The first Group 1 of the 2013/14 season is upon us, and while many had a legitimate problem with the elevation of the Memsie Stakes from its previous Group 2 status, its arrival is more exciting for it.
Recent history suggests there’s a greater than 50 percent chance we’ll be seeing the 2013 Cox Plate winner contesting tomorrow’s edition.
Last year’s Memsie produced three subsequent Spring Group 1 winners, including the Melbourne Cup and Emirates Stakes.
Class always wins out in a Memsie, and it’s either a top-notch seven furlong or 2000m weight-for-age horse that gets the job done.
Atlantic Jewel is the headline act and even-money favourite, an unbeaten potential superstar and the owner of some breath-taking wins.
Anyone who saw her Wakeful Stakes win in 2011 still cries themselves to sleep over the decision not to run her in that year’s Cox Plate instead.
Not seen since winning a weak All-Aged Stakes with ease in the autumn of 2012, the word out of the Mark Kavanagh camp has been extremely bullish once more.
We’ll see a much bigger and stronger mare, as expected, and according to trackwork reports, the same or improved acceleration.
Drawn to sit wherever jockey Michael Rodd wants to be, she shouldn’t have too many excuses upon her return.
More so than usual as we approach the spring carnival, all racing fans are desperate to know where the four year olds sit in the weight for age pecking order.
It’s a Dundeel is the marquee name among last season’s three-year-olds, is in the top two or three in Cox Plate betting depending where you look, and will start as second favourite here.
His only failure was in the Vic Derby last year, and he was very good first up last campaign behind Pierro and Rebel Dane.
Yet to be seen publicly, his heavyweight clash with Atlantic Jewel will have long-lasting repercussions and provide plenty of material for Justin’s Monday review.
Super Cool is something of the forgotten horse with his glamour girl stablemate stealing all the headlines, but is an exciting prospect in his own right.
Three-year-olds don’t win Australian Cups without being exceptional as a rule, but is he ready to figure in the finish here?
Ajeeb won’t have any challengers for the lead, and can give a sight as he did in the P.B Lawrence, where he ran an honest second to Puissance de Lune.
He looks a very nice horse in the making, and Mick Price is surely eyeing off the Caulfield Group 1 handicaps, the Rupert Clarke and Toorak for him.
Happy Trails and Second Effort ran second and third respectively in this race last year, so it would be good to see both run well again to give an early indicator as to how this spring is going to stack up compared to last.
This edition appears a couple of lengths stronger, so it’s hard to see either taking it out, although it’s worth noting that the trainer of Happy Trails, Paul Beshara, thinks he’ll win it.
While not quite a weight-for-age galloper yet, he’s one of the genuine sprinter-miler’s in the field, and is sure to give a good account of himself.
Fiorente put in the one of the most talked about runs of the Sydney autumn when resuming over this distance in the All Aged Stakes, savaging the line late.
Like many Gai Waterhouse first-up runners, he’s had the two trials, as he did on that occasion. He’ll be forward enough to have a say if she wants him to be.
Luckygray has found himself in trouble or been in unsuitable races in his Melbourne starts. Finishing next to him in the Aurie’s Star was Ferlax, finding the line well from last.
Both have question marks on their class at this level, and have something to prove to the doubters.
Green Moon, Seville, My Quest For Peace and Silent Achiever will all look to be running on with an eye to longer races, and while one of these could run a bottler into fourth or fifth, it’s difficult to think they’ll be in the placings.
What a race this is going to be, with the replay to be watched many, many times over the weekend. I couldn’t back Atlantic Jewel at the current odds, but I certainly don’t want to bet against her either.
1. Atlantic Jewel
2. Happy Trails
The Golden Rose is quickly becoming one of the best races in the country, and all the major players, with the exception perhaps of Drago, are in action tomorrow.
The Run to the Rose shapes as a deep race of many chances.
Va Pensiero won the San Domenico on his merits, beating Cluster and Windjammer by less than a length. All three start in double figures here.
Golden Slipper place-getter and Golden Rose favourite, Sidestep, the unlucky runner out of that particular lead-up, is the easing favourite but could be the best horse in the field and win accordingly.
Cluster looks the value of those runners. Anthony Cummings can get them home at odds, but who knows what to make of his claim that his colt is the best three-year-old in the country.
Eurozone and Dissident ran the quinella in the Rosebud. The former keeps doing enough to win every time he steps up a level, while the latter has a touch of class but might already be looking for further.
Zoustar has a boom around him and should be right there for Chris Waller, and the best backed with Sportsbet has been Napayshini, $11 into $8.
Ike’s Legacy and Into the Red could have something special about them, while Equator, the forgotten Waterhouse runner, could be the ‘War’ of this field. Criterion, which has continuously raced against he best, can’t be left out of calculations either.
The winner of the Golden Rose could well be running at Caulfield though, albeit as a maiden, in the McNeil Stakes.
Everything about Fast ‘N’ Rocking screams big field, hot pace, and 1400m, which the Golden Rose will surely provide.
He doesn’t even need to necessarily overcome a crack field tomorrow to prove it, although victory would almost secure him favouritism and give his army of supporters some good cheer in the process.
I sense that if you back him all campaign from this point on, you’ll be up rather than down at the end of it.
Miracles of Life has made a mess of all opposition in her short career, but this might be her toughest test to day given the conditions of the race and awkward barrier.
She bolted in during a recent trial over a couple of handy types and hasn’t lost any admirers over her break. Will the fairytale story continue?
Tony Vasil thinks Prince Harada might be the best colt he’s trained, which is saying something considering Elvestroem and Haradasun were under his care! Tomorrow we find out if he can live up to those wraps.
Il Cavallo was a black booker from the Vain Stakes where Fast ‘n’ Rocking was desperately unlucky, fighting on valiantly after working hard on the speed. While this may not be his race having drawn poorly again, he’ll be winning something shortly.
Pyrrolic stays under notice due to an impressive debut win back in May, while Gai Waterhouse has chosen this for Divine Calling ahead of the Run to the Rose, and must be respected.
1. Fast ‘N’ Rocking
2. Miracles of Life
3. Prince Harada
4. Il Cavallo