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A couple of runners whose chances can both probably be best described as ‘fair-to-middling’ on the mid-week programme at Kyneton today.
In finishing third at Hamilton a fortnight ago JACK ON THE ROCKS (Race 3, Declan Bates) took an encouraging step in the right direction on what was his first outing for us and first for 25 weeks since a down-the-field debut. It’s important to note that that race was a modest contest in and of itself, the winner Sandhill Galaxy a pretty well exposed performer by now after all, but we’d certainly want to think that Jack On The Rocks can come on for that comeback run, tighter in himself now and more aware of precisely what’s required. He looks well equipped for the same 1200m trip as things stand, especially if he can replicate the same alertness from the gate, whilst this afternoon’s race is also one containing only a limited amount in the way of proven quality. The Moroney-trained Bill The Bee has achieved most up to this point, though he’s having his first run since October and looked to be more comfortable over further than this during his last prep. A lot may end up boiling down to how good the newcomer Smart Horse can show himself, and if nothing out of the ordinary we’ll certainly anticipate hitting the first two.
ASTROLOGICAL (Race 8, Declan Bates) has made the same move as Jack On The Rocks having previously been trained by Darren Weir. Having taken no fewer than 14 tries to get off the mark, the four-year-old daughter of Wanted suddenly found the art of winning in no uncertain manner last winter, hitting a purple patch and bringing up a quick-fire hat-track in the process. All three of those victories came over today’s 1200m and during a pretty concerted spell of racing last year. She’s since been off since September and returns without her usual blinkers. Given the overall trajectory of her career, the most recent third of it at least, has been an upward one, we’ll be hoping she can continue along a progressive path this prep. She’s largely versatile where it comes to underfoot conditions. We’ll be happy if she can produce a positive comeback run upon which she can build today, perhaps when the headgear is back in place. The well-related Asgard Massif perhaps hasn’t quite come up to expectations to date, but after just five starts he remains unexposed and returns for an interesting new yard. As such, he is one to be wary of lower down the weights.
Today represents an exciting new start for Ocean Essence, though we have to wait until the end of Bendigo’s eight-race card to see him make it. When circumstances saw him switch to Alexander Racing, we were delighted to have the opportunity to have a lightly-raced three-year-old with so much residual potential coming into our care.
OCEAN ESSENCE (Race 8, Jordan Childs) is a nicely-bred three-year-old son of leading New Zealand sire Ocean Park. He got off the mark at the second time of asking at Mildura in September and since then has given the impression he’s yet to achieve anything like all of which he’s capable in a trio of handicaps, rather too headstrong for his own good on the last two occasions, matters perhaps compounded by having to make his own running at Morphettville when last seen in early-November. A current handicap rating of 61 surely understates his ability if he is able to use himself rather more efficiently, and that’s something we’ll certainly be looking for him to do at Bendigo today. HIs future remains a bright one.
There are dangers amongst the remainder of the runners. Last seen in the Victoria Derby, this clearly represents a huge drop in grade for Seberate, though whether he’s able to show his touch of class over today’s 1300m remains to be seen. It could be that the fillies Crown Dancer and Pretty Bella offer a more potent threat.
Today’s highlight comes at Yarra Valley, where it’s Cup day, and we are very much looking forward to see how Gallic Chieftain fares in his bid to concede weight all round in the big race. Meanwhile, a few hours prior to that Absolut Artie is engaged in what appears a winnable maiden in the opener at Benalla.
Whilst ABSOLUT ARTIE (Race 1, Jarrod Fry) might have been just fourth of six at Warrnambool last month, he only just missed out in a blanket finish and it clearly represented his best run to date, showing no ill-effects from his Kyneton run the time before. It’s a performance which looks to give him a leading chance in today’s opener at Benalla, mindful of the fact the opposition have themselves achieved just a modest standard of ability themselves. He’s good from the gate, so we’ll be looking for Jarrod Fry to be positive on him and then prove too strong for the opposition when it matters.
The $125,000 Yarra Valley Cup is the centerpiece of the afternoon’s programme there, and with so much to like about his first outing for us at Flemington recently, GALLIC CHIEFTAIN (Race 7, Jordan Childs) is the class act in a field of redoubtably Cup gallopers. That Flemington fifth to Fifty Stars in the Grade 2 Blamey Stakes exceeded all expectations, most notably given it came over a 1600m trip which felt as if it would prove some way short of his optimum. The 1950m distance of today’s race will play more to his strengths. He has to give weight away all round by dint of being the best horse in the line-up, though it’s worth noting that he has a good record under big imposts, whilst his presence also dictates that a number are having to compete from out of the handicap, including his OTI Racing ‘ownermate’ Azuro, though that one does still rate a significant danger. We’re crossing our fingers the Blamey run goes to show that he has the requisite class to be able to defy the weight and wider draw than ideal in barrier 11.
Getting a break, enjoying the rub of the green, racing luck. Whatever it is, Write Your Name hasn’t been getting a great deal of it. Hopefully that can all change at Flemington this afternoon.
Today’s is a warm handicap, no question, but then again so it should for the prizemoney on offer, but all the same WRITE YOUR NAME (Race 2, Jordan Childs) continues to give the firm impression he’s capable of breaking through at this sort of level before hitting greater heights. It was in a similar type of race in which he finished fourth of 11 to Mr Quickie over course and distance last month, though that doesn’t tell the full story. From an outside draw he was unable to find cover and got caught on a limb throughout, still wide through the turn, and that he stuck to his task as well as he did was encouraging, certainly sufficient to indicate he’s handicapped to win granted more of the aforementioned in-race fortune. Jumbo Ozaki is unbeaten in two and looks potentially very smart. This, however, is another significant step up for him, so whether he’s flattered by his current price remains to be seen.
