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First up and full of confidence

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Roar Rookie
7th March, 2019
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What punters should do when horses are first up is one thing, but what about when the pundits are returning from a let up?

Wait and see might be the best advice, but then again, I think I have found a few attractive prospects on Saturday, some at value, the reader may wish to consider.

I have chosen to make my comeback on Newmarket-Handicap day, as it has something of an echo of Everest day to it that cannot be resisted.

Betting early in carnivals is always fraught with peril, but much of the Melbourne form is now exposed, such that punters have more in their favour. One carnival is at its apogee, while the other is just starting to hot up. Tantalising times indeed.

The strength of certain Group 1 races seems to fluctuate wildly from year to year, while some others can be relied upon to always deliver absolute quality.

The Newmarket Handicap and Australian Cup definitely fall into the latter category. Finding the winners of these perennial gems is challenging and rewarding in equal measure.

This year’s Newmarket has both class and depth. There are two ways of looking at the race. First, punters might look to the Darley Classic on the last day of the Melbourne-Cup carnival, where Santa Ana Lane and In Her Time ran the quinella.

Alternatively, Osborne Bulls and Eduardo are the untapped runners that are consistent and seem to improve from start to start. While there are other players, these four rightfully sit at the head of betting.

I want to back the up and comers and will do so with confidence. I have never been a Santa Ana Lane fan, and I just question whether he is good enough to win a Group 1 first up from a spell, never easy, and whether he is good enough to win two top-shelf Group 1s in successive starts.

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Similarly, In Her Time is gong for consecutive Group 1s in consecutive starts, and I just doubt her, especially at the 1,200 metres with the high weight. If I were a bookie, I would take her on.

Osborne Bulls and especially Eduardo are still ahead of the curve as far as handicapping is concerned. Osborne Bulls does everything right, and has a powerful finishing burst that always puts him in the picture.

Eduardo is the one, though, that really captured my attention in recent starts. He just keeps getting better, and his run in the Oakleigh Plate first up two weeks ago was stunning. Coming from an outside draw, he went forward and was the only horse to have done so that held on to the finish.

He handles the straight and has a more favourable draw here. At double-figure odds, he is an each-way bet to nothing. Whispering Brook is the other runner who needs to be considered for each-way betting and exotics.

Avilius clearly deserves favouritism in the Australian Cup later in the afternoon.

Jockey Glyn Schofield rides Avilius

Jockey Glyn Schofield rides Avilius (AAP Image/Simon Bullard)

He has been superb since his Melbourne-Cup failure, having twice beaten many of Saturday’s opponents.

This is definitely a significantly stronger race, and I don’t want to back Avilius at silly odds. The presence of two past Melbourne-Cup winners is one of many variables adding interest to the event.

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Trap for Fools was a brilliant second to Avilius in the Peter Young, and loves Flemington, at which he won the 2018 Mackinnon Stakes. You probably couldn’t back him here, though, if you missed him at $23 on that day.

Shillelagh is the runner I will be supporting. She was outstanding in the Myer Classic at this track on Derby Day, and while she failed in the Mackinnon a week later, she was clearly at the end of a long and gruelling preparation.

She has been trained very differently this time in, and there might be enough speed up front in this large field to give the real backmarkers a chance. Few horses in Australia have her finishing power, and if she can stay the 2,000 metres, the $21 is a steal.