Two meetings to look at on Thurday, with Charlton and Redcliffe getting my focus. Down below are my best bets for the respective programs.
After last week unveiling who we think can win the three majors, today we’ll identify who we expect to be the big surprise and disappointment of the 2013 Spring Carnival.
Surprise of the spring
Andrew Hawkins: Ecuador
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who saw Ecuador’s tremendous run on Wednesday at Canterbury.
He may have been a beaten favourite, but he was the one who I marked down out of the meeting after he flew from last to finish second.
I’d noted his trial, where he streeted his rivals, but he showed his versatility by managing to show a great turn of foot over a trip which will prove too short for him in time.
As a three year old, he looked like a dopey kid, but he looks to have matured and looks a typical Gai Waterhouse late bloomer.
Ecuador may be the perfect type for a Coongy Handicap, and who knows – even the Epsom Handicap might be within reach.
Cameron Rose: Oasis Bloom
With the retirements of Black Caviar and More Joyous, the title of best mare in the land is well and truly up for grabs.
In the spirit of my Cox Plate pick, Ethiopia, I bring you Oasis Bloom, another untapped, highly talented galloper trained off-Broadway, this time by Peter Morgan and Craig Widdison, who could easily slip into the role vacated by these two superstars.
This five year old mare has only had seven race starts, and was a Group 2 mares weight-for-age winner at just her fifth, beating a smart Stocks Stakes field of many subsequent black type winners last Spring.
She followed this up with a 0.8 length fourth in the Myer Classic despite chipping a joint during the run, and I’m certain if you swapped her barrier with the winner, Appearance, you’d also swap the result.
We know how Appearance went onto much greater things in the Sydney autumn, while Oasis Bloom was recovering in preparation for a big 2013 spring.
This is a classy mare of rare talent. She’s being set on a Caulfield Cup campaign after resuming with a seventh (for the second consecutive year) in last weekend’s Cockram Stakes and is more than capable of taking out anything along the way.
Justin Cinque: Sertorius
Nominating six-year-old Sertorius as the surprise of the spring could possibly be described as conservative. But because I think he can land a Group 1 victory in the next ten weeks, I think he’s a safer nomination than a horse unlikely to fulfil outrageous potential.
Last spring, Sertorius won five races as he progressed from a 1300m benchmark 78 win at Ararat all the way to a benchmark 95 victory on Stakes Day over 2000m at Flemington.
After a failure in the Ballarat Cup (2200m, Listed, handicap), Sertorius was spelled.
When he came back in the autumn, his spring aim – October 12’s Toorak Handicap (1600m, Group 1) – was already locked in.
In his only 2013 outing he was a strong second to Budriguez (who was coming off a dead-heat win with Puissance De Lune in the Blamey) at Caulfield in the Victoria Handicap (1400m, Group 3).
I love the way Sertorius can race positively before grinding his opposition into the turf. At a mile, having won his last four races between 1500m and 1700m, he’s incredibly effective.
I think he can win the Toorak Handicap, make his way into the Cox Plate field (albeit only to finish midfield) before giving the Emirates (1600m, Group 1, handicap) on final day a big shake
Disappointment of the spring
Andrew Hawkins: Fiorente
Last year’s Melbourne Cup runner up Fiorente turned heads with his barnstorming third in the All Aged Stakes in the autumn, with suggestions he could dominate the upcoming spring.
He’s trialled very well in preparation for his first up run next weekend in the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield.
So why do I think he will be the disappointment of the spring?
He looks to be too forward too early for mine, and I’m not sure where he fits in among our top weight-for-age gallopers.
Trainer Gai Waterhouse has a poor record by her standards when it comes to the Melbourne features, having only won the one Caulfield Cup with Descarado in 2010.
I do think Waterhouse has pulled the right rein by sending Fiorente to Victoria for a Melbourne-only campaign.
In fact, Fiorente is likely to follow the same path as Green Moon last year – the Memsie Stakes (1400m), Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m), Turnbull Stakes (2000m), Cox Plate (2040m) and Melbourne Cup (3200m).
I think he can win a race or two in the lead up to the features, but come late October, I’d be surprised to see him saluting.
Cameron Rose: It’s A Dundeel
We all love a potential rising superstar, and with four Group 1 wins as a three year old, It’s A Dundeel is certainly that.
But he seems to be bearing the unfair weight of the spectacular 2012/13 season from his age group after the retirements of All Too Hard and Pierro.
It’s A Dundeel is an extremely talented galloper, to be sure, and his Guineas and Derby wins in the autumn don’t come much more authoritative, but $6.5 to win the Cox Plate in some markets is simply ridiculous for a horse yet to prove himself at WFA.
He’s been beaten twice at very short odds-on in his last seven starts, with another defeat as heavily backed favourite besides, so he’s far from infallible, and now has to graduate to open class after a high workload in his three-year-old year.
While I hope the Murray Baker-trained horse can become a headliner and take all before him, it’s hard not to think he’s being set up for a fall, and the weight of expectation will lead to him being seen as a disappointment in many eyes.
Justin Cinque: The international raiders
I’ve gone with the internationals as my disappointment of the spring because I don’t think they’re going to win any of the majors. If I’m correct, it would be only the second time since 2008 that an internationally-trained horse hasn’t won one of the big ones during the spring Carnival.
There are so many imported horses gearing up for the spring that I think they’ll dominate the Cups, while the entire Cox Plate field is expected to be made up of Australian-trained horses.
Perhaps the best chance of an international Group 1 victory in 2013 comes via Hong Kong galloper Lucky Nine who will race in the Patinack Farm Classic (1200m, Group 1, weight-for-age).
Lucky Nine won the Krisflyer International (1200m, Group 1, weight-for-age) in Singapore in May by three lengths and is sure to give our rebuilding sprinting ranks a real shake.
Other than Lucky Nine, I think the internationals are up against it this year.