal but also her stable debut in the 1100m BM70 (Race 7). Six-year-old RUN CHARLIE RUN was formerly trained by Wez Hunter for whom she won three of her eleven starts. She’s an out-and-out sprinter. Her latest success came at Moe this time last year when she was resuming from a break of seven months, underlining the fact that she’s perfectly adept at giving her running fresh. Tomorrow’s race doesn’t look all that deep for the grade, with tail-flasher I’m Telling Ya currently heading the market, though hardly one to be going overboard about. With a reasonable draw in six, Run Charlie Run can hopefully make her presence felt under Jordan Childs and get off to a winning start for the yard.
Friends reunite at Pakenham tomorrow as, having made the cut from first emergency, Casino Blitz renews acquaintances with a few familiar faces in the mile BM64 handicap at 4:30pm.
CASINO BLITZ has been threatening a breakthrough of late, most notably when putting up his best run yet since joining the yard to finish under a length fourth to More Spark over the same course and distance as tomorrow’s race on August 31st. In a close finish he was just behind Petracca and Penny To Sell on that occasion and reopposes the pair with precious little between the trio of them. That was Casino Blitz’s first encounter with a synthetic surface and he took to it well, whilst he was also obliged to race wide without much cover, so a more advantageous run could easily see him turn the tables on those two rivals, with a tweak of headgear (visor on for blinkers) perhaps able to provoke that bit more. He’s reasonably drawn for Jordan Childs in barrier seven. Petracca himself is consistent, but he’s looked a little tricky on his last couple of starts, and doesn’t look one to take a short price about.
Regardless, with so little to choose between that three it’s somewhat surprising to see the discrepancy in their respective prices as things stand, with Petracca at $4.20, Penny To Sell $6.50, and Casino Blitz a generous looking $13.
There are, however, dangers elsewhere in what is a competitive and tight handicap. Duke of Nottingham certainly heads that list from an optimum draw for Michelle Payne after he gave the impression a return to this trip would be right up his street at Sandown last Sunday. Another who warrants respect is Dash For Dee on the back of an encouragingly strong finish over 1500m at Cranbourne on his recent return from a break. That said, he does have to prove he’s just as effective on polytrack, with his three efforts on the surface to date having been somewhat lacklustre.
Just the one runner at Sale today, but an exciting and intriguing one, as Wheal Leisure’s year-younger half-sister makes her debut for the stable under Jordan Childs in the opening maiden over 1200m.
Trained by Henry Dwyer for her sole previous racecourse outing, TEMPLE OF BEL performed with no little promise when third to subsequent City winner Wanted Diva at Cranbourne back in May (with future stable-companion Zuers a couple of places back in fifth). As her pedigree intimates there should be improvement to come as her stamina is drawn out in due course, though being by Bel Esprit she looks to have a little more influence for speed than Wheal Leisure.
We’ve been very happy indeed with Temple of Bel since she joined the yard, though today’s return to action will certainly ask serious questions of her, coming as it does in a competitive race of its type. Chateau Griffo boasts lofty handicap form and will be bidding to put her unfortunate Pakenham reverse last time behind her. Elsewhere, Our Crown Mistress and, more so, Prepare To Win have shaped like sure-fire future winners in recent outings, whilst the well-bred newcomer Hapuka has not been missed in the early betting. Regardless, we rate Temple of Bel highly and will certainly be looking for a positive display with which to get her three-year-old career up and running.
With a contingent of three heading to Kilmore and border-hopper Survived hitting up Morphettville it promises to be a busy and exciting Saturday.
SURVIVED heads to South Australia for a whole less competitive and classy affair than when coming back from an absence at Flemington five weeks ago, even allowing for the fact this is a BM82 and that was a BM78. He ended up being far from disgraced when mid-field behind Yogi and Chequered Flag on that occasion. Survived’s MO is well established and well worn by now – he’ll serve it up to them from the front – and, as ever, anything that gets by him will know it’s been in a race. Kellstorm will be favourite to do that after a brace of successes at the track and, on the evidence of those, he’ll take some repelling.
Over at Kilmore, the first of our trio to appear is making his debut for the yard. The ATB-owned STREETS OF DUBAI won one of nine in his time with the Lindsay Park operation without looking to fulfil his potential, on occasions threatening more than he was able to deliver. He ended his time in that yard on a bum note, however, when tailed off at Wangaratta in June. It’s to be hoped the pause and change of circumstances will have rejuvenated the four-year-old son of Street Cry whose previous success came over 1600m on good ground. He’s hardly in deep here, figuring in a race where recent, sound form is thin on the ground, and in first-time winkers the hope has to be that fresh is the time to catch him.
In the following BM64 handicap over 1900m BUENA VELOZ faces the longest trip he’s tackled to date having kept on well when two lengths fifth to Torreggiante over 1800m at Sandown Hillside late last month. That was a good effort, one which entitles him to lots of respect in a race which looks to lack the same strength in depth. He sports a visor for the first time and, at the top of his game, seems sure to go close with Haukland Beach liable to prove his chief threat on the back of a couple of runs which suggest he’s yet to hit his own peak.
Our final runner on the card is another with very good claims given that THANOS returned from a break with a good third at Donald a fortnight ago. He was strong to the line on that occasion having come off the bridle earlier than most, so in time it may be that he’ll be worth trying over further, but we’re keeping him to a mile for the time being. He’s well drawn in four and is sure to be in the thick of things come the end. Back To The Bowler ran the progressive Pablo’s Express to half a length a couple of starts ago, a replication of which would make him very difficult to beat, though he has since blotted his copybook when checking out tamely at Seymour last time.
Declan Bates takes the ride on each of our three runners at Kilmore, and the suspicion is that his best chance of saluting will come on Buena Veloz, whilst in Adelaide Damien Thornton and Survived look a sound bet to make the first three.
The Scobie Breasley Medal Awards saw the celebration of the great and good of Victorian Racing at Peninsula Docklands in Melbourne on Sunday evening, and there was certainly plenty to cheer for all at Alexander Racing.
Amongst a number of accolades presented was the Colin Alderson Rising Star award, for which Victorian trainers aged 40 or under are eligible, and it was a huge thrill for everyone involved with Alexander Racing when Archie was announced as this year’s recipient. It’s tremendous recognition for a successful year, one built on the hard work and commitment of an amazing team, whilst the inscription of the words ‘Rising Star’ on the award itself underline that the focus within the yard remains fully on progress, winners, and hitting ever greater heights.
Massive congratulations are also due to the other winners on the night, both human and equine. Craig Williams picked up his fifth Scobie Breasley medal, whilst Johnny Allen was confirmed as Australia's outstanding jumps jockey by winning the Tommy Corrigan medal for the second year in succession.
Winx was named Victorian horse of the year for her Caulfield Stakes and Cox Plate successes, though her trainer Chris Waller narrowly missed out to the Lindsay Park team in the running for the Fred Hoysted award for outstanding training performance – their Group One double courtesy of Catchy and Sheidel at Caulfield in February garnering the most votes.
Warracknabeal's greatest claim to fame may well be that it has Nick Cave as its most famous son. Our two runners there tomorrow are much more good apples than Bad Seeds, though.
After a ten-week break THE HOUSEMAID (Race 6) returns to action in a 2000m handicap which is notably moderate even by 0-58 standards, one lacking both strength and depth. The Housemaid showed that she’s feasibly treated by running yesterday’s Bendigo winner Verreaux close at Hamilton in June. She flopped at Echuca next time, though that was in a BM64, and she reappears in a considerably lesser contest now. The going at Warracknabeal is forecast to be good, and that represents something of an unknown given that The Housemaid has raced almost exclusively under testing conditions. If she has no issues on that score she looks easily one of the likelier winners under Declan Bates.
An hour later LA DALLIANCE (Race 8) contests another 0-58 handicap, this time over 1200m, though hers is a considerably more competitive race than The Housemaid’s. Indeed, with lightly-raced New Zealand import Rene as third emergency, the race could yet turn stronger still. La Dalliance patently failed to stay a mile at Pakenham last time, and she should be much more at home back down in trip. Her effectiveness away from soft ground/synthetics is proven, though stall eight could be a shade tricky for one who likes to race up with the pace as there’s a fair amount of speed inside her.
The feature event adorning Bendigo’s Friday card is the BM70 handicap over a mile, and it’s here that VON CLASSIC HERO (Race 9) will be bidding to return to winning ways under Jordan Childs.
Von Classic Hero was an improver early this year when winning back to back races under Jordan, including over this course and distance on the first occasion. He’s returned to action with a couple of good runs, most recently going down by the narrowest of margins to All Day Every Day in a BM64 back at that track. He was obliged to make his effort away from the other two to fight out the finish there, worthy of extra credit for that reason, and again encounters conditions which suit ideally. He looks assured of giving his running and being firmly in the mix once more.
At the top of the handicap Galaxy Raider looks to have been well placed, bringing as he does hardened City form to the table for this drop in class. He’s equally effective over this trip as the 2000m he’s contested the last twice, and on paper has a fair amount in hand of those to whom he’s conceding weight. So whether or not Von Classic Hero is up to getting the better of that rival remains to be seen, but in his own right he looks a rock solid each-way candidate regardless.
CASINO BLITZ (Race 8) failed to make the field at Donald on Saturday, but he’s confirmed in the line-up for the BM64 handicap over a mile on the polytrack at Pakenham on Thursday afternoon. Jye McNeil, fresh from sporting the same colours to success aboard Spunlago at Moonee Valley on Saturday, takes the ride.
The feeling persists we’ve yet to see the best of Casino Blitz in three outings since joining the yard, finishing just over a length and a half third to Cheners at Warracknabeal most recently. That was his first try over a mile for us, and he’s worth another chance at the trip, with the hope being that the refitting of a tongue strap will elicit a little bit extra from him. He has yet to try an artificial surface, so it remains to be seen how he adapts on that score, whilst it’s worth noting this BM64 event represents a rise in class. If things go his way from gate six, hopefully he’ll be up to making the first three.
Elsewhere Petracca is understandably popular in the betting as both runs this prep have been laced with promise, notably so when looking to be crying out for the step back up to a mile over 1400m here last time. He’s sure to take plenty of beating, whilst the in-form Inner Strength and the well-treated Penny To Sell are a couple of others worthy of respect.
Showcasing was a high-class sprinter as a juvenile, and whilst he couldn’t cope with Starspangledbanner at three, he’s been doing a good job at stud since then. Red-hot trainer Karl Burke is a fan, anyway, as he’s handled two of Showcasing’s three best offspring to date, dual Group-1 winning filly Quiet Reflection and the Group 2 winner Toocoolforschool. Well, OTI Racing’s own daughter of Showcasing is cooler still as she doesn’t even need to spell correctly, and SO FAR SOKOOL is an exciting addition to the yard who starts out at Sandown tomorrow and bids to be the latest to showcase, err, Showcasing’s standing.