Warrnambool and later on Pakenham are the two venues for Thursday’s racing, and we’re represented on both programmes.
ABRADED (Race 4, Declan Bates) has done enough to think he can win a race of this nature, even allowing for the fact he failed to match expectations at Terang most recently. For all he came out of that race perfectly fit and well there was just a chance something may have been impeding him during the course of it, not really finishing off. Blinkers are now applied in an attempt to get everything to come together and help push him over the line for a breakthrough success in what is a winnable race of its type. The proximity of 10-race non-winner Wild Vitality rather underlines that latter point, and the bigger threat is liable to come from potential improver Rather Fantastic.
AMBLEVE (Race 7) was good in scoring at Bendigo last month, and now she makes the move into handicap company from an opening mark of 61. Clearly this will require further improvement, but it’s certainly too soon to suggest she doesn’t have that within her, in fact she looks a likely sort to progress, especially as her stamina is gradually drawn out, up to 1400m now. There are several other three-year-olds in the line-up worthy of attention, though none more so than No Drama Darci who did well to finish as close as he did at Sandown last time after a far from ideal run. He should take all the beating in first-time blinkers.
In Pakenham’s finale ZABELARINA (Race 8, Jordan Childs) isn’t in quite as deep as she was at The Valley last time. The form of her previous third to La Tigeresa looks good in the context of today’s race, enough to imagine she should line up with a very good chance. She gets winkers fitted for the first time and has a favourable inside draw. She should be able to adopt a prominent pitch, and then it will be a case of simply seeing whether she can prove strong enough in the straight. The course form recently achieved by Goosey Fair and Think I’m Dreaming should be respected, whilst another course winner Taberna now makes her handicap bow and could step up, but none of these has clearly better claims than Zabelarina.
If the stormy weather doesn’t impose a postponement, this is the kind of sight we can expect from the remarkable Altior at Cheltenham today. Whilst we’ll be hoping that neither of our Sandown-bound runners emulate the chaser too literally, there are hopes that Convict Sam and Wee Gilly can take off now their stamina comes more into play.
For a valuable maiden the opener on Hillside has come up very light, non-runners meaning just five are set to take part at the time of writing. CONVICT SAM (Race 1, Jordan Childs) has hidden depths to him, having hidden his light under a bushel in two starts to this point, and in hindsight dropping back to 1400m didn’t help him at Terang last time, the relative test of speed all against him. Expect him to show a lot more of what he’s about back at a mile today, and the scale of progress could well be sufficient enough to see him getting off the mark. One to watch out for, he’s a young horse with a future.
Whilst WEE GILLY (Race 6, Fred Kersley) was pulled out of last week’s intended engagement, all is well with her and she’ll now take her chance in a BM64 on this afternoon’s card. She’s got a big weight with the drop in class, and as such Fred Kersley’s 2kg claim helps. This will be her first try at 2400m, something we’ve long since thought as a good option for her, the way she kept battling at Bendigo most recently an example of the stamina she seems to have up her sleeve. This represents a drop in class, even if she meets an in-form rival in the shape of Nothin’ Leica High, whilst, as mentioned before, that Bendigo run went a long way towards dispelling any remaining doubts that she needs a softer surface to be seen at her most effective. She should go really well.
In the immortal words of Mr Loaf, two out of three ain’t bad, and that would certainly be the case at Ballarat today where we look to have a couple of excellent chances amongst our trio of runners.
First up we have GAMAY (Race 1, Jordan Childs), a two-year-old filly who sports some illustrious colours and makes her racecourse debut in the opening 1200m maiden. She’s a beautiful daughter of Pierro out of a dam, Amish, who was a winner herself over 1200m and all of whose seven previous foals to race have managed to win. These include Group 2 winner Banish and listed scorer Meidung. All of this adds up to Gamay having very promising credentials indeed. It remains to be seen whether she’s wound up enough at the first time of asking, and we’ll certainly be looking for her to step up appreciably on whatever she achieves this afternoon.
In finishing placed on all four starts, including runner-up no the last three, LAMINGTON DRIVE (Race 3, Luke Nolen) has rather plateaued in his form, not really progressing so much as sustaining his level. Now that level is more than good enough to win an ordinary maiden, which today’s could well be, in fact it’s simply a matter of time until he breaks through. He drops back to a mile now and has blinkers in place for the first time, so let’s hope everything comes together to allow him to get the monkey off his back. Planet Warrior is the one we’ll need to be most wary of amongst the opposition, though he does have a wide draw to overcome.
SACCHARO (Race 6, Jordan Childs) bids to follow Mirette’s suit in making a successful return to handicap company having been in deeper waters when last seen. Fifth in the Caulfield Guineas and then a good third in Group 3 company at Flemington, a handicap mark of 66 should prove well within his wheelhouse. He’s been gelded in the more than four months since last seen, and now returns to the shorter 1200m trip. Whether or not it proves to be his optimum distance today should go a long way towards showing, but what does stand out is that he simply looks far and away the best handicapped horse in this line-up, even if he does have to give weight away all round. He’s drawn widest, but withdrawals have lessened the effect of barrier 11 and, as with Mirette yesterday, it will be quite the let-down were he not able to account for the opposition here.
A brace of runners at Echuca today, but even with the best will in the world only one of them can be seriously fancied, the other likely to find his wheels spinning on this return to action.
DANESAI (Race 4, Jordan Childs) was last seen in a maiden hurdle in June, when still in the charge of Darren Weir, and that should give some idea to what he’s about. Stamina, and plenty more of it than will be tested over a mile here this afternoon. As such, this is all about getting up to speed for the five-year-old son of High Chaparral, a getting-to-know-you ice-breaker, and we’ll certainly be looking for him to build on whatever he does today when he’s back around 2400m, the kind of trip he was running over for both career successes to date.
