John Singleton sacked Gai Waterhouse on Saturday but for entirely different reasons 2013 Sydney Cup Day will be looked back on as an influential day in the post Black Caviar-era.
It was the most revealing meeting all season. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2013 Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup winners raced at Randwick.
You can probably bet more confidently on the Caulfield Guineas winner coming from the Champagne Stakes (1600m, Group 1, two-year olds) field.
If I could pick one horse from Saturday to own, I’d go with All Too Hard – a $30m colt could solve a lot of life’s problems.
But if I was to choose one horse to race over the next few seasons, I’d take Champagne Stakes winner Guelph in a heartbeat.
In my whole life, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger opinion of an autumn two-year old than Guelph. Guelph is so good I rate her better Pierro – who won last year’s two-year Triple Crown – at the same age. Albeit, I concede there was more depth in the juveniles last season.
Guelph’s victory in the Champagne was from the top drawer. On a day when nothing back in the field got close to winning, Guelph won.
At the 200, she was six lengths off Fuerza, who had turned the famed mile into a staying test after Jim Cassidy went for home at the 800m mark.
The acceleration Guelph showed in the last 200m was special. Even the best two-year olds don’t finish off a tough mile like Guelph did on Saturday. She is well poised to have an outstanding spring.
So much so that right now my hypothetical $10 for the Cox Plate (2040m, Group 1, weight-for-age) would be sitting on the nose of Guelph. If bookies actually had her in the market, you could delete the word ‘hypothetical’ from the previous sentence.
I haven’t forgotten the old adage that three-year old fillies don’t win Cox Plates. Only one filly, Surround in 1976, has been successful in the Cox Plate and Surround is remembered as the greatest three-year old filly of all-time.
But there’s no reason why Guelph can’t arrest that title in the next 12 months. She is a complete two-year old.
Physically well put together – the most beautiful mover and regally bred. Her father, Exceed and Excel, is almost certainly going to win the leading stallion award at the end of the season. And her mother, Camarilla, was a star two-year old.
In 2007, Camarilla won the Sires Produce (1400m, Group 1, two-year olds) – a race Guelph claimed emphatically two weeks ago.
Camarilla’s dam, Camarena, was an outstanding mare. She won the 2000 Queensland Derby (2400m, Group 1) at three before running second in both the Rupert Clarke (1400m, Group 1, handicap) and Mackinnon Stakes (2000m, Group 1, weight-for-age) in the spring of the same year.
Guelph heads to the paddock now for her winter spell. If she continues to develop physically she could take the spring by storm.
On Saturday morning, there were plenty of people happy to tell you Triple Crown-winning three-year old It’s A Dundeel had a mortgage on the Spring Carnival. If the Melbourne Cup (3200m, Group 1, handicap) wasn’t at his mercy, he had at least two hooves on the Cox Plate.
I’ll tell you, he has no hooves on the Cox Plate right now. I’ve been on the Dundeel bandwagon for eight months – he’s a special racehorse. But this could be the time to jump off.
In Australia this season, ten Group 1s have been won by three-year olds against older horses – It’s A Dundeel (a four-time Group 1 winner) has none.
It’s A Dundeel has weaknesses – he is 0-3 (favourite each time) when racing later than fourth-up from a spell; he’s never won (0-2) the Melbourne (anti-clockwise) way of going; and he’s never won a race with good early speed (0-2).
Not only that but he needs to be ridden behind the pace to perform well.
On Saturday, as a heavily backed $1.28 favourite and meeting older horses at Group 1 level for the first time, It’s A Dundeel faced his stiffest test in the Queen Elizabeth (2000m, weight-for-age).
It’s A Dundeel was expected to win a race littered with good horses – Silent Achiever (2012 NZ Derby winner), Manighar (2012 Australian Cup, Ranvet Stakes and BMW winner) and Reliable Man (2011 French Derby winner) – but he never threatened in a second-place finish.
Reliable Man, a five-year old stallion, who ran well behind world stars So You Think and Danedream in Engalnd last season, proved too good. This Chris Waller-trained import is a serious player in anything he enters in Australia.
