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Saturday an important guide to the spring

Punters are back for big days of racing at the New Zealand derby. (AFP PHOTO / WILLIAM WEST)
Expert
28th August, 2013
8

The early spring – late August and early September – is an exciting time for the racing industry, with the upcoming features the equivalent of a blank canvas.

In the space of a few weeks, races that would be the highlight of a mid-winter Saturday meeting in July are suddenly support races at midweek metropolitan or provincial meetings.

And come Saturday, every race on a metropolitan card represents quality, a potential stepping stone to bigger and better things.

This Saturday’s meetings at Caulfield and Rosehill, as well as the Makfi Challenge Stakes meeting from Hastings in New Zealand, indicate much of the promise of the early spring.

Last year’s results are proof of the importance of this weekend.

Spring Champion Stakes runner up Proisir and Flight Stakes winner Norzita quinella’d a Benchmark 69 at Rosehill – the best BM69 you’ll ever see – while Tea Rose Stakes winner Longport was well beaten in the same race.

Group 1 winners Pierro (first), Your Song (second), Epaulette (third) and All Too Hard (fifth) dominated the Run to the Rose while The Metropolitan winner Glencadam Gold won the Premier’s Cup easily.

It is at Caulfield, though, where the spring really steps up to a new level.

Subsequent Group 1 winners to have run at last year’s Memsie Stakes meeting included Gondokoro (Queensland Oaks), Shamexpress (Newmarket Handicap), Happy Trails (Emirates Stakes), Green Moon (Melbourne Cup) and Luckygray (Kingston Town Classic).

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This Saturday will see more stars emerge, and I’d thoroughly recommend reading Cam Rose’s preview tomorrow for the best guide for this weekend’s big races.

However, the race that is likely to be overlooked by many Australian punters is the Makfi Challenge Stakes at Hastings in New Zealand.

Formerly known as the Mudgway Stakes, this race has been a terrific guide to the Australian spring in recent years, having been won by the likes of Sunline, Miss Potential, Starcraft, Xcellent, Seachange and Mufhasa.

Last year, it was the starting point for eventual Cox Plate winner Ocean Park. He came from a long way back, poking through along the inside to hit the lead in the final stages.

This year looks to have produced a top line-up, featuring the likes of former winners Fritzy Boy and Mufhasa (scratched from the Memsie Stakes), Group 1 winners Sangster, Nashville, Final Touch, Xanadu, Fleur de Lune and Rollout The Carpet, and promising horses like Thunderbird One.

From a Melbourne point of view, Sangster looks to provide the most interest as he pushes towards the Melbourne Cup, but I’m fascinated to see Thunderbird One in this company.

Make sure you are playing close attention this weekend – you are likely to be seeing this spring’s stars.

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