Bubbles burst, champs return as racing warms into spring
In what is sure to be a spring full of highlights, the first Group One of the new season was decided on Saturday, with the spoils going to Darley stables on a day where the limelight was occupied by a popular mare.
More Joyous continued her unbeaten run in 2012 with a brilliant show of speed first-up in the Sheraco Stakes (1200m, Listed fillies and mares).
The six-year old mare paraded in outstanding fashion before the race. In her 27-start career More Joyous has developed a reputation for being lightly-framed and nothing special to look at. But on Saturday she was the standout horse in the mounting yard across the entire meeting.
I’ve never seen More Joyous look healthier, and just as it was clear from a distance of a few metres, it was evident as I watched her walk around behind the starting position on Rosehill’s huge screen.
After five seasons of racing, More Joyous may have finally filled out. And that must be a scary thought for any Cox Plate aspirant because, as an eight-time Group One winner, she is already one of the best mares in the world.
The race itself developed into a sprint home, and the darling of Sydney racing was able to control proceedings from the front – More Joyous coming home to a rousing reception, in a sharp 33.1 seconds for the last 600 metres, to win for the 20th time, from Miss Marx who turned in a career-best showing.
Importantly, multiple classics winner Streama returned in great order to hold third from the fast-finishing Emotional Circus.
Emotional Circus is regarded as one of the best closers in Sydney sprint racing so it was good to see Streama – coming off an autumn campaign that culminated in an Oaks victory – hang on for a minor placing. Trainer Guy Walter will target Streama at Flemington’s Group One November miles.
The feature race was the Group One Golden Rose (1400 metres, three-year olds). The race was fought out by the Darley pairing of Albrecht and Epaulette, with Epaulette enjoying a clearer path in the straight to win by a slender margin from his Warwick Farm stablemate.
The Sheik Mohammed-owned Darley has had an underwhelming 2012 with no standout performer in the autumn, a year further soured by the poor showing of stable stars Sepoy and Helmet in highly-publicised European campaigns.
So Saturday came as a relief to head trainer Peter Snowden who led in two stakes winners; high-class performer Ambidexter joining Epaulette in the winner’s circle after breaking through for his maiden Group victory in the Sebring Stakes (1400 metres, Group Two) earlier in the day.
There were many talking points to come out of the Golden Rose, and a lot of them focus on favourite Nechita, who disappointed in sixth. Only three weeks ago I declared the Patinack Farm filly a star on the rise, but she put in a lacklustre performance on Saturday.
The Golden Rose was run at a frenetic pace, with the first 800 metres completed in a time over ten lengths faster than standard. It left the entire on-speed brigade completely exposed in the straight, and it was no surprise to see the first two horses at the finish come from the last two positions.
With that in mind, the run of Ashokan in third position was enormous. The son of More Than Ready sat behind the leader, and after being declined clear running for a large portion of the straight, remained strong enough to take a late gap to steal third at the death.
There mightn’t be a Group One victory in store for this John O’Shea three-year colt, but he could well be winning a lower-level Group race in coming weeks.
After striking the front at the top of the straight, Nechita knocked up in the final furlong to finish a tiring sixth.
The filly pulled up with a cut on her leg that required four stitches and she also has minor damage to splint bone. It’s unclear when she will run next but her poor showing can be forgiven.
Nechita’s jockey Christian Reith received a nine-meeting suspension for causing interference at the 1000 metre mark.
Reith rode aggressively to settle the filly in a forward position, but in hindsight he would’ve been best served to let Nechita find a more comfortable spot back in the field, as he did in her two other starts.
In any case, the bubble on this boom filly may’ve burst. After pondering her run for some time, I still believe Nechita will be a top-level performer over distances up to at least a mile, but maybe not this spring.
All things considered, I’m not really sure what to make of the Golden Rose as a future form reference. If the gun three-year old Pierro had lined up yesterday, he would’ve settled midfield and used the hot tempo to demolish his inferior rivals in the straight.
The Golden Rose field didn’t contain many runners that hadn’t been dismantled by Pierro at some point. One must concede, however, the only time Pierro has looked vulnerable was when Epaulette gave him a scare in a Golden Slipper lead-up in March.
Despite being well beaten by Pierro on two occasions since, victor Epaulette is probably the horse to follow from the Golden Rose, especially because Albrecht won’t be going to Melbourne.
At Moonee Valley, the feature race was the Dato Tan Chim Nam (formerly Feehan) renamed in honour of Bart Cummings’ most loyal client. The Malaysian entrepreneur has owned four Melbourne Cup winners.
On Saturday a field of 12 lined up in the Dato, hoping to find the sort of form that would allow them to emulate the feats of So You Think (another of Chim Nam’s horses) in October’s Cox Plate.
And the quinella from Saturday’s 1600m weight-for-age feature is sure to have a say in some big races this spring. South Australian Happy Trails was able to hold off Green Moon in a driving finish.
Happy Trails has promised to win a big race all year, and a change in tactics has seen a winless autumn quickly repressed by two wins this campaign. Happy Trails was a horse that would settle near last before charging when it was all over, but more positive tactics have got the desired results.
It will be interesting to see where Happy Trails goes from here. Jockey Glen Boss was adamant that the 1600 metres Emirates Stakes on the final day of the Carnival should be the favoured target, but trainer Paul Beshara has had the Cox Plate earmarked for several months. He’d be more than competitive in both.
Green Moon has been in brilliant form this preparation. He will continue a path towards the Cox Plate and I hope they press on to the Melbourne Cup because there’s every chance he’ll shake the life out of it.
Behind those two, Rekindled Interest, Linton and the imported Sneak A Peek put in encouraging runs for longer races.
But the standout performance was Love To Ransom who won the second (1200m, open fillies) on the program, which incidentally is the same race Atlantic Jewel used on the way to Thousand Guineas success last season.
Love To Ransom produced an unbelievable finish; coming from last with 400 to go before switching to the outside and sweeping past her 11 opponents at the tight Valley circuit. The feeling must have been pretty special for triple Melbourne-Cup-winning jockey Boss, because he gave an elated punch to the air as the filly passed the line.
Like AJ, Love To Ransom will go towards the Thousand Guineas (Group One, 1600m) where she will be hoping to profit from a rise in distance against better opposition.
The Roar is giving you the chance to win 1 of 19 prize packs to Australian Open 2014! Each lucky winner will receive four evening tickets to Rod Laver Arena, plus access to 3 hours in the Heineken VIP Bar. Enter here.
The Roar needs an editor! Tristan is off to tackle a new role with us over on Techly.com.au, which means we're looking for someone to fill his boots. Love sport, know digital publishing (yes, that does mean being a bit of computer guru) and keen to work with the team in Newcastle? If you're a proven superstar, or someone on the rise with a record to back it up, we want to hear from you. Apply now!
We're also looking for freelance writers who know tech, gadgets, games and trends inside and out to join us on this new adventure. Get in touch if you've got the goods.