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Hawk’s Saturday Selections – Golden Slipper Day

April 6, 2013

Golden Slipper day at Rosehill always produces one of the best cards on the entire calendar.

In fact, only Derby Day at Flemington could lay claim to being a better overall day of racing.

This year is no exception – it is a superb day of racing with the best horses from Australia and New Zealand set to line up for Group 1 glory.

The wet track this year (currently a Slow 7, although continual light rain threatens to deteriorate the track even further) adds another dimension to a great day of racing.

Here are my thoughts on today’s card, featuring five Group 1 races:

Race 1 – GROUP 3 NEVILLE SELLWOOD STAKES (2000m)

Open race to start the day.

In terms of class, LIGHTS OF HEAVEN is at the top of the list (reflected in the weights) while LUNAYIR is the up and comer.

I put LUNAYIR on top, mainly because he does have scope and he should be in front of the Caulfield Cup placegetter on the turn. I’m not sure she’ll be able to run him down on that. He’ll be even better over further, but at this stage of his preparation this trip should suit. My query is the rain affected track. While he’s won on wet ground in France, he was abysmal here first up on a bog track at Warwick Farm.

LIGHTS OF HEAVEN doesn’t show her best until she steps out to this trip and beyond these days, although she was a fast finishing second behind Spirit Song last start. If there’s any sort of pace on, she’ll be hard to beat.

The forgotten runner has been COURT CONNECTION. Won the Listed Canberra Cup (2000m) in good style last time out, while three starts back won doggedly at Warwick Farm. Doesn’t seem to go as well at Rosehill as other city tracks, but his effort last start warrants him attention here.

And be wary of HOYLONNY – although this is a step up, he’s won three from four at this track and distance. At his most recent attempt, he carried 8.5kg more than Cantonese (who was flying at the time) and still beat him by a half length. Doesn’t go too badly on rain affected tracks, either.

5 – LUNAYIR
1 – LIGHTS OF HEAVEN
4 – COURT CONNECTION
7 – HOYLONNY

Race 2 – GROUP 3 THE SCHWEPPERVESCENCE (1400m)

The two year olds see 1400m for the first time in what is somewhat of a Golden Slipper consolation. Most of these would not have been suited by the scamper, though, and this race has been known to produce some good middle distance horses in recent years.

Last year saw the likes of Flying Snitzel, Dear Demi, Proverb, Honorius, Laser Flash, Toydini and solemn contest the race, while last over the line was a handy nag called Fiveandahalfstar. So who knows, next year we might see some of these horses lining up as fancies in the Tulloch Stakes, the Vinery Stud Stakes or even The BMW!

I’m keen to see COMMAND MORE here. By More Than Ready out of a Singspiel mare, she should handle the going at her first appearance on her home track. She was alright last start behind ASPEN after a very good debut. This trip should suit her now, and I expect her to be somewhere in the frame.

She has to beat ASPEN, who defeated Command More by a length last time out after coming from behind her. The wet track is the concern with her, but there’s always been some sort of a rap on her so I’m looking forward to seeing her up to this trip.

FUERZA is yet to win in his four start career to date, but he is yet to run a bad race either. He was solid late last week behind Golden Slipper third elect Sidestep, and the step up in trip should suit.

Next best is the roughie STAR WARS, who is impeccably bred and has caught the eye at his last couple. Already looks a 2000m galloper, but pays to follow him. Worth an each way ticket.

13 – COMMAND MORE
12 – ASPEN
1 – FUERZA
11 – STAR WARS

Race 3 – GROUP 2 TULLOCH STAKES (2000m)

This race has produced a number of good horses over the years. In the last 20 years, winners have included Mahogany, Ivory’s Irish, Peep on the Sly, Northern Drake, Lease, Shogun Lodge, Natural Blitz, Starcraft, Stella Grande, Harris Tweed and Polish Knight. Many times, though, the best horses can be in behind the winner. Take 2010, when Count Encosta beat a Caulfield Cup winner in Descarado and a Melbourne Cup runner up in Maluckyday!