Ahead of the Echuca Cup just four rivals take on MIRETTE (Race 6, Jordan Childs) in the BM70 over 1400m. It may have been something of a last-ditch win at Warrnambool last month on the face of it, but we got the impression she had a fair bit more up her sleeve on that occasion, and given it was her first run this prep we’re anticipating a sizeable step forward this afternoon. Make no mistake, she remains a filly with a highly promising future, one who can progress through the ranks from what is still a relatively lowly handicap mark for one of her ability (and one who has Group 1 form to her name). The Mick Price-trained Dancing Tycoon looks the biggest danger, but even so we’ll all be disappointed if Mirette doesn’t make it back-to-back wins en route to bigger and better things.
Whilst the Black Caviar Lightning is surely the key formline with a view to today’s Newmarket Handicap (and on the evidence of it Graff is the one to be with), then the Colac Cup may well be similarly important to Edenhope’s own big race this afternoon.
Just the six runners for the Edenhope Cup, and half of those are disadvantaged by the weights, leaving the trio at the head of the handicap as the ones to concentrate on. ANDREA MANTEGNA (Race 7, Declan Bates) finished very marginally ahead of OTI Racing’s Scherzoso in the Colac Cup a month ago on what was his first start since joining the stable. The pair of them were seventh and eighth of the 12 runners there, though neither enjoyed the ideal race by any means, Andrea Mantegna too free for much of the way, whilst Scherzoso also met some interference. More pertinently today’s race is notably less strong than was that one, and there is unlikely to be a great deal between either of them once again, only this time they should be much closer to the business end. Andrea Mantegna has had a trial over hurdles since that last run, and hopefully will have got the freshness out of himself by now. We do also have South Australian interloper Chivadahlii to contend with, his close fourth in a recent BM90 at Morphettville reading well in context. It really should be between the three of them.
A couple of days after Caramel Popcorn made her debut at Seymour, Jack On The Rocks starts out for us at Hamilton. You'll be pleased to hear an Alexander Racing healthy living cookbook is firmly in the pipeline.
JACK ON THE ROCKS (Race 5, Declan Bates) made his racecourse debut at Echuca nearly six months ago, though he didn’t achieve a great deal in a run-of-the-mill maiden, finishing down the pack, albeit in a race in which they ended up finishing pretty well clumped together. The son of Moshe (out of a daughter of Snippetson) was in the care of Darren Weir at that stage, and has since been one of those to make the transition down the road. Greenness was evidently at play on that first racecourse appearance, and he will surely know more this time around and build on that level of form. In our favour is the lack of strength to today’s race, and whilst Samatar has achieved most to date and will set off a worthy favourite, there’s very little of substance amongst the remainder, raising hope we could well be good for a place at least.
Just the one runner at Bendigo today as Wee Gilly attempts to build on an encouraging return to form over this course and distance last time.
There was plenty to like about the effort of WEE GILLY (Race 5, Luke Currie) in the Marong Cup here last time. That was a BM78, and even if not the most competitive of races for the level, she’s back down into a BM70 now, and in getting into a good rhythm and then showing willing in finishing three-quarters of a length second of seven to Anemoi, she did plenty to suggest she can be a leading player in today’s line-up. What that run also went a long way to doing is dispelling any doubts that she’s fully effective away from more testing underfoot conditions, something that will hold her in equally good stead this time. Both the very lightly-raced five-year-old Latin Beat and Warrnambool scorer Ryan’s Fender arrive here on the up and with more seemingly very likely to come, so Wee Gilly is going to have to build on that last run, but if she does she should be right in the mix come the end.
Newcomers everywhere right now. The equine one is the deliciously-named two-year-old Caramel Popcorn who begins in a cut-up maiden at Seymour today.
By top sire Hinchinbrook, CARAMEL POPCORN (Race 2, Linda Meech) is out of a 1500m-winning daughter of Anabaa. She may well benefit from a bit of extra ground in the fullness of time, but she clearly has ability and today’s race feels like a nice starting-off point. Her draw looked an impediment initially, but withdrawals have lessened the effect, so there shouldn’t be too many excuses on that score. Here's hoping for a positive start, one that can be built upon.
A couple of runners – and an early start – on an excellent day of racing at Flemington today, one with a realistic chance, the other a high-class galloper on the comeback trail.
WRITE YOUR NAME (Race 5, Michael Dee) might fairly be considered unfortunate not to be unbeaten in his four starts to date, having had clear excuses for both reversals, most recently when enduring a tough run in finishing a close second to Fudged in a BM70 at Sandown back in December. He returns in a smart three-year-old handicap, though from a mark of 68 which looks as if understates his ability, and as such he can be given a big chance in today’s line-up, especially as we know he goes perfectly well fresh and a break since that last run has seen him develop physically. The similarly lightly-raced Brilliant Choice was impressive in winning at The Valley last time and is to be feared, whilst Age of Chivalry brings good Group form to the table and is another to add firmly into the mix.
The admirable GALLIC CHIEFTAIN (Race 7, Jordan Childs) has been a fine standard-bearer for OTI Racing over the last couple of seasons. He’s made the transition from Forest Lodge since last competing in the Queen Elizabeth Cup at this track back in November. The 2600m of that race shows what he’s about, however, much more a stayer than the mile of today’s Group 2 Blamey will allow him to show, unraced over a trip this short since October 2016. As such, this is little more than a first step back to action for the son of Tamayuz, one that can hopefully put him on an even keel for the stiffer stamina tests that lie ahead.
An exciting evening in store at The Valley where we have two cracking and very much upwardly-mobile mares representing us.
