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.
This Saturday, we stay at headquarters, which is of course Flemington, for one of the biggest days in Australian racing.
It’s the time honoured Australian Cup which is the feature of the card, with another brilliant Group 1 race in the Newmarket Handicap as a Co main event of sorts.
We’ve got a nine-race card, with three other group races, including two Group 2s, led by the Sires Produce for the two year olds. The first race is at 12:15pm, and the last race is at 5:20pm.
The bureau predicts it to be a lovely day in Melbourne, with it being 25 degrees and sunny, so get down to the track!
The first on the card is a Benchmark 90 Handicap over 1000 metres down the straight. It’s a really open race here, with a lot of different form lines coming into it, but I landed on the Trevor Rogers trained Mystyko.
He’s been in brilliant form this preparation, winning three from five with the other two races being seconds. He raced in a similar race to this last start and went down by under a length to a smart one in Intuition, and he’s trialled well in the lead up to this run after having a three week layoff.
He gets in well at the weights, and from barrier five he should sit on the speed, and be hard to beat.
King Of Yulong looks like one of the big threats. He’s form in England before coming out here was brilliant for a race like this, winning at both Listed Level and group two level over similar distances. If he’s acclimatised well and brings that form to this race in his Australian debut, he’ll win, but of course, it’s a big if.
Malahat looks to be the best of the rest. He’s came back in really good order this preparation, narrowly missing against Badajoz, and then beat Jungilized at Rosehill over 1100 metres in a Benchmark 94 last start. From barrier one he could be left alone, and will be storming home late.
Recommended bet: Each way bet on No.7 Mystyko.
We’ve got Benchmark 84 handicap over 1400 metres here, in what is a pretty good race with some progressive types going around. Greyworm draws wide, but he looks very hard to beat here. He’s never missed the top three in just his five career starts, and he’s come back well again this preparation.
He won at the Valley when resuming with a leg in the air in a Benchmark 70 handicap, and then he done everything wrong at the Valley, and still only missed by a neck to a fancied runner in this race in Rox the Castle. He should be ready to peak in his preparation third up, and as long as Dwayne Dunn can get him some cover in the run, he’ll be very hard to beat.
Bravo Tango can run a good race here. He’s been going really well this preparation, winning two from three, including a second against Tin Hat. He beat Declarationofheart with relative ease at Sandown two starts back, which is obviously a very strong form line for this, and then raced up on the speed against his normal pattern at Sale to win a fortnight ago over Toy Boy and Kazio who are in this race. He’ll go back in the field and appreciate a solid tempo up front.
Antah is the best of the rest. He’s been really good since coming from Tasmania, winning three from four. He beat Kaching two starts back at Caulfield who is a good horse, and then got pipped on the line by Thunder Cloud over the mile. He drops in distance today, and he is another who will appreciate a solid tempo up front.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No.7 Greyworm.
The third on the program is a Benchmark 90 handicap over 2000 metres, for either the old or progressive stayers. I’m going to look outside of the favourite here in Thunder Cloud as I don’t think he’s any value at the $3, and I’ve landed on Prince Ziggy on an each way basis.
He’s been up for a long time in this preparation, but you couldn’t have asked for anything more from him, winning four from nine and never running outside of the top three. He comes through the best form race, in this race, finishing a neck behind the ultra-talented Schabua and Looks like Elvis. He maps beautifully to get a lovely suck run behind the leaders, and he’ll be hard to beat.
Tarquin at good odds is right in this. He carries a lot more weight than last start, which is the big concern, but apart from that his form has been as good as any in this race. He beat the Adelaide Cup favourite in Bondeiger three starts back at Caulfield, before getting on the wrong part of the track at Colac in the cup.
He battled on well behind Sikandarabad last start, and he should sit on the speed in a race without much tempo. He can give them some cheek.
Exemplar is the unknown in the field. His form in Ireland and England is hard to ignore. He ran under a length off Yucatan and Latin Beat who have both went well in Australia, and he beat U.S Army Ranger home in a group three. Can go well.
