The Australian Guineas is the Group 1 feature at Flemington this Saturday, as the headquarters of Australian racing kicks off their three-week autumn carnival.
While sometimes seen as the poor relation of Group 1 1600m Guineas in Australia compared to the Caulfield and Randwick Guineas, the recent list of winners suggests it should be taken very seriously as a pointer to future success, with three of the last four going onto Group 1 success as four-year-olds.
Last year’s winner Grunt won the Makybe Diva Stakes this season, the same race Palentino won after he claimed the 2016 Australian Guineas. Hey Doc won the Manikato Stakes at four after winning the 2017 Guineas. And of course Shamus Award won the 2014 Australian Guineas after taking out the 2013 Cox Plate.
Fillies don’t have a bad record in the race either, there are usually a couple running with Mosheen and Shamrocker on the recent winners’ list.
There are three fillies in on Saturday and they have drawn the attention of the market, all being in the top five in betting.
Amphitrite was a winning machine for Darren Weir, posting four wins on end in the spring to go from maiden class to being victorious in the Thousand Guineas. An unlucky run in the Emprie Rose followed before she didn’t stay at all in the Oaks.
Amphitrite put all that, and a change of stables to join the Hayes camp, behind her with a first-up win in the Vanity two weeks ago, to show that she will be a force to be reckoned with again.
Verry Elleegant was second to Amphitrite in the Vanity and also runs here. Her run was every bit as good as the winner, running similar splits in the straight and quicker sectionals home; her last 200m was her best, suggesting she will relish the step up to 1600m perhaps more than her rival.
Her odds being at least twice that of Amphitrite gives one pause for thought, but drawn an inside gate may not be the best result for her racing style and manners.
Mystic Journey is the other filly in the race, second favourite and with good reason. She’s won six races in Tasmania, but we remember back to her dominant win at Caulfield in September which put her on the map.
It’s worth noting that Mystic Journey whipped Fundamentalist soundly at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day, and either side of that run Mystic Journey was Group 1 placed in the Thousand Guineas and Empire Rose Stakes. Fundamentalist was also on the heels of Amphitrite and Verry Elleegant two weeks ago, finishing third in the Vanity.
It’s easy to make the case that she’s the best filly in the race, and perhaps the best horse.
Onto the boys, and the CS Hayes is the traditional Australian Guineas lead-up for the colts and geldings, but it does appear to be second or even third tier form this time around.
The Inevitable, another Tassie horse, won the CS Hayes, and is the only horse out of the race you would want to follow heading into this assignment. He didn’t have things his own way, three wide in transit and pushed wide on the bend, but still reeled off the quickest last 400m of the race.
The Inevitable showed toughness to win a grind to the line with Age of Chivalry, who isn’t contesting the Australian Guineas. There were two lengths back to the chasing pack, which included O’Tauto, Ranier, Scottish Rogue, Chapada, Adana and Performer.
Also back in the ruck behind The Inevitable were Extra Brut and Stars of Carrum, the two colts than ran the quinella in the VRC Derby. We have seen their quality on display, and we know Extra Brut in particular loves Flemington, so they may be able to improve enough to look a place hope here, or even win if things go their way.
The Autumn Stakes looks the form reference on the boys’ side of the equation, and the trifecta from that race are fronting up.
Hawkshot, another ex-Weir runner now with Hayes, led the Autumn Stakes field a merry dance along in front and frankly bolted away with the race. Caulfield can be flattering in that respect, so the trick is working out how that sort of performance will translate to a higher quality field that is twice the size in a race being run at Flemington.
Dealmaker ran home in the quickest sectionals of the race for second. He has beaten The Autumn Sun home in the Stan Fox back in early September, but we saw in races like the Spring Champion and the Vase later that campaign, that he wasn’t really a top-liner. Perhaps he didn’t quite get 2000m though, and is more a 1400m-1600m horse.
Ringerdingding was third in the Autumn Stakes, subsequently running well behind Alizee in the Futurity Stakes, finishing right alongside horses like Le Romain and Brave Smash. And there is no doubt he’s a better horse at Flemington, so will relish getting back there after two runs at Caulfield.
Long Leaf is the interesting runner, having performed a successful hit-and-run mission over in New Zealand. He was solid behind Ringerdingding in the Sandown Guineas when they last clashed, and can’t be discounted as a place hope.
There is no horse in the race you’d call an out-and-out leader, even though some of them have done it at various stages. Mystic Journey has drawn the inside, which should enable her to sit in the second or third pair and track what the front-runners do.
1. Mystic Journey
4. The Inevitable
The Blamey Stakes is the main support race on the Australian Guineas card, with most attention being drawn to the return of Johannes Vermeer, who placed in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups last time we saw him. He resumes as a well-backed favourite, and it will be good to see his class on display.
Orr Stakes winner Manuel is also among the runners, as is 2017 Caulfield Guineas winner Mighty Boss, who truthfully hasn’t fired a shot since. Good old Tom Melbourne steps back a few levels after taking on Winx and Happy Clapper, but finally scored a win two starts back, so shouldn’t be forgotten.
Group 1 racing in two states is always exciting, as both Melbourne and Sydney carnivals hit full stride. Winx deserves all the attention up at Randwick, but there is plenty to look forward to at Flemington too.