The Championships Day 2 tips: Group 1 previews

Cameron Rose Columnist

By , Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Day 1 of the Championships last Saturday was initially marred by a savage rails bias that is becoming all too prevalent at marquee racing meetings in this country, but all was forgotten after Chautauqua’s stunning, stupendous and unforgettable TJ Smith win.

    The great grey delivers thrills unlike any other horse I can recall in almost 20 years following the sport. It doesn’t happen often, but he is one of few horses who transcends the punt, and even if you’ve backed something else, you can’t help but marvel at his sheer brilliance.

    But, if any horse is capable of giving us a more memorable experience than Chautauqua did last week, Winx is the one.

    Queen Elizabeth Stakes
    While Chautauqua takes the breath away with his finishing burst from an impossible position, Winx does it with her graceful brutality and sustained domination.

    We are used to seven and eight lengths margins from her in Cox Plates over 2040m, but to deliver such a margin over 1500m on a heavy 10 against a genuine Group 1 miler like Le Romain, with Chautauqua further back in third, as she did last start in the George Ryder, was awe-inspiring.

    winx-hugh-bowman-horse-racing-cox-plate-2016

    Chris Waller chose not to contest this race with Winx last year, concerned about backing her up on wet ground after her Doncaster win. However, she will claim all honours this year, further establishing herself as the best turf horse in the world, and once more open up conversations of exactly where she sits in the list of all-time Australian greats.

    Hartnell is ostensibly a top ten horse in the world, but hasn’t won a race for sixth months, and hasn’t been at his best this campaign, apart from an eye-catching first-up performance behind Winx. He hasn’t loved the Sydney wet, and gets some slight relief this week.

    The field behind these two isn’t exactly laden with superstars, and is in fact populated with honest triers.

    The United States is the only other Group 1-winning horse in the field, and that was over a year ago when he took out the 2016 Ranvet Stakes. He’s the only other proven weight-for-age performer at least.

    Happy Clapper has had eight cracks at Group 1 level without winning one, but usually runs well and has filled a few placings. Coming off a Doncaster second, he’ll aim to do so again here.

    Exospheric has three Group 1 placings to his name this season, since arriving in Australia. His Australia Cup third was the run of the race, but he was then streeted by Jameka in the BMW. He’s got the ability to run a place.

    Sense of Occasion ran a career best by some way last start in the Doncaster, and backs up here. The Hayes camp are having a shy at the stumps with the promising import Harlem. Singing and No Doubt will have owners celebrating having a Group 1 runner at The Championships.

    Selections: 1.Winx 2.Hartnell 3.The United States 4.Happy Clapper

    Sydney Cup
    The Sydney Cup is worth $2,000,000, but hasn’t attracted a field worthy of the prizemoney, and would be more at home under the banner of a Moonee Valley Cup or something like that. Even some of those fields have probably been better than this.

    Big Duke will start as favourite, and is the classic Darren Weir runner that just keeps winning once he starts. He’s already taken out two Sydney races this prep, and drops from 58kg’s down to 52kg’s in this after his Chairman’s Handicap win last start.

    Assign is another Victorian coming off a win in a traditional Sydney lead-up race, and must be taken seriously as all Lloyd Williams horses should be at this time of year. He’ll camp on the speed and be tough to get past.

    The BMW produces Who Shot Thebarman and Libran. Libran was beaten favourite in this last year, and carries the weight from when he was in form a year ago. Who Shot Thebarman has been around the block a few times, and has a fourth, second and ninth in Sydney Cup’s in his time. He just has too much weight for a horse that has only one win in the last two and a half years, but the lack of depth in this field gives him a chance.

    The Mornington Cup has thrown a few runners into the Sydney Cup this year.

    Tally and Vengeur Masque ran the quinella there, and have claims to figure in the finish. Tally has a chance in a weak edition, but whether he can be strong at the end of two miles is yet to be proven.

    Vengeur Masque hasn’t won in eight Australian runs, but has been getting fitter with a series of on-pace performances. We could have a Sydney Cup winner that couldn’t run a place in the Stony Creek Cup two runs back. It’s that sort of race.

    Almoonqith’s sixth in last year’s Melbourne Cup would be plenty good enough for this, and his last start seventh in the Mornington Cup is better than it looks on paper. The dryer the better for him, and he’s a definite value hope if he gets things to his liking.

