Stradbroke Handicap Day: Group 1 tips and previews

Cameron Rose Columnist

By , Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    The famous main grandstand at Doomben. (Photo: Wiki Commons)

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    The Stradbroke Handicap is Brisbane’s biggest and best race, but has this year been dogged by the controversy over the Eagle Farm track.

    The meeting will be held at Doomben, as it was in 2015 when Eagle Farm was under reconstruction. That ended well.

    The ‘Straddy’ isn’t usually won by a top-class horse, and for most it is their maiden Group 1 win, often ending up as their only one. Winners tend not to be good enough for weight-for-age, but are then weighted out of handicaps.

    Clearly Innocent is at the top of the weights, and the market. He’s come a long way in a short time, given he was being comfortably beaten in lesser black-type races in the spring, and he loved the heavy to fly away with the Kingsford Smith last start at WFA, but is accomplished on the good.

    I couldn’t personally have him with the weight at his price, and frankly I’d be surprised if he won, but Hugh Bowman has obviously clicked with the horse.

    Jungle Edge has proven his worth as a genuine ‘mudder’ in any grade with two Group 1 WFA placings on the slops this time in, but a good track is the query for him. He’s fit, hard, and will give a sight as he did when second behind Clearly Innocent last start.

    Counterattack, a perennial at the Queensland carnival, was third in the Kingsford Smith, is knocking on the door of a win, and finds a suitable race here. He drops 4 to 4.5 kilograms from two Group 1 WFA placings and has drawn the right barrier to get a lovely trail. His last win was at this track and distance in the Fred Best last year.

    Impending was fourth in the Kingsford Smth, and I’m not sure he’s had anything go his way this prep, but he has still run respectably. He is capable of winning if it all works out for him, based on his strong spring performances against the best of his age group.

    Derryn is the other three-year-old in the field, twice a winner this prep already. But he was plain in the Kingsford Smith. He has a dazzling sprint on him and will need to produce every bit of it from the tail of the field if he goes back from the widest gate.

    Hopfgarten is the other horse coming from the key lead-up race, where he was poor in running ninth. It’s been a year since he saluted, but he isn’t the worst at odds given his form around some of the main chances here, when he met them in the Melbourne spring.

    Mackintosh was one of those horses, who ran well in Group 1s in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth last prep, and is now in Brisbane tackling the Stradbroke first-up. He’s unbeaten first-up, loves the distance range and good tracks, has been trialling well, and has the Waller imprimatur plus McEvoy on board. There’s a few ticks there.

    Ulmann looks well placed as a dead-set seven-furlong specialist, which may leave him 50 metres short at Doomben instead of Eagle Farm. Let’s not forget he has a second to Winx among his credentials, albeit in the Sunshine Coast Guineas back in May 2015! Of course, that race is notable given it was the start of the great mare’s current 17-race winning streak.

    A couple of mares from the Bjorn Baker yard create interest. Bonny O’Reilly is on a five-race winning streak coming through the grades, but is second emergency so will likely not get a run. Egyptian Symbol is more proven in stakes grade, and has a touch of quality about her.

    Getting into a few at longer odds, Burning Front is tough and hard, will keep Jungle Edge company up front, and will keep going in the straight. In Her Time has been very good at Group 1 level at her last two starts, either side of a spell, but isn’t well weighted as a mare on this scale. Her best can win this though.

    Hooked is always a chance on his day, but it’s never easy to predict when that’s going to be. Hard to see him striking here as a six-year-old. Rageese and Kaepernick have talent, but have been disappointing this prep.

    Selections
    1. Mackintosh
    2. Counterattack
    3. Impending
    4. Burning Front

    The Queensland Derby is one of the support Group 1s on the Stradbroke card, and the betting has it as a wide open affair.

    The race is the usual affair, having drawn a motley crew of horses that have been racing all over Australia and New Zealand, from restricted grades to Group 1s, on a mix of dry and wet tracks, and they all have to be sorted out.

    Volatile Mix, the South Australian Derby winner, looks the most bomb-proof horse and is a strong enough stayer that Barrier 20 shouldn’t unduly worry him. Ruthven was second to him in the SA Derby, and his ATC Derby effort sticks in the mind. Shocking Luck was all at sea on the heavy last start after winning on the soft the start before.

    Black on Gold is the interesting runner. He’s won three in a row on good tracks, interspersed with a couple of flops on wet ground, but those wins have been in very minor grade. Ana Royale is the lone filly, and has earnt her feed with a far-reaching campaign that is now up to start ten. There’s something there, if she isn’t too spent.

    Selections
    1. Black on Gold
    2. Ruthven
    3. Volatile Mix
    4. Shocking Luck

    The JJ Atkins or TJ Smith is a 1600-metre Group 1 race for two-year-olds, and is usually worth taking note of as a pointer to the spring carnivals.

    The filly Melody Belle has a stranglehold on the market after she zoomed away to win the Sires Product by a widening five lengths a fortnight ago. Margins on heavy tracks always have to be taken with a grain of salt, but she’s entitled to her favouritism.

    Capital Gain certainly has his racing style cemented already – miss the start, get right back, and charge home but fail to get there. He’s always a threat, but obviously needs things go his way.

    Taking Aim is the classic professional Snowden two-year-old, and will do everything right, particularly with Hugh Bowman on his back. He was second to Melody Belle last start, but a good track should even things up between them.

    Tangled was a forgive run on the ground in the Sires, and if you forget he ran there, his form was shaping well to peak for this, and Waller has done well targeting this race in the past.

    Selections
    1. Tangled
    2. Melody Belle
    3. Taking Aim
    4. Capital Gain

    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.