Recommended bet: Small each way bets on both No.12 Prince Ziggy and No.1 Tarquin. Playing exotics around No.1, No.12, No.3, No.6 and No.5.
The first listed race on the program comes here in the fourth, with the Moomba Plate for the three-year-olds over 1100 metres down the straight. Another open race here and I think I’ve found some value in the form of Krone. She went well over these distances as a two year old, winning at listed level ahead of Humma Humma in Adelaide, which shows she go well over this distance.
She was running in better races than this last preparation, running second in the Edward Manifold at this track over a mile, and then finishing fourth in the Fillies Classic behind Mystic Journey and Fundamentalist. She’s only ever missed a placing once when fresh from three tries, and the wide barrier will give her plenty of time to wind up. Good chance.
Bold Arial is another at odds who can go well here. She won well here in January at Benchmark 70 grade, and then followed that up with her running two lengths off the talented Crack the Code. She came home okay in a brilliant race in the Inglis Millennium, and she seems to be flying under the radar here. Chance.
Bleu Roche is the best of the rest. She’s got similar form lines to Sunset Watch, who is the favourite here, but she’s got a big fitness edge over him, and should be ready to peak third up. It could be her day.
Recommended bet: Again, something small on the two value chances in No.5 Krone and No.9 Bold Arial. Playing exotics around No.5, No.9, No.3 and No.1.
The first group two on the card is upon us, and what a brilliant race it is, The Sires Produce over 1400 metres for the two-year-olds. It’s a really open race with all but two or three horses having claims, but I’ve landed on La Tene.
She ran three and four wide the trip at Geelong three starts back and lost to Talented, and then she was beaten by Royal Discreet who was brilliant on debut at Sandown. She showed a lot of fight at Sandown last start to hold off Outlandos and WhyKayoh who are both in this race. There doesn’t look to be much pace on up front in this race, so she should get a lovely run on the speed, and she definitely won’t go down without a fight. $14 seems well overs.
I’ll be saving on She Shao Fly. She’s only had the two career starts, though she won really well on debut ahead of Lady Naturaliste, who went on to win at listed level in Adelaide last Saturday, so that form has been franked.
She then came home really well at the Valley when she got a little bit lost around the bend, and she only finished half a length off the winner in Pelican. She draws to do no work, and should get a lovely run behind the speed. Will storm home.
Really Discreet is the best of the rest. She didn’t trial well at all, but she was amazing on debut, coming from last to win easily, against my top selection here in La Tene. A repeat of that performance would see her go very close here, but the barrier worries me slightly, and I’d rather see her second up.
Recommended bet: Each way bet on both No.10 La Tene and No.11 She Shao Fly. Will be playing exotics around No.10, No.11, No.12, No.1 and No.4.
We get to the first feature of the day, The Newmarket Handicap over 1200 metres down the Flemington straight. I’m going with In Her Time to make it back to back Group 1 wins.
She ran under half a length off Santa Ana Lane twice last preparation, one of them coming in the Premiere Stakes, and then most noticeably in the VRC Sprint Classic. She resumed in the best possible fashion, winning her first Group 1 in the Lightning over the fast finishing Osborne Bulls, and she has the fitness edge over Santa Ana Lane today.
She draws out wide which is advantageous, and she should get cover behind a hot speed. She’ll be hard to beat again.
Santa Ana Lane is the best horse in the race by a fair way, after winning four of his last six runs, including three Group 1s, including that VRC Classic win against In Her Time. The big question mark is whether he is fully wound up for this race. They want to take him to Royal Ascot later in the year, which would indicate he might not be ready, but pure talent will take him a long way in this.
Encryption is the blowout chance. I’ve been a big fan of this horse for a while now, and he gets that all important weight relief because he is a three year old. He came home well in the W.J Adams resuming against Bons Away, and then closed off strongly to finish under a length away from Booker, and beat the well fancied Eduardo home. He draws out wide which is a positive, and he should get a lovely run into the race. It could be his day on Saturday.
Recommended bet: Each way bets on both No.6 In Her Time and No.2 Santa Ana Lane. Exotics pull will be huge, so I’ll be playing exotics around No.6, No.2, No.19, No.4 and No.20.
