Now we’re talking. The big guns are beginning to come back in Sydney, and we have three Group 1 races in Melbourne to get into.
The Group 2 Adelaide Cup (3200m) gives us one of those rare Group races on a weekday, and Monday at Morphettville will see 15 stayers in the mix for the $400,000 handicap over two miles.
1. Benzini (18) 59kgs
Topweight Benzini doesn’t get many favours, having drawn widest and lumped with 59kgs at the head of the field. He’s had a great career across NZ and here in Australia and has been placed third in his last four runs, all this year, including the Group 3 Lord Reims Stakes at Morphettville as a tune-up for this.
He carries more weight into this from others in that race. He hasn’t won since 2016, and just looks weighted and drawn too far out to be a real chance.
2. Master of Arts (scratched)
3. Double Bluff (7) 58.5kgs
Has the formlines to win this, having won twice from six attempts this campaign, and was the runner-up here last year – plus all of his wins have been on dry surfaces, which he’ll get. Major knocks are his last run in the Listed Roy Higgins Quality (2600m) where he finished behind some others here, including Fanatic, and both rise in the weights so no relief on her or the others.
He is a grinding stayer with no brilliance, and he does seem to be going better than last year. If he gets the right type of race he’s well in it. Jockey Mark Zahra is a plus – just needs to haul top-weight.
4. Fanatic (3) 57.5kgs
This mare is a proper handicapper, and the Sandown Cup (3200m) winner from late last year. She’s been going up through distances and class this campaign and looks set for a big run after running second in the Roy Higgins. She loves a dry track, this distances, and even with the big weight, must be a winning chance. She’s the narrow favourite for the race.
5. Pretty Punk (8) 57kgs
Young mare Pretty Punk should be as fit as a fiddle with eight runs this preparation, across Adelaide, Melbourne and Tasmania, up since November. That’s probably a slight risk given she steps up to a testing 3200m but she has won three of her past five so you can’t blame them for nominating her here.
Great ride when she won the Group 3 Hobart Cup (2400m) and then tuned up in a fast Group 3 Launceston Cup (2400m) when she was third and kept coming. She can be ridden forward or back, and from the gate will be handy. Concerns are stepping up to 3200m and the 57kgs she’ll have to lug, but she’s a chance.
6. Jim’s Journey (10) 56kgs
Jim’s Journey was fifth in this race last year carrying 55.5kg with Dom Tourneur forced to go wide when coming home. They’ve played with his gear but off his prep this time around he’s not going as well and carries more. Can’t have him here.
7. Exalted Lightning (2) 54.5kgs
Trainer Grant Young has this bloke flying. With 12 starts with his new trained, the Lightning has five wins and a handful of placings. He drops weight off a solid enough fourth in the tune-up Lord Reims, and a win in the Listed Birthday Cup before that. Todd Pannell has the ride and he’s a real chance.
8. Like a Carousel (1) 54.5kgs
This older stayer was given a freshen up over a hurdles trial into this, and did win the Pakenham Cup in December at the same sort of $30 odds. He has the inside draw and will get the 3200m. The four wins in 54 starts doesn’t read well but he looks to be in career best form, even if the last start at Moonee Valley doesn’t look so flash, while the Bagot before that can be forgotten with the track too firm.
9. O’lonera (17) (54kgs)
O’lonera was well backed at Moonee Valley last start in the Torney Night Cup and was just run down late to finish second there, and was second at Caulfield before that. Has two wins from seven attempts with four weeks between runs here. My speedmap has him pushing towards the front from wide out and he’ll need a lot of luck to find a position for the two miles with all that in mind.
10. Al Haram (14) 53kg
This lightly-raced former French galloper hasn’t had a win yet in Australia for Lindsay Park but has placed in three straight and drops 5kg into this. The winkers come off and he should push towards a handy position towards the front. No doubt he’s improving but this might be a little too much of a rise in class just yet. Still, it could be the David Hayes reckons this bloke is up to another 3200m handicap, early in November. A real risk to leave out of exotics.
11. Ormito (5) 53kgs
Placed in his last four and has been very close with Fanatic, and Double Bluff and O’lonera in his last two starts which is the right form, and he’s given a nice drop in weight against them. Basically crossed the line with Fanatic last start following a close-up 3rd behind Double Bluff and O’lonera at Moonee Valley.
He’s a hard-fit Weir horse, and he maps to get a soft 3200m off the speed, but the distance is a query. He was second to Ventura Storm yonks ago back in Scotland. Craig Williams should give him every chance and that’s why he’s second favourite.
12. Tunes (6) 53kgs
The old boy Tunes is flying! He’s given little hope here at $41 or more but he’s placed in both runs since a let-up and now drops weight into this race. He beat Exhalted Lightning at a much worse weight-scale about this time last year and last year’s Adelaide Cup was a god awful ride, while he was second in 2016. I’m throwing him into everything even in this, his 104th start.
13. Khezerabad (9) (scratched)
14. Flying Casino (12) 53kg
Not sure what went wrong last start when beaten a mile from home and dropped way out of it. Before that he was going well enough. It’s a step up in class but if you can forgive the run, and you’re a believer, you’ll get $91 or more for your $1 bet.
15. Raindrops On Roses (13) 53kgs
This Lindsay Park mare will push forward from her gate to possibly take them up. She’s shown good Victorian form including a last-start win and drops weight into this. It’s a rise in class from her previous BM78 runs, her first time out to 3200m and might just have too much to prove here.
16. Diamond Grace (4) (scratched)
17. Cuban Fighter (15) 53kgs
Won at MV in February in a BM84 but then was only average last start in the Lord Reims and he doesn’t get much weight off into this. Suspect this is a bit beyond him and he needs even more weight relief.
18. Poppiholla (11) 53kgs
Poppiholla has been amongst the placegetters in her last three. She’s stepping up to 3200m for the first time and was third behind Raindrops On Roses last start. That form doesn’t quite look good enough here.
An open sort of race. Fanatic is the class runner but she has a massive weight for the 3200m and while she’s not too short there’s not a lot of value there. She’ll be coming from the back, no doubt. I feel Double Bluff and Pretty Punk are also weighted just to be short of winning.
I find both Ormito and Exalted Lightning well-weighted to win. Ormito just gets the tip ahead of Exalted through having a handier position in the run, needing less luck overall. Exalted Lightning needs to find a passage through and avoid trouble down the straight and get the trip. If he manages, he’ll be there late.
Tunes is without a doubt the roughie I want.
2. Exalted Lightning
A final suggestion is to include Al Haram in any exotics.