This Saturday we head to Flemington, for the inaugural edition of the $5 million All Star Mile.
There’s been a lot of conjecture about the race, with the likes of Urban Ruler and Balf’s Choice being in the field, but all in all it is a stellar field, with the likes of Happy Clapper, Hartnell, Alizee, Mystic Journey and to a lesser extent, Hawkshot and Amphitrite racing against each other.
The support card isn’t brilliant, but we’ve still got a nine-race card, with the only other headline event being the listed VRC March Stakes over 1400 metres.
The weather gods will shine down on Melbourne, with it being predicted to be 27 degrees and sunny. Head down to the track and support Victorian racing!
The first on the program is a Mares Plate over 1200 metres down the straight. Pretty good race here, with a few group level performers resuming, and others going through their grades, but Clarice Cliffs looks like the one to beat in an open race.
She won well at Pakenham over La Tigeresa, who has won since, and then went on to destroy them at Pakenham by six lengths in a Benchmark 70 over 1200 metres.
She stepped up to 1400 metres at Group 1 level, which was always a concern, and she just couldn’t catch the leader in Oregon’s Day, going down by half a length. She comes back to a Mares race, and at this stage of her career, her optimal distance in 1200 metres, and she should be very hard to beat.
Just Hifalutin shapes as the biggest danger. Her form this preparation has been really solid. Admittedly, she had no excuses first up at Caulfield behind Chatuchak, but she just isn’t a horse that goes well fresh.
Since then, she’s been brilliant, storming home to beat Well Sprung on the line down the straight in a Benchmark 84 handicap. Then she was unlucky last start at Group 3 level, where she never really got any room down the straight, but still hit the line hard to run just under two lengths away.
She should get a nice run with cover, and if the leaders like Moon Lover and Quilista overdo it in front, she’ll be the one growing wings on that outside fence. I like the form out of the Geoffrey Bellmaine Stakes, and that’s why Fuhryk is the best of the rest.
She ran well resuming in that race at Caulfield, going down by a neck to Princess of Queens, and she was just outclassed in a good edition of the Oakleigh Plate last start. She’s two from three third up, and I can see her running well here.
Recommended bet: #5 Just Hifalutin represents the best value at $7, but I’m staying out of this one.
Probably the second-best race on the card here, a super vobis three-year-old handicap race over 1400 metres. Pretty open race, but it’s hard to go past Jumbo Ozaki.
He just looks like a group horse, this Phillip Stokes-trained Gelding. His debut win was one of the best you’ll ever see, winning by seven lengths in a Pakenham maiden, running a ridiculously fast time.
He then went to Bendigo in a Benchmark 64 race over 1300 metres, and put the foot down when he needed to and went straight past Thelburg to win by just over a length, eased down on the line.
He gets in well at the weights, draws well from barrier three and with even luck, he should be hard to beat here.
I’ll be saving on Cristal Eyes. She’s come back really well this preparation, beating Hawkestone by a length over 1200 metres at Pakenham, and then beating Mossbelle in a Benchmark 70 at Moonee Valley. She was hardly touched in either of those wins, and apart from the favourite, she’s got the most upside of any horse in this field.
She draws well from barrier five to do no work in the run, and she’ll relish the step up to 1400 metres.
Blinder is the best of the rest. He’s had his hard luck stories in his first preparation. He ran four wide the trip at Sandown behind River Jewel, and finished less than a length off them, and then got a better run in transit at Caulfield and beat Nocconi Poni.
He ran three wide again at Flemington in a Benchmark 70 last start and finished a neck away from O’tauto, which is obviously a good form reference. He’s had a freshen up since that run, and draws a lot better in barrier two here. Not without a chance.
Recommended bet: Each-way bet on #4 Cristal Eyes.
We get to the first group race on the program here, with the Group 3 Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes over 1200 metres down the straight, for the two-year-old fillies.
