Group 1 racing returns to the calendar this Saturday with the running of the Winx Stakes (1400 metres) at Randwick.
A decade ago, Darren Weir left Flemington disconsolate, despondent and dejected.
His star mare She’s Archie, a one-time favourite for the 2004 Melbourne Cup after finishing second to Makybe Diva in 2003, had finished a tailed-off last, a bowed tendon bringing her career to a premature end.
Around the same time, Joao Moreira was beginning to make a name for himself as a senior rider in Brazil, having almost walked away from the sport when he was overlooked for the country’s jockey academy.
Today, they can win Australia’s most famous race, the race that stops the nation – the Melbourne Cup – with Signoff, who only snuck into the field with a victory in last Saturday’s Lexus Stakes.
Signoff may not have the class of some of his rivals, not yet anyway. When Fiorente took the spoils last year, he was still an unraced, untrialled prospect. It wasn’t until last December that he stepped out at the races for the first time, winning a Terang maiden.
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But as he has made his way through the grades, he has shaped as a serious staying prospect.
For the doubters out there, just remember one past Melbourne Cup winner in particular – Shocking.
In 2009, Shocking followed an almost identical path, and in fact his runs in the Herbert Power Stakes and Coongy Handicap before winning the Lexus Stakes were strikingly similar. He also got in with a light weight, had plenty of upside and was able to capitalise.
It can be the same story here in a race where the weights are rather compressed and where the majority will be giving him a fair whack of weight.
From barrier 16, Moreira should be able to settle Signoff handy but hopefully a couple of pairs back off the speed, the long run to the first bend giving him a chance to settle one off the fence.
From there, hopefully he can get a nice cart into the race, hit the lead at about the 250m mark and hold off the late challengers.
At 3:05pm today, Australia will get the chance to fall in love with the ‘Magic Man’ Joao Moreira, who has charmed his homeland, Singapore and Hong Kong already.
The masses will know the name Darren Weir, Melbourne’s leading trainer who just seems to be improving every day.
And most of all, they will recall the name Signoff – a horse ready to join Archer, Carbine, Phar Lap, Rising Fast and Makybe Diva on the Melbourne Cup honour roll.