The Championships Day 1 tips – Group 1 previews

Cameron Rose Columnist

By , Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert


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    The Championships at Randwick. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

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    Welcome to Day 1 of The Championships, Randwick’s signature carnival, where there is plenty of cash up for grabs and the best horses, jockeys and trainers in the land converge on Sydney for their chance at autumn riches.

    Four big Group 1s are on offer this week – The Doncaster Mile (1600m, handicap, $3,000,000), the TJ Smith Stakes (1200m, weight-for-age, $2,500,000), the Australian Derby (2400m, set weights, three-year-olds, $2,000,000), and the Sires Produce (1400m, set weights, two-year-olds, $1,000,000).

    The Doncaster Mile
    What a “Donnie” we’ve got this year. A full 20-horse field, likely on a heavy track after two months of wet ground, and horses coming from everywhere. There are no champions among them, but it should be a fiercely contested race.

    The George Ryder is always a key lead-up, and we often look to the horse dropping in weight off a good run in it.

    Le Romain is the favourite after running second to Winx, and it’s understandable given he ticks a lot of boxes. He’s genuine Group 1 quality, and he’s proven at WFA, particularly on heavy tracks.

    Hauraki and McCreery are also coming from the George Ryder, a few lengths behind Le Romain, but look unlikely to turn the tables. They are among a host of horses at low double figure odds.

    Four horses are coming through the Ajax Stakes, It’s Somewhat (winner), New Tipperary (2nd), Testashadow (3rd), Dibayani (9th) and Arod (10th). They can be tied into the George Ryder through McCreery, given all but It’s Somewhat ran behind that horse in the Liverpool Stakes two starts back.

    McCreery is always knocking on the door in these sort of events at an attractive price, and It’s Somewhat appeals as overs if he gets through the ground. The others are wanting for form or class.

    Happy Clapper ran fourth in the Epsom at this track and distance in the spring, and appears to have come back a better horse, bolting in the Newcastle Newmarket last start under a big weight, and drops 3.5kgs into this.

    Spectroscope backs up from taking out the Doncaster Prelude last week, making it two impressive wins from two starts in Australia after proving a smart horse in France. Lightly raced and untapped, we don’t know what his ceiling is, which is exactly the sort of horse you want in a big handicap.

    Antonio Guiseppe has been trained to the Chris Waller tried and true method for winning Doncasters, dropping back from 2000m. He was average last start in the Ranvet, but will be hard fit and will enjoy handicap conditions.

    Another of the unknown quantities is Redkirk Warrior, leading the Victorian charge attempting to jump up to the mile from the 1200m of his Newmarket Handicap win at Flemington earlier this month. He won that race first-up, something that hadn’t been done in a hundred years, beating some of Australia’s best sprinters, and he only rises half a kilo for it.

    Hey Doc won the Australian Guineas, and must be respected. Three-year-olds have a great record in the Doncaster, but haven’t exactly been setting the WFA scene alight as they sometimes can. Is there strength is this years crop?

    I Am A Star is one three-year-old that has a Group 1 win over older mares to her name, when winning the Myer Classic in the spring. She also beat them last start in the Sunline Stakes, when strolling in after controlling the race from the front. She’ll be up on the speed from the squishbox.

    Palentino is a big track mile specialist, with plenty of wins at the Flemington 1600m, but flopped in his one Randwick run, in last year’s Epsom. He has some soft wins to his name, but is untried on the heavy, and his record away from Flemington is poor.

    Of the others, Ecuador is likely to have too much company on the speed, and isn’t quite good enough. Endless Drama is something of an unknown, but has the Waller touch. It’s hard to recommend a few other stragglers.

    Selections: 1.Redkirk Warrior 2.Spectroscope 3.Le Romain 4.It’s Somewhat

    TJ Smith Stakes
    The TJ Smith shapes as an open affair, despite the presence of dual winner Chautauqua.

    How to assess the grey flash? He hasn’t won at his last five starts, but has three placings to his name this time in, two of them at Group 1 weight-for-age level. He’s hardly going poorly!

    He could, should, might have won the Canterbury Stakes with a different ride, and he was extended to 1500m last start and there was no disgrace in his margin behind Winx. If you think he can bring his best, you’re getting a great price. If you think he’s finished, then you get the play around the favourite.

    There are three three-year-olds tackling the older stars.

    Astern and Russian Revolution sit on the second line of betting. Astern produced a stunning effort taking out the Golden Rose in the spring, but was then beaten twice after it, including once by Russian Revolution. He’s had three trials and must be ready to go.

    Russian Revolution claimed the Galaxy first-up after being backed like he was unbeatable. He didn’t win by a big margin, but to win it on a heavy 10 was a special effort and he is rightly respected.

    Derryn has no respect in the market, despite winning the Darby Munro in fine style on the slops against his own age group. He sailed through the wet and was home a long way out, so he must have rough claims.