Pretty open race here, like most of these two-year-old races, but I’m siding with Flit for James Cummings and Godolphin. This filly is well bred, by Medaglia D’Oro and out of Glissade, and she looks promising. She trialled well at Werribee, running second to She Shao Fly, and she had absolutely no luck on debut at Bendigo, behind some smart ones in Cheer Leader, who was unlucky not to win a couple of weeks ago down the straight, and Fact or Fable who had excuses last start.
She never got a run at them in that race, but once she steadied up, we saw her finishing power over the last hundred metres. From barrier ten, she should go back and get cover off of a hot tempo in front, and she shapes as one of the better bets on the program.
Talented is the obvious danger. The form around her stacks up brilliantly. She beat La Tene by two lengths on debut at Geelong, who went on to win the Sires Produce at Group 2 level last week, and then come to Flemington down the straight and finished second, two lengths behind Microphone.
She’s had a month break since then, and draws well from the outside gate to get some cover in the run and try to run over them late. Good chance.
Favourite Things is an outside chance. She’s done a lot wrong in the Talindert behind Microphone and Talented, but she got going towards the end of that race.
She was beaten by Pelican last start at the Valley over this trip, but Pelican had a much better run that day getting cover from a very strong wind, and the tables can easily be turned here.
Recommended bet: Good sized each way bet on #12 Flit.
The fourth on the program is a three-year-old Fillies Plate, at set weights.
I’m very keen on Schilldora. This filly out of the Richard Jolly Yard is just a very good horse.
She beat Wrecking Crew at Morphettville last preparation, before coming to Flemington to run in the group three Red Roses Stakes, where she finished under half a length away, and Jake Toeroek didn’t have any room to ride her in the last fifty metres.
She resumed in a three-horse field at Morphettville and won by three lengths. Then came to Melbourne again, in the Typhoon Tracy Stakes at the Valley, and got caught three wide, but still kept coming to the line to finish two lengths off Embrace Me and Spanish Whisper.
I would have preferred her to have drawn wide, but she’s the best horse in this race by a fair margin, and will show it on Saturday.
Aperitif seems the main danger. She beat Luskintyre Lass three starts back at Canterbury by a length, who has since gone on to win two races and finish second at Randwick, and her first Melbourne run behind Crack the Code shapes well for this race.
She’s done her best work late, chasing to finish just over a length away, and there will be a hot tempo up front today. She won’t have any excuses with Hugh Bowman on board.
Assertive Play is next best. She was unlucky in the William Crockett last preparation, running under a length off them after being four wide the trip, and she just never got a run at them in the Red Roses Stakes. Not out of it.
Recommended bet: Pretty sizeable win bet on #3 Schilldora. $4 is a steal.
The grand Classic Handicap is the fifth on the card, for the budding stayers over 2000 metres.
You won’t find a more open race than this one, and I’ve landed on Humbolt Current in a dartboard job. He won three from four last preparation in England, before coming out to Australia as an import into the Waller Stable.
He was held up around the turn at Moonee Valley in his first Australian run but chased well behind Paremuus Boy, and then he went to Sandown and chased home well, to finish just under four lengths off the winner.
He got too far back in that race, and he should be able to get some cover and sit closer in the run. He’ll appreciate the rise to 2000 metres and be hard to hold out.
Wetakemanhattan may be the best horse in this race, but the big query is the 2000 metres. His form is good, running under two lengths away, finishing second to Surprise Baby, who went on to win the Adelaide Cup on Monday, at the Valley two starts back and then won with ease at Warrnambool over 1700 metres.
He draws well, and if he can see out a strong 2000 metres, he’s probably the one to beat. Supernova is the best of the rest, but barrier 15 is a concern. He won two from four in England, before coming to Australia for the Hawkes stable.
His run at Rosehill, finishing second behind Sondelon, and beating Kolding home, Is a very good form reference for this. His last 200-metre sectionals that day were tremendous, and if Dunn can get him across early, he’ll beat these, but we aren’t getting much of a price to find out.