    Chance to Dance ran well in the Adelaide Cup, and his win over Big Memory earlier this prep is a reasonable recommendation given the sort of races that horse usually runs well in.

    Godolphin is supplying the X-factor in the race, in the form of a couple of Charlie Appleby horses, Penglai Pavilion and Polarisation. Neither will lack for stamina, and we’ve seen European hurdlers run well in Melbourne Cups, so they must be taken seriously.

    Selections: 1.Big Duke 2.Almoonqith 3.Penglai Pavilion 4.Polarisation

    The Coolmore Legacy
    The old Queen of the Turf shapes as the race of the day, and certainly the deepest field of the Group 1 races on the day.

    Silent Sedition is proving herself to be an outstanding mare. Group 1 placed in an Oaks less than 12 months ago, she registered her first Group 1 win last start over 1200m in the William Reid, beating some genuine sprinters.

    She should probably have won the Coolmore two starts back, and should be even more suited up to 1600m than she was at 1200m.

    First Seal, Heavens Above and Dixie Blossoms are a trio of top quality Sydney mares that are capable of winning any race they’re in.

    First Seal has been a bit up and down in recent seasons, but is well suited at set weights. Heavens Above beat Silent Sedition in the Coolmore, getting a well deserved Group 1 win, and ran second in this last year. Dixie Blossoms is always knocking on the door, and can go forward or back, which is a plus for Sam Clipperton from gate 12.

    Danish Twist was third in the Coolmore behind Heavens Above and Silent Sedition, and is one who enjoys soft going but struggles on heavy tracks. Barrier two may be a plus or minus.

    Zanbagh and Real Love are both six-year-old mares having their 38th starts. Zanbagh has run fifth or sixth in each of her four career Group 1 runs, all in this sort of race, and that’s about her level. Real Love is more renowned over longer distances, but never runs a bad race.

    Almoonqith wins the Geelong Cup

    Of the other older mares, the unfashionable but talented Pure Pride from country Victoria will have supporters despite her only win coming in a Ballarat maiden, Abbey Marie has only had six starts but won a Group 1 with one of them, and Euro Angel will put it all together one day.

    There are two three-year-olds in the race, second favourite Foxplay and Oregon’s Day at longer odds.

    Foxplay drops back from 2000m and usually reserves her best for Randwick. We saw her competitive with a horse like I Am A Star in the spring, a filly that has beaten older mares twice at a mile. Oregon’s Day is a nice enough filly, but this sort of race looks a bit early for her.

    There doesn’t look a huge amount of speed in the race, and we don’t know what the track is going to be playing like come late in the day.

    Selections: 1.Silent Sedition 2.Dixie Blossoms 3.Real Love 4.Zanbagh

    Australian Oaks
    The Australian Oaks will be the first Group 1 run on the day, and the staying fillies get their chance to shine.

    Bonneval is favourite off three wins in a row in New Zealand, including the Group 1 Oaks. The Kiwi’s gave the boys a schooling through Jon Snow and Gingernuts in recent weeks, and punters have decided the girls are going to go the same way.

    Devise has trailed Bonneval home in her last three outings, and looks to be a length or two behind her fellow New Zealander.

    Victorian’s Nurse Kitchen and Harlow Gold were second and third respectively in the Vinery Stud Stakes two weeks ago, and are both talented fillies with sound credentials for this sort of race. Both have had only three runs this prep, and are ready to peak now.

    Lubiton was a few lengths behind Nurse Kitchen and Harlow Gold last start after setting the pace, and will need to go up a level to match and beat them. La Bella Diosa had nothing go her way last start, but was plain regardless, and you could do worse than take her on trust given we know she’s a better horse that what we’ve seen at her last two.

    Lasqueti Spirit broke her maiden in the VRC Oaks, which remains her only win, but she has a second to Winx on the resume now too. She’s taken the road of open company all four starts this prep, and has been far from disgraced. The big question is whether Jay Ford will employ the catch-me-if-you-can tactics that Brenton Avdulla likes to adopt on the filly.

    Last weeks’ Adrian Knox was the weakest Group 3 in living memory, and if the winner of the Oaks come out of it, we might as well all go home.

    Selections: 1.Nurse Kitchen 2.Harlow Gold 3.La Bella Diosa 4.Bonneval

    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.