Now we’re talking. The big guns are beginning to come back in Sydney, and we have three Group 1 races in Melbourne to get into.
Following on from last week’s article about the highlights of the racing season just past, today I’ve decided to look ahead to the spring.
Today we see the release of entries for some of the spring majors, including the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate, the Caulfield Guineas and the Thousand Guineas.
Ahead of those entries, I’ve decided to give the 10 horses I reckon you’ll be hearing more about this spring:
This unbeaten mare is poised to be the drawcard of the spring, particularly with Black Caviar out until next year.
Mark Kavanagh’s charge has won all seven of her starts, including two at Group 1 level – the Thousand Guineas (1600m) against the three year old fillies at Caulfield last October, and the open All-Aged Stakes (1400m) at Randwick in April.
However, arguably her most impressive victory came in the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m) on Derby Day last year, where she defeated her rivals by a very comfortable seven lengths.
She is likely to open favourite for the Cox Plate when the first official markets open later this week, with the weight for age championship a likely target. She may also run in the Group 1 Myer Classic (1600m), with her campaign set to get underway in the Group 3 Cockram Stakes (1200m) or Group 2 Lawrence Stakes (1400m) next weekend.
It is unusual to see a Golden Slipper winner who does not look a natural two year old, with most winners of the race precocious juveniles who struggle to progress at three. However, Pierro looks like one of the most unnatural two year olds to record such success – and, indeed, he has been successful.
A winner of all six of his starts, he was the first of his crop to record black type when victorious in the Listed Breeders Plate (1000m) in October last year. In the autumn, he took all before him – the Group 2 Silver Slipper (1100m), the Group 2 Todman Stakes (1200m) and the Sydney juvenile triple crown, consisting of the Group 1 Golden Slipper (1200m), the Group 1 ATC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) and the Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m).
He is expected to have an ambitious spring, culminating in the premier three year old race, the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m), before a potential tilt at the Cox Plate. However, Gai Waterhouse has said he may miss the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) in Sydney.
All Too Hard
This horse has a bigger boom on him than his sister did at the same age – that’s no mean feat when your sister is the best sprinter this country has ever seen. All Too Hard, the half brother to Black Caviar, was an expensive purchase as a yearling, topping the million dollar mark.
However, from day 1, he showed great ability. His debut win in the Listed Talindert Stakes (1000m) was followed by an explosive victory in the Group 2 VRC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m), where he was hardly touched in recording a four length victory. He came to Sydney where he won the Group 2 Pago Pago Stakes (1200m) easily before owner Nathan Tinkler surprised all by withdrawing him from the Golden Slipper.
Instead, he ran in the Group 1 ATC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m), where he had his colours lowered by Golden Slipper winner Pierro. His campaign is set to start earlier than Pierro’s, following an eye-catching barrier trial at Rosehill last week.
He will contest the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) before heading to Melbourne for a rematch with Pierro in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m).
If both colts perform as expected, we may see an almighty contest with between these star three year olds and our older stars in the Cox Plate. What a race that would be!
Chances are you may not have heard of this stunning grey stallion, or if you have, it may have only been peripherally.
However, this Italian import may set hearts on fire over here if he matches his early exploits. Reports suggest he won the affection of champion mare Black Caviar as they made their journey together across the world, while many of trainer Peter Moody’s staff are said to swoon over him.
It will be interesting to see if this equine Lothario can make a name for himself in Austraia on the track. He is ageing now, with a chance his best form is behind him. However, the dual Group 1 winner in Italy has shown versatility and has arrived in Melbourne in full training. He is a horse to keep a close eye on over the upcoming months.
Arguably, Lucas Cranach looks to have the most potential of any import this spring. His preparation in Australia last spring appeared to be quite rushed, although it was a similar campaign undertaken by many visiting internationals.
For him to run fifth in the Caulfield Cup, while under an injury cloud, and third in the Melbourne Cup is a signal of some serious ability. This was further enhanced when he won the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) first up in the autumn. Sadly, he was withdrawn from the Australian Cup as a heavy favourite. He underwent surgery to remove some damaged bone, but he looks to have made a full recovery.
He is likely to use the Group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) on September 8 as his springboard to success, with a Cox Plate-Melbourne Cup campaign likely.
This Patinack Farm filly has only had one run…but boy, wasn’t it something! Granted, it was only a field of six in a Saturday winter race at Warwick Farm, but this daughter of Fastnet Rock definitely looks to have potential!
She may be seen in the Princess Series races in Sydney, which include the Group 2 Silver Shadow Stakes (1200m), the Group 2 Furious Stakes (1400m), the Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes (1500m) and the Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m), while a natural target would also be the Group 1 Thousand Guineas (1600m) in mid-October.
It would not be the spring carnival without an international to keep an eye on. And for months, I’ve been convinced this would be the one to be on.
I knew he was under consideration for a trip last year, but in the intervening months, he’s been moved to the stables of Luca Cumani by owner Dr Marwan Koukash. Dr Koukash is extremely keen to win the Melbourne Cup, having brought Munsef to Melbourne in 2009, and he finally believes he has the horse to provide him that victory. He has been well supported in early markets.
He will have one more run, in the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes (2700m) at Newbury before coming to Melbourne. He is likely to contest the Geelong Cup prior to the Melbourne Cup.
Team Hawkes – the moniker of Michael, John and Wayne Hawkes – has a lot of firepower with local stayers heading into the spring. Sydney Cup winner Niwot leads the way, with hopes 2010 Melbourne Cup runner-up Maluckyday can reach those heights once again.
However, it may be that their spring could hinge on the success of Polish Knight, who finished a game second in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) earlier this year.
Incredibly, he was in his first preparation, as was the winner Ethiopia. While the Australian Derby form can sometimes be quite shoddy, it can be expected both horses will improve on their inaugural campaign.
However, with Ethiopia expected to have a light spring, Polish Knight could be the one to fly the flag for the Australian stayers.
He is likely to be aimed at the Caulfield Cup, with a first up tilt at the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) or Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m).
This is my tip for the bargain-buy story of the spring. The unfashionably bred entire, by cheap sire Danerich, was bought for $3000. However, he has already shown talent, winning his first three starts.
He was tried on a number of occasions over 1200m during the autumn, but it was shown he didn’t have the stamina to last the extra trip. Incredibly, seasoned barrier trial experts believe he is the first horse to have broken the 53 second mark in a 900m trial at Rosehill, running 52.62 in his trial on Friday.
He is still to progress through the grades this campaign, with the horse likely to head to 1000m races in Melbourne. If he is kept at 1000m, or perhaps 1100m, I think you might see a pretty good horse this spring! Follow him.
It’s A Dundeel (formerly: Dundeel)
Once again, a horse that has only had the one start but has shown enough potential to be included as one to watch this spring. A son of super stallion High Chaparral, he raced back and wide but was too good for a handy field on debut over a distance expected to be far short of his best.
Trained by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman in New Zealand, Dundeel will be based out of Murray’s son Bjorn’s stables in Sydney during the spring. The same stable had the late Lion Tamer race for them successfully over the last two years.
He will follow a similar path to Lion Tamer, who just two years ago made a winning Australian debut in the Listed Ming Dynasty Quality (1400m) before winning the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at the end of the spring.