If Day 1 was any guide to our fortunes for the rest of the week, then it could be a long Royal Ascot carnival for us.
Animal Kingdom beaten in the Queen Anne Stakes after he wouldn’t settle, Shea Shea nosed out in the King’s Stand Stakes (at least by our second pick!), Championship facing trouble in the ruck in the Coventry Stakes.
It wasn’t a good first day!
At least Dawn Approach was able to salvage something for us in the St James’s Palace Stakes, but he appears to be less tractable and harder to handle at every start, so I’m not sure he’ll be on a racetrack for much longer. (Unless he’s gelded, which isn’t an option!)
For the Australian contingent, there was only disappointment as Shamexpress finished ninth behind Sole Power.
I actually think Shamexpress didn’t run too badly, and I wish he was backing up on Saturday because I think he’d be suited by a stiff straight six.
Alas, it is not to be.
So we look forward to Day 2, highlighted by the Prince of Wales’ Stakes which has again attracted a quality field.
There are also a couple of large handicaps which make for spectacular viewing and betting, but are an obstacle when it comes to confidence!
Jersey Stakes – Group 3, 7f (a1400m), 3yo
A race for the lesser three year olds, although it has been known to throw up a late maturer or two who go on to further success around this trip.
Gale Force Ten has been a bit of a bridesmaid compared to some of his more high-profile stablemates – none more so than last start when he finished second in the Irish 2000 Guineas to Magician.
He looks the class runner of this field and I wouldn’t be surprised if seven furlongs turns out to be his best trip. Could just blow them away.
Qatar Racing’s Pearl Flute and Sheikh Hamdan’s second stringer Ajraam also caught the eye, while Mutin brings different formlines across from France. All three look to have more to give, and these three may be fighting out the minors behind Gale Force Ten.
1. Gale Force Ten
2. Pearl Flute
Duke of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2, 1m (a1600m), 4yo+ mares
This race has been renamed for Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge this year, having been formerly named the Windsor Forest Stakes.
On exposed form, Duntle looks the one to beat. She won the Sandringham on this day last year, and she is incredibly consistent and quite classy. Looks the winner on paper.
The most interesting runner is Roger Varian’s Dancewiththedevil, a Group 1 winning mare from South Africa.
She has not raced in over a year, but her South African form is good enough to see her more than competitive here. The price on offer reflects the queries about her, but I think she can win if on song.
Next best is Thistle Bird, quite a consistent mare, while Chigun also rates a mention.
3. Thistle Bird
Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Group 1, 1m 2f (a2000m), 4yo+
This race has been of great interest to Australian punters the last two years with So You Think an odds on favourite the last two years.
In 2011, he was surprisingly beaten by Godolphin’s Rewilding, his first European defeat, but he was able to atone last year when overcoming Carlton House and Farhh.
This year, there’s no So You Think, with Aidan O’Brien instead represented by Epsom Derby, Irish Derby and 2000 Guineas winner Camelot and likely pacemaker Windsor Palace.
They’ll take on nine rivals, including Camelot’s last start conqueror Al Kazeem, the ultra-consistent Red Cadeaux, French Group 1 winner Maxios, top filly The Fugue and Afsare, who arrived in Melbourne to contest last year’s Cox Plate only to injure himself in quarantine at Werribee.
The top form race does appear to be last month’s Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh, where Al Kazeem got the better of Camelot.
The first time Al Kazeem really caught my eye was in last year’s Jockey Club Stakes, when he beat My Quest for Peace by almost five lengths.
Unfortunately, injury ruled him out for the rest of the season. He has still looked like he’d take improvement from his runs so far this season, so it will be interesting to see how fit he is now. If he’s near his best, I think we could see something special from him here.
Camelot hasn’t looked the same horse since his St Leger defeat, and I think the Arc flattened him even further. An injury post-preparation made things worse, and I’m not convinced he’s the horse we thought he may be.
In fact, I’m willing to put Red Cadeaux ahead of him. Forget his last run in Singapore where nothing went right – he’s world class and although the 1m 2f is well below his best, I think he’ll be more suited here and he can be the surprise packet.
Next best is Maxios, while The Fugue also can’t be discounted.
1. Al Kazeem
2. Red Cadeaux
Royal Hunt Cup – Heritage Handicap, 1m (a1600m), 3yo+
This race is one of the better handicaps of the festival, always attracting a large field. This year is no different, with 30 runners to take to the mile-long straight.
It is nothing more than a lottery and if you are having a bet in the race, it would probably be better throwing a dart at the formguide.
That said, I did manage to tip the winner of this race in 2011 with a horse that has since become quite familiar to Australians in Julienas, now with Gai Waterhouse.