ZABELARINA (Race 2, Jordan Childs) made the best start possible for us when winning her maiden at Sandown on what was her first start for the best part of a year. She then took her form onto another level in finishing just under two and a half lengths third of eight to La Tigeresa in a BM70 on Hillside there which promises to make for strong form. She remains with the scope to do better still, especially now stretching out to a mile, and for all this evening’s BM64 is a competitive looking heat, she certainly has as much upside to her as anything else in the field.
If Zabelarina is progressing nicely, then MOSH MUSIC (Race 6, Jordan Childs) is fairly sky-rocketing through the grades, having won three of her last four, and in the process given the impression she’s a stayer with a big future. The future starts tonight, as she takes her chance in the Stayers Final, where she tries out 2500m for the first time. She’s certainly pacy enough for a stayer, but at the same time there’s been nothing in her performances thus far to suggest the longer trip will prove beyond her. Adding further lustre to her already strong claims is the clear liking she’s shown for Moonee Valley the last twice. She’s one we can rightly get excited about.
Beach Club is swimming in calmer waters at Kyneton today, and the marked drop in grade is sure to see her plenty more competitive.
After a fine start at the first time of asking, when third to Lankan Star at The Valley, we asked plenty of BEACH CLUB (Race 2, Jordan Childs) when pitching her into Group company at Caulfield earlier this month. That was a step too far, but it will not have hindered her overall development, and the experience should help her now back in maiden company. There are newcomers to be wary of today, notably so Godolphin's Involved, and as such it's not a race we can be hard and fast about, but Beach Club should be in the mix judging her on that very encouraging debut effort.
Having had a brief yet beguiling look through Terang’s storied history, I'd be failing myself to blithely look over Ronnie Warmouth or Jordie McKenzie, yet it would still appear the trotter Gammalite is the most famous son of the town*. And with figures like his, why not? 179 races for 94 wins, 53 seconds and well over $1 million in earnings. I’d like to see 80s Rock Musician Tim Williams offering up similar stats! All jokes aside, Terang on Wednesday gives us four good opportunities of creeping up the Wikipedia ladder of their famous achievers.
*Nobel Prize-winning immunologist Frank Burnet clearly supercedes everyone else, even Gammalite, or so I’ve been told.
ABRADED (Race 3, Declan Bates) was in a shade too deep when racing at Sandown behind Bullock a fortnight ago, giving it his best but ending up just coming a shade short. He’s certainly good enough to win a workaday maiden, especially now he’s back from the city, with a reproduction of that last effort sure to see him go extremely close.
The mildly unfortunate thing is that we have the other likely winner in the same race, too. CONVICT SAM (Race 3, Neil Farley) ran a race full of undisguised promise to finish mid-pack behind Nessuna Fiducia at Ballarat back in October. That came over a mile, and ultimately today’s 1400m isn’t going to be his ideal bag, but there’s loads of improvement to come from that first start either way. Whether he’ll be sharp enough to cope with Abraded remains to be seen, particularly given his draw is less favourable.
WISHFUL REALIZER (Race 4, Declan Bates) really ought to win the race that follows. His form is some way in advance of that the well exposed Clever George and Blame Rodney bring to the table, even his somewhat disappointing fifth (a close fifth) to The Sidekick at Bendigo last time reads well in the context of today’s race. The once-raced Dejakkal is a likely improver and probably the one to keep an eye on.
It’s a drop in class for LAST VEIN (Race 7, Neil Farley), but maybe not quite the one we’d have wished for: she’s in a strong-looking BM58; with Esthetic, Telemarketer, and American Summer in there it’s going to take a bit more winning than ideal. On the plus side, she’s back up to a trip which looks like being just about her ideal, and with headgear on to boot, on the back of a couple of strong efforts which suggest her time needn’t be too far off. Given the strength of the race, she’ll probably need a couple of others to underfire if she’s to win, however.
It looks to be something close resembling a match between two former stablemates third up at Bendigo this afternoon.
Albeit just unable to hold on, it was a very encouraging start AMBLEVE (Race 3, Jordan Childs) made for us at Colac earlier in the month when having her first run since September, and also her first since switching from Lindsay Park. She was just unable to stave off a debutant in Almighty Gold on that occasion, though there was plenty to like about the rhythm she got into at the head of affairs despite getting little peace there, and she certainly wasn't stopping come the line. The fourth that day, Stage Front, went on to beat Now's Her Time by a similarly tight margin at Stawell last week, enough to suggest the form should prove solid enough. There is a field of twelve today, but far and away the one who rates as Ambleve's chief rival is Hayes/Hayes/Dabernig's Medieval Miss. She caught the eye with the late gains she made over today's track on what was also her first outing since September three weeks ago, with that visual impression, allied to the fact she's by Camelot, strongly implying she'll be much more at home over today's longer trip. There's seemingly precious little to choose between the two, so let's cross our fingers that we get the rub of the green this time!
Twenty-race maidens don't generally strike much fear into you when scanning those runners you're up against. That's not the case at Yarra Valley today, where the class-dropping Go Ferrando looks to be up against a wolf in sheep's clothing.
GO FERRANDO (Race 5, Neil Farley) hasn't been able to land a blow in a couple of BM64s since winning his maiden at Werribee, when the beneficiary of a good front-running ride from Neil, and so a drop in his handicap mark and a slip down into BM58 company at Yarra Valley today should help him get back to being a whole lot more competitive. He's nicely drawn in 2 to enable Neil to try and grab the race by the scruff of the neck once again, and he should have more left for the final stages against these lesser rivals. However, in amongst those their lurks a stand-out opponent. Peppino has yet to break his duck in twenty starts, but the form he's been achieving in defeat bears no relation whatsoever to his handicap mark and he looks absolutely thrown in trying a handicap for the first time and in receipt of 6kg from Go Ferrando. All's not quite lost, however, as Peppino does have to prove himself trying this longer trip for the first time, but if he stays it okay he will surely prove near impossible to beat.
