Being from Melbourne, tomorrow is always Turnbull Stakes day to me. I’m sure Sydney-siders call it Epsom or Metropolitan handicap day.
Either way, it’s one of the great days of the Australian turf across the two powerhouse racing states.
We’ll start with the Turnbull, arguably the most accomplished race of the spring outside the three majors. This is due to the fact that history says the winner of at least one of the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate will be running in tomorrow’s race, and potentially two or all three of them.
Puissance de Lune shared ‘boom horse of the spring’ honours with Atlantic Jewel, but has only saluted once from three starts this preparation. He was very good in losing the Makybe Diva to Foreteller, and even better still when beaten three and a half lengths behind It’s a Dundeel in the Underwood.
Will he finally go forward stepping up to 2000m at his favoured Flemington? Barrier one will help his cause to sit handier, and Glen Boss all but declared him in this race after the Underwood run. He did something similar with Rebel Dane before the Rupert Clarke and delivered the goods to punters accordingly.
I don’t believe the others from the Underwood (Manighar, Happy Trails, Silent Achiever and Dear Demi) who all finished in front of PDL on the day, will do so again.
Only half a length separated Fiorente and Super Cool in the Dato Tan Chin Nam, which is traditionally the other key lead up race to the Turnbull. These two are key players in the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup markets respectively.
Fiorente looked supremely suited bursting home off the Moonee Valley turn, and I wonder if the Flemington straight will be as kind to him as the Valley camber. That said, he did run second in the Melbourne Cup last year, and will be awfully tough to beat. Nash Rawiller misses Sydney’s big day to ride, he’s not letting another jockey anywhere near this one.
Super Cool is something of the forgotten horse in this field, with others having more of a boom on them now. His Memsie Stakes run was huge, he was possibly looking for further last start (he did win second up over 1800m in the autumn) and still ran well.
He’s an Australian Cup winner at the track and distance, and is in pretty well at the weights for it. He’s easily the best value bet of the race at around $10.
Royal Descent hasn’t put a hoof wrong this prep. Despite not yet winning from her three starts, her combined losses have been by about a length, and she’s been eating up the ground with every step up in distance.
Streama is flying as one of the best sprinter/milers in the country, and she was only just able to stave Royal Descent, a stayer, off in the George Main. She’s gagging for the 2000m now, and is a major player.
The word is that Team Williams purposely held Green Moon back and ran Sea Moon in the Bart Cummings tommorrow purely to get Fawkner into the Turnbull field, so they obviously think he’s a huge chance, in both this and the Caulfield Cup. He has a nice weight pull on Royal Descent from the George Main and must be respected.
Hawkspur is another coming from the Randwick mile. Left flat-footed initially at the tail of the field, he finished off well looking for 2000m, and gets the chance to prove his Caulfield Cup favouritism doesn’t flatter him.
I’d be staggered if the winner doesn’t come from any of the aforementioned, even though there are plenty of other quality horses in the field. What a treat of a race it is.
1.Puissance de Lune 2.Super Cool 3.Royal Descent 4.Fawkner
The Epsom has provided some weaker winners in recent years, with the last four victors only winning one race between them from a combined 46 starts since.
This is unfair to Secret Admirer of course, who has eight placings at Group 1 level over that time, but still the fact remains.
Signs are more promising this time around, with half this year’s field saluting in one of their last two starts, surely a sign of good things to come.
Four year olds have a stranglehold on this race, winning eight of the last ten editions, and Boban and Toydini are the headline horses in that age group, both ultra-impressive last start winners of the Bill Ritchie and Cameron Handicap respectively. It’s hard to think of any finishing behind either of them in those races turning the tables, although Malavio might be the best of those.
It might pay to be cautious about Boban and Toydini though, as only two of the last ten Epsom winners have won their previous start – both champions, Racing to Win and Desert War. That said, Toydini especially is the one to beat.
Streama is uber-consistent over this distance range, and seems well treated at the weights. What a gun mare she it, and it was great to see her snare another Group 1 in the George Main.
Rekindled Interest drops an amazing 5.5kg down to 55.5, and wouldn’t shock. The Le Bonsir form looks a lot better now after his Moir Stakes WFA third. Riva De Lago’s Theo Marks win over Solzhenitsyn has also been franked through the Rupert Clarke, and must be respected.
Sacred Falls was disappointing behind Streama last start, but is clearly good enough to figure, while it’s hard to know how Equador will respond after last weeks wind-affected flop.
The horse that keeps jumping out though, is Lidari. He was a brilliant first-up winner over the ever-consistent High Esteem first-up and then poked along the inside to run 0.3 lengths third to Fiorente in the Dato Tan Chin Nam, beating Super Cool in the process. Those two will be right in the market in the Turnbull.
Also behind Lidari that day was Bass Straight, who has since won easily at Caulfield. Dropping 6kg’s into this event, draw perfectly in barrier seven, he’s incredible value at around the $15-17 mark.
1.Lidari 2.Toydini 3.Streama 4.Malavio
The Metropolitan is a long way from the strongest Group 1 in the country, and is more often than not a race for the honest toiler a rung or two below the best, a fact that doesn’t make it any less competitive.
Prince Cheri is the up-and-comer of the field, incredibly lightly raced in attempting to win this at his seventh start, becoming to first four year old to salute since Railings in 2005. It will be some progression if he is able to take out the Metrop, but it might be all coming a bit too soon.
Moriarty is the obvious horse to beat from the powerful Waller stable, dropping in weight from his authoritative Hill Stakes win. As a Brisbane Cup winner with 58kg’s, he’ll be one of the toughest nuts to crack.
Gai Waterhouse is an awesome presence on this day, and Julienas is her key representative here. He bolted in the Colin Stephen, a traditional Metrop lead-up race, and is another who will appreciate weight relief. He ran well behind Prince Cheri in the Kingston Town the previous start, and gets a welcome swing in the weights against that galloper here.
Peter Moody is Victoria’s premier trainer, and has focussed on spreading his wings into Sydney in recent times. He is a key player at Randwick tomorrow, with a huge chance in the Epsom and two live chances here.
Sneak a Peak, the Italian stallion, has been travelling the weight for age path, which hasn’t been a recipe for success in this race. He’s been building nicely though, and can’t be underestimated.
Ibicenco brings solid Queensland winter form with him, as well as tackling Melbourne’s second tier staying events. A brilliant return win in the Heatherlie was followed by an eye-catching run in the strongest Naturalism we’ve seen.
Lucripetous down in the weights, and Mourayan and Seville up in them, will play a role in what should be an even event. There have been a host of double figure odds winners in the last decade or so, and it won’t surprise to see the same again.
1.Ibicenco 2.Moriarty 3.Sneak a Peak 4.Prince Cheri
The Flight Stakes has traditionally produced a winner of the highest quality, and Guelph will continue that tradition tomorrow.
It’s always tempting to find reasons to get an odds-on shot beaten, and a six horse field can be tricky, but this monster filly is a powerhouse that will eat up the mile and prove too good for her rivals. If the margin is less than three lengths, it will be a disappointing result.
1.Guelph 2.Arabian Gold 3.Bound for Earth 4.Sensibility