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Hawk’s 2014 The Championships (Day One) – Selections and Analysis

April 12, 2014
Gallatin wins the Tulloch Stakes from Singing Flame. He can go on to win the Australian Derby today. Photo: Sharon Chapman/Fast Track Photography

Gallatin (Nash Rawiller) wins the Tulloch Stakes from Singing Flame (Tim Clark). He can go on to win the Australian Derby today. Photo: Sharon Chapman/Fast Track Photography

The first day of Sydney’s thoroughbred grand finals is here – and as seems to be a twice-yearly occurrence these days, when big racing comes to Randwick, the heavens open up. I don’t know why Mother Nature is so displeased…

Despite the wet track, big fields are the order of the day. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen as competitive a meeting in Sydney as this one – if ever.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had some tipping success in the Derby and Doncaster the last few years, while I did tip two of the last three T J Smith winners (although, given it was Black Caviar both times, that’s nothing to boast about). This year, though, all three are nigh on impossible. They are three of the most competitive Group 1 races I’ve ever seen in Australia, which can only be good for racing. Big fields, many with chances – give me them any day over small fields with an odds-on pop.

The very heavy track only adds to confusion, and with many you just have to hope they’ll handle it. It is very hard to be confident about too many selections today.

I’ve written short summaries for the five supporting races, while I’ve gone a bit more in-depth for the four Group 1 races.

Here are my selections for the first day of The Championships:

Race 1 – GROUP 3 KINDERGARTEN STAKES (1100m)

The first is a two-year-old race with plenty of chances. ECHO GAL had a massive wrap on her after her debut, when she beat I AM SNIPPETY by four lengths. Disappointed in the Bruce McLachlan when she was found to have the thumps, but wasn’t too bad in the Magic Millions. She’s a query on the wet track, and perhaps fitness is a concern, but I’m happy to have something on her.

The first-starter KAEPERNICK looked to have some talent and seemed to handle the wet track when winning a trial at Randwick 12 days back. He’s trained by Team Hawkes, and as they seem to be turning everything they touch into gold at the moment, he must be included.

I Am Snippety gets his chance to turn the tables on Echo Gal with fitness under his belt, coming off a six and a half length win in the Wellington Boot, while DONELLE should appreciate the step back in trip. REDOUTABLE HEART next best.

10 – ECHO GAL
5 – KAEPERNICK
8 – I AM SNIPPETY
9 – DONELLE

Race 2 – GROUP 3 CARBINE CLUB STAKES (1600m)

GYPSY DIAMOND is favourite, and deservedly so, but I’m happy to have something on ROCK STURDY to beat her home. He’s taken his time to figure out what it is all about, but he’s now starting to put it together. Gave weight to Singing Flame last start and was just beaten, and Singing Flame was very good in the Tulloch Stakes last weekend. Happy to back him.

Gypsy Diamond looks a bit too short for mine – she’s clearly the most accomplished horse in the race and her trial last week was fantastic. I just want to see how she handles the wet, and I wouldn’t be taking under $3 to find out.

Gai Waterhouse has a couple of chances in a race she has won twice in the last three years. LIBERTY’S CHOICE is yet to have much luck this preparation, while RYKER was good in the Albury Guineas. Both have some chance, while Guy Walter’s GAMBLESTOWN probably rounds out the chances.

Don’t be surprised if O’REILLY’S REVENGE runs a far improved race at big odds.

8 – ROCK STURDY
1 – GYPSY DIAMOND
4 – LIBERTY’S CHOICE
6 – RYKER

Race 3 – GROUP 3 P J BELL STAKES (1200m)

In a day of tough races, this is as tough as any of them.

I couldn’t believe 20/1 was freely available about EVERAGE last night. She’s a mudlark. Five starts on a wet track for three wins, including an upset result over TWILIGHT ROYALE at her second start, a dominant win in the lead up to the Black Opal Stakes, and a Listed win in the Keith Mackay Quality. She’s been out of form this preparation, but at 20/1, I’m happy to have something on. I’m disappointed I missed the 40/1 earlier in the week, though.

In fact, Twilight Royale looks over the odds at 30/1. A terrific juvenile – including a dominant Inglis win at Mornington before a narrow VRC Sires Produce Stakes win over Cox Plate winner Shamus Award – she didn’t find form last preparation and went for a spell. She’s eligible for a $2.4m bonus if she can win the Scone Guineas next month, so I daresay she’ll be spot on for that day. Barrier 20 is very tough, but she doesn’t have too many problems with a wet track and I can’t see why she wouldn’t run a big race fresh.

CALMING INFLUENCE and BOUND FOR EARTH are next best, but happy to stick to the two roughies.

4 – EVERAGE
1 – TWILIGHT ROYALE
6 – CALMING INFLUENCE
2 – BOUND FOR EARTH

Race 4 – GROUP 2 CHAIRMAN’S HANDICAP (2600m)

If the $3 holds up about THE OFFER, take it. It looks a gift! If it was a dry track, it would be a different story, but his two wins at these trips on heavy tracks in Australia have been simply dominant. He won the Ballarat Cup at 2200m by three and a quarter lengths, while he won the Manion Cup by the same margin two weeks ago. Can’t tip against him.

I thought the main upset, if there was to be one, would be from EPINGLE – but she has been scratched due to the track. That might ensure the $3 The Offer is a distant memory.

SERTORIUS would be clearly on top if this was on a dry track, but obviously it’s a different ballgame here. He wasn’t bad at all last week, and I think he’s right on track for the Sydney Cup. Watch him here, back him in two weeks time.

The only other horse I’d consider backing is HIPPOPUS, who was strong to the line in the Neville Sellwood last week – clearly the wet track is no problem. Will be steering clear of OPINION – even with a 3kg turnaround, I can’t see him turning the tables on The Offer. He has to go in but he’s not a punting proposition today.

3 – THE OFFER
1 – SERTORIUS
6 – HIPPOPUS
5 – OPINION

Race 5 – GROUP 1 ATC SIRES PRODUCE STAKES (1400m)

The fillies have completely dominated the colts in this year’s juvenile division, demonstrated last weekend when the first seven across the line in the Golden Slipper were of the fairer sex. I think it can be the same here.

PEGGY JEAN got motoring late in the Magic Night Stakes, and she was only just beaten a short neck by Bring Me The Maid – who then finished third in the Golden Slipper. The 1400m should be right up her alley, and she seemed to handle the wet track fine last start. In fact, she’ll probably like even more sting out of the ground. I’m very keen on her.

The logical danger is BELIEVE YOURSELF, who motored late in the Golden Slipper. I gave her none, but she found the line better than anything else to finish fourth. Again, seemed to have no problems with the wet track last week and a repeat would not surprise at all – and a repeat would see her go very close.

Pago Pago Stakes quinella TIME FOR WAR and KUMAON look the next best, with a slight leaning towards the latter given he threw the race away last start.

I’d have ZULULAND high in my selections if the track was dry, but a wet track does worry me.

8 – PEGGY JEAN
7 – BELIEVE YOURSELF
5 – KUMAON
3 – TIME FOR WAR

Race 6 – GROUP 1 AUSTRALIAN DERBY (2400m)

One of the most open Derbies in years. You can make a case for almost any runner in the field, and there’s far from any standout (even despite the runaway win of CRITERION last start). The wet track only adds to the conundrum.

The win of GALLATIN last weekend seems to have been overlooked. The race hasn’t been ignored, so much, but his win has been downplayed with many talking about the performance of runner-up SINGING FLAME. The Tulloch Stakes tends to be dismissed as a B-grade lead up – and that’s probably a fair assessment, particularly this year – but that’s not to say it’s a poor prep race. In fact, the last three horses to win the Tulloch and run in the Derby – Philippi, Polish Knight and Harris Tweed – all ran second in the feature.

Singing Flame was very good, no doubt, but Gallatin came from last on the turn, was green and struck interference, and still managed to win. I know the Darley team are more confident about the chances of TUPAC AMARU, but I’m going to have something on Gallatin going one better. He just looks a stayer.

Obviously, the main lead-up race is the Rosehill Guineas, and Criterion was utterly dominant. But does that make him the leading three-year-old stayer? Not yet, for mine. He’s done it once, and he had the perfect run. I think it’s safe to say there was nothing wrong with the inside at Rosehill, so perhaps he was flattered. THUNDER FANTASY, who finished second in the Rosehill Guineas, beat him home in the Victoria Derby and I think he can beat him home again.

Two of the best sneaky runs in the Rosehill Guineas were from CADILLAC MOUNTAIN and Tupac Amaru, and both are chances. I also had Peter Moody’s other runner CRIME FIGHTER in my numbers originally, but I’m not sure he’ll like the track.

Of the others in the market, Singing Flame’s obviously some hope but I wonder how he’ll handle the trip. I’m also happy to risk SAVVY NATURE and TERONADO at the 2400m.

The one I can’t line up is PUCCINI. He was given no hope in the Rosehill Guineas – whether due to the ride or circumstances – and I think even Phar Lap would have been heavily defeated if forced to do what he did in the run. On his New Zealand Derby win he’d be extremely competitive. Not sure where to place him really.

8 – GALLATIN
3 – THUNDER FANTASY
1 – CRITERION
14 – CADILLAC MOUNTAIN

Race 7 – GROUP 1 T J SMITH STAKES (1200m)

Where do you start here? We are down to a field of 15 after the scratching of SPIRIT OF BOOM, FONTELINA and ZOUSTAR – a real shame – as well as the withdrawal of three emergencies. Still, we are left with 10 Group 1 winners, and even more chances. Impossible race to figure out.

In the end, I’ve decided to hunt for some value – and I was happy to take the $13 about REBEL DANE. He flies fresh, I think he’s alright on a wet track – his only run on a heavy track was a second in the Hobartville Stakes, beaten a nose by Pierro, with Proisir and It’s A Dundeel third and fourth. Saving him for a tilt at this first-up gives him his best hope of winning, and at the price I’m happy to have something on him.