This is the sort of race that can throw up a shock result, and so I’ve looked for horses who are not among the favourites but who look to have good form.
The two I’ve ended up with are Global Village, who is yet to win over the mile journey but has caught the eye at his last two runs over the trip, and Spa’s Dancer, who went hurdling last October after losing his form on the flat but has seemed to recapture some of that old form again against much weaker company.
Both are around 25-1 in the UK, and I’d be happy to have a wager on both of them.
Another one at odds who should be competitive is Dictatorship, who has won his last two (including a victory over Spa’s Dancer two back). He’s another one who mixes his form but I think he can give this a shake.
Next best, Fury and Two for Two.
1. Global Village
2. Spa’s Dancer
Queen Mary Stakes – Group 2, 5f (a1000m), 2yo fillies
Another tough two year old race with a lot of good fillies stepping out here.
Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum has two runners here, and although the bookies have Rizeena the fancy of the two, I think Reroute is the one to beat.
She was very impressive on debut in winning and if she takes improvement, she’ll prove hard to beat.
I do think it is worth sticking with the market in these instances, and there is a clear reason Beldale Memory is the favourite.
She’s unbeaten in two starts for Qatar Racing and, looking at her victories, she may simply be too speedy for her rivals.
One I’ll be keeping a very close eye on is Oriel, a daughter of Fastnet Rock who races for Highclere Racing.
She’s out of a High Chaparral mare so may appreciate further in time, and she is yet to pass the post in front, but she’s been impressive despite not winning and she’ll go well here.
Next best are Rizeena and Godolphin’s Fire Blaze.
2. Beldale Memory
Sandringham Handicap – Listed, 1m (a1600m), 3yo fillies
Another big field to close the day, and quite a tough race to figure out with many of these having some claims.
Many of these are lightly raced and still rather unexposed, so it is a race where I won’t be betting.
If I was to have a wager, though, I’d probably have something on Mango Diva, who is one filly who looks to have plenty of scope.
I’d also consider small each way bets on Annie’s Fortune, who is a bit inconsistent but can win this at her best, and Fleeting Smile.
But this is one of the races I’m least interested in across the carnival.
1. Mango Diva
2. Annie’s Fortune
3. Fleeting Smile
Best of the day: Gale Force Ten
Most interesting runner: Dancewiththedevil
Horse to watch for the Melbourne spring: Red Cadeaux
The opening day of 2013 Royal Ascot is a unique raceday at the start of a unique festival.
What sets it apart from other race meetings and festivals is that three of the best races of the whole carnival are races one, two and three of 30 races to come over the next five days.
Imagine having the Victoria Derby, Mackinnon Stakes and Coolmore Stud Stakes as the first three races on the 10 race Derby Day card at Flemington. It’s simply unfathomable.
Like the Melbourne Cup Carnival, though, there is a headline race each day.
Today, it is the Queen Anne Stakes for the top milers (although the King’s Stand Stakes for the speedsters and the St James’s Palace Stakes for the three year old milers also vie for headline status), while tomorrow sees the Prince of Wales’s Stakes for the best middle distance gallopers.
Thursday sees the stayers slog it out in the Ascot Gold Cup, Friday is headlined by the Coronation Stakes for three year old fillies and Saturday is a day for sprinters with the Diamond Jubilee Stakes the feature.
Each night, the action gets underway at 11.30pm AEST, with the last race at 2.35am AEST. It is well worth staying up to watch some of the world’s best racing action.
As I’ve also written today, Australian interest spreads far beyond our two – or perhaps three, if Animal Kingdom is included – runners.
But today is a day where we focus on those horses who are Australian-trained (Shamexpress) or Australian-owned (Animal Kingdom).
Here is my preview of Day 1 of Royal Ascot:
Queen Anne Stakes – Group 1, 1m (a1600m), 4yo+
Looking at the last five editions of this race, this race looks rather disappointing once the favourite is taken out.
Between Haradasun and Coolmore’s controversial team riding tactics, a memorable match up between Goldikova and Canford Cliffs and last year’s spectacular 11-length romp by Frankel, it has been a great race.
This is one of the weaker Queen Annes, and it looks a one act affair on paper.
If Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom arrives at the top of his game, he only needs to handle the undulating Ascot straight to win with a leg in the air.
It may be a concern, given most of his racing has been done on fairly flat tracks.
However, a win in the Queen Anne Stakes would make him incomparable as a Group 1 winner on dirt in the United States, on the Tapeta surface in Dubai and on turf in the United Kingdom.
That’s an enviable resume.
Outside Animal Kingdom, John Gosden looks to have two good chances in Elusive Kate and Gregorian.