This is the race where HIGH SHOT must stand up. By High Chaparral out of a Sir Tristram mare, he produced the best maiden win seen at Cranbourne in a long, long time in October. He was spelled with his target next week’s Australian Derby. He hasn’t really lived up to expectations in three runs since, but that’s to be expected over the shorter distances (1400m, 1600m, 1500m). Wasn’t bad at all in the Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes (1500m) behind Toydini, and he finally gets to a trip that should suit. Expect a massive Derby trial from him today.

His stablemate PHILIPPI is a danger. Won his first three starts, culminating in the Listed UCI Stakes (1800m) at Flemington in October. And although he hasn’t won this preparation, his three runs have all had merit. Once again, a big Derby trial is to be expected, although I do think I’d prefer to be on High Shot.

PROVERB has been the streetcorner tip after his cracking Randwick Guineas run, when he made the most ground of all the backmarkers. But I’m yet to be convinced he’s a 2000m horse, hence why I have him third. He strikes me as the type who always runs on, rarely wins. His win in the Dulcify Quality over 1900m was tough, but it was a hard slog. I’m not sure if that’s because he struggled at the trip or he’s dour, because on his best form he’d win that race by lengths. I’m sure he’s the one they’ll be backing today, but I’m happy to stick with the Victorians.

The horse that interests me is the lightly raced AIR STRIKER for Mike Moroney. This race has been won by up and comers in the past – last year, Polish Knight won the race at big odds coming off an unlucky run at Caulfield. Air Striker also ran at Caulfield last start, albeit over 1700m. He had to do the donkey work, taking the field up to the leader, and he battled away well. The step up to 2000m should suit, and I think he can run a real big race at odds.

Next best SOLEMN, who disappointed in the Rosehill Guineas last week and is becoming a bit of a money muncher.

15 – HIGH SHOT
3 – PHILIPPI
2 – PROVERB
16 – AIR STRIKER

Race 4 – GROUP 1 VINERY STUD STAKES (2000m)

Perhaps influenced by the strong crop of three year olds, this is a terrific edition of this race. The three Group 1 winners look strong, while I think the Melbourne fillies are good Oaks chances. When you realise DRIEFONTEIN, LONGPORT and CAMEO aren’t included in that group, it becomes apparent how good this race is.

For mine, the one they have to beat is the Kiwi filly HABIBI. A winner of six of her seven starts, she won the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at her last start. Last year, Silent Achiever won the NZ Derby before finishing a luckless second in the Rosehill Guineas, so using that as a guide, Habibi should go close. But more than that, she’s impressed me with the manner in which she wins. Her only defeat came when she got way too far back off a slow tempo. With the slightest hint of genuine speed, she’ll be competitive, and given we are now on a wet track, the fact she’s fitter than her rivals may come into play. Big chance.

Obviously, NORZITA should go extremely close on class alone. It’s her first time beyond 1600m, but generally Bart’s horses handle the step up in trip easily. She ran out of her skin in the Coolmore Classic, and if she is to be a chance in the Doncaster Mile, I’d want to see her run well here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Habibi and Norzita come away to fight it out.

DEAR DEMI is a hard one to figure out. She was very disappointing in the Coolmore Classic, but her win in the Surround Stakes was very good. The reason I wasn’t so keen on her last start was because I thought she’d need this trip already. Now that she’s at 2000m, she shouldn’t be dismissed so easily. Will want to be spot on for two weeks time, but think she’ll go alright here. Include.

And SUMMERBLISS is one of the most dour fillies you will ever see, but she is classy. She looks like she needs a Melbourne Cup trip already! The step up to 2000m here will give her an opportunity, but think she’ll be on track for the Australian Oaks.

Next best YOU’RE SO GOOD.

4 – HABIBI
3 – NORZITA
2 – DEAR DEMI
9 – SUMMERBLISS

Race 5 – GROUP 1 THE BMW (2400m)

Unlike the previous race, this doesn’t look the strongest BMW on paper. In fact, it looks fairly weak. With all the imports in Australia now, this should attract a strong field – but with the big three in the spring the only races that owners care about, they hardly want to be peaking in the autumn.

I think FIVEANDAHALFSTAR has the right credentials to win. I think he’ll relish stepping up to 2400m, and I think he would have won last start had Peter Robl ridden a more patient race. He’s become a perennial bridesmaid this preparation – let’s hope he hasn’t become camera shy.

