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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!

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