I think GORDON LORD BYRON is still underrated by Australian punters, and especially back in trip I wouldn’t be surprised to see him drift. He was outstanding in the George Ryder Stakes, he’s a Sprint Cup winner in Britain, he gets his favoured heavy track and he’s right in this. It would be great to see him win again – any international victory only helps the cause of Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club.

This is LANKAN RUPEE’s opportunity to step onto the big stage. His wins in the Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket Handicap were top notch, but this is a whole new ball game – weight for age, a field with remarkable depth, and conditions unlikely to suit. I think if he wins here, he’ll convert me (and many other sceptics) into true believers.

Tossing up between SWEET IDEA and BUFFERING for fourth, I’ll go with the filly but hardly confident. Next best TIGER TEES.

5 – REBEL DANE
2 – GORDON LORD BYRON
3 – LANKAN RUPEE
17 – SWEET IDEA

Race 8 – GROUP 1 DONCASTER MILE (1600m)

The Doncaster Mile is always a tough race, but it’s been a long time since it’s been this tough. In recent years, there was a rather long tail on the race, but this year, it is hard to say any horse can’t win.

That said, it does look Chris Waller’s Doncaster to lose, with five of the 20 runners – originally six, but BOBAN’s a withdrawal. And when the worst of them in the market is a Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner in MY KINGDOM OF FIFE, you know you are doing alright.

I’m happy to stick with him and go with HAWKSPUR. I think it’s a brilliant decision to bring him back to 1600m for this race, which tends to be won by a 2000m horse anyway. Despite his dominant win in the Queensland Derby, I don’t see him as a strong mile-and-a-half horse. I think a mile to 2000m is ideal, and this race is perfect for him now. Three of the last four winners have dropped back from 2000m to win the Doncaster Mile, and with a bog likely, it sets it up for a horse like Hawkspur. His win over this course and distance in the Chelmsford was electrifying, so I’m hoping he can find that form.

I’m sticking with another member of Chris Waller’s Caulfield Cup brigade from last year for second. ROYAL DESCENT won last year’s Oaks by 10 lengths on a wet track, and I’m sure because of that she’ll probably start single figures. Unlike Hawkspur, I do think Royal Descent is a genuine 2000m-2400m horse so I think she’ll be better in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes if she backs up. That said, a tough 1600m horse could bring her into it.

Last year’s winner SACRED FALLS had the perfect pipe-opener in the George Ryder Stakes and is on track here. He won last year on a heavy track, coming from last, but he snuck through along the inside. Has 3.5kg more this year, but that’s not too much in the scheme of things given he’s a year older and tougher. Has a big plus in Zac Purton aboard and he can be the first horse since Pharaoh in 1994/95 to go back to back (Sunline has won two Doncaster Miles since, but she won them in non-consecutive years).

Don’t be surprised to see a much improved race from MOURO at bolter’s odds. Like many European imports, he’s been desperately searching for a track with give. He gets it here, even if it may be wetter than they would have liked. Definitely not the worst and well worth an each way ticket in an open race.

Next best is another Caulfield Cup runner in DEAR DEMI, while WEARY looks too short now but he is definitely in with some chance.

Obviously Team Hawkes is flying but I’m happy to risk MESSENE on a bog. I can’t see why he wouldn’t handle it but a tough Randwick mile on a bog track could be tough.

I was keen on HANA’S GOAL to run a big race, as her effort in the Coolmore Classic was outstanding and she should have finished far closer. But a wet track really dents her chances, I feel.

Obviously SPEEDINESS is some chance, while I’m happy to risk the three-year-olds with it being so wet. And it’s such an open race, there’s every possibility that I haven’t even mentioned the winner.

5 – HAWKSPUR
9 – ROYAL DESCENT
4 – SACRED FALLS
8 – MOURO

Race 9 – GROUP 3 ADRIAN KNOX STAKES (2000m)

Not a bad little get-out race, and there’s every possibility we’ll need it after the four Group 1 races.

I reckon Guy Walter has a really strong hand here, he’s won the race four times (with Star Alight, Republic Lass, Wild Iris and Operetta Lass) – and two of them (Republic Lass and Wild Iris) have gone on to win the Oaks. I think he might already have the Oaks winner in Zanbagh, if the track dries out anyway, but he can add two more contenders in HIGH HARMONY and MISSVONN.

High Harmony should appreciate the 2000m and a wet track, being by High Chaparral out of a Danske mare. She won a maiden at Goulburn two starts back, before running a good third at Warwick Farm last start. It’s a big step up so quickly, but it’s been done before and I can see her running a bold race.

MISSVONN has already stepped up, running home strongly for sixth behind Lucia Valentina in the Vinery Stud Stakes last weekend. She stormed home a start before in the Keith Nolan Classic behind her stablemate Zanbagh

If there’s one to spoil the Guy Walter party, it could be Roger James-trained LADY CUMQUAT. She won the Manawatu Classic easily last start, and she’s clearly going to be tough to beat. James is on fire, with Silent Achiever finally finding her best form in Australia, while he won the race with Lady Cumquat’s half sister Full of Spirit two years ago.

Next best METAPHORICAL, who has been crying out for this trip, while ROLE MODEL, ARABIAN GOLD and BLUE EYES aren’t hopeless either.

14 – HIGH HARMONY
4 – LADY CUMQUAT
11 – MISSVONN
3 – METAPHORICAL

Best of luck today, and hopefully you can find a winner somewhere!

Hawk’s 2014 Golden Slipper and Grand National Selections and Analysis

April 5, 2014

What a day of racing we have ahead of us across the world today!

It will be a sombre mood at Rosehill as the racing industry comes together to reflect on the life of Nathan Berry. I didn’t know Nathan too well, I had interviewed him a few times, but the shock when the news filtered through on Thursday afternoon was immense. Even if there was an inkling of how bad his situation was, it was still so sudden and so shocking. For him to be taken by this awful disease at his age, having just been married and on the cusp of the best years of his career – it is a reminder that life is not fair. My heart goes out to those most deeply affected, in particular the Berry and Schofield families.

Still, the show must go on, and it will only be fitting if Tommy Berry and the Schofields – both father Glyn and son Chad – can dominate the day in Nathan’s memory.

Nine hours after the Golden Slipper has been run and won, the attention turns from raw two-year-old sprinters to ageing, battle-hardened stayers in the Grand National at Aintree, near Liverpool in England. It is one of my favourite races, and it ranks up there as nine of the best minutes in world sport each year. If you want to get to my Grand National preview quickly, which comes after my Rosehill previews, click here.

As it is a day full of Group races, I’ve written a blurb for each race explaining my rationale. Here are my selections for Golden Slipper day at Rosehill and for the Grand National at Aintree:

ROSEHILL

Race 1 – GROUP 3 THE SCHWEPPERVESCENCE (1400m)

This race attracts horses which may be headed for a race like the Champagne Stakes – horses that couldn’t make it into the Slipper and may be headed for longer races as a three-year-old.

Last year was quite disappointing, but a year before, Flying Snitzel beat a field that included the likes of Dear Demi, Honorius, Toydini, Solemn and Fiveandahalfstar. The form stood up for sure.

I’m not sure how this year’s field will stack up but there are a number of nice horses that I think we’ll see in better races next season.

I’ve gone with GIULIANI, despite what was a very disappointing run first up in the Skyline Stakes behind Valentia. I was keen that day, if he was able to repeat his debut performance when he was a very unlucky second to Unencumbered, I thought he’d win. But he seemed to struggle. I think skipping the Golden Slipper and coming here may prove a masterstroke. I will confess, I was a big fan of the dam – I first saw an unraced Sea Eye Pea when she won a trial at Warwick Farm, beating our unraced filly Stella Command. I still remember cheering her home at Canterbury one day when she was 20-1 – and she was punched home in fine style by Nathan Berry. I’ll be cheering Giuliani home today.

One who should relish the track is TASHBEEH, by Commands out of a More Than Ready mare. That’s got mudlark written all over it. He wasn’t too bad coming from off the speed last start at Newcastle behind HAMPTON COURT, who led all the way, and a start before he had the better of VEUVELICIOUS. He meets her 2kg better here, so I think he definitely looks some chance.

CARELESS caught the eye behind runners when fourth behind BACHMAN last start. He was second to his stablemate and Slipper runner Memorial on debut, and he definitely looks like he’ll appreciate further. The cut out of the ground is a concern, but he’s definitely some hope.

Obviously if Veuvelicious can repeat her five length romp from last start, she’ll be tough to beat, but there’ll be more speed here and despite the margin, I didn’t think she was incredibly impressive last start. She was very good, but I’m happy to be on others.

4 – GIULIANI
9 – TASHBEEH
8 – CARELESS
5 – VEUVELICIOUS

Race 2 – GROUP 3 NEVILLE SELLWOOD STAKES (2000m)

A high quality running of this race this year, plenty here with a chance and I expect the form to hold up out of the race.

I think MALUCKYDAY is serious overs if he can repeat his last start fifth in the Newcastle Newmarket. It’s taken them a long time to get him right, and I’m sure it’s been a labour of love, but it appeared he was back to his best and if he is, he’ll be hard to beat here off 55kg. There’s a general “understanding” that he doesn’t handle the wet, but I’m not sure that’s right. From four runs on a slow track, he ran third in the Tulloch Stakes (when still rather raw) behind Count Encosta and Descarado – and remember that Descarado then went on to win a Caulfield Cup on a wet track – second in the Melbourne Cup behind Americain, fourth in the Ranvet Stakes behind Zavite in an on-pace dominated race, and sixth in last year’s BMW, when he was slow away, squeezed, began to overrace and still only finished two lengths from Fiveandahalfstar. So it’s fair to say he’s had excuses. This is perfect for him second-up, and I’d be disappointed if he didn’t run a terrific race.