The mare Elusive Kate has spent a lot of time in France, winning two Group 1s at Longchamp and Deauville.
This is her seasonal reappearance and if she’s progressed further as a four-year-old, she could give this a shake.
As for Gregorian, he was wayward but dominant in victory at Epsom two weeks ago. He still tends to mix his form but I think his best would be good enough for him to snatch a place here.
Next best, at odds, Trumpet Major, while also keep an eye on Cox Plate invitee Trade Storm.
1. Animal Kingdom
2. Elusive Kate
King’s Stand Stakes – Group 1, 5f (a1000m), 3yo+
It has been 10 years since Choisir won this race, ushering in a new era in international racing. Since then, Australia has won with Takeover Target (2006), Miss Andretti (2007) and Scenic Blast (2010).
There has been a great deal of support in the last 72 hours for Shamexpress to become the fifth Australian winner of the King’s Stand Stakes, but I still can’t warm to him.
The last three horses to contest the King’s Stand in the same year as winning the Newmarket Handicap were able to complete the double, but those three horses – Scenic Blast (57kg), Miss Andretti (56kg) and Takeover Target (57kg) – were all up in the weights.
Shamexpress carried 51.5kg, yet as a European four-year-old, has to carry the same weight as Scenic Blast.
I also can’t escape the fact that it was a weaker Newmarket Handicap than what we’ve become accustomed to in recent years, and I feel he faces a huge task.
As parochial as ever, I hope he can win, but I just can’t see it happening at the moment.
I’m with the South African speedster Shea Shea, who blitzed his rivals in Dubai in track record time.
He has a number of queries too – he may not have the stamina for an uphill five furlongs like at Ascot, and the conditions may be softer than what he’s proven to handle.
Still, if he runs up to his Dubai form, I think he wins.
I think Sole Power could be the danger, having finished two and a half lengths behind Shea Shea at two runs in Dubai.
He finished third in this race last year, but he has failed to win at Group 1 level in nine attempts since he beat Starspangledbanner in a 100/1 shock in the 2010 Nunthorpe Stakes.
However, his consistency should see him finish somewhere around the mark.
I’ve thrown in Shamexpress for third, but only because the parochial Australian in me thinks even our weaker sprinters are good enough to place in a race like this.
1. Shea Shea
2. Sole Power
St James’ Palace Stakes – Group 1, 1m (a1600m), 3yo colts
This could go down as the race of the week, with 2000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach taking on Irish 2000 Guineas winner Magician.
Toronado, Mars and Dundonnell also make it a terrific race.
To be fair, queries about Dawn Approach and Magician only make it a more fascinating contest.
For Dawn Approach, he’s coming back from a failure in the Derby just three weeks ago. If he came out of the Derby alright, then he shapes up as the one to beat. I think the mile will prove to be his best distance.
As for Magician, he’s been under an injury cloud the last few days.
As is often the case with Coolmore, not much is known about the extent of the injury – reported to be minor bruising from a knock – but one can presume he’s fit if he reaches the gates.
He was dominant in the Irish 2000 Guineas and a repeat of that performance would see him challenge Dawn Approach if both were at their best.
It is going to be a question of which horse is fitter, primed for this race.
Given there have been no reported problems with Dawn Approach after the Derby, I have to have him on top, but Magician is very close to the mark. It looks a race in two.
For third, I’m putting in Mars who I think is better than he has shown at two runs this preparation. A mile and a quarter may prove his best distance in time.
I think Toronado, a general third favourite around the traps, will struggle at the mile as seemed to be the case in the 2000 Guineas. As such, I’m happy to risk him.
1. Dawn Approach
Coventry Stakes – Group 2, 6f (a1200m), 2yo
This is as much a guide to the future, from both a racing and breeding viewpoint, as the Golden Slipper is to Australian racing.
Dawn Approach last year was the latest in a long line of great horses to win this race.
Perhaps I should be sticking with my namesake of sorts in Sir John Hawkins. However, I was taken with Championship’s maiden victory at Newbury and so I have to have him on top.
That day, he came from the rear and he struggled to get a clear run until inside the final 200m when he quickened nicely.
I believe he’ll put himself into next year’s 2000 Guineas picture with a win here.
I do have to include Sir John Hawkins, also a debut winner who is likely to improve here.
Next best is Mawfoor, while Stubbs also has claims.
2. Sir John Hawkins
Ascot Stakes – Class 2 Handicap, 2m 4f (a4000m), 4yo+
This is probably best described as a jumper’s flat, a lead up race to Saturday’s Queen Alexandra Stakes – the longest flat race in Britain.