A twin-pronged attack at Warrnambool this afternoon, including the very welcome return of a filly who remains with unfinished business and unscaled peaks yet to climb.
ABSOLUT ARTIE (Race 2, Declan Bates) is going to need to up his game based on what he’s achieved in two starts to date, that much is for sure. The rider to that is that they have come six months apart, and at Kyneton earlier this month he made a noise during a race in which he received little cover. He now has a tongue strap in place to try and remedy any issue that is at play there and prompt a much-improved display from the son of Artie Schiller. If it does there doesn’t look to be too much to be unduly worried about amongst the opposition in a maiden which is both short on numbers and a great deal of proven form.
Meanwhile MIRETTE (Race 8, Jordan Childs) returns from a break with a weight of expectation behind her, borne from what she has achieved and yet still promises to do so and, relevant today, the drop in class she takes for this reappearance. It was the manner of her Benalla maiden win back in September, style over substance maybe, that prompted her being fast-tracked straight to Caulfield for the Thousand Guineas. She duly proved herself very much at home in such vaunted company, finishing just over two-lengths sixth to Amphitrite. Her next run, in a listed event on Melbourne Cup Day, was clearly a disappointment but in light of ground conditions that were all over the place on that day it’s a run we’re happy enough to put a line through. She comes back this afternoon in BM64 company, and clearly her Group 1 form looks very good in context, so we will be looking for her to win with some authority to cement the view that she remains one to look forward to with future and bigger targets in mind.
Having made a promising start to her career at Warrnambool recently, now's the time for Now's Her time as she would appear to have a good chance of getting off the mark at the second time of asking at Stawell today.
Seven runners are set to go to post for the opening maiden at Stawell this afternoon, and NOW'S HER TIME (Race 1, Dean Yendall) holds strong form claims based purely on the evidence of that debut run, even before considering the improvement that may be fortcoming for that initial experience of the racecourse. The daughter of Kaphero moves up from 1100m to 1300m and, with her future looking a bright one at this stage, she seems to have Stage Front to beat.
I'm out of James Bond puns (well, I'm probably not, but I don't want inflict them upon you), so let's keep it simple by stating we've got a couple of runners, including Connery, with excellent claims at Jane Seymour today. Sorry.
LAMINGTON DRIVE (Race 3, Jordan Childs) has been going very close with regularity, placed on all three starts to date and sure to win one of these before long, and very possibly today. There's little to choose between his level of form and that of Don't Look Now for the Busuttin/Young team, though we're more lightly raced and with winkers now in place, he can hopefully find that little extra to get off the mark. They can at least go some way towards curbing the slight wayward tendencies he displayed at Ararat last time.
There's also a gear change in the closing BM70 for CONNERY (Race 8, Jordan Childs) who is refitted with blinkers. It was a pleasing enough return from a lengthy absence at Sandown last time, one he should better with the benefit of the outing. There remain hidden depths to him, to the extent that a handicap mark of 65 feels like one he can exploit sooner rather than later. His record strongly suggests that a mile is his optimum trip, something which seemed to be backed up by the way he shaped on his return over 1400m. Grand Crown is the obvious danger amongst the opposition.
It’s certainly been a winding, if not overly long road Last Vein has taken to get to Kyneton today. Not a long one as she remains young and with a whole load of residual potential, some of which she can hopefully now tap into and expand upon, after all she’s more than likely the most choicely-bred runner on display this afternoon!
A striking chestnut, LAST VEIN (Race 5, Jordan Childs) is by the ill-fated Unencumbered out of a top-class racemare in Victory Vein, one who was sadly lost not long after producing Last Vein. Racing for Tony McEvoy, she got off the mark with next to no fuss at the fourth time of asking on the synthetic surface at Geelong last August. A step up from 1300m to a mile, and a more notable one in grade, found her out at Bendigo the following month, though on viewing she looked to be beaten by more than simply the trip or the class, simply not herself. A break of four and a half months saw her back at Geelong, this time on turf and with Darren Weir, and putting in a performance which went a long way to show that she’s on a handicap mark she can exploit, just found out by the marked drop back to 1100m in finishing third to Good Offa – who went on to run well in a much higher class next time. Facts and formlines don’t really do justice to Last Vein, though, more the strong suspicion that there’s a good deal more left in her substantial tank and from her enviable pedigree to think she remains capable of operating at a considerably higher level than she’s being asked to today.
'As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.'
Donald Rumsfeld could, and perhaps would, apply his famous analysis of WMDs in Iraq to the flurry of stable debutants we have running at present. At Colac's Cup meeting this afternoon we have another two out of three runners in total. It's all a learning process and stretching to find more of those known knowns!
Whilst we have a number of incumbents from another superpower source at present, AMBLEVE (Race 1, Jordan Childs) has arrived from Lindsay Park and has been with us rather longer, having made the switch to our premises in the five months since the third of three starts for Hayes et al. She’s a three-year-old daughter of Hinchinbrook out of a useful and speedy mare, and she has displayed more than enough ability so far to think she can be found a maiden before too much longer. Indeed, with the sex allowance she receives this afternoon she just emerges top of our in-house ratings ahead of Stage Front and Defies Logic, so if she’s ready to give it her best shot returning to action – and there’s little reason to imagine she won’t be over a 1200m trip that could well end up proving something like her optimum – she looks set to take the beating first up at Colac today.
For ANDREA MANTEGNA (Race 7, Jordan Childs), the route to the Colac Cup has been rather less straightforward, circumstances dictating a change of stable of late. He’s a smart performer, one proven in Cup races of this level, successful for Darren Weir in the Ararat Cup in November before running mid-field in the Ballarat version a fortnight later. He’s been off seven weeks since running some way below form at Flemington, disappointing there even before perhaps finding the distance of 2500m just stretching his stamina in rain-softened ground. That stamina point isn’t set in stone as of yet, though today’s intermediate trip of 2000m does suit him well, as does a soft surface more generally, so hopefully a short break and a change of scenery won’t have interrupted him but instead will see him back on his game, as a reproduction of his best sort of form makes him a massive player here.
