With the Spring Racing Carnival fast approaching, racing analyst Scott McDonell takes a look at the big races in Melbourne and identifies the leading hopes as well as a roughie or two.
CAULFIELD GUINEAS – Caulfield – 1600m – Saturday 8th Oct.
The Caulfield Guineas has become the pinnacle for the three-year-old middle distance stars. It has become known as the “Stallion making race” with previous winners such as Redoute’s Choice, Starspangledbanner and All Too Hard going onto sire some Champions of their own.
Last year saw the Godolphin owned son of Street Cry (USA) in Anamoe produce an amazing finish from the back to win before a luckless placing in the Cox Plate. This year’s bunch of three-year-old’s look special and expect another Champion to salute.
🥇 The H.D.F.McNeil Stakes run at Caulfield has always been a traditional lead up to the Caulfield Guineas and I believe that race will be the key form race for this year’s edition. The Price/Kent trained JACQUINOT ($6) produced a nice turn-of hoof from the corner and finished too well winning the McNeil with ease. He loves Caulfield and racing pattern suggests the 1600m will be ideal as he progresses through his campaign.
🥈 Godolphin claimed the Guineas last season with Anamoe and they look to have another leading chance with the lightly raced AFT CABIN ($7). He demolished a maiden field at only his second start then chased home bravely behind Jacquinot in the McNeil at only his third start. Jamie Kah has a high opinion of this bloke and would not be surprised to see James Cummings have him primed for this day.
💰 SHEEZA BELTER ($18) is already a Group 1 winner over the mile and against the boys when she triumphed in the J.J.Atkins Stakes during the Brisbane winter carnival. It will be interesting to see if the Snowden team decide to take on the boys or take the easier option and save her for a Thousand Guineas tilt. Whichever route they take she will be competitive in either.
One of the toughest 2400m Handicaps in the world, the Caulfield Cup has became a true test for both horse and rider since being first run in 1879.
It has produced some of Australian turf’s most outstanding performances such as Tulloch’s Australasian record time back in 1957 or Jimmy Cassidy and Might And Power destroying a quality field in 1997 to the more controversial incidents like the defeat of Bernborough or Big Philou gaining the race on protest back in 1969.
Whatever the race throws at us this season it is sure to be memorable and a difficult task for punters to find the winner.
🥇 MONTEFILIA ($17) had an outstanding spring last season. She won the Metropolitan Handicap before taking on the Caulfield Cup and ran a slashing race finishing just out of the placings behind a dominant winner in Incentivise. She came back on heavy ground in the autumn and managed to beat Verry Elleegant in the Group 1 Ranvet.
She will come back to Caulfield as an experienced Group 1 winning five-year-old mare and that looks a nice recipe for a Caulfield Cup win and chances enhanced it the rain arrives as it usually does on Caulfield Cup Day.
🥈 Ben and JD Hayes will be targeting a Caulfield Cup with G1 Doncaster Handicap winner MR BRIGHTSIDE ($19). He made a winning return to racing at Caulfield to begin the spring with a close G2 P.B.Lawrence Stakes victory. The only query with him at the moment is whether he will run out a strong mile and a half in a hotly contested race but the Hayes family have had success before in this race and must respect.
💰 The big query for me in the Caulfield Cup is what Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott do with the import HOO YA MAL ($26). A Caulfield Cup start maybe doubtful as the Melbourne Cup will be his target but you cannot dismiss a Epsom Derby placed runner who comes to Australia after winning at Group 3 level in England.
W.S.COX PLATE – The Valley – 2040m – Saturday 22nd Oct.
The weight-for-age Championship of the Australian turf run around the tight 2040m of The Valley racecourse in the north-west of Melbourne. It has been the domain of Winx in recent times with her becoming the first four time winner back in 2018.
Last season saw a controversial finish when the Joseph O’Brien trained State Of Rest (IRE) survived a protest from Godolphin with Anamoe to give Ireland a triumphand Cox Plate winner. Can the Godolphin “blue army” finally break their Cox Plate hoodoo.
🥇 This could be one of the biggest moments for Godolphin in Australian racing if ANAMOE ($4.50) can make amends for his luckless defeat here last start. The way he returned to racing this spring with a dominant win in the Winx Stakes suggest he could be the star of the spring and tipping him to take out the Cox Plate.