MORIARTY looks extremely well weighted here with just 56.5kg, but there’s no real suggestion about whether he’ll handle a wet track or not. If he handles it, he’ll be awfully hard to beat. In fact, I reckon if he runs up to what he’s achieved in five of his last six runs – in the Caulfield Cup, Mackinnon Stakes, Apollo Stakes, Chipping Norton Stakes and Ranvet Stakes – he’ll win here. Happy to stick with the value in Maluckyday, but will be having something on Moriarty too.

ENTIRELY PLATINUM made the quantum leap from midweek class to Group class last time out, winning the Sky High Stakes impressively. I’d say it’s another step up here entirely, because this is a much tougher race. But winning form is good form and who knows where his limit is? Definite chance.

Plenty of them in with a chance for fourth, including SPILLWAY, LESS IS MORE and JUNOOB (who I’m prepared to risk on a win line on a wet track), but I reckon the one I’d be keeping safe is DISCLAIMER. He wasn’t bad at all behind Leebaz, who is the favourite in the last, first up and I think this is about his trip. $26 seems a big price.

7 – MALUCKYDAY
1 – MORIARTY
4 – ENTIRELY PLATINUM
10 – DISCLAIMER

Race 3 – GROUP 3 SEBRING STAKES (1200m)

A competitive little sprint race here, almost the TJ Smith Prelude in the same way as the Doncaster Prelude – both races unlikely to have much influence, but they may do.

It’s not a race I’m terribly keen on, but if I was to have a bet, it would be on HOT SNITZEL. The winner of this race last year, Hot Snitzel flies fresh and his last start second to Lankan Rupee looks terrific now after Mick Price’s horse won the Oakleigh Plate and the Newmarket Handicap. Has only raced on a heavy track once, when he was a somewhat disappointing fifth in the Hobartville Stakes as a three-year-old, but it was a slogging 1400m and I don’t think that’s his go. I think a 1200m on a bog will be fine and I’ll see what price he is before having a bet.

BULL POINT is somewhat of an enigma and he’s quickly become a horse you either love or hate. He was terrific first up against his own age group before a disappointing fourth in the Futurity Stakes behind Moment of Change and a terrible last in the Randwick Guineas. He comes back to Rosehill, where he produced one of the biggest runs you will ever see in last year’s Golden Rose. Despite being detached from the field, he motored home for third behind Zoustar and Dissident. If he can run up to that form, which I think he can do chasing over 1200m, he’ll go close.

I think FLAMBERGE, THAT’S A GOOD IDEA and TEMPLE OF BOOM are also chances, while I’d love to see BENNETTA return to her best, but I think it’ll be Hot Snitzel or nothing here.

2 – HOT SNITZEL
9 – BULL POINT
3 – FLAMBERGE
8 – THAT’S A GOOD IDEA

Race 4 – GROUP 2 EMANCIPATION STAKES (1500m)

The good thing of the day, on paper. Really, CATKINS should be winning on her way to the Queen of the Turf in two weeks time. She was dominant two back in the Wiggle Stakes, before a top third in the Coolmore Classic. Nothing in this field has anywhere near her form and I fully expect her to win.

SHARNEE ROSE, VAQUERA, FLORIA and DIAMOND DRILLE can fight out the placings, but I think it’s a case of odds-on, look on here. And really, there’s nothing more to be said.

1 – CATKINS
2 – SHARNEE ROSE
5 – VAQUERA
3 – FLORIA

Race 5 – GROUP 2 NATHAN BERRY TULLOCH STAKES (2000m)

Emotions will be running high before and after this race after News Limited so graciously gave up their naming rights to the race so it could be renamed the Nathan Berry Tulloch Stakes.

It is a race which always tends to attract the B-grade staying three-year-olds, but when you look at some of the horses to come through even in the last five years, you quickly realise it is a legitimate Derby prep race all on its own. Three of the last five winners have gone on to run second in the Australian Derby (Philippi, Polish Knight, Harris Tweed), while the vanquished in that time have included the likes of Predatory Pricer, Descarado, Maluckyday, Shootoff and Retrieve.

I think this is one of the better Tulloch Stakes in recent times. It’s very open and there are a few that have the ability to step up and become major players. And of all of them, I think HIGH TEC’s the one with the most upside who has the sense of timing which is so often important in this race. He was disappointing in the Phar Lap Stakes, but he flopped out of the gates and was just left flat footed at the top of the straight. He didn’t make any ground, but I think the step up to 2000m and the wet track will be crucial. He won his maiden on a wet track by seven lengths, and I’d be disappointed if he’s not somewhere in the mix as long as he jumps with them.

VILANOVA comes out of the Alister Clark Stakes when he was well beaten by PHEIDON, but he’d been good the start before to win the Autumn Classic at Caulfield. I doubt he was suited by Moonee Valley as he takes a while to wind up, and back to his home track – he could be the surprise package.

If it had been a dry track, NZ 2000 Guineas winner Atlante would have been on top for sure, but he is a duffer in the wet and I doubt anyone can tip him with any confidence. It’s a shame the autumn has been plagued by rain, because I think he would have been a big show in some of the top three-year-old races if it had been dry. But you have to play with the cards you’re dealt. Class means he goes in, but my gut tells me he’s one to avoid.

Next best is Pheidon, who had a perfect run but still came away nicely to win the Alister Clark Stakes at Moonee Valley two weeks ago, while I’m not ruling out a return to form by a fitter SHOW THE WORLD. Won’t rule out SHIKRA either.

14 – HIGH TEC
1 – VILANOVA
2 – ATLANTE
3 – PHEIDON

Race 6 – GROUP 1 THE BMW (2400m)

A good BMW field this year, if not outstanding. Still, the winners of the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Derby, the Ranvet Stakes, the Irish St Leger, the Sandown Classic and the Makybe Diva Stakes is pretty good. It would have been the last two Melbourne Cup winners if not for the withdrawal of Green Moon.

There’s many ways to look at this race. There’s the logical big three – FIORENTE, SILENT ACHIEVER and IT’S A DUNDEEL. But there are enough negatives about each of them to suggest we can look elsewhere.

And that’s what has happened – instead, I’ve looked to a runaway Irish St Leger winner who is proven on wet ground. I am, of course, talking about VOLEUSE DE COEURS. Regular readers of these previews would know I took a big set against her in the Melbourne Cup, as I believed it was coming at the end of a long season and she wouldn’t be physically ready to tackle a tough Melbourne Cup. She ran better than I expected, to be honest, and the signs were there that when she was fully mature she’d be a force to be reckoned with. She was good first up in the Australian Cup, and now she gets everything falling into place here. I took 20/1 on Monday, and she’s now $6.50 – probably at her limit value-wise, but hopefully she blows out again. I reckon she’ll be able to steal our hearts today (a little joke for those who know French).

The big three will be hard to beat, and of those three, it’s hard to go against Silent Achiever after her last performance. She finally got her Australian Group 1 in the Ranvet Stakes, and she’ll only be improved. She was unlucky not to beat Fiveandahalfstar in this race last year, and the blinkers seem to have really done the trick. If it’s a bog, she may not be allowed to wear the blinkers – which could be to her detriment – but wait and see how it plays out. A wet track holds no concerns for her and she’s the logical danger.

The move for Fiorente in the Sydney Cup markets yesterday is interesting, as it suggests he’s headed to the staying feature before a potential tilt at the Ascot Gold Cup (which, I’m told, is still on the agenda). Perhaps they think after his last start he’s more dour now? He won his only start on soft ground, winning the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket from Joshua Tree and Red Cadeaux, so it shouldn’t be a problem. He’s a definite chance, but I think the other two represent better value.

As for It’s A Dundeel, I’ve been one of his staunchest fans since he won his maiden in New Zealand. But the shoeing issues this week which suggest he is still having feet issues really does concern me, and although he gets normal race plates back on and a wet track, I am extremely wary. I’d love to see him win, but I wouldn’t be backing him.

Next best is the Sandown Classic winner SERTORIUS, and he’s the only other one I could really consider. I like BRIGANTIN as a horse but he needs 3200m and a dry track, while I don’t think LET’S MAKE ADEAL is up to weight-for-age racing – yet. ANGOLA is outclassed, while FORETELLER is better at 2000m for mine.

10 – VOLEUSE DE COEURS
9 – SILENT ACHIEVER
1 – FIORENTE
8 – IT’S A DUNDEEL

Race 7 – GROUP 1 VINERY STUD STAKES (2000m)

First, ZANBAGH. I think she’s potentially the best staying filly in the race, and 2000m now is perfect for her. If everything was fine, I’d have her on top. But with bar plates on, especially on a wet track, she’s just way too much of a risk for me. She may win, but she is a horse you simply have to take on.

RISING ROMANCE came out of the New Zealand Derby, where she was soundly beaten by Puccini, who failed last weekend in the Rosehill Guineas. Rising Romance was good that day, flying home and only finding the colt too good. Back to her own sex, over 2000m, she can win here. She has had a long campaign, but I think she’s the one they have to beat.

The one at big odds that can cause the boilover is Peter Moody’s SENSIBILITY. This filly won like Phar Lap on a wet track at Mornington on debut, but she proved very disappointing at her second start in the Morphettville Guineas. At her third start, though, she came to Sydney and found only Guelph too good in the Flight Stakes.

This prep, she was alright first up in the Vanity Stakes before a poor performance in the Kewney Stakes – both times behind SOLICIT. But if she follows her pattern from last prep, when she improved out of sight third-up, I think she’ll be in with a shot. I’ve been told she’s become quite mad this preparation, but I’m hoping the trip away can calm her down and she can find her best.

INTERSPERSED won the Canberra Guineas before rattling home for fourth behind Zanbagh in the Keith Nolan Classic. She gets a long way back in her races, which is a concern, but I think she’ll relish 2000m on a wet track and she’s a definite player.

