The Spring is officially in the air with the group one Makybe Stakes meeting at Flemington on Saturday.
Finally, The Everest is here and we get an idea of just what the huge prizemoney can do for racing.
The race will feature a crack, 12-horse field – one of the best sprinting line-ups in some time.
There was a bit of an air of cynicism around the noise, something that wafts around racing for punters who’ve seen it all and heard it all before. Perhaps the only knock is on the lack of internationals showing here, but for a first time around, that can’t be a big one. Besides, sprinting is what Australia does.
The likes of Godolphin and Aidan O’Brien aren’t able to send over their handicappers as genuine chances.
Only the best are able to feature, although it would’ve been good to have seen how Europe’s best sprinters stack up here, rather than our best going over to challenge them in the path to Royal Ascot that the greats, including Black Caviar, followed.
European sprinter Signs Of Blessing and the Irish sprinter that wasn’t to be in Caravaggio, among others, would’ve been great to see. But the clamour to have credibility in the race solely through one of these horses running doesn’t matter, now that we have a proper Group 1 field.
We asked some questions of the race after the first announcement, and, ahem, were mostly on the money. The timing isn’t great for Hong Kong, Japanese, and European horses and that looked like it was always self-evident.
We also suggested some top jockeys might stay in Melbourne. Damien Oliver will be racing at Caulfield on Saturday to maintain his Almandin connection rides in the big races to come, but otherwise, the big names are on the biggest stage.
The race has been given a big push by all involved, from Racing NSW to the ATC to trainers and jockeys in the race connections. The race was always set out to feel like a clash of the elites, and while that’s mostly the case, it doesn’t feel out of reach – the best sprinters have found their way to the race.
Six runners are last-start winners, and perhaps the quality can be summed up briefly by looking at the four emergencies, featuring two Group 1 winners, and two Group 1 place getters.
My take on the form isn’t worth that much – it’s taken too many surprises in bigger races for me to realise that our sprinters are very close to each other and it doesn’t take much to go wrong to see an upset.
Chautauqua has been revving up since his sensational win over the track and distance in the TJ Smith. He’ll probably get his chance to do exactly the same thing again, but this time he’ll fly home against much stiffer opposition. He’s one of the stars of the show though – the flashy grey that dawdles at the back will have plenty of eyes on him. He drew gate five, exactly what the Hawkes training team were hoping for.
She Will Reign is my tip. The Golden Slipper winner’s return in the Moir Stakes was sensational and while this is another step again, the weight scale and performance at Moonee Valley was enough for me to consider her a super chance. The draw in gate two suited well enough.
Vega Magic has shown impressive form in Melbourne as well. Putting together four wins on the trot, including two Group 1s and the Memsie Stakes last start. Goes well fresh so the seven-week break since then should suit. Question marks on going the Sydney way, with no experience on this track either.
Redzel is likely to be in the finish with the perfect Sydney preparation but is a risk late, for mine.
Redkirk Warrior has had a lovely draw in barrier three, and it’s not hard to imagine him sticking his head out late. His Randwick form is ordinary but those runs did come on a heavy track. Only 10-12mm of rain are forecast for what has been a dry run for Sydney. Young Regan Bayliss remains in the saddle, and might find himself earning as much as he did last year in just over a minute’s work.
Brave Smash adds a some intrigue to the race. The knockers came for him after his second to Bons Away last start, but with blinkers going on he might find a new peak. He’s a good price if you believe in him!
English is super consistent for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott but drew widest, while Clearly Innocent showed more than his formline. Trainer Kris Lees said off his last-start third that he needs time to wind-up, and he let down well enough when he finally found room last start to give backers belief he’ll be thereabouts if he finds the space he needs. With Hugh Bowman on board, that could well happen.
I can’t wait to see the fastest minute or so in sport – and how the race is adopted by both Sydneysiders, and Australia as a whole.