🥈 Would love to see Annabel Neasham get ZAAKI ($6.50) to this season’s Cox Plate after the disappointment of a last minute scratching when favourite here last start. He got some consolation with a Mackinnon Stakes win two weeks late but I am sure Annabel and her imported gelding will be aiming for some sort of redemption this season and he will be competitive.
💰 I’M THUNDERSTRUCK is one of the leading milers in Australia having won multiple Group 1 races. The big query is can he get out to the 2040m of a Cox Plate and I believe he can. He had a crack at the extra trip in the Queen Elizabeth at Randwick back in the autumn but he struck heavy ground and that cannot be regarded as a failure. A Cox Plate would suit him as he could sit back and make one run at them from the corner.
The three-year-old Classic to begin the famous four day Flemington carnival is held over the 2500m at set weights and has a list of winners including Phar Lap, Tulloch, Tobin Bronze, Dulcify and Efficient.
Last season the well supported Hitotsu produced a devastating change of gears to demolish a Group 1 class field.
🥇 Bit of a risk tipping a runner who has only had the one start to win a Flemington Classic but that is what I am going to do with CADAZIO ($13). At the time or writing he has only had the one start but demolished a maiden field over 1400m at Geelong. He is by a former Victoria Derby winner in Tarzino and bred to get over the trip.
Mick Price and Michael Kent (jnr) know how to find a promising stayer and he maybe worth a wager each way prior to the race.
🥈 LET’SROLLTHEDICE ($11) won the VRC Sires Produce Stakes at Flemington with a big finish back in the autumn. He went to Sydney and on heavy tracks was competitive against a couple of superstar fillies in Fireburn and She’s Extreme.
Expect that his best will be in his three-year-old year and beyond, his breeding suggests he will not blossom until he gets over the longer distances and he can measure up to these.
💰 SWISS EXILE ($21) looks a progressive colt who is yet to run a bad race. Group 2 winner during the Brisbane carnival when led all the way. Under the care of Annabel Neasham and although breeding suggests he may not be best over this distance if he does contest he has the speed to make it a truly run affair up front and may take catching.
“The race that stops the nation” says it all. The first Tuesday in November will always be the highlight of the Australian racing calendar and with a list of winners including Carbine, Phar Lap, Rising Fear and Makybe Diva another household name will be added to this years honours list.
🥇 I thing Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott may have identified a Melbourne Cup winner in HOO YA MAL ($17). Placed in an Epsom Derby back in June when beaten just over 2 lengths behind Desert Crown.
He went on to win at Group 3 level at Goodwood in the March Stakes before making the trip to Australia. Looks to have the right mix of acceleration and staying ability which has opitimised the imports that have been successful in Australia’s greatest race.
🥈 Germany will be well represented this year if LOFT ($15) makes the journey out to Australia. Good tough 2 mile winner in Germany back in May then made the trip to U.S.A. and was dominant winning the Belmont Gold Cup over 3219m by a big space.
Already a will traveled gelding would expect him to acclimatise quickly to Australian conditions and would not be surprised to see him take out a Melbourne Cup.
💰 PERSAN ($51) will be lining up for his third Melbourne Cup in a row if he gets to the barriers on the first Tuesday in November. He ran an outstanding race when less than 3 lengths behind Twilight Payment two years back then dropped out after overracing last season.
He was placed in a Caulfield Cup last spring and if he could recapture his best form he is proven at the distance and must respect.
The three-year-old fillies take centre stage on the Thursday following the Melbourne Cup and is not usually the most anticipated day of the carnival but this year maybe different if the two-year-old stars of last year take their place in the Oaks.
🥇 The last winner of the Golden Slipper Stakes to go on and win a Victoria Oaks was Miss Finland back in 2006 but that could be repeated if FIREBURN ($5) takes her place here in the spring.
She was dominant through the autumn in Sydney winning the Golden Slipper and the Sires Produce before missing the triple crown in the Champagne Stakes to end her prep. Exciting filly and let’s hope she makes it to the Oaks.
🥈 SHE’S EXTREME ($7) has had some great clashes with Fireburn in their short careers and she got the better of her rival winning the Group 1 Champagne Stakes before going for a break. Not really bred for this trip but class usually takes the fillies a long way in the Oaks and would not be surprised to see her in the winners stall.
💰 SHEEZA BELTER ($7) could spoil the party for the two big guns. She is already a Group 1 winning having taken out the J.J.Atkins during the Brisbane winter carnival. She has stamped herself as a future staying mare and the Oaks is certainly not beyond her in her three-year-old season.