MARIANNE beat a number of these fillies in the Alexandra Stakes last time, including SUAVITO and Solicit. She’s a bit camera shy, but she is honest and is always in there with a show. 2000m may prove some query with her – she’s bred to be a miler – but at this time of year, they can often run the 2000m even if it isn’t their best distance.

Next best Solicit, who was a shade disappointing last start but should improve on that, while FOREVER LOVED will more than likely be on the speed for a long way in a race which doesn’t look to have a great deal of pace.

4 – RISING ROMANCE
10 – SENSIBILITY
9 – INTERSPERSED
3 – MARIANNE

Race 8 – GROUP 1 GOLDEN SLIPPER (1200m)

The world’s richest two-year-old, on a hairpin circuit on a track near Parramatta. Even as someone who has lived in the Parramatta area for most of my life, the juxtaposition doesn’t seem right. I do enjoy the race every year, though, and I do hope it remains at Rosehill – it just wouldn’t be the same at Randwick!

It would be great to see UNENCUMBERED or VALENTIA win here, obviously. Unencumbered was to have been Nathan Berry’s mount, and he had done so much work with the horse, while twin Tommy takes the ride on Gai Waterhouse’s Valentia. I think everyone will be willing a Damien Oliver result, hoping that either horse can win just as Media Puzzle did in the 2002 Melbourne Cup only days after Damien’s brother Jason died in a race fall.

Taking the emotion out of it, I’m not sure I can see it happening – I think Unencumbered will find it hard to bridge the gap on GHIBELLINES, while I think Valentia just may not be good enough. But as someone who loves racing, who knows its participants and who cares about the industry, there’s nothing I’d rather see.

Despite the reputation of the race for being a roughhouse affair, the cream usually rises to the top. Last year, Overreach was the form filly and she bolted in, beating horses that have subsequently proven the form – the likes of Sidestep, Sweet Idea, Guelph and Criterion were close up. It was the same the year before with Pierro, Snitzerland and Samaready well clear of their rivals, and all have subsequently won open class Group 1 races.

From what we’ve seen this year, the “cream” is undoubtedly EARTHQUAKE. This super Darley filly is yet to disappoint, winning her first race in such impressive style that she was immediately installed as Golden Slipper favourite before returning with a win in the Blue Diamond Prelude for fillies. She started second favourite behind Rubick in the Blue Diamond Stakes, but easily had his measure, racing away for a comfortable win.

She’ll be out to emulate Sepoy (2011), also trained by Peter Snowden and owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation, by winning the Blue Diamond-Golden Slipper double, as well as the likes of John’s Hope (1972), Manikato (1979), Bounding Away (1986) and Courtza (1989). Rare company indeed!

She came back to Sydney two weeks ago and won the Reisling Stakes in a manner that can best be described as workmanlike, albeit showing her class to beat MOSSFUN and ALPHA MISS. I think she’ll be better ridden off the speed, where she’ll probably find herself today from barrier 13, and if she turns up, has luck in running and handles the wet track, she’ll be mighty hard to beat. She’s the big chance for sure.

All that said, I can’t get last week’s win of BRING ME THE MAID out of my mind. She beat the B-grade fillies, but the turn of foot she showed late was dynamic and there can be no doubt that she handles the wet track. She has the sense of timing about her.

With all the focus on Tommy Berry, I think a lot of people will forget that Chad Schofield – who rides Bring Me The Maid – will also be under immense pressure. He’s not only lost a good mate, and will be grieving for him, but he also has the added burden of seeing his sister Whitney so distraught by Nathan’s death. It’s a lot to ask of any 20-year-old, but I think he’s as talented as any jockey I’ve seen and I think he’ll handle it. This would also be a very emotional win, as the syndicate of owners was headed up by legendary jockey Roy Higgins, who died earlier in March. I think she can salute to give Peter Moody – of Black Caviar fame – his first win in Australia’s big four races.

If one is to upset those two, it could be Earthquake’s stablemate Ghibellines. The half-brother to last year’s fourth placegetter and four-time Group 1 winner Guelph, Ghibellines had been quite disappointing in three starts in the Breeders’ Plate behind LAW, the Canonbury Stakes behind Fighting Sun and the Black Opal Stakes behind Lucky Raquie before turning it all around with a victory in the Todman Stakes two weeks ago. He was sent out at $41 – and quite rightly on what he had done to date – but he settled last before coming through the field with a tremendous run to see off Unencumbered. It seems odd that a gear change like a crossover noseband could make such a difference, but he raced genuinely and found the line terrifically. I think he’ll be the first colt home and I see him as the only real danger to the other two fillies.

Law and OAKLEIGH GIRL both look to be over the odds and could be worth something each way. Law was the Breeders’ Plate winner who resumed with a top win, but he beat absolutely nothing, before disappointing when leading them up in the Silver Slipper behind Mossfun. It’s hard to have him on top, or even in the first couple, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he is better with something to chase and he also gets the crossover noseband on here. A better run wouldn’t surprise.

Oakleigh Girl finished second to Unencumbered in the Magic Millions Classic and has not raced since. I think it’s good that she’s going into this race fresh, and she showed she was on track with a resounding barrier trial win recently. She still needs to prove herself at 1200m, but I think coming in fresh is a shrewd move and she can turn the tables on Unencumbered here.

I think I’ll be playing those five mainly, with decent bets on my top three. Throw Mossfun, Unencumbered and Valentia into your multiples, but I’m not really too keen on anything else in the race. If there’s to be two improvers in the race, I think they’ll be MEMORIAL and RISEN FROM DOUBT, but I think they’d have to improve far too much to make the top three and I’m happy to leave them out.

And while plenty of support has come for Mossfun, I’m happy to take a set against her on a win line. She’s definitely worth including in exotics given she handles a rain-affected track, but I couldn’t support her at the expense of Earthquake.

14 – BRING ME THE MAID
9 – EARTHQUAKE
3 – GHIBELLINES
6 – LAW
11 – OAKLEIGH GIRL

Race 9 – GROUP 3 DONCASTER PRELUDE (1500m)

The first running of this race on Golden Slipper day, moved forward a week, with the race now replacing the George Ryder Stakes, which was run last week. I actually don’t mind, it is great to have this open race on the card. And having it as the last race on the card really makes it feel like a prelude to next week’s first day of The Championships.

The pace scenario is quite interesting, in that there’s a lot of the pace drawn low – plenty of them could easily take the sit if horses out wide press forward.

I think this is WEARY’s race to shine. The English import, who raced overseas as Sir Patrick Moore (with permission from his namesake, a prominent astronomer who died in late 2012), has impressed at his first two Australian starts for Chris Waller, storming home for third to Ecuador before an impressive second behind the runaway winner Messene in the Ajax Stakes. His overseas form was far from shabby – at his penultimate English start, he finished a length second to subsequent Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner Olympic Glory. A repeat of that form, as well as his most recent two starts, would see him secure his Doncaster Mile berth here. And I think the wet track should be fine for him – he acquitted himself fine on a slow track at his Australian debut, while he won on a heavy track at Compiegne in France as a two-year-old. He looks the clear pick.

His stablemate and fellow import DIAMETRIC can run an improved race here. He was heavily backed at his first run in the Sky High Stakes, shortening from double figures into a $4 favourite, but he disappointed in finishing seventh to Entirely Platinum, beaten three lengths. That day, he got stirred up and had expended all his energy before the race was run. I’m taking the risk that won’t happen today, and if that’s the case, he’ll run a far improved race. He’s never been tried on a wet track, but the progeny of Dansili tend to handle it so I think he’ll run boldly.

LEEBAZ is the favourite but seemed awfully short last time out. He’s clearly a promising horse, he keeps stepping up, and Team Hawkes are flying at the moment, but I’d still prefer to stick with Waller’s two here. That said, after seeing what Entirely Platinum and Messene managed to do stepping up with similar form two weeks back, who is to write him off?

And I wouldn’t be surprised if ALMIGHTY CHARGE runs a race at odds. He was average last start in the Newcastle Newmarket, but his run behind Ecuador before that was superb and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lob into the box seat here. He’s some chance.

Next best MALAVIO, while RHYTHM TO SPARE also seemed to be a ridiculous price.

3 – WEARY
5 – DIAMETRIC
16 – LEEBAZ
15 – ALMIGHTY CHARGE

AINTREE

Race 5 – GRADE 3 GRAND NATIONAL CHASE (4m 3f 110y – approx 7200m)

One of my favourite races every year, it’s hard to believe the Grand National’s already here again.

I just went back and read my analysis again from last year – and I must say, I got it fairly wrong! Completely different from 12 months before that when we cheered home Neptune Collonges. That said, I’m not sure how anyone could have found Auroras Encore, really. But that’s the nature of the Grand National, and one of the reasons it is such a popular race worldwide. Anyone who says with a straight face they are supremely confident about how their horse will go is lying. Even the connections can’t predict what will happen, and at best can be hopeful – if they have too much confidence their charge will fall at the first. It’s Murphy’s Law at its finest.

It’s a gruelling course – 30 large fences over four-and-a-half miles. The fences are well known, even to someone who doesn’t know National Hunt racing all that well. You have Becher’s Brook, a drop jump where horse and rider land 10 inches lower from where they take off. There’s Foinavon, the scene of one of the biggest pile-ups in the history of the race in 1967, where only one horse made it through unscathed – the despised outsider for whom the fence was named. There’s the Canal Turn, an almost 90 degree turn to the left. And there are fences like The Chair and Valentine’s, as well as the final kink in the track known as The Elbow, all of which are a distinguishable part of the Grand National course.

It’s a lottery – really, you’d get a good sight from any of them – and my knowledge of National Hunt racing is far from complete, but it is a race I have to have a flutter in so I have done the form and have come up with the following selections. I’ll probably have a flutter on a couple of them and just hope more than anthing.