    Spieth is becoming a staple in the best sprinting events, without claiming one, following in the hoof-steps of Fell Swoop, who continues to run honestly at Group 1 level without being able to land the prize. Speith is an unknown on affected ground this level, while we know Fell Swoop doesn’t like it too wet.

    English is another Sydney-sider with claims, who seems to reserve her best for this time of year. She won the Challenge Stakes on a heavy 10 first-up, but then couldn’t go a yard on a more bottomless track in the Galaxy. Inclined to risk her.

    Malaguerra proved his class in taking out the Darley Classic at WFA at Flemington in the spring, and is a devastating fresh horse. His trainer, Peter Gelagotis, has been on the spruik this week, and why not in the lead-up to a big race?

    Voodoo Lad comes into this off a placing behind Redkirk Warrior in the Newmarket at big odds, but WFA racing is a different task. Terravista, the old battle-axe, was poor in that race, but showed he can still be a presence when winning the Lightning first-up.

    Tivaci continues to indicate he’ll win a good race, but this one might be a bit rich. Japonisme lacks a few lengths at this level. Rock Magic isn’t the worst bolter, given he’s been around the mark in the Winterbottom and William Reid, but this is a step up. Rebel Dane’s admirers will be hoping wet ground brings him into the race.

    Russian Revolution looks the likely leader, and should be uncontested if he wants to take it up, but there’ll be a few horses jostling for a box seat position behind him.

    Selections: 1.Astern 2.Russian Revolution 3.Spieth 4.Chautauqua

    Australian Derby
    13 horses will great the barrier attendants in the Australian Derby, a combination of Kiwis and Vics trying to take down Sydney’s best staying three-year-olds.

    The New Zealand Derby has already held up as an outstanding form reference, with winner Gingernuts taking out the Rosehill Guineas two weeks ago, and third place-getter Jon Snow dominating the Tulloch Stakes last week.

    Both horses relished heavy ground and were simply the strongest horses in their respective fields at the end of 2000m, with no indication an extra 400m would trouble them. A word of warning though – when the Kiwi three-year-olds cross the Tasman in the autumn, their first run is often their best, followed by a flat performance in the Derby.

    Inference won the Randwick Guineas on heavy ground, but was no match for Gingernuts at Rosehill last time out. He’ll keep coming over the extra ground, and is worth sticking with if you’ve been on him.

    Anaheim kept finding the line for fourth in the Rosehill Guineas, as he always does, but has to be a little query up to 2400m out of Fastnet Rock, even though he gives every indication he’ll enjoy it. So Si Bon was third there, and has talent, but is proving to lack class enough to beat all opposition when he fronts us.

    Prized Icon has proven his class at two and three, with his last win coming in the VRC Derby. He’s been good again this prep, but is suiting up for the third week in a row, which must be a task.

    Hardham and Ruthven bring a different formline to proceedings, after they ran the exact in the Alastair Clark at Moonee Valley. It doesn’t usually stand up as a form reference, but some lesser-performed Victorians have been a presence in Sydney over the last few weeks, and they fit those credentials.

    Impavido isn’t the worst roughie if you think he can find a new level after an even effort last start. He won’t be wanting for talent in the saddle with Joao Moreira on his back.

    Selections: 1.Inference 2.Jon Snow 3.Gingernuts 4.So Si Bon

    Sires Produce
    The Sires looks the easiest race to dissect, with the fewest chances, even though it has attracted a larger field than usual.

    The Golden Slipper is always the first place to start, even though the winner of this as often as not doesn’t come through it. Eight runners from that race line up here.

    The fillies held the whip hand in the Slipper – Frolic and Tulip were well fancied when running second and third respectively in it, and are rightfully at the head of the market, especially given an extra 200m isn’t likely to slow them down.

    Frolic followed She Will Reign’s inside run in the Slipper but Tommy Berry didn’t have the wits of Ben Melham on the winner, while Tulip ran on down the outside. They’ll be the toughest to beat.

    Menari was a good roughie in the Slipper and ran well accordingly for fourth, and also has some claims, but is more of a distance doubt than the two fillies based on breeding. It would be a surprise to see anything else from the Slipper figure.

    Gunnison and Invader ran the quinella in the Todman Stakes and bypassed the Slipper to target this race, and certainly finished well in front of Menari in that race, but that horse was given a torrid time. They can win with some improvement and the right breaks.

    The Melbourne form has been dominating the Sydney carnival, so trifecta coming up from the VRC Sires Produce need to be respected.

    Sircconi won that race wire-to-wire in a muddling affair where the field basically finished in running order. Aspect was second and Feng Chu was third, and don’t be surprised to see one of them figure in the placings at bolter’s odds.

    Summer Passage is the only Group 1 winner in the field, taking out the Diamond Stakes in New Zealand a fortnight ago. Rarely do Kiwi two-year-olds come over, but rarer still do they succeed. Their record is not as strong as the three-year-olds that venture over the Tasman.

    Selections: 1.Frolic 2.Tulip 3.Invader 4.Menari

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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