The first Group 1 race of the Sydney Carnival is the Chipping Norton Stakes at Warwick Farm. Join us in the run-up to the 4.20pm AEDT start time for live race updates and a blog of one of racing’s time-honoured miles.
This season’s Chipping Norton (1600m, weight-for-age) is full of intrigue.
There are some superstars engaged as well as some unknowns and the form is hard to pick because most of the horses engaged raced on a bog track in the Apollo (1400m, Group Two, weight-for-age) two weeks ago.
I think it’s best to put the majority of the Apollo form in the bin and start from scratch for this race.
The weather in Sydney has been warm all week and we will be racing on a firm surface this afternoon – the complete opposite to what we had in the Apollo.
The main chances in the Chipping Norton are Manighar (reigning Australian Cup, Ranvet and BMW winner), Shoot Out (reigning winner of this race and the George Main, both at a mile), Danleigh (four-time Group One winner), Glencadam Gold (reigning winner of the Metropolitan Handicap), Laser Hawk (reigning Rosehill Guineas winner) and Silent Achiever (reigning New Zealand Derby winner).
King Mufhasa has been below his best in a campaign that began in Melbourne but boasts ten Group 1 victories while up-and-coming Kiwi three-year old Tougher Than Ever has been building to a win with good performances in the key lead-ups. Both horses have outside chances of causing an upset.
And there will be interest in some of the roughies as well – Gatewood (reigning Geelong Cup winner), Kelinni (reigning Lexus winner and fourth in the Melbourne Cup) and Alma’s Fury (surprise winner of the Apollo) have lofty aims approaching.
There are no champions in this race but there is plenty of depth. Manighar deserves the billing of ‘horse to beat’. At this level – what I like to call ‘second tier Group 1s’ – he looks very well suited.
Sure, he’s first-up over the mile but you can expect him to figure in the finish even allowing for his outside barrier draw. Once again, he’s the horse to beat.
The favourite is Shoot Out – a gun miler in his own right – and he too is first-up. But unlike Manighar, Shoot Out’s best performances tend to come with a bit more fitness and in a race of many chances I think we can take him on. I’m well aware of the bravery of the call!
Danleigh – at double figure odds – is worthy of an each-way ticket if you’re after a bit of value. His two runs this campaign have been sound; his form at Warwick Farm can’t be knocked; and he has fitness over all of his many of his rivals. He’s a big player at a good price.
Glencadam Gold is another worhy of an eachway ticket. Before his first-up run, the mail was that he was working better than any horse in Gai Waterhouse’s stable but he floundered in the wet.
I think we can forgive that run and if he performs near his best – plugging away on the speed – Glencadam Gold could prove near impossible to get past in the straight.
He warrants definite respect and it’s worth noting that his only loss in Sydney was in the Apollo mud.
Laser Hawk – a four-year old with immense potential – is another who was woeful in the wet. His autumn three-year-old form was as good as any horse; including the likes of Ocean Park and Ethiopia and if he returns to that level, he probably wins this race.
He’s tough and strong; a horse in the mould a great Gai miler (and no trainer has won more Doncaster Miles, the nation’s premier 1600m race, than her).
Finally, Silent Achiever is perhaps the horse with the greatest winning chance in my opinion.
She was outstanding in her return to racing in New Zealand – when second with a big impost in lower grade and trainer Roger James indicated great improvement was derived from that run.
In the spring she was okay in New Zealand first-up and then won over a mile second-up on Cox Plate Day (Group 2, weight-for-age). This is a stronger field than what she met that day but Silent Achiever is in better form now.
I’m prepared to risk King Mufhasa – he’s going below his best and the mile stretches him to the limit. But I’m prepared to concede Tougher Than Ever a rough winning chance.
If you’re treating the Apollo form (he was second) with a grain of salt, as I am, then Tougher Than Ever’s numbers are hard to line-up with many of these. In any case, my gut instinct says he’s not too far away from the best horses in this race.
This is an impossible race to predict. I’m going to stick with Silent Achiever – I think she’s underrated at the 1600m journey and from the inside gate I can see her lobbing with a charmed run.
I’ve got Manighar for second and Danleigh for third. Laser Hawk, Glencadam Gold, Tougher Than Ever and Shoot Out are my next best.
If you’re having a bet, good luck!