THE PACKAGE was one that caught the eye, he was third but well beaten at Cheltenham but both first (Holywell) and second (Ma Filleule) have won at Aintree already this week. A concern is that he struggled over these fences in 2010 behind Don’t Push It before unseating the rider, but I’m happy to give him a second chance here.

I was impressed with ALVARADO, looking at his form before his last start. In particular, his win at Cheltenham in November – when he had the likes of Knockara Beau, MONBEG DUDE, Spring Heeled and BURTON PORT behind him that day. At his last start on New Year’s Day he was pulled up, but that may have been a blessing in disguise. He now comes here fresh and well, and he’s had this one race as his target. Unproven at Aintree but I reckon he’ll stay alright, looking forward to seeing him.

These are the two I was keenest on, but there were a couple of others I could entertain.

I remember seeing Burton Port in the flesh at Cheltenham in 2012, where he finished fourth to Synchronised in the Gold Cup. His form since has been patchy, and he’s also had plenty of injury issues, but he’s always looked a stayer and I think he’ll take to these fences alright. He ran his best race in a long time after the weights were issued, so whether they were protecting his mark, I don’t know. I have to include him, especially given he’s got Jonjo O’Neill on his side.

CHANCE DU ROY has serious stamina queries but he’s likely to be out in front for a long way, while Monbeg Dude is an obvious contender for Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips.

Next best LONG RUN, who is the class runner of the field.

33 – THE PACKAGE (generally 20-1)
37 – ALVARADO (33-1)
21 – BURTON PORT (16-1)
26 – CHANCE DU ROY (33-1)
19 – MONBEG DUDE (12-1)

 

Hawk’s George Ryder Stakes/Rosehill Guineas Day Selections

March 29, 2014

Racing’s been good in Sydney this autumn, but it really starts to move a notch today with the running of the George Ryder Stakes and the Rosehill Guineas – on the same program for the first time.

To be honest, as someone who now spends more time focusing on Hong Kong racing, most of my attention this week has been on Dubai World Cup day. If you are having a bet tonight at Meydan, read my in-depth preview for your guide on who you should be backing!

But that’s not to detract from Rosehill’s strong card at all. There is plenty of depth to the card, although it is a bit of a shame it’s marred by a Heavy (9) track.

Here, I’ve provided my selections for all races on the card, while also providing my summary of the three Group 1 races at Rosehill.

Best of luck!

Race 1 – GROUP 3 N E MANION CUP (2400m)

3 – OPINION
6 – THE OFFER
4 – GONDOKORO
7 – DESERT JEUNEY

Race 2 – GROUP 2 PAGO PAGO STAKES (1200m)

9 – WILDERNESS
3 – KUMAON
5 – TIME FOR WAR
1 – MR CHA CHA

Race 3 – GROUP 3 BIRTHDAY CARD STAKES (1200m)

5 – PLUCKY BELLE
3 – AVOID LIGHTNING
2 – AEROBATICS
8 – SINGLE STYLE

Race 4 – GROUP 2 MAGIC NIGHT STAKES (1200m)

6 – DONELLE
1 – PEGGY JEAN
4 – PRESS REPORT
5 – TETSUKO

Race 5 – LISTED DARBY MUNRO STAKES (1200m)

3 – BOSS LANE
1 – SIDESTEP
2 – FAST ‘N’ ROCKING
4 – BOUND FOR EARTH

Race 6 – GROUP 1 THE GALAXY (1100m)

The heavy track is a major factor here, and it has changed the way I look at this race completely.

Forget his two horrible runs this preparation – if RAIN AFFAIR is ever to win a Group 1, it is here. He gets his favoured wet conditions – he’s won two from three on a heavy track, while his record is seven from eight on all wet tracks. He’ll be out in front and he’ll prove hard to run down. I think he gets his Group 1 here.

I think the filly down the bottom ANATINA will prove value. She was very good first up down the straight, and she showed her liking for a heavy track when winning a clockwise race at Ballarat in November. It’s obviousl a step up here but I think she can surprise a few people.

The last two winners of the race, TEMPLE OF BOOM and BEL SPRINTER, are both chances of making it two wins in the race, while TIGER TEES could be some chance in the wet.

4 – RAIN AFFAIR
14 – ANATINA
6 – TEMPLE OF BOOM
1 – BEL SPRINTER

Race 7 – GROUP 1 GEORGE RYDER STAKES (1500m)

When the new carnival was first announced, one thing which seemed wrong to me was the fact this race was moved from Golden Slipper day to Rosehill Guineas day. I always loved the place it had on Golden Slipper day, almost like it was an indication where the Slipper runners would be in a year or two (coincidentally, of this year’s field, none of them were Slipper runners – and only Streama was really on a Slipper path).

But I think it is better placed here, anyway, regardless of the fact the move was to ensure there was a two week gap into the Doncaster Mile. It’s now more George Ryder Stakes day, rather than Rosehill Guineas day, and the program looks far stronger than it did when I last was at Rosehill on this day in 2011.

Onto the race, and it’s a top race indeed. Very open, but every horse could legitimately win the race without surprising. It’s just a shame it’s been marred by a wet track.

I’m going to start with a horse that I’ve left out of my selections in BOBAN. I think if this was a good track, it would be his race. But he has failed twice on a slow track, but once was on debut while the other was a disappointing performance in the Queensland Guineas. He may handle a heavy track, but on the balance of probabilities, he’s a definite risk and I’m happy to bet around him.

I was happy to stick with one of his stablemates in SACRED FALLS. He’s a decent horse without being outstanding, but he gets through the heavy ground with no qualms whatsoever. Last time he struck a heavy track, he won the Doncaster, so I’m sure connections are continuing to do a rain dance. I didn’t think he was too bad at all fresh in the Canterbury Stakes, and I think the key booking of Zac Purton is a masterstroke. Big chance.

I’m still trying to figure out how GORDON LORD BYRON is 20/1. The Irish invader is a Group 1 winner on a heavy track who has contested some of the world’s best sprint/mile races. His last start fourth behind Glorious Days in the Hong Kong Mile was good enough for this race, and the wet track only helps his claims. Huge overs and well worth a bet.

I think EUROZONE is drawn to get the right run, but a tough 1500m is a query with him, while RED TRACER is a duck racing better than ever and so she has to go in. Next best Boban and EL ROCA.

4 – SACRED FALLS
2 – GORDON LORD BYRON
15 – EUROZONE
12 – RED TRACER

Race 8 – GROUP 1 ROSEHILL GUINEAS (2000m)

The main Derby lead-up, and I think it’s safe to say I’m more confused than I’ve ever been before about the three-year-old classics.

However, I’m happy to stick with New Zealand Derby winner PUCCINI. He’s won his last three, and he’s been more impressive each time. Race fitness may prove crucial here, in what could be a slogfest, so he must rate as a top chance if he get through the mud.

I’m expecting SAVVY NATURE to run an improved race, he was a little bit flat in the Randwick Guineas but his first up run in the Hobartville Stakes was great. I think 2000m is his trip and I’d be disappointed if he’s not in the finish.

I think TERONADO looks to be heading in the right direction as he prepares for the Derby and he looks to enjoy a wet track, while I can’t discount SHOW THE WORLD who is bred to handle the wet.

Next best SHAMUS AWARD – it feels almost remiss leaving a Cox Plate winner out over 2000m against his age group, but I’m happy to go against him.

4 – PUCCINI
5 – SAVVY NATURE
9 – TERONADO
15 – SHOW THE WORLD

Race 9 – GROUP 3 PERCY SYKES TRIBUTE STAKES (1900m)

1 – EPINGLE
13 – KNEAD THE DOUGH
3 – SCORPIO QUEEN
15 – QUAYSIDE

Hawk’s 2014 Dubai World Cup Day Analysis and Selections

March 29, 2014

It’s back once again – my preview of the Dubai World Cup meeting from Meydan, as the racing world gathers in the Middle East once again.

This is the first time in three years I haven’t been in Dubai, with my esteemed colleague from the South China Morning Post Alan “Hats” Aitken instead enjoying all the desert has to offer. However, I’m excited to be in Hong Kong for this meeting, given it looks like our horses are prime contenders in the features.

To be honest, I think it would be disappointing if we walked away with nothing, but that’s horse racing – who knows what might happen?

I’ve written a race-by-race summary, as well as providing my selections for each race. At the end, I’ve also added some links to some of the other interesting previews I’ve read and seen today.

Race 1 – GROUP 1 KAHAYLA CLASSIC (2000m)

As I say every year, Purebred Arabian form is not my forte but I know enough to know I want to have VERSAC PY on top. He’s game as anything, but he hasn’t won since March 2012. That said, he has run well in this race the last two years, finishing fourth in 2012 before leading until the shadows of the post last year. He can go one better.

The danger for mine is NIESHAN, who is coming off a disappointing run at Abu Dhabi. He hasn’t shown much since winning the Al Mahtoum Challenge for the Arabians last year, but he finally gets back to the Meydan 2000m and he is drawn well. Expect a big run.

RABBAH DE CARRERE has been in good form and must be considered, while MUSHRAE and last year’s winner AL MAMUN MONLAU are other chances.

7 – VERSAC PY
6 – NIESHAN
15 – RABBAH DE CARRERE
8 – MUSHRAE

Race 2 – GROUP 2 GODOLPHIN MILE (1600m)

The race comes down to one question, really: is SOFT FALLING RAIN at his best? Or, more accurately, is he the same horse as last year? He was disappointing first up in the Mahab Al Shimaal, but he drew wide and had to go back over a distance that was always going to be too short. If you remember last year, he sat three deep and still managed to win, so with a nicer draw, I think he’ll prove too good now that he’s back up to a mile.

