Australia is the only country in the world to have a public holiday for a horse race. We are known for loving a flutter.
What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday would have been one of the worst racing programs you’ll see, but this week we are blessed with some excellent winter racing.
We have Group 1 winners running around, a Magic Millions champion, some Everest hopefuls and some New Zealand raiders trying their luck at grabbing some Australian prize money.
The obvious highlights are the Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes at Caulfield and the Listed Lightning Stakes at Morphettville, which should sort out the contenders from the pretenders.
A reminder that this is the last Saturday meeting of the season, so all metropolitan premierships will be determined, while horses will move up an age level as of Wednesday when all thoroughbreds celebrate their August 1 birthday.
Good luck if you are having a bet.
Caulfield (VIC) – Rail true the entire circuit. Track Soft 5 at the time of writing. No rain forecast Friday and Saturday.
Race 7 – 3.40pm Group 3 Bletchingly Stakes (1200m): Let’s get fair dinkum here. If Vega Magic turns up fit and switched on he should be winning. He’s better than this field. Put it simply, he’s a Group 1 horse in a Group 3 field.
I could have entertained Voodoo Lad beating him, but I’m concerned by the jockey change. Mark Zahra replaces Brad Rawiller on Voodoo Lad and even though Zahra is capable, the horse seems to run his best with Brad in the saddle. Black Heart Bart is first up and probably needs further, while Jungle Edge would only be a match for these on a wet track.
Crystal Dreamer is a nice horse, but not at this level, while Camdus is in a similar boat. Inn Keeper was superb last time when second to Voodoo Lad and can run a nice race here, but is probably outclassed. Jukebox has the class, but was incredibly poor last time when he had every opportunity.
He could bounce back here, but it would be a gamble. Ardrossan didn’t enjoy his first run in Australia and must be forgiven, but this is a hard ask.
Suggested bet: Vega Magic to win.
Race 9 – 4.55pm Farewell Mike Symons Handicap (1400m): Good little race here with some speed on paper and some in-form horses. Ozi Choice was the $4.60 favourite on Thursday night, but I thought stablemate Theanswermyfriend could be a value runner.
He had been racing in blacktype races before dropping back in class at Caulfield a fortnight ago. Except he overraced when restrained early.
Yet he still finished off OK. With some extra speed in the race on Saturday and perhaps a learning lesson from last time out, I expect him to be in the finish for DK Weir and Ben Allen.
Also keep an eye on first-up runner Plein Ciel, especially if the money comes on race day.
Suggested bet: Theanswermyfriend each-way.
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Rosehill (NSW) – Rail true the entire circuit. Track Good 4 at the time of writing. No rain forecast Friday and Saturday.
Race 7 – 3.20pm Listed Winter Challenge (1500m): A tricky race here with some speed out wide so there could be a scramble up front if the likes of Show A Star can’t get across with ease.
Invinzabeel was favourite at the time of writing and even though I’ve suggested backing him before I can’t get on him at this price in this field.
Drawn the pole, he should get a nice run, but I thought Invinzabeel had every chance to win last time and didn’t. In a wide-open race I’m looking for value and the Kiwi raider Hiflyer could be the one. He was solid on his Australian debut and, with natural improvement, he should be hard to beat.
He’s finished third in a Group 1 in New Zealand over a mile and even though he’s weighted accordingly on Saturday, it always pays to back class.
Suggested bet: Hiflyer each-way.
Race 8 – 4.00pm: Benchmark 90 Handicap (1200m): Those who have been following this column would remember that I tipped Albumin to win a couple of weeks ago and he goes around here well in the market as second favourite.
He’s gunning for four wins in a row, but I can’t have him on Saturday. Why? He’s up in the weights, only slightly down in class and has drawn a wide gate. Steer clear.
Star Of Monsoon is favourite on the back of his impressive first-up win a couple of weeks ago, but he’s only won three times in 22 starts and two of those were first-up.
Before his win a fortnight ago, he’d only won at Gosford. I suspect Star of Monsoon will be in the finish, but he’s too short to be backing straight out.
The value could be Eusebio, who was impressive first-up at Moonee Valley on a shifty track last time.
He has a nice record and most of his failures have been up in distance when he appears to be an out-and-out sprinter. Eusebio should be getting a nice run in transit and be a contender.
Suggested bet: Eusebio each-way.
Morphettville (SA) – Rail out 5m from 1200m to winning post. Out 3m for remainder of course. Track Soft 7 at the time of writing. No rain forecast Friday and Saturday.
Race 6 – 3.21pm Listed Lightning Stakes (1050m): A classic match-race here between Nature Strip and Sunlight. There are five other runners, but these look the standouts.
Nature Strip is an older horse and fitter, having won his last two races at Flemington in solid style. He was $1.50 with CrownBet on Thursday night. Sunlight is about to become a three-year-old and won the Magic Millions 2YO Classic and finished third in the Golden Slipper.
She is a classy filly who produced an impressive trial win in the lead-up to this race. The way I see the race panning out is Nature Strip leading and Sunlight stalking him most of the way.
I feel like Sunlight will make a run at it inside the final furlong, but Nature Strip’s fitness will prove the difference in the end. Either way, it should be a cracking race to watch. I am cheering on the upset, though.
Suggested bet: None. Just enjoy the spectacle.
Total spend in 2018: $326*
Total return in 2018: $433*
* Based on $20 spend per selection and CrownBet’s top tote dividend.