It is a clash between some of the best flat trainers, like Aidan O’Brien, Sir Michael Stoute and Ed Dunlop, and some of the best jumps trainers, like Jonjo O’Neill and Nicky Henderson.
It’s a tough race to assess, and it is very much a lottery.
I’ve gone with Sir Michael Stoute’s Mawaqeet, who is second up after a poor run first up. He was consistent but struggled to break his maiden. After breaking his maiden, he ran second to the Group 3 placed Sir Graham Wade.
He’s yet to step up to this trip but I think he’ll give a sight at odds.
Jumpers Well Sharp and Lieutenant Miller have no problems stamina wise, and perhaps they could be some chance back on the flat.
It’s probably a better race to watch.
2. Well Sharp
3. Lieutenant Miller
Windsor Castle Stakes – Listed, 5f (a1000m), 2yo fillies
This race has been known to throw up a winner at a big price, with winners at 14/1, 33/1 and even 100/1 the last five years. The other two winners were favourites, though.
It looks an open race this year, so perhaps it could throw up a rough result.
I’m going with Sacha Park, the second stringer for Richard Hannon who also has the favourite Anticipated. She’s finished second at her first two starts but I rate her and I think she can get her head in front today.
Aidan O’Brien’s Fountain of Youth was very impressive at Tipperary last start, and while this is a big step up, she looks to be a very nice filly with scope.
For third, we have to throw in the favourite Anticipated, who is unbeaten from two starts and looks a professional type.
Next best is Justice Day, who was beaten as an odds on favourite at Musselburgh last start but has form around Anticipated, while Steventon Star also looks a chance.
1. Sacha Park
2. Fountain of Youth
3. Justice Day
Best of the day: Shea Shea
Most interesting runner: Animal Kingdom or Dawn Approach
Horse to watch for the Melbourne spring: Trade Storm
You may think that Australian interest in Royal Ascot, the United Kingdom’s premier festival for flat racing which begins tonight our time, is merely focused on the two (or technically three) Australian runners in Shamexpress, Sea Siren and Animal Kingdom.
You’d be wrong.
There are 30 races to be run over five days this week. Over the last five years, horses to have run in Australia at some point in their career have contested 21 of these races.
Top sprinters Black Caviar, Takeover Target, Scenic Blast and Ortensia have represented Australia at this historic festival, while other Australian-trained runners have included Star Witness, Alverta, Nicconi, Gold Trail and Magnus.
But many other names notable to Australian punters have competed in front of the Queen and the extended Royal Family for international trainers either before or after they competed down under.
The last two Melbourne Cup winners, Dunaden and Green Moon, both ran at Royal Ascot – Dunaden contested last year’s Hardwicke Stakes, after his Melbourne Cup success but before his Caulfield Cup triumph, while Green Moon ran midfield in the 2010 King Edward VII Stakes.
Other Melbourne Cup runners over the last five years to have competed at England’s equivalent to the Melbourne Cup Carnival include placegetters Fiorente, Jakkalberry, Red Cadeaux and Purple Moon, while another 18 horses to have contested the race were seen in action at Royal Ascot.
These include four time Gold Cup winner Yeats, who finished seventh in the Melbourne Cup in 2006.
Two time Cox Plate winner So You Think will be missing at Royal Ascot this year, having contested the last two renewals of the Prince of Wales’ Stakes for Aidan O’Brien.
After a shock defeat when second to Rewilding in 2011, he atoned last year in defeating Carlton House – now also in Australia.
O’Brien also won with another former Australian when Starspangledbanner won the Golden Jubilee Stakes – now the Diamond Jubilee Stakes – in 2010.
Other Australian Group 1 winners to have run at Royal Ascot over the last five years include Haradasun, Speed Gifted, Glass Harmonium, My Kingdom of Fife, Helmet, Manighar, Glencadam Gold and Reliable Man, while Australian Group 1 place-getters include Seachange, Fravashi, Dysphonia, Drunken Sailor, Marching and Happy Zero.
Others of note include Shahwardi, Moriarty, Muir and Gatewood, while exciting Lloyd Williams imports Sea Moon, Thought Worthy and Masked Marvel all appeared at last year’s Royal Ascot.
Outside the two main sprints, the King’s Stand Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the most prominent races for horses who would one day race in Australia have included:
- The Tercentenary Stakes, a 1m 2f (a2000m) set weights and penalties race at Group 3 level for three year olds who have not won a Group 1 or Group 2 – Thursday.
- The King George V Stakes, a heritage handicap for three year olds run over 1m 4f (a2400m) – Thursday.
- The King Edward VII Stakes, a Group 2 for the classier three year olds over 1m 4f (a2400m) – Friday.
