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Australian Guineas Preview: Visitors to rule

March 4, 2011

This year’s edition of the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) looks to be one of the most open in years.

With no standout local horse, attention has turned to the visitors with the West Australian star Playing God and Kiwi filly We Can Say It Now battling it out for favouritism.

Just Horse Racing writer Andrew Hawkins has cast his eye over the field and given his opinion on the race:

1. Anacheeva – Caulfield Guineas winner who has been disappointing in two runs back this preparations. The step up in trip, the addition of blinkers and the fact he is trained by champion trainer Peter Moody are all reasons why he could turn his form around – but it is hard to deny the fact that the form out of the Caulfield Guineas simply hasn’t stood up. Impossible to back with any confidence, particularly from the wide gate.

2. Playing God – very impressive Perth galloper who is one of two in the field to have won against the older horses at weight for age at the highest level. That victory came in the Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m), where he beat WA Oaks winner Impressive Jeuney and multiple G1 placegetter Trusting. That form should be strong enough for a race like this, and with a strong gallop expected to be set up by the likes of Dusty Star and Run for Levi. From barrier 3, he should get the run of the race and will be right in the finish.

3. Startsmeup – it is fair to say that he is the yardstick 3yo – he ties together the 3yo Magic Millions Guineas form (he ran 2nd to Torio’s Quest), the Sydney 3yo form (he ran 3rd behind Somepin Anypin and Fast Clip) and he was only just beaten by Bullbars in the CS Hayes. He is a tough, consistent horse. It’s his first try at 1600m, and while it is hard to see him winning, he could be a nice horse to back for the place. The gate is a bit of a query though.

4. Mr Chard – inconsistent 3yo, he’s been rather disappointing in his two runs this preparation but history shows that he improves markedly third up. In past preparations, this has resulted in a Flemington win over Sistine Angel and a second to Territory in a Listed race. He is one of the only horses in the field to have won over the track and distance – that being in the Carbine Club Stakes on Derby Day – but he is racing more dour this preparation and I don’t think the larger field will suit. Prepared to risk.

5. Run for Levi – he may be a Caulfield Guineas placegetter but really, he has been extremely disappointing this campaign and I’d be surprised if this horse can win. All I can see him doing is injecting a bit of pace into the race as he battles Dusty Star for the lead, ruining both their chances. Not for me.

6. Hollowlea – impressive winner of the Bill Stutt Stakes in the spring, but since then has been a shade disappointing. Has won at Flemington, but was very disappointing in the CS Hayes. Can’t rule him out entirely as he mixes his form, but would be a surprise.

7. Bullbars – good win last start in the CS Hayes. Meets most of the field again and it is hard to see who will beat him out of the race – I think the only ones who will beat him are the horses with different formlines. Don’t have him on top, but I think he’s in the mix for a place, most definitely.

8. Dusty Star – pacemaker who took an age to break his maiden but has been in good form since, even winning the D’Urban Stakes. However, in my opinion, this race is totally unsuitable for him. He won’t get an easy lead here, with Run for Levi taking him on all the way. If he doesn’t lead, I doubt he could win. Also his pedigree (General Nediym out of a Snippets mare) suggests that 1600m will be a bridge too far. Happy to take him on.

9. Spirited Eagle – Adelaide galloper who is yet to run a bad race. He was good in the CS Hayes behind Bullbars, and I think the 1600m will suit him now. However, co-trainer Leon McDonald has stated that Southern Speed is the better horse, and he clearly prefers her for the Guineas. However, this horse has been consistent and he’s definitely one for the multiples.

10. Smokin’ Joey – started his career with so much promise, being the full brother to Group 1 performed stayer Our Smoking Joe. He won his first start very impressively, but he has gone downhill since then. His first up run was pretty ordinary, but he was always well back. Probably the best run of the backmarkers in the Caulfield Guineas. If he can reproduce that run here at Flemington, he could be one to surprise at odds. Each way chance.

11. Under The Eiffel – boom galloper who returned from a prolonged break with two impressive wins at Sandown before running second to Dusty Star in the D’Urban. Now steps up to 1600m. I think he’ll run a good race, but I think he may be slightly overrated – the form out of the D’Urban hasn’t been good. Place best for mine.

12. Eclair Surprise – nice staying prospect with Peter Moody. Lightly raced, and has only had the one start leading into this. I don’t rate the D’Urban Stakes highly, but I think he was the biggest run in the race. He would have finished alongside Under The Eiffel if he hadn’t been checked at a vital point. On his UCI Stakes win in the spring over 1800m, you’d think he’d still want further but second up at spacious Flemington, he’s a chance. Best roughie in the race.