SO FAR SOKOOL (Race 1) certainly made a good impression in her native New Zealand at two, peaking in the third of three starts with her narrow second in the Great Northern Foal Stakes at Ellerslie. Obviously it’s difficult enough to align the merits of form across the Tasman Sea, but the level she was competing at would certainly appear to stack up well. There’s not much to her size-wise and in time she may want a little further, but tomorrow’s race certainly looks a most viable stepping-off point. Well drawn, she doesn’t appear to face anything too daunting in the way of opposition, and Ben Thompson takes off a handy 1.5kg. So far so good? No. So Far Sokool.
Jordan Childs takes the ride on BUENA VELOZ (Race 3) in the BM64 handicap over 1800m, and having looked at the race in detail now it’s difficult to see why he’s available to back at as big a price as $16. After winning for us at Echuca, he had no chance against the grain of the race when behind White Devon over a mile here last month. The form of that race has been boosted since, and Buena Veloz looks well worth a try over this extra furlong. With the likes of Rexmont and Internship, amongst others like the reappearing White Devon, in the field tomorrow, there appears to be more pace to run at this time, and more time to do it from a handy mid-field barrier which should allow Jordan options. A bold showing certainly looks on the cards.
For all there was a bit more to take from his most recent effort, it’s still too early to say the same about NORDIC FLIGHT (Race 7) with any degree of certainty. We know he retains a reasonable portion of his former ability by now, but he hasn’t really adapted to the style of Australian racing, costing himself that way, and his falling mark won’t count for much unless he learns how to settle better and apply himself more efficiently. Until then: So Far Sounkool.
It may have been a rather fitful start to the new campaign thus far, but Saturday provides the best chance yet to kick on and make it more of a fruitful one. With three hopes at Donald to go with SPUNLAGO at The Valley, we’ll be looking for just a smidgen more luck than has been coming our way of late.
There are a clutch of in-form horses contesting the BM78 handicap over a mile SPUNLAGO (Race 4) finds himself in at Moonee Valley, and he himself is firmly amongst their number, with two really sound efforts to his name since scoring at Bendigo in June. He reopposes the pair who finished so narrowly ahead of him at Flemington last time, namely Jaminzah and Rebellious Lord (should he make the final cut). Jaminzah has won again since, amplifying both his own form and that of the race itself, and Spunlago now finds himself 6kg better off with Chris Waller’s gelding for just a neck beating, so it would be disappointing to say the least were he not capable of turning the tables there. Rebellious Lord, meanwhile, has a more disadvantageous barrier to overcome this time. Elsewhere, Sin To Win is the more obvious danger for Lindsay Park. He was coming back from the best part of six months off on that same card at Flemington when a good third to Nozomi, all the while giving the impression this step back up to a mile will be firmly in his favour. He rates the likeliest winner, but it’s very difficult to envisage Spunlago failing to make the first three under Jye McNeil.
Meanwhile, up at Donald, BRUNILLA (Race 1) competes in the opening maiden. She’s offered signs of encouragement in a couple of outings to date without doing enough to suggest she’ll be up to winning imminently. She was still in need of the experience at Warracknabeal five months on from her debut on the latter occasion, and was ultimately ridden with her future in mind. The step up in trip will be in her favour here, so hopefully she’ll keep on learning and heading in the right direction.
Later in the afternoon both THANOS and CASINO BLITZ (Race 9) are engaged in a 0-58 handicap that is longer on numbers than it is strength in depth. A couple of outings in June failed to see Thanos do himself justice, and he’s been given a nine-week break since then. He’s able to contest lesser races such as this now, which can only enhance his ability to make an impact, and he’s unexposed relative to the majority of these.
CASINO BLITZ, who will hopefully make the final line-up as first emergency, has a few more positives to his name at present. He’s been bubbling under recently, serving notice that his time may well be just around the corner when upped to this trip at Warracknabeal three weeks ago. The two maiden winners who are slightly shorter than him in the betting at present, Danny Wizz Bang and Goonzales, are both exposed as modest and enter handicap company from no more than average looking handicap marks. Should Casino Blitz get a seamless run through from his inner gate, it would be disappointing should he not prove capable of accounting for them.
Winx. Winx. Winx. There’s no disguising the fact media attention will be firmly pointed the way of the great mare on her comeback at Randwick today. And all the very best to an iconic totem of the sport who does the image of racing the power of good. At the very least it means we can sneak under the radar with our similarly and singularly intriguing runner at Seymour.
Three runs in England tell IL MANNARO’s career to date. Known simply as Mannaro and trained by Marco Botti back then, his debut speaks sparkling of him as he defeated subsequent Group 1 winner Second Step in a mile maiden at Yarmouth in late 2013. Things didn’t progress along similar lines for Mannaro in a couple of subsequent handicaps the following year, however, well stuffed on the first occasion, though in fairness he was only beaten eight lengths or so by another high-end performer and Aussie import in Arab Dawn on the latter.
That was more than three years ago, so what to expect is hard to say with any certainty. The fact he’s as unexposed as he is does, however, count as a big plus in a race with so many known knowns, and there’s no question he’s entering Australian racing on a very lenient mark given that shimmering promise he showed all too briefly in Europe.
Our sole representative at Sandown Lakeside this afternoon is the Jordan Childs-partnered TINTAGLIA (Race 5), and there’s a good argument to be made that she finds herself confronted with a winnable opening.
Whilst Tintaglia hasn’t managed to get her head in front since April of last year, she’s run several races in the interim to suggest it’s just a matter of time before she regains the winning thread. Her last two efforts for us have been good, notably so when a close third over this trip at Swan Hill in June (pictured, left). She was returning from a 6-week break when just over a length fifth to Battle Zone at Geelong a week ago and is back against her own sex now. The return to the 2100m trip, combined with having that outing under her belt, will hopefully see her primed to reach her peak now.
Elsewhere in the race, Maraudamiss and Street Spun hold similar claims on the face of it and, respectable though they are, neither sets an insurmountable standard. Blazers was having her first go in a handicap when a close second here last time and may be open to some residual progress, though Red Velvet Swing is in considerably deeper now than when a ready winner at Geelong last Friday and she looks short enough at current odds.
The couple who took their chance at Pakenham on Tuesday failed to come up to expectations, so it’s with fingers crossed that better is forthcoming from the pair who represent the stable at Geelong on Wednesday.
Okay, it may be stretching hope a bit too far to envisage BYE BYE LOVE (Race 4) playing a big role in the finish of the maiden she contests in the fourth race on the card, given she has finished well beaten in a couple of outings since a debut effort at this track which contained rather more promise. The hope is that she is at least able to get back onto a positive footing now taking a marked step up in trip.
Expectations of a big showing are certainly considerably stronger when it comes to TINTAGLIA (Race 7) later in the afternoon. The pick of her four runs since joining the yard clearly came at this sort of trip at Swan Hill in June on her penultimate outing. It’s best to strike a line through her subsequent display at Morphettville as she spoilt her chance by doing too much up at 2600m on that occasion, and she’s back down in grade now. A wide gate may not be ideal, though it’s worth stressing that the race doesn’t look anything like as competitive as the numbers may suggest, a number of those lower down the weights inconvenienced by the conditions of the event, and the hope is that she’ll be able to adopt a decent pitch and get back to the pick of her form.
We have a couple of mares competing on the synthetic surface at Pakenham on Tuesday, both partnered by Jordan Childs, and both seemingly with live chances. Let’s take a closer look at the pair of them.
SIRIUS WITNESS (Race 1) has had eleven bites of the cherry without success (obviously, in this scenario, we’re dealing with a very large cherry), but that’s not for want of trying, and she’s gone close on a number of occasions, finishing runner-up no fewer than four times. She’s proven over this course and distance, with just about the pick of her efforts coming here in June, and is assured of giving her running and being right in the thick of the action come the end. She faces some similar rivals, with current favourite Kothu Rotti another four-time runner-up. Danger In Devon has had eleven tries himself, but he improved a notch when second on Geelong’s artificial surface last time and it may be that he’s the bigger danger to Sirius Witness.
In the penultimate race on the card LA DALLIANCE (Race 7) contests a mile BM58 handicap for which she is vying for favouritism at the time of writing. Rather like Sirius Witness she took several goes before belatedly breaking her duck at this course in May, but she’s soon shown herself to be competitive in handicaps twice since. She looks well worth this try over the longer trip, whilst she has winkers replacing the blinkers just to make sure she doesn’t get too set in her ways. Whilst there are potential winners amongst her rivals - with Electrolyte heading the list - on the face of it this race isn’t quite as strong as the one in which La Dalliance was a close fourth at Geelong last month, so it looks a very reasonable opportunity for her to record her second career success.
After hitting the crossbar with Von Classic Hero at Sandown on Sunday, we have just the one runner at Swan Hill on Monday, for who the switch from City to Country racing represents a drop in grade.
NORDIC FLIGHT (race 8) has yet to refind the form of which he was capable in Europe since coming to these shores and, in truth, is becoming rather frustrating. There were signs of hope on his debut for us at Flemington in June, but he has not built on that in a couple of starts since. He overraced and duly failed to see things out when fitted with blinkers at Morphettville last time, so has a less severe form of headgear now with winkers tried instead. His mark is coming down in chunks, down to a mark of 80 now, and Lachlan King takes another 2kg off his back. Obviously it’s a case of fingers crossed we see more from him in this lower class, though it’s worth noting that, amongst others, he faces the fast-progressive Ubin Thunderstruck at the foot of the handicap.
All eyes may be on Lankan Rupee at Sandown Lakeside tomorrow, but an hour after he reappears in the Bletchingly, Von Classic Hero will be bidding to return to peak form himself as top weight in a BM64 handicap. However, he’s possibly one more for place than win backers.
VON CLASSIC HERO really hit his peak around the turn of the year when recording back-to-back wins at Geelong and Bendigo, the latter success coming in a BM70 event. A combination of an awkward gate and being in need of the run saw him finish seventh of 11 at this track on last month’s return to action. There are sound reasons for imagining he’s capable of making much more of an impression from this sort of mark with that effort behind him. Down in grade now, Ethan Brown takes a valuable 3kg off his back and, drawn mid-pack, he should be able to adopt a pitch hunting up the leaders. The step back up to a mile should also be in his favour. His overall profile remains a progressive one, so even if it's not today he gets back to winning ways, he will remain one tobe interested in.