- The Wolferton Handicap, a heritage handicap for horses aged four years and older over 1m 2f (a2000m) – Friday.
- The Hardwicke Stakes, a Group 2 for horses aged four years and older over 1m 4f (a2400m) – Saturday.
Clearly, the lack of depth in Australia over distances beyond a mile have made these races an audition of sorts for Australian buyers, with a strong dollar over the past five years contributing to the influx of imports we see today.
This is obvious in the types of races which have produced Australian runners. Only two of the six two year old contests have produced an Australian runner: the peculiarly named 2010 Albany Stakes fourth-placegetter Radharcnafarraige failed in two starts in Sydney in the middle of last year, while 2011 Chesham Stakes ninth-place-getter Goldoni ran second in Melbourne earlier this year.
Also, races for three year old fillies like the Coronation Stakes, Ribblesdale Stakes and Sandringham Handicap are yet to produce a horse for Australia.
If you do make the effort to stay up this week to watch some of the world’s top racing from the spacious Berkshire course, perhaps jot down some horses that catch your eye – they may be an Australian Group 1 winner within a year or two.
The northern summer has become a key period for internationally-based Spring Carnival hopefuls to stake their claim for a Melbourne sojourn with strong performances.
Yesterday, the Moonee Valley Racing Club won the attention of racing’s biggest owners and trainers when it invited 20 of the world’s best middle-distance gallopersfor October 26′s Cox Plate.
No horse from outside Australasia has won the Cox Plate but the number of international winners of the Melbourne and Caulfield Cups is increasing on an almost yearly basis.
So with many Cup players entered in next week’s Royal Ascot meeting in England now is the time to name a handful of international horses for Roarers to keep an eye on as the spring approaches.
When Justin Cinque attempted this exercise last July, he came up with Mount Athos (eventual Melbourne Cup favourite), Simenon (didn’t make the trip to Australia), Gatewood (eventual Geelong Cup winner) and Red Cadeaux (eighth in the Melbourne Cup but eventual winner of the Hong Kong vase).
Mount Athos was also a horse I was very keen on early, and it all looked great for Justin and I until a muddling pace and an inept Ryan Moore ride
This year, I’ve joined Justin in trying to nail the Melbourne Cup winner in June. Hopefully, we are referring to this in November, glad to have assisted any Roarers keen to have an early Melbourne Cup flutter in the middle of winter!
Justin Cinque: Mount Athos
I’ll tell you right now Mount Athos is the horse to beat in this year’s Melbourne Cup and I know Andrew is very keen on this guy as well (he wanted to write about him just as much me).
Mount Athos was a super fifth in last year’s Melbourne Cup and he’s already confirmed to be back this spring.
I was all over Mount Athos last year because he had the profile of an international Melbourne Cup winner – well handicapped, progressive and armed with a major weapon, that is, outstanding acceleration.
The beauty about the 2013 version of Mount Athos (a rising seven-year old) is that he’s an improved racehorse.
In his only outing this European season, Mount Athos showcased newfound versatility when waltzing away with the Ormonde Stakes (Group 3, about 2600m) at Chester by nine lengths.
It wasn’t a strong race but similarly impressive winners at Chester (also against weak fields) – Magician and Ruler of the World subsequently won the Irish Guineas and English Derby. The Chester form has been outstanding this year.
Mount Athos, a usual back-maker, led that day and he showed a liking to deteriorating ground – for many months we were told Mount Athos wasn’t at his best in the wet and I’ve never seen him lead before.
If Mount Athos can continue to settle closer in his races, he becomes a really reliable commodity in a Melbourne Cup.
In my opinion, the only reason he didn’t win the Cup last year was because the pace of the race was too slow – coming from a long-way back Mount Athos had too much to do in a tempo-dominated affair. That weakness may be out of his game.
Next Saturday, Mount Athos will compete in a strong renewal of the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot where he could meet Group 1 winners St Nicholas Abbey and Dunaden.
I’m confident he can compete with the best at weight-for-age and that makes him a dangerous horse in the Cup with 55/56kgs.
They key to picking a Melbourne Cup player out of obscurity (and Songcraft isn’t even in Cup markets) is the belief that a certain horse can improve several lengths on their recent form so that they can a) get into the Melbourne Cup and b) outperform their handicap in the race.
As a lightly-raced rising six-year old Songcraft fits that billing – he could be the right smoky. Last season, his form mixed in well with the likes of My Quest For Peace (fifth Caulfield Cup) and Gatewood (Geelong Cup winner).
Songcraft only needs to find a few lengths to be a serious Cups contender. And because he’s still relatively untapped and was victorious in his only start this season, my gut is screaming “Cups horse!”
