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11/02/2012 – Preview of Caulfield, Expressway Stakes, NZ Group 1s

February 11, 2012

Feature racing returns to Australia with the first Group 1 of the autumn carnival.

The racecard at Caulfield today looks outstanding, with all bar the first race being black type affairs.

Today, I’ve previewed the Caulfield card, as well as the Expressway Stakes from Sydney and the two Group 1 races – the International Stakes and the Waikato Draught Sprint – from Te Rapa in New Zealand.

Here are my thoughts on each of these races:

CAULFIELD

Race 1 – BMW Melbourne Handicap (1800m)

This is a weak race, reduced to six runners after scratchings. It looks like a good race for SPIRIT SONG but I won’t be betting here.

Race 2 – Group 3 Patinack Farm Blue Diamond Prelude (C&G) (1100m)

Definitely looks the weaker of the two preludes. I’ve heard really good things about the Team Hawkes colt GREENWICH. I’ve backed him for the Blue Diamond itself, so I’ll be cheering him on here. On exposed form, it looks to be between CAMBIASO and ANDRE ROO HOO. I have a slight leaning towards the former, as I believe the first up run will have brought him on. But I really like RUSAMBO on his Sydney runs, although I believe he’ll end up being the Sires Produce/Champagne horse for Darley. He can run well here I think fresh, and he’d be my quinella horse with Greenwich. But I’ll be cheering the son of Lonhro home!

8 – GREENWICH
4 – RUSAMBO
1 – CAMBIASO
3 – ANDRE ROO HOO

Race 3 – Group 3 Patinack Farm Blue Diamond Prelude (F) (1100m)

Everyone’s been quick to back Samaready this week. There’s no doubt her win at Flemington was something special, and she deserves her place in the market. However, I’m a huge APPLEGATE fan. I still believe she is one of the better two year olds I’ve seen, along with the filly she narrowly beat on Melbourne Cup Day, Snitzerland. I think she’s an outstanding price today and I can’t wait to see her in action. I do understand the wraps on SAMAREADY though, and she obviously has to be respected. MALASUN looks to be next best, while Maribyrnong winner REAL STOLLE could be value. I’ll be interested to see the first starter TUSCAN HAZE too, her mother Halibery won this race in spectacular fashion in 2003.

3 – APPLEGATE
7 – SAMAREADY
6 – MALASUN
2 – REAL STOLLE

Race 4 – Group 3 Catanach’s Jewellers Carlyon Cup (1600m)

This looks a good race, although some of the interest has been removed after Green Moon and At The Heads were scratchings this morning. I was keen on both of them too, so I’m a bit disappointed. I’ve found it interesting that MANIGHAR has been the best backed runner. Reports are he’s working well, but I still expected him to need the run. But after the other two came out, I’m left with him on top. I guess I did have him on top for the Caulfield Cup last year. Let’s hope he’s no longer the bridesmaid and can win today. SHADOWFAX has been disappointing this campaign, although there have been excuses for him. At the Caulfield 1600m, I expect him to play a big part in the finish. I’m a fan of RANGER as a horse but I don’t like him at 1600m off a let-up and I don’t like him first time at Caulfield. He has a big weight to contend with too. He goes in but I’d be betting around him. And as much as I dislike the horse, for he is one of the biggest pretenders I’ve seen, LARGO LAD has a powerful finish on his day and he’s at his best first up.

10 – MANIGHAR
4 – SHADOWFAX
2 – RANGER
5 – LARGO LAD

Race 5 – Group 2 Hyland Race Colours Autumn Stakes (1400m)

An even lot of three year olds here. Once again, the horse I was keen on has been scratched. That horse was Sabrage. So I’m going to go wide here, given how even they all are. I’ve always had a big opinion of ZEPHYRON as a horse and I’ve believed we wouldn’t see anywhere near the best of him until this autumn. Now we are here, I’m hoping he produces. He’s at a very nice quote too. Go son! UNPRETENTIOUS looks his main danger in my eyes, provided he gets an okay run! PIED A TERRE looks a promising horse and steps back from open class here. Not sure if he wants further now though. And I think BENFICA should go better here, but would want to show more than he did first up. Go Zephyron!

13 – ZEPHYRON
12 – UNPRETENTIOUS
6 – PIED A TERRE
1 – BENFICA

Race 6 – Group 1 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m)

Read my runner-by-runner preview of the Group 1 here.

Race 7 – Group 3 Rubiton Stakes (1100m)

A tough race here for punters. KARUTA QUEEN does look the one to beat and she did win a trial by 17L at Canberra recently. But if she is not at her best, she could be vulnerable. FIRST COMMAND loves the track and distance, and these races are made to order for him. Looks the main danger to the favourite. Outside of him, I think the three year olds could have it – both DECIRCLES and HOT SPIN have good form and with the weight relief look well placed to upstage their older rivals.