In the following race we’ll be looking to see a better display from GO FERRANDO (Race 8, Jordan Childs) than on his handicap debut at Cranbourne last month. He looked to be struggling from a relatively early stage on that occasion, clearly well below the form he achieved in winning that Werribee maiden on Christmas Eve. That maiden success remains a stand-out performance, and whilst there’s no suggestion it was a fluke, we need him to get back to the level of that display at the very least here today. With rain forecast, the possibility of softer ground could yet represent something of an unknown (unknown), especially as the going was rated a Soft 5 at Cranbourne.
We’ve two very interesting runners this afternoon, interesting for diverging reasons, one being all about the chance suddenly being thrust upon him, the other the context of the race to her early development.
The opening contest at Morphettville offers AZURITE (Race 1, Zac Spain) a much more winnable opportunity than he has generally been facing in Victoria. To say the BM82 he’s engaged in is lop-sided would be something of an understatement, with only Olympic Academy and Azurite himself within the actual handicap, the remaining five all limited performers firmly up against it at the weights. The race really ought to be a match, then, between the top two, and a match-up of the competing formlines from Victoria and South Australia. It’s difficult to have any firm conviction on which will emerge the stronger, so let’s hope the receipt of 5.5kg from Olympic Academy will be enough to swing it our way.
Whichever way you slice it, it was a highly positive start for BEACH CLUB (Race 6, Jordan Childs) to finish just under two lengths third of seven to Lankan Star in a Moonee Valley maiden at the first time of asking. Still, it’s a long way from there to the Group 2 Blue Diamond Prelude which awaits her at Caulfield this afternoon, but then again the race fits neatly into her early schedule and having done enough at The Valley to suggest she needn’t be overfaced, it’s an ask that can work well to aid her overall progression. Of course, she’s an outsider, and so she should be mindful of the host of highly promising fillies she lines up against, but she’s not a no-hoper of an outsider with so much upward momentum to come two weeks on from that debut.
Four runners across Friday's two programmes, with two of the three we have in at The Valley this evening making their stable debuts.
WISHFUL REALIZER (Race 4, Andrew Mallyon) is Bendigo bound for his start. There was a bit of improvement from first start to second, and if that rate of progress can be maintained now he looks to hold just about the leading form claims, albeit in a maiden in which a number can be said to have sound claims. Reasons for being hopeful that there may, in fact, be an even more substantial jolt of improvement this time are the move up to 1400m and the fitting of winkers for the first time. On the book, Scotch O’Clock rates as the biggest danger, although it’s possible a couple of others may be open to a slightly greater degree of development.
Two of our three runners down at The Valley this evening are having their first start for us having made the transition from Forest Lodge. Clearly, the developments are last-minute and, as such, how well they’ll have taken that change of scenery is something that will only really be able to be assessed on the track tonight. BRINGIT (Race 6, Ben Allen) is a useful five-year-old who is most effective at around 2500m, as he highlighted by winning a course-and-distance BM64 just before Christmas in great style. He was in much deeper in the Bagot Handicap at Flemington on New Year’s Day and that duly proved a step-up too far at this stage. Today’s BM78 can hopefully prove a happy medium. Creedence looks set to appreciate the step up in distance, and is understandably warm as favourite.
WEE GILLY (Race 7, Jordan Childs) wasn’t at all discredited when mid-field in a bunched finish at Sandown last time. She takes a drop in class now, back against mares and back down to BM70 level. Her winning form has all come on ground with cut, and the prospect of getting a ground description with the word ‘soft’ in it certainly ought to be a positive as regards her chance. It may not be that she doesn’t handle good going, more that more testing conditions simply favour her more than they do others. This looks a really good opening for her, in terms of position in her prep and of quality of opposition, and she can certain be expected to be a big player this evening.
As touched upon above, it’s a case of getting to know you with LOPE DE FIELD (Race 7, Ben Allen) who arrives here on a hat-trick having won her last two for Darren Weir, and three of her last four. Those successes came in BM58 and BM64 company at Stawell and Warrnambool respectively, so this clearly marks another step up on the ladder altogether. She’s been a narrow winner on both occasions, so we will see whether she has the scope to progress up to this level stepping into Town for the first time, though if she can maintain the rate of progress she’s managed to summon up over the last couple of months she could well end up getting into the mix.
Two for the price of one at Warrnambool later today. Whilst we don’t intentionally face off our own horses against each other, if the race fits then needs must. So it is with the three-year-old fillies maiden that comes up fifth up on the programme.
Alphabetically she’s just first, and for that reason alone let’s start with NORD AVENIR (Race 5, Jordan Childs). Her debut came all the way back in August, when she was a highly encouraging fourth in a strong maiden at Swan Hill. The winner, Yulong January, has gone on to prove himself useful, borderline smart, and the runner-up, Irish Butterfly, had little trouble in breaking through at Sale recently. The third, Stripping Royalty, has also won her maiden since. It makes for hot form all round. Nord Avenir has progressed for that initial experience and ought to be very competitive in what looks a weaker contest this afternoon.
NOW’S HER TIME (Race 5, Linda Meech) is a newcomer with an attractive pedigree. By Kaphero, she’s out of Granniah, making her the year-younger half-sister to the so-far unlucky Raffine. We’re highly hopeful that she doesn’t meet any of the misfortune that has prevented her sibling from gaining a much-deserved debut success. She’s very promising indeed, and is by no means a second string to Nord Avenir. Both are there very much on their own merits.