Elsewhere, the market is somewhat dominated by maiden winner Pablo’s Express, and it’s not difficult to see why. Quite how it took him six tries to break his duck is difficult to understand given he looked different class when scoring on the synthetic track at Pakenham last month, a horse with a bright future on that evidence, and he’s liable to prove a very difficult nut to crack if transferring that impression to turf.
We were out of luck at Warracknabeal on Friday, but it's no time to be ruefully reflecting, onwards and upwards to Flemington instead, where we have some real live chances.
It’s a lengthy wait until the sixth race on the card where we have a couple of runners taking in the $120,000 BM 78 handicap that only goes further to highlight the excellent prizemoney levels on offer here in Australia relative to other racing jurisdictions around the world. First up, and heading the weights is SURVIVED, who returns from a 3-month break since being all toughness and resolution in retaining the Mount Gambier Cup. He’ll give it his all, no question, and Jack Martin takes 3kg off his impost, but he’s still required to give weight to some in-form and upwardly-mobile rivals. Any rain certainly wouldn’t harm his chance.
AZURITE was well suited by the return to this sort of trip when scoring at Hillside five weeks ago in a race that looks to make for strong form. After taking into account Jordan Childs’ claim at the time he was giving Chequered Flag 1kg on that occasion. The latter had no excuse there but has bolstered his effort by winning again since. The weight disparity this time is 1.5kg, which shouldn’t – repeat shouldn’t – be sufficient to make up for the length and a half margin between them, making the fact Chequered Flag is currently a third of Azurite’s odds an anomaly. Put simply, Azurite looks great value win and place at present.
Next up is a BM70 event which sees the in-form SPUNLAGO take in a race which promises to suit his hold-up style. His last two runs have shown him to be better than ever right now, and there looks to be sufficient pace in this race to play to his strengths, with the return to a mile looking to enable him to have more time to unleash his late surge. The unexposed Rebellious Lord could yet prove capable of a lot better than his mark but, beyond that, there doesn’t appear to be too much to fear in the line-up.
For the money on offer the $100,000 mile handicap SHOW A STAR finds himself in a race which looks to lack strength in depth, the majority of those involved just going through the motions at present. The same cannot be said of Show A Star. He performed with credit when runner-up starting out for us at Caulfield last month and looks to hold a great chance of going one better in this line-up. He’s reasonably drawn and has winkers applied this time, so given that he’s an uncomplicated conveyance, it should be a case of being close enough to the pace and finishing off strongly which, given his stamina for further, seems unlikely to be a problem.
Here’s to a successful new season. Our first runners of 2017/18 head to Warracknabeal on Friday in both hope and expectation!
BRUNILLA showed something to work on when seventh of 10 to Earth Angel at Ballarat on her sole appearance as a two-year-old in March. She caught the eye with the way she travelled for a long way there, and finds herself in a decidedly weaker contest now. Brunilla confirmed her current well-being with a very good showing in a Ballarat trial under tomorrow’s jockey Taylor Marshall last week, raising hopes that she’ll take a significant step forward from that debut run. Elsewhere in the race, Columbia was evidently thought of highly enough to contest some much better races than this as a juvenile, but he didn’t cut much ice and it remains to be seen just what he’s capable of. A bigger danger is likely to be Shakarl, as for all he’s had eight tries to date, there’s little question his latest second to Nil Desperandum represented a step forward and it stands out as the single best piece of form on offer.
The first of two runners we have for OTI Racing on the card, STAR D’VEGA has been sent off a big price on both starts so far and has duly failed to achieve much of note. However, she has that in common with the bulk of those contesting the 1800m maiden in what is a notably low-level race of its type. What is surely in Star d’Vega’s favour is that she is taking a marked step up in trip, making this a very much different ball game from those initial two outings, and it should see her in a considerably better light. Those heading up the betting are all more exposed, and whilst Geodesic just about represents the pick of them, the standard he sets is by no means an insurmountable one.
In the following race, and over the same 1800m trip, DEEP SEA LADY finds herself in a competitive looking BM64 handicap. First things first, she’ll need to put a lesser display at Geelong last month firmly behind her. It’s possible the surface was no good to her on that occasion, whilst blinkers are also now applied in an attempt to provoke a more zestful effort. We know the soft ground will suit, and if it helps her bounce back to the form of her second at Kilmore in May she’d be in with a big shout. That said, there are a host of alternatives that can be considered in a tight race, with Jack In The Ditch, Marin County, and Our Boy Charlie all especially worthy of respect.
In the closing mile handicap LA DALLIANCE is assured a run whilst CASINO BLITZ is an emergency who could yet make the line-up. Both would hold strong claims in a race lacking depth. La Dalliance more or less had her limitations exposed in taking twelve tries to break her duck, but since then, notably so when fourth in a BM64 at Geelong last month, she’s managed to eke out some further improvement. She is tackling a lesser contest now, with Ennis surprisingly short in the market given the obvious lack of substance to her form, and Prime Suspect seemingly having just gone off the boil for now. The one concern regarding her claims could be the ground. Her best efforts have come on a synthetic surface, and soft ground back over this longer trip may just be too much for her. The soft conditions and step up to a mile, by contrast, should suit CASINO BLITZ down to the ground. His first start for the yard was a deeply encouraging one and, for all he was unable to justify favouritism next time, he shaped on that occasion as if crying out for this kind of test. He wore blinkers for his previous career success - which also came at this track - and they are now in place again for the first time since joining us. He's certainly been pleasing in his work of late and, with fingers crossed he makes the field, Casino Blitz could well be the one to get Alexander Racing up and running in 2017/18.
The final runner of the 2016/17 season was CALL HER MAGIC (PAKS, 1600m) in the opening maiden at Pakenham on Sunday. She was trying a new trip, upped to a mile for the first time, and things didn’t go her way. An awkward start saw her back in the field where she failed to settle, as a result given her head to go prominent just before halfway but expending too much energy in doing so. She only cried enough inside the final 100m, and is worth another try at this distance, as even allowing for the inhibiting factors the form of this was at least a match for the pick of her previous runs.
The bottom line with NORDIC FLIGHT (MORP, 2500m) is that he’s still to replicate his German form since coming to Australia, and for all that there have been hints and signs of promise along the way, he simply has to prove he retains his ability now. He didn’t do that at Morphettville on Saturday, with first-time blinkers seeing him overrace, doing too much up with the pace and folding tamely on the turn for home. His handicap mark is coming down in chunks now, so things will only get easier if he can refind some sort of form, whilst the other positive point to come from the race is that OTI Racing’s Kellstorm ran out an impressive winner up at the business end of the field.
BYE BYE LOVE (GEEL, 1200) didn’t show much in a jump-out earlier in the month, and we fitted her with blinkers for this third racecourse start. She was never competitive, though, meaning that both runs since a promising debut have been notably less positive. Here’s hoping that she simply needed the run.
MR BOBBI (GEEL, 1200) was also back in blinkers, but for all his good record in headgear previously he failed to progress in quite the expected manner for his recent stable debut. That said, he again gave something to cling on to, lasting a bit longer up front this time after all, no extra left only for the final 100m. The hope is that he's gradually building towards a peak this prep.
Sandown’s final Metropolitan meeting of the season on Hillside saw a contingent of three Alexander-trained runners going to post.
PLUS EFFRONTE (SAND, 1400m) was perhaps the most fancied of these, coming here on the back of her step-forward success at Donald earlier in the month. Naturally enough she was in deeper here, and whilst unable to supplement that success, she performed with great credit in finishing third of 15 to Intrigo. Her run can even be upgraded a little as she was obliged to make her run from further back than the other four to finish in the first five.
Also a last-time winner, BUENA VELOZ (SAND, 1600m) was another with more on his plate, but even so he didn’t quite come up to expectations, performing below the level of his Echuca success. The run of the race was against his hold-up style, however, those who raced to the fore at an advantage, so there remains scope for more to come from Buena Veloz.
Similar comments could be applied to SUPREME HARMONY (SAND, 1800m) in the finale. The winner, Scholarly, made all, and Supreme Harmony wasn’t alone in being unable to make any meaningful impression from off the pace, so it’s probably best to strike a line through his mid-field effort.
The stable was represented by a trio of fillies at Geelong – this time on the synthetic surface – on 18th July. As on debut STAR D’VEGA (GEEL, 1100m) was again sent off at long odds and duly failed to cut much ice in finishing seventh of 10 to Clear Signal. It bears reiterating that her future lies over further.
Contesting a BM64 event, LA DALLIANCE (Geel, 1300m) put up a career best in running a close fourth of 11 to the progressive Antagonist. We know enough by now to be reasonably confident that this level of form represents her limit, but it does at least show that at her best she can prove competitive in this grade.
DEEP SEA LADY (GEEL, 1900m) put in a somewhat lacklustre display in running below form. She was a bit slow to stride and didn’t look comfortable from some way out – it’s possible that she was simply unsuited by this first experience of a synthetic track.
The longer trip had promised to draw a better display from KNITTING (GEEL, 1400m) upped to 1400m on the turf at Geelong the following day, so that she performed to the same level she has on all four starts to date was somewhat disappointing. It will be a low-level maiden at best in which she gets her head in front, but she has achieved enough to suggest doing so is not out of the realms of possibility, and the hunt is now on to find a race weak enough for her to gain that elusive first success.
A quick recap on some of the action from the tail-end of the season involving the stable’s runners.
SHOW A STAR (CAUL, 1700m) came into the yard at late notice ahead of his run at Caulfield on 15th July, but he acquitted himself with credit in going down only to Portion Control in a BM 90 contest, sticking to his task determinedly. The six-year-old is a six-time winner (the last three of those coming under Jordan Childs, incidentally) with more than $250,000 to his name, so he’s a quality addition to our string who will hopefully continue to prove competitive in some of the more valuable City races around 1600m and 2000m in the season ahead.
It was a warm maiden in which A MA SHAY (PAKS, 1200m) made her debut at Pakenham on Friday, certainly too much for her at this stage, but she’ll benefit from the experience gained. A $50,000 two-year-old daughter of Street Cry out of an unraced half-sister to the useful Kitt Ann Miss, A Ma Shay trialled at St Arnaud last week and was able to settle better faced with the tempo of a full race here, even becoming outpaced around halfway. Despite looking set to drop away, she faced the kickback as the penny began to drop from the home turn, doing her best work from thereon in to finish sixth of 11 behind easy winner Bella Martini.