Last month, he won in Listed grade (his first Stakes victory) at York over 2800m in a small field – last year Cavalryman won the same race before finishing 12th in the Melbourne Cup when given little chance.
Songcraft, in the hands of Godolphin, is unbeaten in two starts when racing past a distance of 2500m. He is entered for both the Gold Cup (4000m, Group 1) and Hardwicke (2400m, Group 2) at Royal Ascot next week.
I’d prefer to see Songcraft in the Hardwicke (the Gold Cup is never a good Cups guide) and if he can finish in the top six, I’d say he’s on track for the Melbourne Cup considering a rise in distance and the handicap conditions will be to his advantage.
It’s worth remembering that after last year’s Hardwicke Stakes, Fiorente (sixth) and Jakkalberry (fifth) went on to finish second and third in the Melbourne Cup.
Andrew Hawkins: Now We Can
To me, Now We Can probably rates as France’s best chance of winning the Melbourne Cup for the third time.
Owned by Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Winfried Englebrecht-Bresges, this son of Martillo is likely to be aimed at the Hong Kong Vase at the end of the year.
Given the last two winners of the Vase have come through the Melbourne Cup, our great race looms as a target for him.
Lightly raced, he’s won five of his six starts. He won from 2400m to 3000m last year, before stepping up in company this season.
At his seasonal return, he won the Listed Prix Lord Seymour (2400m) comfortably. It is a race won last year by Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Solemia and which has been contested in the past by the likes of Brigantin and Shahwardi.
He then stepped up to Group 2 level for the first time, passing the ballot clause for the Melbourne Cup with his head victory.
For mine, he looks to be untapped and very much in the mould of Dunaden before he made the trip to Australia. He looks to have a turn of foot, but can also stay – the perfect attributes for a Melbourne Cup.
Just don’t expect Chris Munce to be offered the ride!
I’d say it’s unlikely we’ll see this galloper here, but if Novellist were to make the journey, I’d be very keen on his prospects.
A German galloper who was named champion three year old in Italy and co-champion three year old in Germany last year, he won his first four starts by huge margins before he suffered his first defeat at the hands of Pastorius in the German Derby.
He finished fourth to Arc winner Danedream in Germany’s most prestigious race, the Grosser Preis von Baden at Baden-Baden – for a career-worst effort, that was some performance!
His trainer Andreas Wohler is noted as one of the world’s great travellers of horses, having brought Silvano (4th, 2001 Cox Plate) and Paolini (10th, 2004 Cox Plate).
He looks to be more of a 2400m type, and perhaps even the Cox Plate would be more suitable than the Melbourne Cup. But he is the type of horse I would be targeting for sure, as he has class, a turn of foot and wouldn’t be punished at the weights.
Even if he doesn’t make the trip, the form around him is likely to be tested in Melbourne. Waldpark and Salon Soldier, second and sixth respectively to Novellist last start, have both been bought by Australian Bloodstock and will be seen down under this spring.
There are already form links though – at his final start in 2012, he defeated Australian Derby and Rosehill Guineas runner up Retrieve by almost five lengths in an Italian Group 1.
The Roar compiled a list of the top 50 Australian racehorses of all time in a series presented over five weeks.
The list takes into account horses trained in Australia, as well as the performances of horses trained abroad (including New Zealanders) in Australia.
At the end of the series, my top 50 was as follows:
3. Phar Lap
4. Kingston Town
9. Black Caviar
10. Makybe Diva
11. Rising Fast
14. Peter Pan
15. So You Think
17. Super Impose
20. Might and Power
26. Tobin Bronze
29. Sky High
31. Grand Flaneur
32. The Barb
35. Strawberry Road
36. Tranquil Star
39. Better Loosen Up
41. Vo Rogue
42. Takeover Target
45. Let’s Elope
47. Beau Zam
When combined with the lists compiled by The Roar’s racing editor Justin Cinque and resident historian Bruce Sheekey, The Roar’s top 50 came out as such:
3. Phar Lap
4. Kingston Town
7. Black Caviar
10. Makybe Diva
12. Rising Fast
13. Peter Pan
17. Might And Power
18. Tobin Bronze
21. So You Think
25. Sky High
28. The Barb
30. Grand Flaneur
31. Super Impose
33. Tranquil Star
40. Better Loosen Up
42. Vo Rogue
43. Strawberry Road
=44. Wenona Girl
48. Comic Court
These lists were compiled over 10 articles, in which we gave our case for why each horse deserved a spot in the Top 50. These can be read below:
The legendary Australian poet C J Dennis, fortunate enough to record one of the greatest periods of racing in this country, wrote of a situation familiar to every mug punter after the 1927 Melbourne Cup.