A man is driving along pulling a float when he’s pulled over by the cops.
Policeman asks the driver, “Excuse me, sir, could you please tell me what you’re up to today?”
“Of course, mate,” comes the reply, “I’m just taking the horses to the races at Caulfield.”
Policeman takes a look at the situation before returning to the man with a quizzical look on his face. “Okay then sir, would you mind telling me why there are no horses in the float?”
“I know,” comes the reply, “I’m taking the non-runners first!”
Scratched runners play quite a heavy theme at both Caulfield and Kyneton today, where we have a runner apiece, though that should at least ease the path a little for them both.
ABSOLUT ARTIE (Race 1, Neil Farley) hasn’t been seen since finishing six lengths fourth of seven in a three-year-old maiden at Warracknabeal in August. He’ll need to come on from that, especially as he’s been drawn widest of all (though the withdrawals have lessened that disadvantage), but there’s no reason to imagine he won’t do precisely that, giving us plenty of hope with the way he’s been doing at home. He showed a decent amount of speed on that first try, and may well be suited by less testing underfoot conditions today.
The 11-runner BM84 FASTNET LATINA (Race 6, Jordan Childs) is down to a 7-runner event at the time of writing, though it remains a tricky affair for the reasons that Antah looks seriously progressive and Fastnet Latina himself hasn’t been at the top of his game on two of his last three starts, notably so at Flemington last time. The blinkers are the removed now, and there’s encouragement to take that he was much better over this course and distance on his penultimate outing.We know the ability is still there when everything comes together.
A big evening - and perhaps a celebratory night – awaits at The Valley today. With two runners holding standout claims in a couple of the staying events we’re looking at coming away with owners both happy and pocket-filled!
SAN REMO (Race 3, Jordan Childs) will be happier this evening back up at 3000m, the extra distance important to him for all he was a very good fourth over the shorter 2500m here last week. He’s holding his form admirably well, a stayer with consistency, and that’s a virtue not all of this evening’s rivals can boast. He’s back down to BM70 level for the first time since winning at Cranbourne in December, and probably has a last-time winner from there in Benall as the one to beat. If it comes down to a finish between the two we’ll be hoping Jordan’s strength will count for plenty!
Later on the programme MOSH MUSIC (Race 7, Jordan Childs) takes in Heat 2 of the Stayers Series the first leg of which San Remo finished fourth in last time. This sees a marked step up in distance for her, from a mile to 2050m, and given the way she finished from off the pace at Sandown last time it promises to unlock a good deal more of her raw potential. It’s well worth noting that the front was firmly the place to be at Sandown that day, and Mosh Music was running against the grain in getting as close as she did to finish third to Pure Scot there, albeit in a small field. She strongly looks the one to beat today – in fact it will be something of a surprise if she’s not up to gaining compensation and, at the same time, opening up a host of new possibilities.
A late meeting at The Valley but early work compressed into two races for us, three runners in the first two events, including the first tracks of a potentially smart two-year-old. All of which means a plausibly early evening depending on whether or not we opt to stay for the return of the mighty Redkirk Warrior.
Start off where you mean to carry on, that’s the view we’ve taken with BEACH CLUB (Race 1, Jordan Childs). If you want to race at Moonee Valley start off doing so. She’s a beautiful daughter of Zoffany, who himself excelled over a mile, out of an unraced Dylan Thomas half-sister to champion juvenile Overreach. It’s a pedigree to be excited about, and we wouldn’t be starting out at the Valley if we didn’t think she was precocious and speedy enough to do herself justice. She’s sharp. Withdrawals have limited the opposition to an extent, though Lankan Star, from an Aga Khan-bred family, has already shown ability and Hulk is bred to be very good. We will see!
It had to happen in the end. Both PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 2, Jordan Childs) and SAN REMO (Race 2, Damien Thornton) have been in each other’s sights for a while. We’ve managed to keep them apart until now, but today’s 2500m BM78 feels like the ideal calling card for both. They’ve both improved with racing, progressing as their stamina has been drawn out and they’ve gradually got the hang of Australian racing. It’s a really difficult pick between the two. If San Remo were to get back to his fluent self as seen at Cranbourne he’d surely be hard to beat today, acknowledging the shorter trip plays against his strengths to a degree. Prinz Hlodowig is coming off a Caulfield high, however, and given he’s the marginally more progressive of the pair he’s the one to plump for if a gun was pointed at one’s head. There’s precious little in it, though, and we’ll just hope that one of the two prevails for OTI Racing.
Plenty of points of interest amongst today’s twilight meeting on Sandown’s Lakeside track, including four runners each with a more than reasonable chance of flying the flag successfully for Alexander Racing.
The opening maiden is run over 1300m, and whilst there is a fair amount of proven form on the table, it’s not that high a standard given the value of the race. Our representative is ZABELARINA (Race 1, Jordan Childs) who starts out for us having endured a stuttering start to her career so far. She’s a Bel Esprit four-year-old out of an unraced close relation to none other than two-time Horse of The Year Might And Power. Her debut came back in August 2017 for Robert Smerdon, though circumstances would demand a switch to Matt Cumani by the time she made her second start eight months later. This marked a step in the right direction, finishing a good fourth of 12 behind Longmu at Ballarat, though it’s another ten months from then to now, and another change of scenery to boot, so quite what she’s capable of and whether she can start making up for lost time remains to be seen. Her form is good enough to think she can go close, whilst her potential remains almost entirely untapped.