Three weeks on from his fine Bendigo victory SPUNLAGO (SAND, 1400m) was attempting to follow up at Sandown on Wednesday afternoon. In the event he was unable to do so, but he certainly lost no caste in defeat, again finishing strongly from well off the pace, and even stepping up a notch on the form of last time in going down only to a wholly unexposed rival in Sea The Sparkle. At 71 Spunlago is on a career-high mark, but that merely reflects the fact that he’s better than ever right now, and there’s no reason to imagine he won’t continue to give an excellent account in similar races upcoming.
Tuesday’s synthetic meeting at Geelong saw the stable debut of MR BOBBI (GEEL, 1300m) in a BM58 contest. He was three for 19 in his time with Pat Hyland, and all three wins came on an artificial surface. He was a little out of sorts when last seen in mid-March, though, and gave the impression he’ll be better off with this comeback run under his belt. Without the blinkers he’s usually worn (including for both handicap wins), he went sweetly close up before weakening gradually in the straight. He’s on a winnable mark and is one who can be taken to progress through this prep.
It was a successful day at Echuca on Monday with Buena Veloz proving the headline act.
BUENA VELOZ (ECHU, 1618m) had shaped with abundant promise in a race which didn’t pan out to his strengths on the all-weather surface at Geelong recently and, returned to grass and upped in trip, he achieved a career best on just his third start for the yard. Again dropped out, Buena Veloz and Jordan Childs did well to surge to the front given this wasn’t a typical closers race, runner-up Arachne having made all until collared close home. That suggests Buena Veloz has further scope for improvement, particularly given he’s wholly unexposed over a trip that clearly suits, and he’s likely to be of plenty of interest when bidding to follow up.
Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to glean the same positives from the performance of SEA LADY (ECHU, 1618m) in the following division of the BM58 event won by Cisco Delago. She was rather more laboured in the way she went about things this time and was never able to get into a position to challenge. It’s possible she resented the switch from blinkers to visor.
It was a very different story as on his recent return with CASINO BLITZ (ECHU, 1412m) warm as favourite this time in light of that encouraging reappearance, but he couldn’t justify the support. He performed respectably to finish just over four and a half lengths fifth to Robusta, though he was one paced in the straight and looks in need of a mile by now.
CALL HER MAGIC (PAKS, 1400m) was the stable’s sole representative on the synthetic surface at Pakenham on Sunday. In finishing four and three-quarter lengths fifth of 12 to Miss Excess she ran to an approximal level as over this course and distance last month. As on that occasion she raced slightly more freely than ideal in the first half of the race, then unable to pick up after briefly weaving through to challenge. There remains cause to be hopeful that she’ll find a small race with her name on it before too much longer, particularly if she can just settle than little bit better.
Nordic Flight and Plus Effronte tailed and topped their respective races on Saturday. First, at Flemington, NORDIC FLIGHT (FLEM, 2600m) disappointingly didn’t come on for last month’s stable debut. He was caught wide and without cover, doing rather too much as a result, finding precious little once coming under pressure and eventually eased off by Noel Callow. He’s probably not entirely straightforward, so it’s fingers crossed the key can still be found to unlocking his latent ability.
Better news arrived with PLUS EFFRONTE (DONA, 1354m) at Donald. She’s taken a while to find her groove in handicap company, but her last two outings show she’s very much there now, particularly so with this improved display in a BM64 handicap that makes for solid form. She was well positioned throughout from her inner gate, travelling with zest and then finding plenty under pressure to score by a length and a quarter from Maxey Campo.
PIMMS O’CLOCK (BEND, 1400m) took a backwards step on his third outing for us at Bendigo on Friday but he does look to have a readymade excuse, not going with anything like the same fluency as he struggled to cope with the Heavy 8 conditions underfoot. He remains best judged on previous runs and is well worth another try over this longer trip sooner rather than later.
In the staying maiden later on the card, SIRIUS WITNESS (BEND, 2400m) appeared to face an inviting opportunity in which to get off the mark at the eleventh attempt. In the event, then, she looks to have underperformed, particularly as she enjoyed the run of the race from the front under Jordan Childs. She weakened to finish third late in the piece, behind Diamond Grace who she had beaten last time, and maybe it’s simply the case that, like Pimms O’Clock, the conditions just stretched her.
A couple of performances to report on from Sandown's Metro meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
First up, VON CLASSIC HERO (SAND, 1700m) made his return to action after five months on the sidelines. He had been thriving at the turn of the year when recording back-to-back victories at Bendigo and Geelong. He's now 4kg higher than for the latter of those wins, but there's reason to think he's capable of making an impact all the same. This comeback run was reasonable enough, just not fully wound up yet, drawn wide and no more than holding his ground from the home turn. He's done his winning over 1500m and 1600m, but he's equally effective over this slightly longer trip.
It wasn't possible to glean the same positives from the run of SUPREME HARMONY (SAND, 2100m) later on the card, as he put up the poorest display of his career to date, the first time he has truly underperformed. It's possible he did a bit too much in the early stages, but ultimately shaped as if the trip under these conditions just stretches him at this point in his development. Overall there are still more positives and negatives with Supreme Harmony, with this likely to see a drop in the weights, whilst he also gave the impression he could benefit from the fitting of headgear.
The sole runner to represent Alexander Racing on Saturday was TINTAGLIA (MORP, 2600m), who shipped to South Australia to take in a BM82 event at Morphettville on the back of her good effort at Swan Hill last month.
She was tackling a 2600m trip, the longest she's encountered to date, and it seemed a step up too far. She made the running but was inclined to fight for her head, not helping her prospects of staying and having nothing left for the finish, wilting in the straight and crossing the line a disappointing ninth of the 11 runners.
Having trialled since offering little for the short-term six weeks ago, BUENA VELOZ (GEES, 1300m) appeared to show the benefit trying a synthetic surface for the first time. There was much more to take from his run at Geelong today, enough to suggest that he’s one to look out for in upcoming BM58 races. Dropped out in a race in which the overall positional bias just about favoured those close up, he couldn’t immediately find a route through turning in before finishing to best effect, with running still to give at the line. This very much looked like a stepping stone towards a bigger performance again.
Along with recent winner Spunlago, five-year-old CASINO BLITZ (BALL, 1200m) also joined the yard with Greg Baker, and he was making his first start for a year at Ballarat on Thursday. His maiden win came at this same trip, but it’s probably on the short side for him as he advances in years. Nonetheless, he outran his rather disparaging 80/1 odds in finishing mid-field, just four lengths behind the winner Mr Sinatra on his return, and that in spite of being caught wide throughout. His current level would look to be modest, but this was his only his eighth start in all and this was encouraging, so by no means discount some jump up from his return to action, perhaps when back fitted with the blinkers and/or tongue strap he wore for that previous success.
It was a red-letter day at Sandown on Wednesday for Jordan Childs, and indeed all concerned with AZURITE (SAND, 2400m), as the six-year-old galloper belatedly got off the mark in Australia.
Of course, for Jordan the success represented even more, this 80th metropolitan success of his nascent career seeing him ride out his claim. Childs’ height could well have proven a limiting factor on his riding, but his talent is such that he has readily overcome any potential pitfalls relating to his size. Alexander Racing is delighted that this landmark win came aboard Azurite, to whom he gave a peach of a ride.
Azurite’s useful European form had looked a thing of the past, but he’s thrived for a change of scenery of late, threatening a revival in a couple of runs since joining us and duly delivering on the promise contained within those efforts by winning this 16-runner BM78 contest by a neck from Demons Run. Childs had Azurite well positioned from the outset, able to unleash him at the pacesetting runner-up from the home turn and showing the benefit of the return to this trip by wearing that one down in the final 100m. Everything fell right here, but hopefully getting his head in front again will have done Azurite’s confidence the power of good and he can continue to prove a force at this sort of level.
The first thing to say about the maiden contested by KNITTING (MURT, 1200m) at Murtoa this afternoon is that it doesn’t make for form to write home about. The first two in a bunched finish were long-standing maidens heading into this, and it seems unlikely that Knitting upped her level that much for all she was beaten just half a length into fourth. That said, she served notice of how and when that improvement is liable to come about, granted a stiffer stamina test, off the bridle some way out here and keeping on really well all the way to the line.
DEEP SEA LADY (MURT, 2050m) was tackling the longest trip of her career in a BM58 contest, and she seemed suited by it, though in a race which didn’t really pan out for her. Clemmensen made all the running to win, and Deep Sea Lady was rather caught out of her ground when having to angle off the rail to make her challenge, the first two never coming back to her. She’s in good form at present and will continue to give a creditable account.
Four runners made for a busy afternoon in the Echuca sunshine on Monday.
STAR D’VEGA (ECHU, 1100m) is a Lope de Vega filly out of an unraced half-sister to a Grade 2 1800m winner in the US, but she’s likely to need more time and distance herself, and she was duly sent off a big price for her racecourse debut. Whilst never a factor, it’s hard to judge her too harshly given she was interfered with by a faller around halfway.
It’s hard to escape the fact that THANOS (ECHU, 1600m) failed to meet expectations in the Class 1 mile handicap won by Atlantic Fox, regressing from the veiled encouragement of his recent return. His overall record is patchy, so he has a good bit more to do before he can be relied upon.
By contrast THE HOUSEMAID (ECHU, 2100m) had been holding her form, making her lesser effort all the more disappointing. She proved her stamina convincingly for this sort of trip last time, and it’s most likely the case that a combination of that previous hard effort and the work she had to do early on here to gain a forward pitch counted against her. Her overall profile suggests she’s likely to be back on her game next time.
In the finale LA DALLIANCE (ECHU, 1400m) made her first foray into handicap company from an opening mark that just about sums up her level. She ran perfectly respectably in finishing third to Surf Coast, though without holding any excuses, produced to challenge in the straight before having no extra near the finish.
NORDIC FLIGHT (FLEM, 2520m) has back class, that much we do know, a listed winner and St Leger third in his native Germany after all, but it’s fair to say he’s failed to cut much ice since coming to Australia. He showed something to work on in a trial on his first appearance for the stable at Avoca earlier this month, but the fact he started at 200/1 for a $100,000 Open Handicap gave some clue as to what was expected at Flemington on Saturday.
With that in mind Nordic Flight shaped with plenty of encouragement to finish five and a half lengths seventh of 13 to Charlevoix, rather catching the eye with the smooth manner with which he travelled off the pace, his effort just levelling out late on. He’s a stayer first and foremost, much more comfortable up around this trip, and while his lofty rating dictates that there won’t be any easy openings, there are reasons to be positive so long as he doesn’t go the wrong way for this effort.
A successful day at Bendigo on Wednesday with a winner and a second from the two runners fielded.