Just before the winning post on Saturday, Reliable Man injured himself. Initial reports indicated a tendon but the injury appears to be less serious. In any case, his immediate racing future is in doubt.
But if Waller can get him back for the spring, I’ve no doubt Reliable Man is good enough to win any major he is set for.
Personally, I’d aim him for the Cox Plate second-up. I think his best form comes early in a prep (not dissimilar to It’s A Dundeel) and ridden positively around Moonee Valley, he will be hard to get past.
Since 1920, two horses have an All Aged (1400m, Group 1, weight-for-age) placing and Melbourne Cup victory next to their name. They are Peter Pan (first 1935 All Aged, 1932 and 1934 Melbourne Cup) and Nightmarch (second 1930 All Aged, first 1929 Melbourne Cup).
Off his third-placing in Saturday’s All Aged, Fiorente, the runner up in last-year’s Melbourne Cup, is a really good chance of joining that list in the spring. He was awesome on Saturday – last at the 100m mark, he darted through the ruck to pinch third at the death.
Jockey Tommy Berry summed it up well post-race when he said, “I wish it was a mile [instead of 1400m]” because Fiorente may have won. It is worth noting that between 1866 and 2004, the All Aged was run over a mile.
Gai Waterhouse will probably send Fiorente to Brisbane for the Doomben Cup (2020m, Group 1, weight-for-age) next month before giving him a spell. Fiorente is a serious Melbourne Cup player.
The All Aged winner All Too Hard was outstanding in his last race in Australia. The half to Black Caviar will now be prepared for his swansong, the Queen Anne Stakes (1609m, Group 1, weight-for-age) at Royal Ascot in June.
In England, he will compete as a ‘southern-hemisphere four-year old,’ which means he will carry only 0.5kgs less than the older horses (in Australia he’d have a two-kilo pull) including Dubai World Cup (2000m, Group 1, weight-for-age) winner Animal Kingdom.
I have great confidence in All Too Hard’s ability. I think he’s the best sprinter-miler in the world and his experience down the Flemington straight course (where he won brilliantly on debut) gives me confidence the Ascot straight track will pose no problems for him.
Horses with great Flemington straight form invariably run well at Royal Ascot. In fact, most Australian entrants at the Royal meeting have finished in the top four of their respective races but we have never won a Queen Anne.
With Australian racing’s focus about to move to Brisbane, I can’t wait for the BTC Cup (1200m, Group 1, weight-for-age) clash between Group 1 maidens Buffering and Rain Affair next month.
Buffering returned to the racetrack with an emphatic three-length win in the Victory Stakes (1200m, Group 2, weight-for-age) on Saturday at Doomben.
The Rob Heathcote-trained five-year old was pressured in the lead but found plenty in the concluding stages to indicate he has reclaimed the form that saw him finish a nose second to Hay List in last year’s Newmarket Handicap (1200m, Group 1).
Rain Affair, on the other hand, recorded his second consecutive runners’ up placing in the All Aged. If it wasn’t for the brilliant finishing burst of All Too Hard, he would’ve won.
Joe Pride lost Rain Affair in the spring – his form went horribly sour – but he’s back to his best now.
I wonder if More Joyous will join Rain Affair and Buffering in the BTC Cup. John Singleton hasn’t found a new trainer for the ten-time Group 1-winner but should MJ be given a full bill of health, Singo has intentions of racing her in Brisbane.
I think More Joyous would acquit herself well in a fast-run 1200m race.
The only race to underwhelm on Saturday was the Sydney Cup (3200m, Group 1, handicap). A sub-standard field of ten lined up and Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Robert Hickmott enjoyed another two-mile feature with victor Mourayan, who was eighth behind Green Moon last November.
The race was full of disappointments – Niwot (ninth) has been retired, while the future of stablemate Maluckyday (seventh) is in doubt. Somehow, Kelinni (sixth), who was fourth in the Melbourne Cup, managed to finish two spots further back on Saturday despite the massive class drop.
Next weekend, the spotlight is on Hawkesbury in western Sydney for their Guineas (1400m, Listed, three-year olds) meeting. On the Gold Coast, the Hollindale (1800m, Group 2, weight-for-age) is the feature.