We’ve got a group two in the seventh, for the three year old fillies over 1400 metres. Kenyan Wonder shapes as one of the better bets on the program, coming over from South Australia.
She hasn’t missed the top three in any of her four starts, which have included two wins at Morphettville. She finished as powerfully as you’ll see a horse finish two starts back when beating Counter Drive. Last starts win against an honest sprinter in Kemalpasa went under the radar, as she showed her finishing power yet again to stride clear in the latter stages of the race.
She’ll appreciate the rise to 1400 metres, and the break neck speed they’ll go at out in front, and Corey Parish should be able to produce her down the straight to add the third picket in the fence. Angelic Ruler is a danger. She won three from four in Western Australia this preparation, including a win at listed level over this trip, and her first run in Melbourne was full of merit.
She couldn’t go with Qafila down the straight at Caulfield last start, but she also beat Zoubo who is at the $9 quote here. She’ll sit back in the field off of a genuine tempo, and she’ll be hard to hold out.
The Closer is the best roughie. Her last win of her last preparation was pretty good for this, leading all the way at Ballarat to beat Winning Partner and Bricktop by nearly three lengths. She faded behind Amphitrite and Fundamentalist in a much better race than this, and she improved rapidly second up last preparation. Can give them some check out in front.
Recommended bet: Each way bet on No.9 Kenyan Wonder.
We finally get to the feature of the program, which is the Australian Cup of 2019, over 2000 metres under weight for age conditions. I think Avillius will have a legitimate claim to being the best horse in Australia next month when Winx retires. After being eased down in the Melbourne Cup of last year, he’s come back a much more matured and stronger horse.
His win resuming in the Carlyon Cup was impressive over Sikandarabad and Night’s Watch, and then he backed that up with another dominant win over Trap for Fools and Ace High in the Peter Young Stakes. The only query is barrier one, but if Bowman can see clean air in the straight, it’s hard to see him losing.
If there is a danger, it’s Ace High. He’s found some form this preparation, finishing three lengths behind Avillius, and then finishing two lengths away in the Peter Young last start. He will sit on the speed and get a nice run in the race, and he’ll relish the rise to 2000 metres.
Almandin is the unknown in the race. The Melbourne Cup winner resumes here, after winning the Tancred Stakes at Group 1 level last preparation. He’s only missed the placings once from six tries fresh, and he draws to do no work. Looks overs.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No.7 Avillius. Hard to beat.
The lucky last on the program is at group three level for the fillies and mares over the mile. I’ll be backing two horses in this race, and one of them is the marginal favourite in Naantali.
She’s been going well this preparation, beating Ocean Deep and Abyssinian in a Benchmark 84 handicap over 1400 metres. She then backed that up with a big rise in grade, going to the Mannerism at group three level, where she ran four wide with no cover for the whole race, and still managed to get within a length of the winner in Jamaican Rain.
She seemed to be still going better than most of rivals, so she’ll have no problem with the mile, and she draws all the favours from barrier three. She’ll be hard to beat. I’ll be saving on the Hayes and Dabernig runner Futooh. She’s at a silly price here. She had really good closing sectionals resuming against Crack the Code over 1200 metres in the Kevin Hayes Stakes, and then nothing went right last start in the Angus Armanasco.
She was bulding into the race nicely until she was held up at the 300 metre mark, causing her to lose all her momentum in what was a forget run. She should be peaking third up in her preparation, and with even luck, she’ll be hard to hold out at the $14 quote.
Spanish Reef is the best of the rest. She resumed at Caulfield at group three level over 1200 metres and was caught three wide for the entirety, and still hit the line hard. She then had to change directions a few times in the straight, in the Mannerism, and she hit the line really hard again. She’ll sit on the speed and as long as Mark Zahra can get her across in the run, she’ll be running on strongly.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No.10 Naantali, with a saver on No.6 Futooh.
Best bet: Race 7, No.9 Kenyan Wonder
Second best: Race 8, No.7 Avillius
Best value: Race 4, No.5 Krone
Best roughie: Race 9, No.6 Futooh