SIRIUS WITNESS (BEND, 2400m) ran to a similar level as on the synthetic surface at Pakenham in going down by the same narrow margin to another Robert Smerdon inmate, on this occasion just unable to get by winning hurdler All Well. She underlined that stamina is very much her strong suit, though, with the way she doggedly stuck to her task, and it could well be that she’ll prove suited by the stiffer tests provided by obstacles longer term.
Greg Baker did great work with SPUNLAGO (BEND, 1400m), winning five with him, and since coming into the fold at Alexander Racing he’s been instrumental in producing the five-year-old Hard Spun gelding at the top of his game on his return from 6 months off. Any fears that the ground might have been softer than ideal were well and truly rubbished as Spunlago and Jye McNeil produced a powerful finish to come from well off the pace and beat Galaxy Raider by three-quarters of a length. This was his first success yet at BM70 level, and hopefully it represents the start of further progress, though it’s worth bearing in mind that the race was run to ideally suit his hold-up tactics, and it remains to be seen whether he encounters such a favourable scenario next time.
Each of the three horses to run at Donald last Monday fared with credit without quite doing enough to come out on top. It was another good run from PIMMS O’CLOCK (DONA, 1200m) as he again finished to good effect in finding only the odds-on Seento too strong having come from a similar mid-field position as that rival in what was a well-run maiden. He was back up at 1200m, but lent the firm impression that he’s still operating over a trip that’s ultimately going to prove shy of his optimum.
It was most encouraging to see PLUS EFFRONTE (DONA, 1350m) back on her mettle in face of a drop in grade and trip, perhaps also appreciating the removal of the blinkers as she underlined her well-being with the way she travelled. She held every chance the way things went, just unable to fend off the late surge of Mrs Bignell, but on this evidence she does look to have a race of a similar nature in her.
The fact SEA LADY (DONA, 1620m) remains at the top of her game is the key thing to take from her performance in the mile BM58 race won by Bean Trac, more so than the end result. She might have been expected to fare better than fifth beforehand, but things didn’t really go her way under Melissa Julius, not getting the freest of runs down the inner yet still delivered to hold a chance. She’s proving admirably consistent.
With a trip to Europe and a stunning wedding to contend with there has been little opportunity until now to take a closer look back at Alexander Racing’s recent runners.
First up, on the synthetic surface at Pakenham, CALL HER MAGIC (PAKE, 1400m) put up her best effort from three to date in spite of long odds, finishing three lengths fifth to Canterbury Walk. She was better than the result, too, meaning this shouldn’t prove the limit of her progress, sure to be more greatly suited by a sounder gallop, compromising herself by failing to settle here and also checked and losing her pitch on turning in.
MAX BAN’s (PAKE, 1200m) career has been rather more miss than hit to date, his sole success from eight previous starts for Pat Hyland coming in a maiden third up over this course and distance last April. Starting out for us he was having his first outing for three months, and looked in need of the run, alertly away, kept to the inner before fading. He has gone close from a higher mark in a similar race once before, so if he can be caught right he’ll hopefully be capable of making more of an impact with this run under his belt.
A look at the largely positive performances of the runners we’ve sent out at Swan Hill and beyond this week.
First off, AZURITE (SAND, 2100m) upped his game from first start to second for the yard at Sandown on Wednesday, the longer trip in his favour as he raced close up and finished less than three lengths fifth of ten to Sayed in what was a strong-looking BM78 contest. He’s just getting up and running for us, and even this 2100m trip is at the short-end of his optimum, so fingers crossed his third-up run this prep will see him hit a peak next time.
On the synthetic track at Pakenham the following day, four-year-old mare SIRIUS WITNESS (PAKE, 2200m) had her first outing for us and she went as close as she has ever gone to breaking her duck in nine starts to date. She was able to turn the tables on old rival L’Amour de Ma Vie, but missed out by a neck when it came to Solar Coaster. She stays this 2200m trip well, is evidently suited by the surface, and looks to have the ability to find a small maiden before much longer.
Later on the same card THANOS (PAKE, 1400m) made his return from a five-month break. In truth he hasn’t cut much ice in a trio of handicaps since getting off the mark at Bendigo last December, but he had less on his plate here and there can be no disguising the fact this was a much more encouraging effort than the two that preceded it. He raced close to the pace before proving one-paced under pressure, sticking on without picking up, finishing five-lengths fifth to Frankincense. He remains with potential over longer trips so long as he doesn’t go the wrong way for this reappearance.
Friday saw the opening day of Swan Hill’s June Carnival and KNITTING’s (SWAN, 1200m) second visit to the racetrack, She performed to a near identical level as on debut, not finding the hoped for improvement with this still perhaps coming a little too soon in her development. There will be better days ahead for the daughter of Hard Spun.
Upped to 2100m for his second appearance in a handicap it’s probably accurate to say that SUPREME HARMONY (SWAN, 2100m) failed to quite match our expectations in finishing just under four lengths fourth to We’re So Lucky. On the positive side the form of the race looks strong, and it’s maybe the case that the big hike in trip was just a bit too much for him at this stage for all he should ultimately prove perfectly effective over this sort of distance.
Back at the same course on Saturday LATIN WANDA (SWAN, 1300m) made her return to action and shaped as if in need of the outing. She’s a lightly-raced four-year-old who hasn’t had the opportunity to have a consistent run at racing in her career so far, this just her second start since making a winning start back in October 2015. She highlighted here that she’s lost none of her speed, helping tow them along before the lack of a recent run told in the straight, and she could well take a significant step forward next time,
Our final runner at Swan Hill this week was TINTAGLIA (SWAN, 2100m). Her previous run was easily excusable and she duly showed herself back right at the top of her game on just her third start for us. She was contesting a BM78 event for the first time and was ridden to hold every chance by Dean Holland, up with the pace from the outset and striking on from the home turn, unable to stave off Savannah Moon and Baby Jack in the closing stages but knuckling down well and giving it everything all the same in finishing a close third.
Another of ours to step up on recent efforts on Sunday was THE HOUSEMAID (HAML, 2200m) over at Hamilton. In further stretching out her stamina, up to 2200m this time, she ran as well as she ever has in going down by just three-quarters of a length to Verreaux with the pair coming away from the rest. The longer trip plainly suited her down to the ground, as she cut out the running and responded generously once challenged from well over a furlong out. This opens up promising new avenues for The Housemaid.
We know that DEEP SEA LADY (WARR, 1700m) handles testing conditions, her five-length maiden success having come on a heavy 8 after all, but it’s possible she just found the going a bit too much on just the second start of her prep at Warrnambool today. She was by no means discredited all the same, sticking to her task in finishing five lengths fourth of 10 to Rubme in the BM58 handicap that concluded the meeting. She’ll stay further than this, and it will be best to remember the positives of her comeback run when assessing her chance next time.
A quick note on the two runners to have turned out for us in the last few days.
At Geelong on Friday THE HOUSEMAID (GEEL, 1900m) put up yet another respectable effort, finishing just under three and a half lengths fifth (yes, back to being fifth!) to Macrobius in a BM64 contest. Whilst recent evidence suggests she may not be one to be making too many excuses for, just unable to make the breakthrough at this level, it’s still worth pointing out that she wouldn’t have been ideally suited by the run of the race on this occasion. She was positioned just worse than mid-field in a steadily-run affair, the winner dictating, unable to ever quite get on terms with the principals as she stayed on to the line.
Twice-raced maiden PIMM'S O'CLOCK (BEND, 1000m) represented the stable for the first time at Bendigo on Saturday having recently made the switch from Mitch Freedman. He’s a three-year-old Strategic gelding out of fairly useful four-time winner Dance At Ascot. Having displayed clear ability in both previous outings, he did so once more, though the drop from 1200m to 1000m proved against him, wheels spinning at a critical stage, and only just beginning to work up a head of steam at the finish.
It’s easy to put a line through the run of ATB's TINTAGLIA (PAKE, 2000m) at Pakenham on Wednesday afternoon and, in the circumstances, it’s probably even worth taking a positive from her effort for all she wound up being beaten over eleven lengths.
Back up to 2000m on a Heavy 9 surface for her second outing for the stable, Tintaglia showed encouraging enthusiasm, but it was all for nothing as a slipped saddle made it almost impossible for Lachlan King to regulate her effort. She pulled herself to the front thereafter and unsurprisingly had nothing left for the straight, at that point most likely further inconvenienced by running on what seemed a slower strip of ground towards the inner.
Patience and perseverance paid off for connections of LA DALLIANCE (PAKE, 1200m) on Tuesday as the four-year-old got off the mark at the twelfth time of asking in a 1200m maiden on the synthetic track at Pakenham.
La Dalliance has a good record fresh, and she was certainly all ready to go on this first outing for twenty-four weeks, whilst her failure to get her head in front previously is also no knock on her attitude, game and willing in getting up to head Melba’s Maestro on the line under a strong Dean Holland ride. Only her third start for us, she looks to have residual mileage and future opportunities, this unlikely to impinge on her prospective mark, whilst the manner in which she shaped suggests a step back up in trip will be in her favour in a handicap next time, only just getting away with the 6f here.
A look back at our runners over the weekend featuring a couple each at Warracknabeal on Saturday and Echuca on Sunday.
After enduring such a luckless beginning to his racing career at Geelong the week previous, WANNA BE GOOD (WARR, 1000m) duly took the opportunity to put that experience firmly behind him and confirm that he’s a young horse who can do well for us by finishing just a neck behind the Darren Weir-trained newcomer Avanti Rose. As a half-brother to Spanner Head it can come as no surprise that this trip looked firmly on the sharp side, showing willing in flashing home from back in the pack after the winner had dictated matters. He’s not going to have too much difficulty in picking up his maiden on this evidence, and hopefully we’re just scratching the surface of both his potential and ability.
Whilst this was for all intents and purposes Wanna Be Good’s racecourse bow, it was precisely that for KNITTING (WARR, 1200m) in the six-furlong maiden later on the card. A Hard Spun filly out of an unraced daughter of the useful Quillina, she was conceding experience to most of her rivals starting out and was far from disgraced in finishing five lengths fifth to By The Pound. She should benefit from this initial run all round and can make more of an impression next time.
Over at Echuca on Sunday it wasn’t possible to discern the same positives from the effort of PLUS EFFRONTE (ECHA, 1600m) notwithstanding the Soft 7 underfoot may not have been to her liking. We tried her in blinkers in an attempt to focus her mind, but they didn’t have the desired effect, and both outings in handicaps now have been underwhelming. The ability is there, but she doesn’t seem overly inclined to put it on full display.