I think if there’s one at odds who can cause an upset, it’s MULL OF KILLOUGH. I think the mile’s his journey, and his last run behind Boban, Smokin’ Joey and Speediness in the Emirates Stakes at Flemingtno was top notch. I think he’ll be in the right spot despite the wide gate, and I’ll be having something on each way for sure.

SHURUQ won the lead-up to this, the Burj Nahaar, beating VARIETY CLUB, and while I prefer the South African horse as a galloper, Godolphin mare Shuruq has the better draw and is likely to get the upper hand. Both have some chance, though, and I’d love to see Variety Club win.

FLOTILLA is next best.

5 – SOFT FALLING RAIN
11 – MULL OF KILLOUGH
10 – SHURUQ
15 – VARIETY CLUB

Race 3 – GROUP 2 DUBAI GOLD CUP (3200m)

The five runnings of this race have all been won by Godolphin, and it looks like they have a mortgage on this year’s race all being equal. However, while they have the favourite CAVALRYMAN, I think another of theirs may prove the one to beat.

I’ve been wanting to see SONGCRAFT over 3200m since he won his first four starts during the Dubai carnival in 2012. He hasn’t quite been the same since then, but he seems to have found something near his best at his last two starts. His last run, he was just beaten by Excellent Result after hitting the front. I think he’s looking for the trip now and he can win.

Obviously, CAVALRYMAN is the danger. He won in such imposing style last year, while he was dominant in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy first up, smashing his rivals by five and a half lengths. It would be a surprise if he’s not around the mark, but I think the stablemate can beat him.

I’m a huge fan of NOW WE CAN as a horse, I backed him heavily prepost in the Melbourne Cup last year only for his form to tail off. But he won first up over 1900m and he’s been somewhat overlooked here. If he’s as good as I think he is, he’ll be in the mix here.

Next best JOSHUA TREE, who was a good second to Verema in the Prix Kergorlay in August, while SIMENON is obviously some chance if he can find his best.

6 – SONGCRAFT
7 – CAVALRYMAN
12 – NOW WE CAN
8 – JOSHUA TREE

Race 4 – GROUP 2 UAE DERBY (1900m)

This does look a race between the favourites LONG JOHN and GIOVANNI BOLDINI, a clash between leviathans Godolphin and Coolmore. I have nightmares of another Caulfield Guineas winner in Helmet tackling this race and failing miserably two years back, but there’s one key difference – Long John has already won in Dubai. He smashed his rivals first up in the UAE 2000 Guineas and, on that performance, he is clearly the one to beat. There are queries, don’t get me wrong – Charlie Appleby is struggling to get horses to win beyond their first-up run, while the 1900m is some concern as Long John’s only run past a mile was his Cox Plate failure. Still, a repeat of his UAE 2000 Guineas run is good enough to win here.

The danger is Coolmore’s Giovanni Boldini, who finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf behind Outstrip. He’s won a Listed race at Dundalk easily, and there’s a bit of hype about him – he’s always been expected to improve as a three-year-old. The Kentucky Derby could be in his sights, but he’d need to run a big race here.

SIR JOHN HAWKINS is an intriguing runner, also for Coolmore (and no, not just because we share a name) – I remember backing him in the Coventry Stakes, when he finished a well beaten third behind War Command. In two further runs, he was a bit one-paced, and it’s interesting they’ve decided to step him up to the 1900m straight away. He’s not out of this race by any means.

Perhaps the most fascinating runners are COOPTADO, who brings South American staying form – who knows how that will stack up? – and TOAST OF NEW YORK, who is only coming from Wolverhampton but has won his last two starts by 12 lengths and 16 lengths respectively.

4 – LONG JOHN
5 – GIOVANNI BOLDINI
10 – SIR JOHN HAWKINS
3 – COOPTADO

Race 5 – GROUP 1 AL QUOZ SPRINT (1000m)

All this talk about the race being gifted to SHEA SHEA now that he’s drawn the outside – dismiss that now! It’s by no means a one-horse race, and trust me, they’ll know AMBER SKY is there (and no, I’m not biased towards the Hong Kong horses!).

Amber Sky is a speedball, he’ll lead without a doubt. It will be interesting to see if Joao Moreira maintains his course, or looks to cross to either rail – whatever he wants to do, he’s likely to have the speed underneath him to be able to do it. I think he’ll have Shea Shea out of his comfort zone at the crucial point of the race, just past the halfway mark, and if he’s vulnerable there I think Amber Sky can beat him.

Obviously Shea Shea is the hardest to beat, he won the race effortlessly last year while he also won the lead up this year, the Meydan Sprint – albeit unimpressively. He’ll come on for the run and Amber Sky will need to be right on his game to win it.

The dangers are AHTOUG, who almost beat Shea Shea last start – he was flying at the finish – and SOLE POWER, while I’ll give a special mention to JOY AND FUN too as he has his final race here after placing in this race the last three years. Still, I think it’s a race between the two favourites.

8 – AMBER SKY
12 – SHEA SHEA
11 – AHTOUG
2 – SOLE POWER

Race 6 – GROUP 1 DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN (1200m)

A pretty weak renewal of this race, in all honesty. It seems to have really wilted the last two years, which is slightly disappointing.

If Hong Kong doesn’t win the Al Quoz Sprint, then this is our opportunity to get on the board. The last two winners of the Golden Shaheen, KRYPTON FACTOR and REYNALDOTHEWIZARD (who both line up here), both won the Mahab Al Shimaal before winning the Golden Shaheen. That obviously puts RICH TAPESTRY in the prime position.

Rich Tapestry was impressive, albeit in slow time, when winning the Mahab Al Shimaal under a perfect Olivier Doleuze ride three weeks back. Doleuze, known as the “king of the dirt” in Hong Kong, will have to ride an even cannier race if he is to salute here from gate 12. But there’s no doubting the fact he’s a class better on the dirt than he is on the turf, and now that he’s reached such a high level, there are no races in Hong Kong for him on the dirt.

Enter STERLING CITY. Now, Sterling City is yet to race on Sha Tin’s all-weather track, let alone Meydan’s unique Tapeta surface, but his form is clearly superior to Rich Tapestry’s in Hong Kong. They’ve faced each other twice, and the score is 2-0 in Sterling City’s favour. He should have got his first Group 1 on the board last start in the Centenary Sprint Prize, when Joao Moreira never saw daylight, and he’s drawn to get the perfect run here. This is his opportunity to break the duck.

I think the danger could be Godolphin’s COMPLICATE. He’s peaking at the right time for this race, and the former Australian galloper ran home solidly behind Rich Tapestry last start. He can turn the tables on the top two.

It would be great to see Michael Chang have an international Group 1 winner so I will be cheering Rich Tapestry, while you can never discount REYNALDOTHEWIZARD over the 1200m on Tapeta. The only other one I could possibly consider is BALMONT MAST.

Hopefully it’s a Group 1 for Hong Kong!

4 – STERLING CITY
8 – COMPLICATE
12 – RICH TAPESTRY
5 – REYNALDOTHEWIZARD

Race 7 – GROUP 1 DUBAI DUTY FREE (1800m)

The first of the “big three”, it’s a competitive race that has a number of elements.

I think Asia can also snatch this race, albeit it’s the turn of the Japanese. JUST A WAY has been impressive winning at his last two starts, but the victory that sold me was his runaway success in the Autumn Tenno Sho. That day, Just A Way ran away to score by four lengths from Japan Cup heroine Gentildonna, with Eishin Flash in third. TOKEI HALO was among the alsorans, and he managed to finish second to Akeed Mofeed in the Hong Kong Cup at his next start. There will be a large Japanese press pack at Meydan, and I expect they’ll be cheering as Just A Way wins.

VERCINGETORIX is the obvious danger. Unbeaten from six starts, he was South Africa’s champion three year old last year, winning four starts culminating in the Grade 1 Daily News 2000. He then came to Dubai, winning over 1800m before adding a victory in the Jebel Hatta. Barrier 11 makes it a bit awkward but form at the carnival has been a plus in this race in recent years – think the likes of Sajjhaa, Al Shemali, Gladiatorus. It’s also a good story, as described so eloquently in the New York Times by Ryan Goldberg.

THE FUGUE is the main danger to these two, but she’s better over further so could be some risk. With even luck she probably could have won the Breeders’ Cup Turf and the Hong Kong Vase, but it is great to see her in training for another year. She’ll win her fair share of races this year, and it wouldn’t shock to see her salute.

MSHAWISH, DANK, LOGOTYPE all can’t be ignored either, while it does appear BLAZING SPEED has found too tough a race for his ability.

2 – JUST A WAY
11 – VERCINGETORIX
4 – THE FUGUE
1 – MSHAWISH

Race 8 – GROUP 1 DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC (2400m)

If the Dubai Duty Free looked tough, the Sheema Classic is nigh on impossible. I’d say there are seven legitimate chances, perhaps eight, and it’s hard to separate the leading horses.

I did this race a number of times, have changed my selections a few times, but in the end I’ve decided to go with a Melbourne and Caulfield Cup winner in DUNADEN. This surprised me somewhat – I didn’t give him a second look when I had a quick glance over the field – but I think this could be his race. He doesn’t win much these days, but I think they’ve pulled the right rein by giving him one early run in Dubai. That was a 1800m race on the Tapeta, when he looked outpaced before finding his feet late, and it will have him spot on for this race. He was the best of the backmarkers last year in what was a farcically-run race, and with a more genuine tempo looking likely, he should be well suited. He looked well at trackwork this week, as this tweet from top photographer and close friend Sharon Chapman showed, and I think he can win the Sheema Classic.

It’s a lottery for second – I think GENTILDONNA’s obviously in with a chance, she finished second last year when fresh (and when Yasunari Iwata decided to take her via Abu Dhabi and Sharjah) but two runs since seem to suggest she is not at her peak when first-up. Ryan Moore renews his association with her second-up here, and she’s definitely hard to beat.