SANGSTER can improve on his run in the Ranvet Stakes. His prior form in New Zealand was top notch, and I think he’s a genuine stayer. In a wide open BMW, he’s as much a chance as any of them.

I have a few queries over SILENT ACHIEVER. She’s now had three campaigns in Australia. Every time, she has run flat at her second up run. That worries me, because this is the first time she’s getting to her third run in Australia. It wouldn’t surprise to see her fly. However, I’m not sure whether she’s more a miler now or whether she’ll relish the 2400m. Couldn’t have her on top, but the race revolves around her for mine.

Next best is LE ROI, who won the Group 3 Summer Cup (2400m) over this track and distance on Boxing Day. He may be one run short but I loved his closing effort first up and I get the feeling he’s a horse we’re going to see a lot more of in the coming months.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see HATHRAS run a race, but it is a big step up in class. However, form is always crucial in these affairs – and who could ever forget Curata Storm’s win in 2001 off a 14 length maiden win at Hawkesbury?

12 – FIVEANDAHALFSTAR
8 – SANGSTER
11 – SILENT ACHIEVER
9 – LE ROI

Race 6 – GROUP 1 QUEEN OF THE TURF STAKES (1500m)

This is perhaps a more interesting race than it looked on paper earlier in the week.

MORE JOYOUS is going for her third win in the race, and she has to go on top. However, the more rain that falls, the less confident I become. She is woeful on heavy going, but handles a slow track alright. If, by Race 6, we’ve had a track downgrade, I’d be betting around her for sure.

SECRET ADMIRER hasn’t had the same exposure to wet ground, so it is hard to say whether she handles it or not. However, I loved her run in the Canterbury Stakes behind Pierro and More Joyous when she made ground late. That’s her, though. She catches the eye again and again, but it doesn’t translate to winning form. She’s only won three from 24, but she’s placed 14 times. I think she’s a chance and a threat to More Joyous if the rain continues, but I’m hardly confident.

I should be confident about RED TRACER – she has the best wet track statistics in the race by far. Her run in the Coolmore Classic was outstanding. For some reason, though, I’m not confident. I don’t like how the map is shaping up for her, whereas everything went right for her in the Coolmore Classic. I think she may be under the odds now. But still, with her wet track record, she must be included.

The best roughie in the race is THERE’S ONLY ONE. Had absolutely no luck last start when smashed from pillar to post. Has very good wet track credentials and I’m expecting a big run.

1 – MORE JOYOUS
2 – SECRET ADMIRER
4 – RED TRACER
9 – THERE’S ONLY ONE

Race 7 – GROUP 1 GOLDEN SLIPPER (1200m)

The feature, the Golden Slipper, is one of the big four of Australian racing. It is certainly unique on the world stage.

It is the world’s richest two year old race, a race which highlights all that is wrong with Australia’s breeding industry – the focus on speed, not stamina, and the want for a quick return.

And yet, it is a race which I thoroughly enjoy and a race I look forward to every year. Like every other racing fan, I’m sucked in.

If you take the favourite out, it is one of the most open Golden Slippers in years. Usually, there are three or four that stand out from the rest, but this year, almost anything could win if the favourite is off her game.

I’ve been adamant this year that the fillies are better than the colts. And yet, when it comes to the biggest juvenile race of them all, I’ve decided to go with a colt. There’s method to my madness, though.

I’ve had to go with CHARLIE BOY on top in this year’s Golden Slipper. His first run remains one of the more impressive debut performances this season, when he closed late to hold off WINDJAMMER and IT’S ALL THE TALK. First up in the Group 2 Silver Slipper (1100m), he finished his race off really nicely to finish third, 2.3L behind SWEET IDEA. He seemed to get through the heavy going alright, too. Then who knows what happened last start, when they decided to ride him on the pace? He was clearly uncomfortable and weakened to finish fourth. A very impressive trial on Tuesday topped him off nicely for this race. He’ll be forced to go back from the draw, which I don’t think will be a bad thing come this race, and I think he could be the one finishing all over the top of them.

OVERREACH deserves favouritism after a decisive four length win over VILLA VERDE in the Group 2 Reisling Stakes (1200m) two weeks ago. She’s been running time, and doing it impressively. The inside gate should also be a bonus for her. However, the wet track does have me concerned. She’s getting to a ridiculous price now, and if she remains over $3, I’ll be having something on.