Fortunately better was to come from SEA LADY (ECHA, 1400m), who kept up her own run of solid efforts, back up in grade and hitting the frame for the fourth start running in coming home two lengths second to Born Magic. She’s doing nothing wrong in defeat, on this occasion simply having no answer to one who has taken her own form up a couple of levels of late, and Sea Lady should continue to give a good account, at this trip or back at 1600m.
The focal point this weekend was, naturally enough, Saturday’s card at Flemington, as we headed there with two live chances. Obviously it’s disappointing to return empty handed, but with both our runners running creditably it’s impossible to be unduly downbeat.
First up was SPANNER HEAD (FLEM, 1600m), with no Egg Tart to contend with this time she was sent off the $3.30 favourite, finishing under a length fifth to Guangzhou in what was a competitive heat. The bare facts don’t really tell the full story, though, as Spanner Head’s run through wasn’t trouble free, getting further back than she had before and having to work for room on a couple of occasions, cutting back to the inside in the straight and never able to unwind fully as a consequence. This was a run that goes to show that she remains very feasibly handicapped.
Later on FASTNET LATINA (FLEM, 1600m) was seeking to regain the winning thread in the BM78 event that wrapped up proceedings. He was wearing blinkers for the first-time in a bid to fine-tune his focus, and they worked to an extent, just not sufficient to trigger the extra improvement required. He performed perfectly soundly after getting his usual prominent pitch, briefly hitting the front early in the straight and digging in once headed, coming home a couple of lengths behind the winner Zourkhan in third. He's holding his form well even if he has done his winning for the time being.
At Bendigo on Sunday we ran a couple in what was a warm-looking BM70 race over a mile. SUPREME HARMONY (BEND, 1600m) was making the transition to handicap company on the back of his maiden success at the track earlier this month. He has improvement to find from his opening mark, as indicated by his starting price of $17, and in the event he found some of it, adding substance to what he achieved in maidens to finish three-and-a-half lengths fifth to the ex-Irish Pacodali. Further progress is liable to come with time and distance.
Previously trained by Tony McEvoy, OTI’s AZURITE (BEND, 1600m) was a place and just over a length behind Supreme Harmony in sixth, a firmly encouraging result on what was his first outing in six months over a trip that is very much shy of his optimum, he being a stayer after all. He’s been tricky to win with since coming to Australia, but finished placed on five of his last six starts in 2016 in BM78 and BM82 events. It’s going to be fun trying to find the key to him, with this initial outing one we're well placed to build on looking forward.
A quick note on Friday’s racing at Geelong. Spanner Head’s half-brother WANNA BE GOOD (GEEL, 1112m) endured an unfortunate experience on what was his racecourse bow. He was interfered with by a faller in the early stages, stumbled and gave Dean Holland nowhere to go but down. Fortunately neither horse nor jockey were any the worse, Wanna Be Good advertising his well-being by chasing the field around riderless.
BUENA VELOZ (GEEL, 1312m) made a quiet start for the yard in the finale. Its early days and he needs a bit more time to find himself. A sounder surface will surely help as well.
We had two runners returning from a break on a Soft 5 surface at Kilmore on Thursday.
Eighteen weeks on from her debut,CALL HER MAGIC (KILM, 1450m) showed up better than she had on that occasion, displaying more pace and knowhow this time in helping force the pace, but that effort and the lack of a recent run told as she dropped away in the straight. This was a step in the right direction and will hopefully act as a stepping stone towards a still bigger effort next time.
DEEP SEA LADY (KILM, 1600m) hadn’t run since finishing well held on her handicap bow at Yarra Valley over Christmas. However, she came back much more on her game back at the shorter trip, her run in keeping with her five-length maiden win the time before that lesser effort. She finished well from off the pace to go down by just three-quarters of a length to All Day Every Day. Deep Sea Lady doesn’t have many miles on the clock, will have no issue with going back up in trip, and really should be up to picking up a similar event before long.
Plenty of action to catch up from tracks far and wide over the past few days. Starting off with the star that is SURVIVED (MTGA, 2400m), who crossed the border into SA and retained his Mount Gambier Gold Cup in typically gutsy style. He certainly likes it there, as both successes since joining us from New Zealand have come in the $50,000 event, for all he gives it a good go wherever he’s asked to perform. Survived was certainly assisted by an astute front-running ride by Dean Holland on this occasion, the pair winding things up and stealing an advantage some way out, having enough to last out as fellow Ballarat rival Mr Journeyman challenged late. We're going to look at trialling him over hurdles now...he certainly has the attitude and ability to take well to the game.
Meanwhile at Cranbourne, ZUERS (CRAN, 1200m) was sent off second favorite for her racecourse debut in a 1200m soft-ground maiden. Whilst she wasn’t quite clued up enough to make her mark on this occasion, it would be disappointing to say the least if she didn’t show considerable benefit for the experience. She’s related to a host of winners and will hopefully leave this initial effort behind in due course.
Finally on Friday, we were hoping that a longer trip would see a better effort from THE HOUSEMAID (GEEL, 1900m) after her underwhelming run at Pakenham recently. It did to an extent, though this represented a drop in grade, and we’d like to see her winning these kinds of races. At least an increased emphasis on stamina appeared to suit, as she kept going all the way to the line in finishing just over a length fourth to Toan Thang in what had been a well-run race.
Morphettville was the focus of all our attention on Saturday as WHEAL LEISURE (MORP, 2500m) took on the boys in the Grade 1 South Australian Derby. In the event this may just have been one daunting question too many asked of her, for this prep anyway. She was fitted with ear muffs, but again dwelt at the start, giving away ground that way, and she could never make quite the impression from off the pace we feel she could have done if right on her mettle. She came home seven and a half lengths ninth of 14 to Volatile Mix, far from disgraced, but now Wheal Leisure gets a well-earned break, and will hopefully return in the spring with renewed vigour and zest. We remain convinced that there are still lots of big days to be enjoyed with her.
Finally, and much closer to home, PLUS EFFRONTE (BALL, 1400m) contested her first handicap in a Class 1 event at Ballarat on Sunday. She has much more to do now she’s out of maiden company, and she was unable to summon the requisite improvement at the first attempt, never really threatening in coming home seventh to What A Shock. It’s still relatively early days for her, and we’ll hope to see more from her next time.
A runner apiece at Swan Hill in the afternoon and Pakenham in the evening on Thursday. The first of those, SEA LADY (SWAN, 1600m), was back up at a mile and she continued her good string of efforts at Benchmark 58 level under Jordan Childs in finishing a length and three-quarters third of fourteen to Don’t Have To Yell. She held every chance, briefly working to the front a furlong out, but she wasn’t quite as strong to the line as the first two, and it’s just possible this trip is a maximum for her. Either way, as Chippenham showed yesterday, consistency pays its own dividends, so hopefully Sea Lady’s turn is just around the corner.
A field of debutants took to the polytrack for an intriguing juvenile maiden which opened proceedings at Pakenham. MR HAGLER (PAKE, 1200m) is a Helmet gelding out of a 1200m winner Marvellous Miss (hence his name), making him a half-brother to four-time winner Amadeo, and he’s one we like a lot, his home work having promised plenty. However, he was lumbered with the widest barrier in the twelve-strong field, and did himself no favours by getting stirred up at the start. In the race itself he was unable to get cover and made a fast-forward move to race close up, those exertions telling in the straight as he weakened. Regardless of the excuses this goes down as a disappointment given our belief in his ability, so hopefully with the experience gained, Mr Hagler will be able to show a lot more like his true worth next time.
The stable was represented by a trio of runners on a warm Metro card at Sandown – or Ladbrokes Park as the marketing man would have it – on Wednesday.
First up was CHIPPENHAM (SAND, 1300m), who was engaged in a BM 70 affair over 1300m. Chippenham’s consistency is well established, toughness and reliability through and through, but yesterday he displayed something extra, an ability to up his game a bit further to win his fourth race (from 16 outings, placed on another four). Everything clicked to a nicety, a flawless Jordan Childs ride seeing him well placed throughout, then sticking to his doggedly on getting to the front in the straight and having a length and a quarter in hand of Dante’s Finale at the end. A rise in the weights may be enough to prevent a follow up, acknowledging how well everything panned out here, but if nothing else we do know Chip will continue to be there and thereabouts giving it his all regardless!
Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to glean the same positives from MACATTACK’s (SAND, 1600m) ordinary effort half an hour later. She lost a plate during the run, but even so checked out disappointingly tamely and was spared on unduly hard time. She’s much better than this when she’s right, and will hopefully get back to proving as much soon enough.
The closing mile handicap saw a stable debut for five-year-old mare TINTAGLIA (SAND, 1600m). She was a four-time winner during her time with Darren Weir but had just gone off the boil when last in action. Whilst she didn’t get involved at the business end of a race won, incidentally, by her former yard-mate New Graduate, there were definite signs of hope in her return to action. She travelled well enough without cover for much of the way, and was spared a hard time by Ethan Brown when it was clear she wasn’t going to get into the thick of it. Here’s hoping this will have blown away some of the cobwebs and she goes the right way for the experience.
At Horsham on Saturday it was encouraging to see PRIX D'EXCELLENCE (HORS, 1200m) wasting no time in putting a lesser effort behind her, back to form in finding only Sweet Taste too strong in the concluding 0-58 contest. Dropped a notch in grade, she was ridden less forcefully this time, and saw things out a whole lot more convincingly as a result. She’s competitive at this level and, young and lightly raced, has more positives about her than most she’ll meet, so fingers crossed she’ll find a similar event falling her way before much longer.
Meanwhile at Morphettville we were delighted to see Chris Waller’s Egg Tart take the step up to Group 1 level in her stride when winning the Schweppes Australasian Oaks. Whilst SPANNER HEAD proved no match for that filly when the pair met at Flemington, it’s worth remembering the five lengths she put between herself and the remainder of the field. Subsequent events certainly suggest that Spanner Head now has loftier targets within her range, too.
There’s little or no substitute for experience and, on the back of a hugely taking debut at Hamilton a fortnight ago, SUPREME HARMONY (BEND, 1400m) displayed the benefit of that initial runner’s-up effort to go one better in what looked a deeper maiden at Bendigo on Friday.
His increased know-how was evident in the way he raced, more professional this time, settled in mid-field and able to hold his position before being wound up to get after the leaders turning in, as at Hamilton finishing off very well and only getting stronger come the finish where he had half a length in hand of Gold Warrior. Both starts to date have come over 1400m, but it’s the barest of minimums, and everything about him tells us there will be considerably more to come once his stamina is drawn out. As such, Supreme Harmony's future looks bright, exciting, and firmly in front of him.
