Bob Hawke was nonplussed. He’d just gotten off a typically eloquent speech in front of a claque of media, and no-one had a question for him.
Prizemoney is at an all-time high. We have more group races than ever before, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to win in blacktype company.
One thing I’ve noticed in the past few years is that it’s incredibly tough in our sprinting ranks. The quality at the top is vast and the fact our weight spreads are compacted mean that good horses with weight are hard to stop.
There was a lot of focus on Saturday’s Group 3 Aurie’s Star Handicap at Flemington because it was seemingly more than just a Group 3 race.
Winner Voodoo Lad, from the powerful Darren Weir stable, had been proven in Group 1 company.
He finished second in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes in 2016, second in last year’s Newmarket Handicap and had performed solidly in the TJ Smith and Moir Stakes.
Runner-up Home Of The Brave was having his first run in Australia, but had won at Group level overseas and had competed in Group 1 races in the UK and United States.
The days of having a good sprinter and finding a Group race to win in the ‘off season’ are simply gone. The big stables are seemingly bigger and are not afraid to aim their horses at races like the Aurie’s Star.
If you are a small trainer based out of Warwick Farm or Cranbourne and have a handy sprinter, you basically won’t find a Listed or Group 3 race on the calendar without competing against the likes of Weir, Snowden, Hayes, Waterhouse or the Godolphin team.
That’s okay, because racing is a free market, but we are seeing a highly competitive market in regards to sprint racing. Personally, I love it.
Interestingly, Weir made a pitch for Voodoo Lad to be considered for one of the final two slots in The Everest.
“There would be worse horses than him I reckon,” Weir said.
The Ballarat horseman said he would sit down and assess options for his enigmatic sprinter, who sometimes struggles to settle in his races.
He said another crack at the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes was a possibility.
“There’s other options, I’ve got a bit to think about. The Gilgai Stakes back here (Flemington) or the Schillaci Stakes at Caulfield on the same day as The Everest.”
Jockey Damien Oliver said he followed Weir’s instructions to a tee with the key being to ride the horse negatively early.
“They didn’t go that hard but Darren’s focus was to get him to switch off and relax and then use his turn of foot,” he said.
“He’s got an exceptional last 400m when he switches off.”
Big day for Darren Weir
As well as winning the Aurie’s Star with Voodoo Lad, the Weir stable had seven winners across three states on Saturday.
The man known as DK had four winners at Flemington, one at Moe in eastern Victoria, another at Morphettville in Adelaide and a winner in a 2900m at Newcastle in NSW.
Weir is showing that he is not only skilled at training horses, but is not afraid to travel them to find the right races.
As an owner, you’d be pretty happy.
Sick beat for Ef Troop backers
If you took the short price about Ef Troop at Doomben you might be looking for a support group.
In a small field, the Tony Gollan-trained gelding was caught four-wide for most of the trip under a 60kg impost.
Jockey Brad Stewart even questioned his own tactics on the $1.45 shot.
“If you swap the barriers I win. The winner has come from barrier two and got the run of the race,” he said.
“But for all that maybe I should have been more aggressive and put the foot to the floor and tried to lead. But there was no sure thing I would have not still been caught deep and still got beaten.”
Did we see a Melbourne Cup contender?
Jaameh produced an eye-catching run over 2500m in the first at Flemington. He settled last and then blew his opposition away.
“He will head to The Bart Cummings and get qualified, that is the way we are definitely going to go and definitely a run in between,” co-trainer David Hayes said.
“He has got similar formline to a horse like Tawqeet, who started favourite (in the Melbourne Cup) one year, and won a Caulfield Cup, and I think he has improved out here, with a bit of sun on his back he has improved a length or two.
“It was a really good staying performance. I loved the way he took the extra furlong to pull up, with stayers heading to longer races, I always look at how quickly they stop.
“We were really hopeful today, it ended up a truly-run race, it was a good test I thought it was quite a dominant performance.”
The opposition was questionable, but it will be interesting to see how he progresses this campaign.
How we went
Another Saturday, another day of profit. Only one of our five selections saluted, but it paid $8.40 top tote and that was more than enough.
Meet Mr Taylor was unbeaten after two runs heading into the Doomben race on Saturday and is now three for three after another impressive win. As I said in the preview, it’s best not to knock unbeaten horses until they find their level.
It could have been a bigger day if I Am Serious won, but we had to settle for second.
Each-way selection Charge also ran a drum, so there was a little bit of money back there.
Overall, we are well and truly in front over the duration.
Total spend in 2018: $600*
Total return in 2018: $937*
* Based on $20 spend per selection and CrownBet’s top tote dividend.