CONNERY (Race 3, Ethan Brown) makes his much-anticipated comeback in a BM64 over 1400m. Ethan Brown takes the ride and so reduces his 61kg impost by 1.5kg, and he looks to be very viably handicapped judged on the progress he made in the early part of last year. Both his wins came over 1600m, and it is possible that the extra distance could be important to him, whilst we’ve also left the visor off for this return to action. He’s gone well fresh before, at least, so should be tight enough to go at the first time asking. The race around Connery is competitive without looking unduly strong, last week’s course-and-distance runner-up Burgonet probably chief amongst the dangers.
It’s probably fair to say MAN ALIVE (Race 5, Jordan Childs) has been slightly underwhelming since transitioning into handicaps, though it bears reiterating that any lack of stamina has not been behind his last two runs over 2500m and 2400m. And it remains early days in his overall progression. He has to turn the tables with So Belafonte and Apocalypto from Hillside earlier in the month, though he didn’t enjoy the cleanest of runs that time, caught wide after a sluggish start, plugging on without ever quite being able to get on terms come the finish. He’s got blinkers in place now, and hopefully they will provide the impetus required for him to start achieving more at this level.
Jamie Kah celebrated her move from SA with a big-race win aboard Belwazi at the weekend, and she is drafted in to take the ride on WEE GILLY (Race 8, Jamie Kah) who sneaks into the BM78 right at the bottom of the handicap. There’s quite a lot to like about her chance, more so than her current $11 odds would imply. She was successful in BM78 company (fillies and mares race) at around this sort of trip at Cranbourne on her penultimate start in August, and clearly found the drop back to a mile all against her when coming back at Pakenham last month. She was doing all her best work at the end there, when behind the very progressive Laure Me In, and will clearly benefit from the return to a longer distance. Her best form has come when encountering a testing surface hitherto, but there was probably enough in that most recent run to suggest she’s not entirely ground dependent.
Flemington hosts one of its 25 meetings a year and Camperdown its one and only this fine Saturday, and they are the venues of interest for us, with the decision being made to direct Fastnet Latina to the former instead of an alternative option he held at Morphettville.
AZURITE (Race 2, Jye McNeil) failed to live up to expectations at Moonee Valley most recently, unable to match the level he’d performed to in a couple of previous outings, being pushed wide only a partial excuse. He’ll need to get back on his game now, in an open handicap which effectively equates to a BM95. That sees him up against it in relation to some of those towards the head of the weights, the ever-threatening Lycurgus specifically. There’s not much strength in depth to the race, however, rather typical of these sorts of races over these longer trips. Conditions will be fine, and he ran well in a similar race at Flemington two starts back.
FASTNET LATINA (Race 8, Jordan Childs) looked to face a simpler task at Morphettville, but the money on offer for that BM90 was poor compared to that on the table for this BM84. The counterbalance being that it’s considerably more competitive. He goes up beyond a mile for the first time having served notice at Caulfield a fortnight ago that he’s ready for such a move now, the strength of his finish catching the eye when fourth to the reopposing Black Sail on that occasion. He’s 2.5kg better off with that rival for just over a length and a half, so strictly speaking there really should be precious little between them. Our hope is that the added distance can now draw that little bit more from Fastnet Latina at this stage of his career. The problem is that the dangers certainly don’t begin and end with Black Sail, Five Kingdom and Laure Me In both upwardly-mobile handicappers who are likely to prove a major part of the conversation.
Having finished just over five and a half lengths eighth of thirteen to Off Peak at Seymour on debut, ROMAIYA (Race 3, Neil Farley) heads to Camperdown for his second start needing to progress for that initial experience. He was unable to take advantage of an inside draw on that occasion, though now has been done no favours the other way, widest of all in 14. As we stated prior to that debut outing, he can be expected to do best at around a mile in the medium term, and with that in mind he takes an incremental step up from 1300m to 1400m this afternoon. Unless he’s unable to find any cover from that barrier he should prove a good bit more competitive here.
Our likely winner today comes in the earlier meeting at Ararat, whilst Go Ferrando has more on his plate as he makes the transition into handicap company at Cranbourne later on.
It was a better race than today's in which LAMINGTON DRIVE (Race 3, Harry Coffey) finished third on debut at Seymour in the dying days of 2018. He have good chase in finishing two lengths third of fourteen to Happily To Be on that occasion, whilst simultaneously giving the impression he can improve a fair chunk further for the experience and, more so, today's distance move up to a mile. Runner-up that day, Tavsomefun, has himself gone on to win his own maiden in conclusive fashion at Cranbourne, giving the form of the race an extra boost. Lamington Drive doesn't face rivals of the same ability as that pair this afternoon, those to have achieved most, Pentian and Plum Pudding well exposed as modest (and in the case of the former well out of sorts when last seen). Ciaran Maher's once-raced Run By Night is out of a New Zealand Oaks winner, so for all he was well back in the field when starting out six months ago, he does at least retain a deal of potential returning for his second go and in a thin race is probably the one to be most wary of on balance.
The is, of course, a lot more depth to the BM64 in which GO FERRANDO (Race 5, Neil Farley) makes his handicap debut at Cranbourne. That said, the eye is immediately drawn to the one three-year-old in the line-up, the filly Rock Dove. Godolphin's daughter of Epaulette has run with merit in two handicaps whilst gradually having her stamina drawn out, and looks as if she could take off now getting beyond 2000m for the first time. Never be afraid of one horse, though, and Go Ferrando has of course already proven himself granted such a stamina test, as when stepping up to break his duck at Werribee three weeks ago. He won from the front under a cute stop-start ride from Neil Farley there, and whilst those tactics may prove difficult to replicate here, it could be that the likely stronger tempo will allow him to settle comfortably a bit further back. Werribee runner-up Enrico Pallazzo couldn't do much for the form next time unfortunately, but it's now Go Ferrando's job to strike on in open company, and after just six starts he is the most lightly-raced in today's line-up.
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.
Hannah Grant on La Dalliance from Alexander Racing on Vimeo.