If the Monopolies Commission weren’t already looking into Darren Weir’s record-breaking accomplishments, then surely they will be after a phenomenal week in which he took fourteen of the thirty races contested at Warrnambool. No mean feat, and for all he tried valiantly SURVIVED (WARN, 2350m) was unable to hold back the tide in the Warrnambool Cup won by High Church yesterday.
That said he ran his heart out, as is his wont, giving it another bold go from the front and having no answer when the trio that came from a good deal further back swooped in the straight. Whilst the distances involved indicate Survived was in no way unfortunate, visually the first three looked to be racing on a better strip of ground as they came stands side, though the impressive six-length winner would have come out on top no matter how things had panned out.
The Warrnambool Carnival is a tremendous event in which to be involved, but regrettably this year the three-day fixture kicked off on heavy ground which really did no favours to our two runners on Ladies Day.
LORD FANDANGO (WARN, 2350m) arrived here on the back of his big-priced Ballarat success last month, but that had come on a sound surface, as had all his better European runs for that matter (well beaten the only time he encountered ground softer than good), and he was all at sea in conditions here today, unable to pick up at all as the race began in earnest, merely plugging on in the race won by Grand Annual contender I’ll’ava’alf. This effort can safely be forgotten in itself whilst remembering that the ground is all important to him, and hopefully Lord Fandango can resume his progress under more suitable circumstances next time.
Earlier on the card SIR WALTER SCOTT (WARN, 3200m) was another with no real soft-ground record to speak of, but the more pressing issue with him at present is his jumping. He had a little too much on his plate in the maiden hurdle won by Ancient King, but once again gawky mistakes prevented him from making more of an impact at the business end.
A winning march through the grades came to an end on Saturday as FASTNET LATINA (CAUL, 1600m) was unable to stretch his winning run since joining us from the US to five. As befits a step up from BM75 to 90 level, the closing handicap he was contesting represented comfortably his biggest challenge yet. Whilst it proved just beyond him on this occasion, he acquitted himself with credit, finishing three and a quarter lengths second to Rhythm To Spare. The winner isn’t the easiest to catch right but, on his day, is a smart performer, a Group 3 winner, whilst the likes of The Chairman and Curragh add substance to the form in behind Fastnet Latina. As such he should remain one to be interested in, a reproduction of this effort clearly set to keep him competitive in similar events, whilst the hope persists that there remains residual progress to come in line with his relative youth, lightly-raced profile and the fact we’ve yet to explore his stamina.
A quick catch-up on THE HOUSEMAID (PAKS, 1600m) who ran on the synthetic surface at Pakenham on Thursday evening. She looked to have a lot in her favour going into the race and, as such, didn’t meet our expectations. She was unable to take advantage of a good early position, becoming crowded out around halfway, whilst also failing to settle fully over the longer trip. In the end she came home fifth behind All Out of Love, and whilst if nothing else she is at least showing consistency in filling that particular position, hopefully a clearer run at things will allow her to improve on it next time.
Flemington’s Anzac Day meeting on Tuesday marked the next stepping-off point and, in terms of form, the next rung up the ladder for SPANNER HEAD (FLEM, 1600m). The mile handicap for three-year-olds she was contesting looked every inch as hot as the $100,000 purse indicated it should be, seven of the twelve last-time winners, and it took another improved display to bring home the $18,000 on offer for second place. In the event there was no matching the fast-progressive Egg Tart, that filly winning in the manner of one firmly on the way to the top, but Spanner Head and Craig Williams beat the remainder convincingly to underline that there are plenty more big days to be enjoyed with her, too. Whilst there seems little reason to take on the winner again in the South Australian Oaks, the listed Adelaide Guineas over the same trip at Morphettville could be her next port of call, the framing of that race seeming to fit her profile nicely.
On the face of it PRIX D'EXCELLENCE (BALL, 1200m) went the wrong way from her handicap debut at Ballarat yesterday, coming home last of the ten in a BM 64 event. She does, however, have a ready-made excuse after doing far too much up front, contesting a fierce pace and duly paying for the exertions, so taken in isolation the run can more or less be ignored.
Just a single runner over the weekend with the handsome chap on the left, SURVIVED (RAND, 2400m), representing the yard in a Benchmark 78 contest at Royal Randwick. Competing from a mark of 81, he was carrying top weight less James Innes’ 2kg claim, and once again gave it his all from the front. Unfortunately the attentions of Paragon meant he was pressed into racing some way out, having no response to those who were able to delay their challenge more, plugging on to finish a creditable three and a half lengths fourth to the progressive Richard of Yorke.
We covered the frustration that stems from misfortune yesterday, so we’ll leave that to one side for today, and instead focus on the overwhelming positives that came with SUPREME HARMONY’s (HAML, 1400m) debut at Hamilton.
A three-year-old Mastercraftsman half-brother to a useful winner in Hong Kong, Supreme Harmony is a prepossessing type who started at $4.60 for this racecourse bow. Whilst fit enough his lack of experience revealed itself in his inability to maintain a more forward position early on, too far back when things were developing, then forced to make his move widest of all. None of that prevented him from displaying a stunning surge on straightening though, allowing the winner, Leishman, a twelve-length start but making ground hand over fist to whittle that down to just one and half come the finish, strongest of all at that point.
Supreme Harmony will be suited by a mile when the time comes and clearly has a promising future, one to be excited about in fact. It almost goes without saying that it’ll be disappointing should he fail to break his maiden in a similar event next time.
Whilst it’s always pleasing to have horses running well, there’s always frustration when it’s in defeat, and never more so when under different circumstances they could have won.
That was very much the case with SEA LADY (SEYM, 1400m) this afternoon. The positives are that she came on for her recent return back up in trip and is evidently a young filly still on the rise, but she endured a troubled trip in the finale at Seymour. Unable to gain cover before challenging on turning, she was then pushed wider and wider still, doing well to get as close as she did as she maintained her challenge to the line, going down by just three-quarters of a length to Laker’s Lass. The winner has improved for a switch of yard of late, adding substance to the form, so hopefully Sea Lady will be able to gain compensation for this reverse next time.
Both our runners on Easter Monday’s Metro card at Sandown found themselves in deeply competitive contests and, despite failing to supplement their own recent good form with further success, they nonetheless acquitted themselves with great credit in going close.
MACATTACK (SANL, 1600m) excelled herself back up in grade on the back of her Geelong win, underlining the fact she’s thriving with racing at present, going down by just a head and a neck to two wholly unexposed sorts in Top of The Range and Netherfield, sticking to her task determinedly all the way to the line. With the likes of the progressive Soju Warrior and Fanfaron in behind there’s little question this makes for strong form, a career best, and, as such, she can be placed to further advantage in a similar race next time.
Contesting the BM70 handicap over 1400m later on, CHIPPENHAM (SANL, 1400m) maintained his own level in finishing just over a length and a half behind The Card Players. He deserves credit over and above the bare facts of the result for sustaining his effort as well as he did in a race in which those up with the pace did a bit too much too soon, vulnerable to closers such as the winner. His overall consistency is an admirable asset for all it permits little relief from the handicapper, and he should continue to pay his way in similar events upcoming.
The trip up the A8 to Stawell paid dividends on Sunday as the yard’s sole representative, PLUS EFFRONTE (STAW, 1300m), got off the mark at the fourth time of asking. She’s already shown form of a standard sufficient to win such a race, including on last month’s return, and she didn’t need to improve to justify favouritism in workmanlike fashion, soon prominent under Ben Allen and always fending off the late challenge of Superveloce to score by half a length.
Make no mistake, Plus Effronte is a filly we continue to hold in some regard and, with that in mind, it’s perhaps a shade underwhelming that she wasn’t able to win her maiden in a bit more style. However, her career is just four races old and we are still ironing out some residual issues with her sinus, so there’s every reason to imagine that she’ll progress in line with our positive view of her once stepping into handicap company, this relatively narrow success most unlikely to impact on her prospective mark after all.
We sent a brace of runners up to Bendigo on Tuesday.
SIR WALTER SCOTT (BDGO, 3200m) was having his second crack at hurdling and he duly stepped up on his initial effort, a more prominent ride helping to some extent. He’s still by no means the finished article, however, and awkward jumps impeded his ability to sustain his challenge come the end, finishing fifth to Duke of Boneo. He’s going to need to raise his game if he's to fulfil his latent potential. Richard Cully was unable to take the ride after a tumble in the opening race, and fingers crossed all’s well with him this morning.
Back on the level, THE HOUSEMAID (BDGO, 1400m) was in slightly deeper than on last month’s return to action and she duly took a small step in the right direction. She tracked the leaders and stuck to her task doggedly in the straight, coming home fifth to the wide-challenging Famelist. It remains early days for The Housemaid, and we're hopeful that she'll continue to improve by degrees. It's worth noting that Famelist gives an early boost to Chippenham’s form behind Atlantic City at Sandown last week, a race that stands out as looking strong for the grade.
A couple of the yard’s higher profile performers were looking to add to recent successes on Saturday, with Wheal Leisure contesting the Group 1 Oaks at Randwick before Fastnet Latina aimed to maintain his unbeaten Australian record in a valuable handicap at Morphettville.
Winx may have been the undoubted star of the show at Randwick, but in the race preceding her Queen Elizabeth Stakes romp the three-year-old fillies had their turn on the big stage. Given her poor run at Flemington last month it was perhaps no surprise to see WHEAL LEISURE (RAND, 2400m) available at long odds beforehand, but in the event she did plenty to underline why we continue to hold her in such high regard. Unfortunately she just took too long to put her best foot forward, squeezed at the start, out of her ground in rear, then overracing to compound matters, so it’s to her credit that she made up the ground she did to come home fifth behind the impressive winner Bonneval. Her closing sectional times were best of all bar the winner, adding to the impression she would have been in the first three had she been more amenable in the early part of the race. We concur with James Doyle’s view that she’ll benefit from the fitting of a hood, with a view to helping her settle, and that’s certainly something we’ll look at next time. Speaking of which, with the Victorian St Leger possibly coming too soon in a fortnight, the South Australian Derby and Oaks at Morphettville must now come into consideration for her and, given the longer 2500m trip of the Derby, there is a strong temptation to take on the boys in the former race – particularly as we have Spanner Head in mind for the latter. A call will be made nearer the time, but for now it’s just pleasing to have the real Wheal Leisure back and opening up new avenues.