11 – KARUTA QUEEN
4 – FIRST COMMAND
10 – DECIRCLES
9 – HOT SPIN

Race 8 – Listed Kevin Hayes Stakes (1200m)

I must admit, this race has been haunting me all week. Even this morning (or tonight as it is in Limerick, Ireland), I was still tossing up which way to go. Would I go with this filly I’ve had a big wrap on all along, Soft Sand? Or will I go with the classy Kiwi, Anabandana? In the end, I’ve decided to go for SOFT SAND. I feel she needs further but I believe she has incredible talent and one of the best sprints I have seen. Hopefully they can run along and she can go over the top of them. That said, she’ll need to be good to beat ANABANDANA, who has a lot of class. I’ve followed her career closely, as a lover of Kiwi racing, and I’m glad to see her in Melbourne. MISS STELLABELLE is a classy filly from the Kavanagh camp, who they rate very highly. She could be the upset material here. I also think MABSAM could be good value the place.

7 – SOFT SAND
1 – ANABANDANA
2 – MISS STELLABELLE
9 – MABSAM

Race 9 – Group 3 Programmed Property Services Geoffrey Bellmaine Stakes (1200m)

I’m a big believer in the old adage, mares that find form tend to hold their form. With that in mind, I’m going to go for LET’S BE HAPPY. Massively up in grade but she’s consistent as anything and she’s dealt with every task thrown at her recently – well, apart from a little hiccup behind Scarf! SLOW THE FLOW is down from Sydney and she’s only starting to deliver on her promise now. With the right run, she could well win this. MISS OCTOPUSSY seems to find another hard luck story every time she runs and I can see the same thing happening here, while PSYCHOLOGIST is due to win a good race sometime soon.

2 – LET’S BE HAPPY
3 – SLOW THE FLOW
7 – MISS OCTOPUSSY
8 – PSYCHOLOGIST

ROSEHILL

Race 9 – Group 2 TAB Sportsbet Expressway Stakes (1200m)

I always associate this race with being won by a horse looking to go to bigger events over further during the spring. In all honesty, it is probably not entirely accurate. But it is with this in mind that I approach this race. And I’m going for SHOOT OUT, who has shown a liking for Rosehill, to blouse out the hotpot. He was looking rather dour and uninterested in racing when he was last seen for John Wallace, but reports are he’s thriving under Chris Waller. I hope he can return in a sharp manner, because on his day he is very very good. RAIN AFFAIR looks an exciting sprinter and he’ll love the wet. Not sure if the 1200m may be a query. CENTENNIAL PARK loves Rosehill and could surprise, while I’m a fan of three year olds in this race and an unabashed fan of STRIKE THE STARS, so he has to go in.

2 – SHOOT OUT
5 – RAIN AFFAIR
4 – CENTENNIAL PARK
9 – STRIKE THE STARS

TE RAPA

Race 7 – Group 1 Darci Brahma International Stakes (2000m)

Not quite as good a Group 1 as it has been in the past, but still, it is a Group 1. I’m a fan of the Kiwi three year olds and for that reason I’m putting ROCK ‘N’ POP on top. He won the NZ 2000 Guineas in nice fashion and I think we’ll definitely see him in Australia at some point. He can add another Group 1 to his resume today. SHEZ SINSATIONAL was brilliant in the Zabeel Classic but lacklustre in the Thorndon Mile. Back up to 2000m should suit today and she looks very hard to beat. DOCTOR FREMANTLE has somehow found form in New Zealand after flopping over here. He did run fourth in an Epsom Derby in England and he looks like he is close to recapturing some of his old form, while at his best BOOMING would be a chance.

11 – ROCK ‘N’ POP
9 – SHEZ SINSATIONAL
4 – DOCTOR FREMANTLE
3 – BOOMING

Race 9  – Group 1 Waikato Draught Sprint (1400m)

Here we see the return of the Victoria Derby winner of this season, but it is hard to see him winning. Instead, I think it will be another spring feature winner who is victorious today. That would be the Toorak Handicap winner MUFHASA. He is a gun on his day, and even on an off day he is still usually too good for his rivals. He provided me with my punting highlight of the spring, so perhaps I’m biased.  But in a small field today, it’s hard to see him being beaten. GUISEPPINA was outstanding in the Telegraph Handicap but the lack of speed here is a major concern. She will be getting home hard. SANGSTER has to go in, purely on class, while VEYRON steps back in distance which should suit. These four look to have it between them.

1 – MUFHASA
5 – GUISEPPINA
8 – SANGSTER
2 – VEYRON

BEST BET: Rosehill R3 #11 Didntcostalot
NEXT BEST: Te Rapa R9 #1 Mufhasa
BEST VALUE: Caulfield R5 #13 Zephyron

Good luck with your investments today!

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