In a piece titled ‘A Post-Cup Tale’, also known by its familiar first line, “I’ad the money in me’and”, Dennis weaves a tale of woe and despair faced by punters every day.
He talks of his confidence on Cup morning around 6-1 fancy Trivalve, telling how he’d tipped it to his wife and his cousin.
But then, an urger – Jim Smith – tells him Trivalve can’t win the Melbourne Cup, saying he’s not well.
Of course, Trivalve went home to win by a length, with Dennis becrying his misfortune.
“I ‘had the money in me ‘and!”
It is the punter’s lament, the worst thing imaginable – jumping off a horse just as it hits winning form.
However, there is another form of torture for the punter – backing a horse at a good price, only to see the horse miss out.
It was a lesson I was to learn the hard way last Saturday after the Stradbroke Handicap.
After hours of form analysis and research, I’d identified the horse I thought fit the right profile for a Stradbroke winner.
He came out of the right form race, the Doomben 10,000, and his run had been good. He met each of his rivals out of the same race better at the weights, and unlike most of the fancies, he’d drawn perfectly.
The horse was Spirit of Boom.
Incredibly, he was $31 the win, $8 the place. At that price, he was worth a crack. I jumped on.
By Friday morning, he’d been backed into $21. With money flowing, I decided to load up once again.
My head told me it was impossible to be confident in a Stradbroke Handicap, of all races. My heart told me I’d found the right horse and to stick firm.
At the jump, Spirit of Boom had been backed into $13. I was clearly on the right horse, and with money on at $8 the place, I just needed him to run in the top three for it to be a very good result.
He broke cleanly, settling third just behind the leader.
He looked to be racing slightly keenly, but he was in the perfect position if good enough.
Upon straightening, he looked a winning chance briefly before grinding away. However, even as Linton produced his electric turn of foot to fly along the rail, Spirit of Boom looked likely to grab third.
Then I saw Streama flying out wide.
On the line, I was confident – he’d run third, the each way bet had paid off.
As Sky Channel showed the slow motion finish, however, my confidence waned. He was third a metre before the line, he was third a metre past the line. But right on the wire, Streama had bobbed.
And then, the numbers came through. Linton had beaten the perennial bridesmaid Buffering, surely destined to finish his career without a Group 1. And third had gone to…Streama.
Spirit of Boom was fourth.
My neighbours probably improved their vocabulary in the minute after the result went up, with my anger and distress clearly audible.
It is the new age punter’s lament, far less artistic and creative than the poems of Dennis. Like Dennis, though, I was left with a bruised and battered ego and an empty wallet.
Despite my disappointment at the photo for third, I was thoroughly impressed with the win of Linton.
His acceleration was outstanding, his determination superb, and it was great to see Nick Hall take the opportunity to stick to the inside.
The move was risky and could easily have backfired. Instead, it goes down as one of the more memorable Group 1 victories of this racing season.
It is also a tribute to the strength of last year’s Cox Plate.
Subsequently, first (Ocean Park), second (All Too Hard), third (Pierro), fifth (Shoot Out), seventh (Green Moon), 10th (Happy Trails) and 12th (Linton) have all won Group 1 races, while eighth (Proisir), 11th (More Joyous) and 13th (Glass Harmonium) have all finished second in Group 1s.
Given Southern Speed and Rekindled Interest have not raced since, it leaves fourth-placed Ethiopia (who has had excuses at his last two runs) as the only horse not to carry the Cox Plate form beyond the spring.
It is a shame that four of the first six home will not race again.
The other main story from Eagle Farm on Saturday was the emergence of two more staying prospects for Chris Waller in the form of Queensland Derby winner Hawkspur and Brisbane Cup winner Moriarty.
Hawkspur may lead the ever-diminishing team of locally bred gallopers heading towards the major Cups in the spring after his demolition of a good field in the Queensland Derby.
It was his third straight success in such a fashion and as has happened before, the winter campaign seems to have transformed him into a serious staying prospect.
It remains to be seen whether he can step up to the Caulfield Cup or Melbourne Cup, though.
As for Moriarty, don’t be surprised to see him figure in the Cups in the spring.
While it seems a big leap on what he’s achieved this campaign, the Brisbane Cup has been a good spring guide the last few years, with Viewed (Melbourne Cup), Scenic Shot (Mackinnon Stakes), Tullamore and Lights of Heaven (both placed in the Caulfield Cup) taking their form into bigger races.
Both Hawkspur and Moriarty add to a stellar line-up for Waller in the spring, including Beaten Up, Foreteller, Kelinni, Lunayir, Royal Descent and Shoot Out.