If it was slightly a case of what might have been at Sydney, there were no such frustrations over at Morphettville where FASTNET LATINA (MORP, 1600m) kept up his own remarkable rise to make it four out of four in a $100,000 BenchMark 75 race, easily accounting for Beau’s My Boy by three lengths. Whilst the race perhaps didn’t take the winning it might have done, particularly with favourite Battlecamp checking out tamely, there can be no arguing with the manner in which Fastnet Latina put a stamp on matters. Aside from the big chunks of improvement he’s finding race on race, chief amongst his assets is his straightforward nature, and once again he was always to the fore before quickly asserting once asked by Jordan Childs. Of course, he’ll continue to climb the weights, but there are no signs of his progression abating at present, onwards and upwards, and we’ll aim him at a BenchMark 90 contest over a mile at Caulfield in three weeks’ time.
Confidence is running high and the excitement in the air is palpable here at Alexander Racing ahead of a weekend that sees a couple of stable stars out to capture big-race success.
Whilst things didn’t work out that well for WHEAL LEISURE at Flemington last time, she was spared a hard time and, previously a good third in the Tasmanian Oaks, remains a filly we have undiminished confidence in. She’s had less racing than the majority of those she comes up against in the Australian Oaks at Randwick on Saturday and, with that in mind, probably has greater residual scope for further improvement. Of course, Wheal Leisure does need to take a significant step forward to be competitive at this level, but she wouldn’t be taking her chance if we didn’t feel there was a distinct possibility of her doing just that. She will have conditions to suit and, with confirmed front-runner Lasqueti Spirit in the line-up, there will surely be an end-to-end gallop to suit her hold-up style. Top English rider James Doyle comes in for the ride.
Meanwhile, in Adelaide, FASTNET LATINA is bidding for a four-timer in a valuable mile handicap at Morphetville. Unbeaten since coming to Australia, he’s proving fast progressive and had plenty in hand when winning from the front at Moonee Valley most recently. He’s been upped 5 points for that success, but as a straightforward, likeable, improving galloper he looks assured of running another bold race under Jordan Childs. As competitive as this big-field contest looks, certainly none of the other contenders are arriving on the way up in the manner of Fastnet Latina, all a good deal more exposed and seemingly with their limitations having been more or less established.
The stable’s runners are in fine fettle at present and there was to be further success at Sandown this afternoon. Whilst CHIPPENHAM (SANH, 1300m) didn’t quite make it to the winner’s enclosure himself, he nonetheless performed with great credit in finishing just under a length and a half third to Atlantic City, running right up to his best with a visor replacing the blinkers. He settled better this time and was able to track the leaders towards the inner, sticking to his task doggedly in the straight. He should continue to acquit himself well in similar events.
The star turn was to come in the last race on the card as SPANNER HEAD (SANH, 1600m) took her form to another level, breaking her handicap duck in the style of a progressive filly going places. She found herself outpaced returning from a break over 1400m at Bendigo last month, and was evidently much more at home back up in trip. After breaking alertly she tracked the pace, moving into contention on turning in, and unfurled a powerful finish to get the better of pacesetter Bright Lights Baby, strongest at the line, seeming to have more in hand the final length and a half margin of success. Spanner Head’s career is firmly up and running now and, as such, we’re looking at bigger and better targets for her. The Grade 3 South Australian Oaks at Morphetville on May 6th will give her the opportunity to draw on the stamina which seems a strong suit, and the belief is that it will provoke further progress, allowing her to prove herself well worth her place in the higher grade.
Spanner Head’s success was also another feather in the cap of her sire, Helmet, who has made such a strong start to his second career with the likes of Thunder Snow and Limestone. Alexander Racing has a beautiful and well-bred yearling daughter of Helmet for sale at present, so to find out more check her out here. If interested, please don’t hesitate to contact the yard.
A couple of runners down at Geelong today, and both fillies performed with credit, notably so MACATTACK (GEEL, 1525m) who upped her game in style after a nine-week break to win her first handicap from a mark of 60. Everything about her smooth performance marked this out as a distinct step up from previous efforts, from the way she settled and travelled just in behind the pace to the manner in which she seamlessly put a seal on things from 200m out, Jordan Childs having plenty in hand a length and three quarters ahead of the favourite Diamond Meteor at the line. Her racing career is still a young one and, on this showing, granted similar conditions, she’ll be of strong interest again once reassessed for such a comprehensive success.
In the finale SEA LADY (GEEL, 1225m) caught the eye returning from six months off, signalling that she’s a filly to keep on side as she gets back up to speed, plenty in this display to suggest she’s come back an improved performer. Dropping back in trip reappearing, Sea Lady was positioned off the pace going down the back, then forced a good deal wider than ideal on turning, showing encouragement with the way she kept on all the way to the line, finishing a never-nearer fourth to Iron Jake. For all she’s essentially sprint bred, her style suggests a step back up to a slightly longer trip will suit her down to the ground next time. As such, in Macattack and Sea Lady, the stable has two more three-year-old fillies to keep a note of and watch out for in upcoming weeks.
A successful day at Ballarat on Sunday featured two horses with a future, PRIX D’EXCELLENCE (BRAT, 1200m) starting off in a handicap having won her maiden at Kilmore last time. She has further progress to make now tackling open company and ran a decent race without being able to make the jump forward at the first time of asking. A little keen up to 1200m, Michael Dee soon had Prix d’Excellence in a prominent position, but she could just keep on at one pace once ridden, finishing just over three lengths fifth to Shy Frank. It’s still early days for Prix d’Excellence, raising hope that she can raise her game with time and experience.
In the penultimate race on the card, LORD FANDANGO (BRAT, 2000m) was disregarded in the market but proved himself a horse to follow with a taking success. A horse on the up when trained by Jeremy Gask in Britain, he hasn’t taken too long to acclimatize to the Australian scene and, having come on from his run over a wholly insufficient 1600m here last month, he took a big step forward to run out a decisive winner of what had looked a competitive heat beforehand. This is only a starting-off point, mind, everything from the way he went about things, responding well to urging and strongest at the finish, to his European background and pedigree (his best run was over 2800m and he’s a half-brother to a bumper winner), strongly suggesting there will be a good deal more to come as his stamina is drawn out.
At Pakenham this evening PLUS EFFRONTE (PAKM, 1200m) made her comeback from the best part of a year on the sidelines. She had shaped well when in the frame in a couple of maidens last spring, notably when runner-up to Miss Scandilous in the first race ever run under lights at this track. Despite being unable to justify favoritism, there was a lot to like about her reappearance effort, traveling comfortably behind the leaders and just unable to pick up over 200m out, a length and three quarters third to Rapid Asset at the line. There’s every reason to expect her to come on from this run, and she remains one to be positive about, with a similar race more than likely to be hers for the taking before much longer.
Earlier in the afternoon SIR WALTER SCOTT (WNBL, 3225m) was unable to make an impact on his hurdling debut. He had offered encouragement trialing over obstacles previously this month but couldn’t translate that today. His jumping was novicey, mistakes costing him rhythm, and he couldn’t make an impression from off the pace in a race where it paid to race prominently, never able to unwind fully on ground perhaps a shade softer than ideal. We know he has the capacity to do a whole lot better than this so long as the experience is not lost on him.
At this mid point in the season we couldn't be happier with the form of the stable. So far we have won 17 races, (which was our total tally for last season) from 89 runners which gives us a current win strike rate of 19.1%. And even the horses that haven't been winning have been earning their keep as 49.4% of all our runners have finished in the first four.
Many of the horses that have contributed to these stats are young, progressive types that we haven't seen the best of yet. What's more, we have a few horses in the stable yet to debut that we are pretty certain will keep the stats looking healthy....
We have opportunites for all budgets and interests to become involved in ownership at Alexander Racing. For more information contact us here, by phone, email or any social media and we will be more than happy to help.
Limited shares left in this stunning 2yo Pierro colt out of group placed Sean Baile Mor. Pierro's first runner was an impressive winner and now heads to the Blue Diamond- a sign of things to come from this young sire.
This fella is not far off being ready to make his debut, so don't risk missing out being involved, get in touch today!
Pierro x Sean Baile Mor
We are absolutely delighted to be part of the Anglo Australian Racing (AAR) union with OTI Racing that will see the 3yo German bred colt, Fandango, resume his career in Australia as part of my team. Under the care of Jeremy Gask in England, Fandango broke his maiden over 2400m, backing that victory up with another win at the trip. He looks a fantastic staying prospect and we are really looking forward to his arrival in Ballarat.
To read more about the initiative click here
Hannah Grant on La Dalliance from Alexander Racing on Vimeo.
Cup week is likely to have a quiet start for us with Thursday, Oaks' Day, being our busiest with three exciting runners:
Spanner Head heads for the Red Rock Deli Plate, a 1700m BM70 for filles and mares'.
Warrior of Justice is in the TCL Curved TV Stakes, an 1800m Listed race
Survived makes his first appearance of the prep in the Provincial Plate, a 1600m handicap
As we head into the biggest week of racing, our stable couldn't have hit top form at a better time. Of our last four runners, two have been first time winners with another, Warrior of Justice, arguably an unlucky loser.
Spanner Head, a 3yo Helmet filly, has shown plenty of potential from her first start when she was beaten just half a length by Throssel who went on to win a Listed race next start. She had been beaten by no more than 4 lengths in each of her 4 starts prior to last Tuesday, when she went to Stawell a justified short price favourite.
Spanner Head's next target will be the Red Rock Deli Plate at Flemington on Oaks' Day next week. This is a 1700m fillies and mares' BM70.
Macattack also broke her maiden in landing the 1400m maiden at Hamilton on Sunday. She was second up this prep having had just two starts last prep when she was really just finding her feet. Two weeks ago at Pakenham she was unfortunate to be beaten just 0.1length, so she certainly wasn't winning out of turn.
Dual winner last prep, Chippenham, is back in and looking stronger and more mature for having a decent spell. He made an effortless return to the track yesterday for a trial at Geelong on the synthetic and looked to have progressed nicely. He retains his lightening gate speed and with no pressure at all, he crossed the line a length behind the winner-one to keep an eye on when he heads to the races.
Over the last couple of months we have been rennovating our equine swimming pool. When we initally purchased the property the pool was run down and a long time out of use. We have redesigned the pool to make it safer and more user friendly and are delighted with the results. It will be a huge asset to us; we believe swimming is beneficial to the fitness and conditioning of horses as well as helping in rehabilitating injuries. With our very own pool we will now be able to integrate swimming into all our horses' daily routines.
Before and during rennovation
All ready to go!
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From a first winner to a first black-type winner. Renew has provided Archie Alexander an amazing thrill.
Alexander Racing has recorded its first winner, with the OTI-owned mare Tyanna scoring in strong fashion at Seymour on Thursday September 25, 2014.
On July 1 2014, a whole new world opened for Archie Alexander, when his Ballarat stables officially opened for business.