13. Enjin Number Nine – had every chance in the CS Hayes and was disappointing in the way he finished off – it was an okay run, but he didn’t attack the line. He raced like a horse who’d excel over 1350m at Doomben. However, he won two races in nice style before that. It is possible that he could pull something out of the hat, but I’m prepared to risk him here.

14. Shamrocker – staying filly who has run some terrific races at Flemington – except for her run in last year’s Wakeful (surprising, considering she backed up 5 days later for a very nice 2nd in the VRC Oaks). She’s unplaced first up, but arguably should be unbeaten 2nd up – she suffered bad interference in last year’s Guineas Prelude. If she brings her best, she can win.

15. We Can Say It Now – there’s been a lot of conjecture about this filly, so I won’t try to stir the pot too much but merely explain the merit of her form. She was a tragedy beaten when 5th over the line in the NZ 1000 Guineas. She received a check at the 200m mark – it was reminiscent of Jezabeel and Champagne being hampered in the 1998 Caulfield Cup. Second placegetter Magic Briar was subsequently relegated to fifth, meaning We Can Say It Now (WCSIN) was officially fourth. The winner of that race, King’s Rose, has not been beaten in three subsequent starts, and she is likely to start favourite in the AJC Oaks. WCSIN atoned with a dominant win against the boys in the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) – among the beaten brigade was Saturday’s NZ Derby favourite Jimmy Choux. But it was her Captain Cook Stakes win at weight for age that made many analysts sit up and take notice. Who cares that second across the line was Mandela? Others in her wake that day were G1 winners Vosne Romanee, Altered Image, Fritzy Boy, Eileen Dubh, Sir Slick, MacO’Reilly and Booming (the latter has won two G1s since!). Shannon Stakes winner Firebolt (who, in winning the Shannon Stakes three months prior, had thrashed the likes of Centennial Park, Sacred Choice, Neeson and Once Were Wild) was also there. She went okay first up – looked in need of the run. And she has apparently thrived over here. I’ll let the form speak for itself. Clear top pick.

16. Southern Speed – highly rated by her trainer, she is yet to be beaten. The only line that can be taken with other runners is that her co-trainer believes she is better than stablemate Spirited Eagle. She’ll appreciate more speed in the race, but meets a much tougher lineup here. I think she’ll run well, but I have a number of horses ahead of her. Place.

17. Goldstone – before I start, I need to remind myself of that mantra I repeat every spring – NEVER UNDERESTIMATE BART! Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I have to query what he’s done here. If he gets a run, he’s going to be backing up for the third week in a row. And it isn’t a natural progression either – it’s 1400m-1200m-1600m. However, who am I to doubt Bart and his fantastic Melbourne team? If they think that it may give him that extra bit of fitness, good on them. I half hope he doesn’t get a run, because I reckon he could be a fantastic longshot chance in the Randwick Guineas next week. Can’t have him here, but if he gets to the Randwick Guineas, he’s worth a wager.

18. Liveandletdie – a Laurence Eales/Mark Kavanagh Street Cry. These days, that’s almost a guaranteed Group 1 winner. Don’t know if this horse has shown that kind of ability yet, but he strikes me as the kind of horse to watch very closely – he’ll be very nice once the penny drops. And that could be any run from here on in. Unlikely to get a run, but if he did, he’d be one to watch.

19. Roadtrain – highly unlikely he’ll get a run, but he’s run some decent races. However, this is probably too rich for him. Not for me.

20. Absolutelyawesome – absolute shame that he won’t get a run. His run in a 1600m race on Thousand Guineas day was top notch, and his CS Hayes run was good. Would have been a great longshot. Next start, get on.

SUMMARY

Look at how much I’ve written about We Can Say It Now. It’s a bit embarrassing. But I feel like I’m defending her now. I’ve been in her corner since day one (well, since her Levin Classic win – I wrote her off as a 2yo!). And it isn’t just the fact that she is a Kiwi, and I feel some sort of twisted patriotism towards her (as a half Kiwi). But I have been genuinely impressed by her wins. They are extraordinary. While her bandwagon has been deserted in the last few days, I’ve remained true and will be cheering her all the way. That said, I understand why they are coming for Playing God. He’s an impressive horse, and I think we may see more of him over here in the east. They look the standout quinella. The trick is to find third, and I find it hard to separate Flemington specialist Shamrocker and emerging stayer Eclair Surprise. Based on his impressive run in the D’Urban, I think I’ll have Eclair Surprise just, but don’t be surprised if Shamrocker bobs up in the placings. Definitely one of the more open Guineas of recent times.

NUMBERS

15. We Can Say It Now
2. Playing God
12. Eclair Surprise
14. Shamrocker

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