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.
Where do you start when you discuss Saturday’s races?
My mind thinks to the brilliance of Redzel, who drifted out to a ridiculous price and won like the superstar horse he is, reminding us that his feats last year were no fluke.
But then it turns to the performance of Darren Weir, who proved once again that if you ignore his runners it will only be at your own peril as a punter.
The man known to most as ‘DK’ simply pulled their pants down at Caulfield. He had five winners (six if you count the two that dead-heated in the third).
In fact, out of the nine races, it took until the last for the Ballarat horseman to not have a runner in the placings.
Critics might say that he’s a numbers man and that the more horses you have, the more chances you have of winning.
While that theory is correct, we are not talking about a lowly meeting at Warracknabeal, we are talking about a Memsie Stakes card at Caulfield. Any suggestion that Weir is not an outstanding trainer is well off the mark.
While Humidor was the winner of the Memsie, winning in fine style after taking shortcuts, I thought his most impressive runner of the day did not even win.
In the same race, Kings Will Dream produced an eye-catching run to finish third and if he stays on this track it looks like the Caulfield Cup will be there for the taking.
The Irish import is likely to step up to 1600m in the Makybe Diva Stakes next start and boy he’s going to be hard to beat.
Weir went into the first Group 1 of the Melbourne spring with three chances and Humidor sprang a surprise to win his third Group 1 race.
“He’s a great horse. I said to Damien (Lane) when I bunked him on to be strong late and he was strong late,” Weir said.
Humidor firmed from $31 to $21 before Lane guided him to a thrilling last-bound victory over the luckless Kementari.
My selection and race favourite Vega Magic looked home for all money when he sprinted clear at the top of the straight, but tired late to be beaten narrowly into fourth.
“He ran well but I just think that rain before the race just took away his kick a little bit but he still ran well,” jockey Damien Oliver said.
Redzel still a sprinting beast
I’m not sure why punters haven’t been talking about Redzel all winter, but he seems to be a horse they want to take on. Last season he was simply superb and he’s in the care of the best trainer in the business.
The Peter and Paul Snowden-trained gelding showed why he should be in all discussions about The Everest when he sailed to victory in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes (1000m) at Randwick.
Redzel drifted from odds-on to start at $2.30 in the wake of the money for Invincible Star before nudging his own track record of 55.73 with a slick 56.19, including 32.82 for his final 600 metres.
And that was on another shifty Sydney track.
Jockey Kerrin McEvoy said it was nearly the complete performance from Redzel, who was coming off two defeats to end his autumn campaign.
“It is good to see him back. He has taken all before him and a few people jumped off but he has been pleasing us at home and it’s good to have him back and in winning form,” McEvoy said.
“He travelled really well today and topping the rise James (McDonald) pressed the button on his mare (Invincible Star) and I was still cruising so I just bided my time but he always had the race in his grasp and he has pulled up well.”
Paul Snowden said back-to-back wins in The Everest were on the cards.
“It’s very satisfying knowing what we have got in front of us,” he said after the race.
“Just watching him parade out the back, it was the first time I’ve seen him break a bit of a sweat pre-race because it shows he’s got a bit left in the tank.
“There is improvement to come, we were confident we had enough to get us by today for the big one in October.”
Redzel will run in The Shorts at Randwick in two weeks before having a month off into the $13 million feature race.
Native Soldier runs them ragged
Although it was an out-of-the-box performance, I loved Native Soldier’s win at Caulfield on Saturday.
Bookmakers have pushed him into the second line of betting for the $2 million Caulfield Guineas next month, but I would be wary taking those short odds in an all-in market.
His performance was stunning, but was it a once-off?
The Darren Weir-trained youngster found the front from an outside barrier and ran them along before putting a gap in the field at the 400m and continued to lead to win.
I’ve always been wary of backing horses based on one brilliant effort. Sometimes it happens. Native Soldier had a fitness edge on his rivals and he seemed to like bowling along in front for Dean Yendall.
In a high-pressure race like the Caulfield Guineas, he won’t get that luxury. He’s probably a lay at his next start, depending on where he ends up.
My thoughts are slightly backed up by Weir’s post-race comments.
“I got to be honest, I didn’t see that coming,” he said.
“He’d definitely come on since his first-up run and we gave him a jumpout last Friday but that will bring him on again. His coat is just about right.”
How we went
If you took my advice that Redzel was the best of the day if he got out to a backable price, then maybe you salvaged something out if it. But otherwise it was largely a forgettable day on the punt.
I thought our runners performed well, but at this time of year you can still run well and not win.
I’m going to do some extra homework this week to make sure we turn it around and ensure we stay in profitable territory.
Total spend in 2018: $900*
Total return in 2018: $1128*
* Based on $20 spend per selection and BetEasy’s top tote dividend.