Although it may be a Group 2 race, the Challenge Stakes has gathered a mighty field worthy of a Group 1, headlined by the all-conquering Buffering. Join us from 3.00pm AEST for a race preview, live updates and post-race analysis.
Run over 1000m under weight-for-age conditions, all eyes will be on Buffering, who broke his Group 1 drought in spring and followed it up with a further two.
As the highest rated horse in the country, Buffering is genuinely deserving of the ranking having raced at Group 1 level for a sustained period. The six-year-old gelding is resuming following the best campaign of his career and has a phenomenal first-up record.
From his six first-up attempts, he has four victories and placed the other two times. The Buff has run over 1000m four times to claim three victories and a third.
As the obvious leader and an excellent record running 1000m first-up, Buffering is clearly the horse to catch.
With a record like that, most would assume Buffering would be the race favourite. Nope!
That award in fact went to Snitzerland when the markets opened earlier in the week, thanks to the mare’s Group 1 Lightning Stakes victory last month.
Run under the same conditions as she finds today, albeit the Black Caviar was at Flemington, Snitzerland held off a few handy sprinters last start for her first Group 1.
Running second-up, she has two wins and two seconds from her four attempts, but in the past she has not been the same horse she’s been in Melbourne, where she gets the luxury of Flemington’s straight.
The biggest problem with Snitzerland’s Lightning Stakes form is none of it held up last week in the Newmarket Handicap.
Running behind Snitzerland in the Lightning were Shamexpress and Samaready, who started as the two shortest in the Newmarket market last week.
Unfortunately for Snitzerland, neither ran a place, which detracts greatly from Snitzerland’s form.
When we see Bel Sprinter in Sydney, images of last year’s Group 1 Galaxy spring to mind, where he produced a mighty turn of foot that would have genuinely threatened Black Caviar.
It was downright freakish and we haven’t seen him do it again since. But that’s not to say he’s not capable of it.
A lot of the inconsistencies in Bel Sprinter’s form has been due to his poor barrier manners. It’s literally a coin flip as to whether he jumps or not but in saying that, he missed the jump in the Galaxy to be ten lengths off the leader and still romp down the straight to thrash Snitzerland.
Sessions had a breakout spring where he produced consistent performances around Group 2 and 3 classes. Stepping up to Group 1 in the Manikato, he maintained his competitiveness and did his stallion prospects no harm.
Winding up very strongly in that Manikato to finish third and making ground, which is incredibly difficult at the Valley, the bookies are taking no chances with Sessions by opening him on the third line of betting.
Based on what we’ve seen, 1000m may be a bit on the short side for the Lonhro entire but having never missed a place running first-up, that record could easily stay intact after today.
Another regular performer at Group 1 level is Temple Of Boom, who has been giving his all for so long that the toll appeared to finally take its toll in spring.
Being a Queenslander, he has just about always run into Buffering but finds himself on the way down while Buffering keeps going from strength to strength.
According to the form, this looks to be a shootout between Buffering and Snitzerland, who will both settle towards the front of the field. From there, the backmarkers most likely to make ground are Bel Sprinter, Sessions and Tiger Tees but it’s hard to see them getting past the leaders.
The Challenge Stakes will jump at 3.37pm AEST.
Roar racing writers’ autumn tipping competition (five points if winning horse is tipped for first; three points if tipped for second; two for third and one for fourth):
Justin Cinque – Roar Racing Editor
4. Villa Verde
Cameron Rose – Roar Expert
4. Temple of Boom
Alfred Chan – Roar Guru
3. Tiger Tees
Brad Durrant – Roar Guru
3. Temple of Boom
Brent Ford – Roar Guru
4. Villa Verde
Points tally after week 1 (Super Saturday):
Brent Ford – 13
Alfred Chan – 7
Justin Cinque – 4
Cameron Rose – 4
Brad Durrant – 4