The draw’s cruel for CIRRUS DES AIGLES as he attempts to win this race for the second time (he beat last year’s winner St Nicholas Abbey in 2012). I think the old boy showed towards the end of last season he’s still got some fight in him, and despite the draw, I couldn’t rule him out.

Best of the rest is DOMINANT, who I believe is absolutely flying this preparation. His two runs in Hong Kong were as good as he’s ever gone, the Moore camp believe he’s been the best traveller of their three runners on the night and he’ll be running home hard. Others with chances are MOUNT ATHOS, MAGICIAN, DENIM AND RUBY and even MARS is some hope, but it’s definitely not cut and dry.

6 – DUNADEN
12 – GENTILDONNA
15 – CIRRUS DES AIGLES
14 – DOMINANT

Race 9 – GROUP 1 DUBAI WORLD CUP (2000m)

The highlight of the night, this is the race I hope above all can be won by Hong Kong. We have two very good chances in MILITARY ATTACK and AKEED MOFEED, but I think it is the former who is our best hope of securing our first win in the world’s richest race.

I’ve believed all season Military Attack would improve with racing. It took him a long while this season to find his feet, while he also had to contend with a number of bad draws. Last time out, everything fell into place and he smashed his rivals in the Hong Kong Gold Cup. Last season, his form continued to improve as the season wore on, and it looks a similar scenario this year.

As I said to leading Dubai racing analyst Pat Cummings for his wonderful comprehensive (if you haven’t read it, you should), the Tapeta is always going to be a concern. Military Attack has been a fairly consistent horse right throughout his career, he’s only been beaten by more than five lengths once – that was on the polytrack at Kempton on debut. He was 40-1 and he finished 14 lengths from them. That poses some concern, but that said, he hasn’t been tried since so who’s to know whether he handles it or not?

I think he has enough quality to deliver a World Cup to Hong Kong.

As for the dangers, I think SANSHAAWES is one to be very wary about. Coming from South Africa, he’s emerged from seemingly nowhere to become a legitimate World Cup contender. He was tough last start behind PRINCE BISHOP, but he comes in from gate 13 to gate 5 which should prove to be vital. He’s right in this race.

The Japanese have two hopes in BELSHAZZAR and HOKKO TARUMAE, who were first and third in the Japan Cup Dirt. It’s well worth watching the race just to see the extravagant riding style of Hideaki Miyuki aboard Hokko Tarumae – what a cowboy! But I think Belshazzar is Japan’s best hope of adding a second World Cup after Victoire Pisa’s 2011 success. Not only does he have the right draw to be well-positioned, but I think he’s got the right form to be competitive.

I have to include MUKHADRAM, because I think he’s right in this if he finds his best, while last year’s second RED CADEAUX and AKEED MOFEED are best of the rest.

I’m happy to take on the current favourite, Epsom Derby winner RULER OF THE WORLD, as I’m not convinced about him as a horse and I believe he’s more of a stayer. He was wildly inconsistent last season and I want to see him bring it to the table first.

8 – MILITARY ATTACK
5 – SANSHAAWES
2 – BELSHAZZAR
13 – MUKHADRAM

Here are some other previews that will help you find a winner on Dubai World Cup night:

Pat Cummings (DubaiRaceNight.com- Pat is the doyen of Dubai racing, he is as knowledgeable as it gets. I’m very privileged to call him a good mate. For everything you need for Dubai World Cup night, Pat is your man.

Stephen Molyneaux (Timeform/Dubai Racing Channel) - Long time Dubai expert and Timeform man now based in Dubai with Dubai Racing Channel. Definitely worth listening to his podcast for Timeform.

Trent Masenhelder (TheRoar.com.au) - Trent’s an Aussie based in Dubai, and he has been speaking to the key players this week to gain further insight. It was great to listen to his preview with Mark Monkhouse and Harry Tregoning on Dubai radio yesterday, and his preview on The Roar is well worth a read.

Candice Hare (cappingwithcandice.blogspot.com- I’m a big fan of what Candice has to offer, she clearly knows what she’s talking about and we’ve been discussing these races for a number of weeks. Well worth a read of her thoughts, she’s much more concise than I am!

Emily White (“Meydan Maiden”) - The trans-Atlantic discussion between Emily, Joe and Jim is well worth a listen, they provide different perspectives on the races based on their different jurisdictions, which I found fascinating.

Best of luck for what is one of the world’s great race meetings!

Hawk’s 2014 Randwick Guineas Day Selections

March 15, 2014

The attention shifts to Sydney today with two races at the highest level at Randwick. Well, most attention – my eyes will still be on Melbourne, or rather, Bendigo, where I have my first runner in a stakes race in the former Darley galloper Yulalona. Granted, he’s the outsider of the field – and deservedly so – but you can always dream!

Here are my selections for Randwick today, with an explanation of my analysis of the two Group 1 races:

Race 1 – GROUP 2 SKYLINE STAKES (1200m)

5 – GIULIANI
1 – GOLD FORCE
3 – VALENTIA
2 – MODOC

Race 2 – GROUP 2 SWEET EMBRACE STAKES (1200m)

4 – TETSUKO
5 – TWIRL
2 – PRESS REPORT
11 – STRATICAL

Race 3 – LISTED RANDWICK CITY STAKES (2000m)

4 – OPINION
7 – JUNOOB
6 – THE OFFER
2 – BAYRIR

Race 4 – GROUP 3 ASPIRATION QUALITY (1600m)

11 – FOREVER LOVED
4 – LUCKY LAGO
6 – PORCELLANUS
3 – ANY DAY WILL DO

Race 5 – GROUP 2 CHALLENGE STAKES (1000m)

2 – BEL SPRINTER
1 – BUFFERING
7 – SNITZERLAND
10 – VILLA VERDE

Race 6 – GROUP 3 ROY HIGGINS TRIBUTE QUALITY (1200m)

5 – PENTASIA
4 – AVOID LIGHTNING
3 – LILLIBURLERO
6 – A TIME FOR JULIA

Race 7 – GROUP 1 RANDWICK GUINEAS (1600m)

A very open contest between three-year-olds coming from all different formlines. There’s definitely some class there, though, and this race always seems to define the autumn as the cream rises to the top.

There are a number of chances but I think the market has it right with EL ROCA on top. I’d go so far as to say this Kiwi three-year-old should have finished at least second in the Caulfield Guineas, if not won, but he didn’t see daylight for much of the straight and he lost his chance. He was dominant resuming, and while he was beaten by the older Terravista last week, he didn’t lose any admirers whatsoever. It was a tough effort and the fact he was only beaten a long head or so was a credit to him. I’m excited to see him out to the 1600m again and even the barrier can’t deter me.

I think Murray Baker can make it a Kiwi trifecta, as he looks to have two really nice chances, but in which order? The natural selection is ATLANTE after his gutsy second in the Hobartville Stakes on ground he doesn’t like, but I reckon SHOW THE WORLD can give a sight fresh. He’s been gelded and he gets the blinkers on here, which should help him show his best. This distance will prove well short of his best – he’s by High Chaparral out of an Auckland Cup winner in Bazelle – but first-up, expect some dash from him.

Best of the rest is BULL POINT, who is a bit hot and cold, but if he settles off the speed he has an amazing turn of foot. Hopefully they don’t push him to lead. After that, probably CRITERION, TERONADO, SAVVY NATURE and EUROZONE in a very open race.

2 – EL ROCA
13 – SHOW THE WORLD
4 – ATLANTE
7 – BULL POINT

Race 8 – GROUP 1 CANTERBURY STAKES (1300m)

Speaking of converging formline

The Canterbury Stakes has struggled to find a home – it was run at Canterbury, but then shifted to Rosehill, and is now at Randwick. Still, with a field like this, you could run it anywhere and the interest would be high.

I do like the three-year-olds but I think NOT LISTENIN’TOME could be anything. His win first up was arrogant, and he deserves his shot at this company. Even if he doesn’t win here, a Group 1 is only a matter of time.

Obviously ZOUSTAR will be hard to beat, but he’s fresh and he has targets in mind later on. He’s the one to beat, but I’ll be interested to see how Not Listenin’tome measures up with a run under his belt. Two lengths separated them in the spring.

RED TRACER and APPEARANCE are flying so they obviously shape as dangers, but I’m happy to stick with the three-year-olds.

And though I doubt he can win, I would love to see a big run from MY KINGDOM OF FIFE first-up since October 2011. It’s a magnificent performance just to get him back, so if he was to blow us out, I wouldn’t care less.

10 – NOT LISTENIN’TOME
9 – ZOUSTAR
8 – RED TRACER
6 – APPEARANCE

Race 9 – LISTED FIREBALL STAKES (1100m)

5 – OPEN BOOK
12 – COSMIC ENDEAVOUR
13 – SHAMALIA
14 – FLIGHT ACADEMY

Hawk’s 2014 Newmarket Handicap/Australian Cup Day Selections

March 8, 2014

What a huge day of racing awaits! Not only do we have Group 1 racing in Sydney and Melbourne, but there is Group 1 racing across the Tasman in New Zealand, while tonight, Dubai has their Super Saturday program – the final lead-up card to the Dubai World Cup meeting.

It’s an open day and plenty of races can be won by many horses. Here’s hoping we’ve found a winner today!