It’s hard to split VILLA VERDE and RUUD AWAKENING. I had them rated equally before the draw, but with both set to come from outside gates, it was really a coin toss to see who would be my third selection. In the end, I decided to o with VILLA VERDE, as I think she may be more versatile than the Kiwi filly. She has a lot of ground to make up on Overreach from two weeks ago, but she’ll strip much, much fitter.

Next best is the Kiwi filly RUUD AWAKENING, a winner of the Karaka Million in New Zealand before her last start Group 1 victory. If she’d had a kind draw, I almost would have had her on top. However, I’m worried she’ll have to work too hard from the outside alley. Could still battle on for a place though.

Next best GUELPH and WHITTINGTON.

8 – CHARLIE BOY
11 – OVERREACH
14 – VILLA VERDE
12 – RUUD AWAKENING

Race 8 – GROUP 1 GEORGE RYDER STAKES (1500m)

The George Ryder Stakes always seems to be one of the best races of the autumn, and this year is no exception. It’s a cracking race.

It is hard to see them beating PIERRO. He’s unbeaten in Sydney, he gets up to a trip that should suit and he’s flying. Really, there is not much more to say about him. It would be a major disappointment if he was to be beaten today.

SHOOT OUT is definitely the main danger. In Sydney, he’s been the most consistent horse around a mile over the last year. He’s won two of the three Group 1 weight for age races in Sydney at 1500m/1600m, and the George Ryder Stakes would be the perfect complement. If Pierro wasn’t in this race, I’d be making him a special. However, the colt gets my vote today. Nevertheless, it should be a great contest.

However, there are two at odds I’d be having something on each way.

RELIABLE MAN is one of the classiest imports to ever step out in Australia. He was below his best last year, but still managed a couple of very good runs – he finished fourth to So You Think in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, beaten three lengths, before a fourth behind Danedream, Nathaniel and St Nicholas Abbey in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Behind him that day were Sea Moon and Masked Marvel, now with Lloyd Williams, as well as subsequent Caulfield Cup winner Dunaden. He’ll need further, and the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) in three weeks looks suitable. However, don’t be surprised to see a big effort from him at his first race in Australia.

The other one who can run a race at odds is VEYRON. He’s won 14 from 27 in New Zealand, and while I’ve never been a huge fan, there’s no doubt he’s talented on his day. The George Ryder and Doncaster Mile have been on the agenda all preparation, with his entire campaign geared around these two races. He is yet to taste defeat on rain affected going, and though while I expect him to be defeated today, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run into the money at ridiculous odds. Have something on him each way.

Next best is DANLEIGH, who gets conditions to suit and has been in good form this preparation.

11 – PIERRO
1 – SHOOT OUT
4 – RELIABLE MAN
5 – VEYRON

Race 9 – GROUP 3 SEBRING HKJC STAKES (1200m)

A very tough race to end the day, one of the hardest final legs of the quaddie in a long time.

The money came earlier in the week for SECOND EFFORT, and I think it may be spot on. Improves lengths in the wet. Remember, on a wet track, he managed to win a Group 2 Liston Stakes (1400m), which definitely ain’t shabby. Ignore his first up run when last in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes (1000m). He’ll be hard to beat.

Kiwi Group 1 winner SAY NO MORE is having her first start in Australia for Chris Waller. She won the Group 1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) and the Group 1 Breeders Stakes (1400m) last year. She had one run in Queensland in September, finishing fifth behind Whateverwhenever giving her seven kilograms. Given Whateverwhenever won the Group 3 Moonga Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Caulfield Cup day less than a month later, I’d say that form holds up quite well. She’ll be improved for the run, but I’m expecting a good performance.

SKYTRAIN burnt me last start when he ploughed through the heavy going to win the Group 3 Southern Cross Stakes (1200m). He gets similar conditions here and he loves this track and distance so he should be kept safe.

Next best is LADYS ANGEL, who is racing well and is another to relish a wet track.

8 – SECOND EFFORT
14 – SAY NO MORE
4 – SKYTRAIN
13 – LADYS ANGEL

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