Group 1 winners Metal Bender and My Kingdom of Fife are also still listed as in training with the Rosehill horseman, although it remains to be seen whether both will appear during the spring.
The Brisbane winter carnival continues for another month, but it reaches its pinnacle today with Stradbroke Handicap day at Eagle Farm.
It is Queensland’s biggest day of racing and would be considered a phenomenal card anywhere in the country.
From now until the end of August (when the Memsie Stakes begins Group 1 proceedings for the 2013/2014 season), there is only the one Group 1 in Australia – that’s the Tatt’s Tiara in two weeks.
The next day with multiple Group 1 races at the one location is Super Saturday at Royal Randwick, the first Saturday in October, where there are three Group 1 races – the Epsom Handicap, the Metropolitan and the Flight Stakes.
The Spring Champion Stakes, formerly on Super Saturday, is now a week later.
So, as racing fans, we have to enjoy top quality racing while it lasts. It may not be long until the end of August, but the mid-winter period always seems to drag.
Today’s racing will whet the appetite for terrific action in the spring.
The Stradbroke Handicap, undoubtedly Queensland’s best race, is
It may not be the best edition of the race, although I still think it is pretty good, but it is incredibly open and almost any horse could win the race without surprising.
The boom around the three year olds this season has been huge, but I’m inclined to think there are a number of horses who can end their dominance.
The staying three year olds go around in the Queensland Derby, a race which can throw up a classy stayer.
For a large field, I think there may only be four or five legitimate winning hopes. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see those horses go on to bigger things in the coming years.
The third Group 1 is the J J Atkins, formerly the T J Smith. It’s fitting that they’ve renamed the race after a Queensland legend, given T J now has a lucrative sprint in Sydney named for him.
I think the Sires Produce Stakes two weeks ago is the formline to follow, but which horse out of that race can win here? There is one horse I’m very keen on.
And although it isn’t a Group 1 race, I feel the Brisbane Cup deserves a mention. It is the one instance where reducing the distance from 3200m to 2400m has paid off.
Interestingly, it has been a great guide to the spring. Newport won The Metropolitan a year after his Brisbane Cup success, after equine influenza ruined his spring plans in 2007.
The following year, Viewed won the Melbourne Cup five months after his Brisbane Cup success, adding the Caulfield Cup in 2009.
Scenic Shot’s victory in 2009 set up a successful Melbourne spring where he won the Mackinnon Stakes and finished fifth in the Cox Plate, while the last two winners – Tullamore and Lights of Heaven – both finished third in the Caulfield Cup.
The only winner not to go on was Crossthestart, who injured himself and didn’t have the chance to campaign during the spring.
Barring injury, the connections of today’s Brisbane Cup winner will have a lot to look forward to in the coming months.
Here are my selections for Stradbroke Handicap day:
Race 1 – LISTED HAMPDEN STAKES (1200m)
7 – MISSY LONGSTOCKING
13 – COSMIC ENDEAVOUR
12 – MOROCCAN ROSE
8 – VIENNA QUEEN
Race 2 – LISTED STRAWBERRY ROAD HANDICAP (1600m)
3 – TRANSPORTER
6 – DIADEME
4 – JETSET LAD
1 – IBICENCO
Race 3 – LISTED DAYBREAK LOVER (1600m)
15 – OASIS ROSE
3 – LIMES
4 – PLATINUM KINGDOM
12 – SAINT OR SINNER
Race 4 – LISTED LIGTHNING HANDICAP (1000m)
6 – PENTASIA
12 – VINTAGE MOSS
1 – HOWMUCHDOYOULOVEME
3 – SATIN SHOES
Race 5 – GROUP 2 DANE RIPPER STAKES (1400m)
4 – STEPS IN TIME
11 – RISK AVERSION
12 – FIRE UP FIFI
16 – FLORIA
Race 6 – GROUP 1 J J ATKINS (1600m)
2 – VILANOVA
1 – ZOUSTAR
8 – PAXIMADIA
7 – ROMANTIC TOUCH
Race 7 – GROUP 1 QUEENSLAND DERBY (2400m)
4 – SURVIVED
18 – GONDOKORO
14 – ALI VITAL
3 – USAINITY
Race 8 – GROUP 1 STRADBROKE HANDICAP (1400m)
9 – SPIRIT OF BOOM
15 – FONTELINA
2 – EPAULETTE
7 – DECISION TIME
Race 9 – GROUP 2 BRISBANE CUP (2400m)
9 – ZURELLA
4 – QUINTESSENTIAL
18 – MIDSUMMER SUN
6 – LIGHTINTHENITE