FLEMINGTON

Race 1 – GROUP 3 TBV THOROUGHBRED BREEDERS STAKES (1200m)

1 – YGRITTE
3 – SINGULARITY
7 – THALIA
6 – MUSCAVADO

Race 2 – LISTED MSS SECURITY STAKES (1100m)

2 – GREGERS
13 – SON SENORAS
5 – ANATINA
8 – AWASITA

Race 3 – GROUP 2 SIRES’ PRODUCE STAKES (1400m)

2 – MARCADO
3 – AWESOME ROCK
4 – ZULULAND
5 – RED LETTER DAY

Race 4 – GROUP 3 SCHWEPPERVESCENCE TROPHY (1600m)

1 – BONARIA
4 – HI BELLE
7 – ARE THERE ANY
2 – KEEP DE ROSE

Race 5 – GROUP 2 KEWNEY STAKES (1400m)

2 – SOLICIT
6 – SENSIBILITY
13 – HOLY COW
3 – MARIANNE

Race 6 – GROUP 1 NEWMARKET HANDICAP (1200m)

10 – KNOYDART
3 – SAMAREADY
5 – FONTELINA
15 – VA PENSIERO

Race 7 – GROUP 1 AUSTRALIAN CUP (2000m)

1 – FIORENTE
8 – SHAMUS AWARD
9 – THUNDER FANTASY
5 – STAR ROLLING

Race 8 – GROUP 2 BLAMEY STAKES (1600m)

2 – SERTORIUS
10 – FOUNDRY
8 – LIDARI
1 – SEA MOON

Race 9 – GROUP 3 SUPER SATURDAY STAKES (1400m)

3 – SMOKIN’ JOEY
9 – RHYTHM TO SPARE
2 – BANCA MO
7 – THE UNITED STATES

WARWICK FARM

Race 1 – TAB.COM.AU HANDICAP (2400m)

2 – PENTOMETER
7 – DORMELLO
4 – THE HOTZ
2 – ULTIMATE GAZE

Race 2 – LISTED LONHRO PLATE (1100m)

5 – MEMORIAL
3 – WANDJINA
6 – DONELLE
1 – ALPHA MISS

Race 3 – IBIS MILANO DINNER SPECIALS HANDICAP (1100m)

11 – BARBED
1 – SEE THE WORLD
3 – THAT’S A GOOD IDEA
7 – MAGIC CASSIUS

Race 4 – GROUP 3 WIGGLE STAKES (1400m)

2 – CATKINS
1 – DEAR DEMI
3 – FIRE UP FIFI
6 – SHE’S CLEAN

Race 5 – GROUP 1 CHIPPING NORTON STAKES (1600m)

1 – IT’S A DUNDEEL
4 – MORIARTY
7 – PRINCE CHERI
2 – BOBAN

Race 6 – GROUP 3 LIVERPOOL CITY CUP (1300m)

11 – EL ROCA
3 – RIVA DE LAGO
8 – WHITE SAGE
7 – TERRAVISTA

Race 7 – GROUP 2 SURROUND STAKES (1400m)

2 – SWEET IDEA
1 – GUELPH
10 – CHATEAU LAFAITE
8 – ZANBAGH

Race 8 – SCHWEPPES HANDICAP (1600m)

8 – TRANSONIC
5 – ENTIRELY PLATINUM
1 – OUR DESERT WARRIOR
2 – CHARING CROSS

Best of luck if you are having a bet today!

Hawk’s 2014 Blue Diamond Stakes Day Selections

February 22, 2014

It was Melbourne Cup day – November 5 last year – when I last posted a set of tips for Australian racing. In the months since, I have settled into my new job working for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, trying to get my head around the different quirks of what is arguably the most successful racing jurisdiction in the world.

However, I’ve still been keeping a close eye on Australian racing. In order to keep my eye in, so to speak, I will be posting my tips for every Group 1 meeting for the rest of the season, as well as every Australian race that is simulcast into Hong Kong.

Today, we have the Blue Diamond Stakes from Caulfield, with three Group 1 races on the card. Hong Kong is taking a number of the races, but is also taking the Apollo Stakes and the Triscay Stakes from Randwick, so I’ve included tips for those two races as well.

I’ve written out my analysis for the three Group 1 races, while providing tips for the rest.

Best of luck today!

CAULFIELD

Race 1 – PERRI CUTTEN HANDICAP (1400m)

3 – FRESHWATER STORM
1 – FINISHING CARD
5 – KITTEN ON THE RUN
10 – FINAL JEST

Race 2 – GROUP 3 ZEDITAVE STAKES (1200m)

5 – NOT LISTENIN’TOME
1 – LION OF BELFORT
2 – FAST ‘N’ ROCKING
3 – THERMAL CURRENT

Race 3 – GROUP 2 ANGUS ARMANASCO STAKES (1400m)

4 – MARIANNE
6 – METAPHORICAL
3 – SPIRITS DANCE
1 – BOUND FOR EARTH

Race 4 – GROUP 2 CAULFIELD AUTUMN CLASSIC (1800m)

11 – DELIBERATE
4 – BRING SOMETHING
5 – ALPHA BEAT
6 – SAGUARO

Race 5 – GROUP 2 PETER YOUNG STAKES (1800m)

1 – FIORENTE
9 – LET’S MAKE ADEAL
7 – STAR ROLLING
6 – PAKAL

Race 6 – GROUP 1 FUTURITY STAKES (1400m)

Quite a disappointing Group 1 really, just as the Orr Stakes was two weeks ago. It’s clear Sydney’s The Championships have changed preparations for horses, with many preferring to wait until later in the carnival to kick off.

Still, there has to be a winner, and I think LIDARI can add a Group 1 to his record. An OTI import, it’s a real shame we didn’t see him progress further into the spring. He came from nowhere first up over this track and distance last preparation to win an open handicap, before finishing a neck behind Fiorente at weight-for-age in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes. With another six months under his belt, I think he can win here.

BULL POINT is the obvious danger after his good return in the Manfred Stakes. His Golden Rose run over this trip remains one of the best performances of the season to date. I hope he is ridden behind runners, as I think he is a better chaser, but he still looks hard to beat.

I have to include MOMENT OF CHANGE purely because it looks a race ready-made for him. He was lucky to beat Eurozone in the Orr Stakes, and I’m not sure he’ll get the same luck here, but he should finish in the first three if all goes well.

Next best SMOKIN’ JOEY, who went to a new level last campaign, while I expect SIZZLING to be right in the mix.

7 – LIDARI
9 – BULL POINT
2 – MOMENT OF CHANGE
5 – SMOKIN’ JOEY

Race 7 – GROUP 1 BLUE DIAMOND STAKES (1200m)

Hands up if you feel confident about the Blue Diamond Stakes? Anyone? Nope? No, me either. While it looks an obvious race on paper – stick with RUBICK and EARTHQUAKE – I’m not so sure it is as simple as that.

Both have queries over them. For Rubick, he looked flat at the end of 1100m in the Colts and Geldings Prelude. Now, that’s perhaps no surprise – after missing the start slightly, he was dug up to lead. He ran it fairly solidly, and was entitled to run out of steam at the end. It was a good performance and it’s little wonder he is at the head of markets. He’s the one to beat.

Earthquake ran the same time in the Fillies Prelude, and actually gets 2kg off Rubick. However, it was a completely different scenario – she faced nowhere near as much pressure, then when asked for an effort, she quickened nicely before extending her margin in the final 100m. My concern with Earthquake is the barrier, as it limits her options. It is her opportunity to prove how good she is, and there’s no doubt she can win.

All that said, I think there is one that can beat the pair of them – the half brother to a previous Blue Diamond winner. I’m talking about NOSTRADAMUS. He was superb on debut, and last start, came from right near the back to finish fourth. CHIVALRY, who he meets here again, actually came from behind him to pass him, but after what happened to Nostradamus in the opening stages of the race – he knuckled at the start, lost a shoe and quartered a heel – I think he can turn the tables. He should settle closer in the run here and he may prove hard to beat.

Next best is NAYELI, who comes from a different form line to the majority of the field, coming through the Chairman’s Stakes, while Chivalry is also some hope. I think the winner is likely to come from those five runners.

5 – NOSTRADAMUS
2 – RUBICK
12 – EARTHQUAKE
13 – NAYELI

Race 8 – GROUP 1 OAKLEIGH PLATE (1100m)

The Oakleigh Plate is always one of the tougher races to get my head around, but we had a fair deal of success with Woorim two years ago, so hopefully we can have some more success today.

We were happy to take 20-1 about GREGERS earlier in the week, and she is now as short as $10 in some places, so we were obviously not alone in that opinion. The David Hayes-trained filly was stretched out to 1600m last preparation where she proved no match for the likes of Guelph, but to my eye she looks more a sprinter than a miler and trained that way, I think she can fire. I think she’s a big chance.

It was hard not to be impressed by KNOYDART’s win in the Hareeba Stakes at Mornington last start. He may only be coming off two Listed wins, but last start was one of the easiest wins you will see and if he repeats that performance he’ll be going awfully close here.

KARACATIS is a speed machine who just held on to win the Chrismas Stakes here on Boxing Day. He’s building a nice record and I think a solidly-run 1100m will be right up his alley. One at odds.

And BEL SPRINTER is the best horse in the race – at least on his performances to date – and a repeat of last year’s win in the Galaxy should see him win here. However, he probably needs to jump away a bit cleaner than he has done at his last few, and that remains his biggest issue. Definite chance though.

Next best SHAMAL WIND and MINAJ, while I’m happy to risk LANKAN RUPEE for a number of reasons – it’s not a favourites race, he’s nowhere near as good second up as he is fresh, and I think he was flattered fresh anyway.

16 – GREGERS
9 – KNOYDART
13 – KARACATIS
1 – BEL SPRINTER

Race 9 – GROUP 3 MANNERISM STAKES (1400m)

1 – ARINOSA
2 – BONARIA
4 – BIPPO NO BUNGUS
7 – HAZARD

RANDWICK

Race 7 – GROUP 2 APOLLO STAKES (1400m)

10 – APPEARANCE
1 – BOBAN
4 – SPEEDINESS
7 – RAIN DRUM

Race 8 – GROUP 3 TRISCAY STAKES (1200m)

8 – MORE THAN BRAVE
1 – SHE’S CLEAN
2 – JOLIE BAY
7 – GAMBA

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