Recommended bet: Something small each way on #5 Humbolt Current. Not overly keen to invest here.
The grand Handicap Mile is next up, being a Benchmark 80. This race doesn’t have any business being on this card, but there’s still a winner to be found, and I like the import in Mr Reckless, having his first run in Australia.
I don’t usually go for the imports, especially when having their first runs on Australian soil, but his form overseas is too hard to ignore here.
He won a rating 95 race over 2300 metres before coming out here, and he goes pretty well on a good track which faces him here.
His trial at Cranbourne in the lead up to this run was outstanding, handling his rivals with ease under minimal pressure. He draws wide but should get a nice spot back in the field off of a hot tempo, and $8 is good enough for me.
Hussy’s Glow seems overs in this market. She ran really well at Flemington two starts back, finishing a length off Pure Scot after having to come off heels two or three times down the straight.
She got too far back at Sandown, but bar the winner came home to finish under two lengths off them. From barrier six she should get a lovely run in a race set up for the swoopers, and the three-kilogram claim helps.
Main Stage is the best of the rest. He resumed at Pakenham after a long break, where he finished half a length off Simply Invincible who beat Hussy’s Glow by four lengths the start before.
He never got a run at them in the Blamey after getting chopped off at the 200-metre mark. The wide barrier is a major concern, and it’ll take a good ride from Craig Williams, but he will be coming home well, dropping in class.
Recommended bet: Each-way bet on #6 Mr Reckless.
One of the better races on the program is the VRC March Stakes at listed level over 1400 metres.
I’m pretty keen on Zebulon here at around the $7 quote. He ran in and won good races as a three and four-year-old, but due to injuries only had the three starts in a period of about three years.
He resumed after a 91-week break at Flemington, coming home nicely to finish two lengths off Streets of Avalon, and then hit the line really well at this track and distance last start in a group three behind Violate. He probably needed those two runs after such a long layoff and should be cherry ripe for this race at this stage of his campaign.
He draws to do no work from barrier two, and with even luck, he looks very hard to hold out late.
Manolo Blahniq is the one I’ll be saving on. He draws very wide here in barrier eighteen, but with Zebulon, he’s probably the best horse in the race.
He travelled three wide in the Chester Manifold and was still too strong late over Holbein and Takedown, and then went to the John Dillon and had absolutely no luck, only getting out at the 100-metre mark to flash home for second.
It’ll take a good ride from Dwayne Dunn, but if he can get him across and with some cover, he probably wins.
Hellova Street is the best of the rest. He draws wide from barrier 16 and may have to do some work to get across to the front, but he’s as tough as they come.
He finished half a length off Mystic Journey two starts back, before winning by a length in the listed Mowbray Stakes at Launceston. He’ll be hard to run down.
Recommended bet: Sizeable each way play on #13 Zebulon, with a saver on #12 Manolo Blahniq.
The feature of the Melbourne Autumn Carnival comes here in the eighth, which is, of course, the All Star Mile. What a race it is.
I’m steering clear of the favourite in Alizee (maybe to my detriment) and am backing two of them in this. One of them is the clear second elect in Mystic Journey. She is just an absolute star.
She won the Fillies Classic over Fundamentalist last preparation, who nearly beat the Autumn Sun last week, before winning three from three this preparation.
She won with ease over Hellova Street two starts back in the Thomas Lyons Stakes at Hobart, and then come to the big smoke and dominated the rest of the field in the Australian Guineas.
She beat both Amphitrite and Hawkshot in that race, so it’s hard to see them turning the tables, and the widest barrier is an advantage in this race. Even if she sits three wide but gets some cover, she minimises the chances of getting held up by tiring horses, and she should have no excuses.
The old boy in Hartnell is the one I’ll be saving on. He resumed in the Expressway, in what was basically a glorified trial, as he was never winning against those types over 1200 metres, and then he came to Caulfield in the Futurity, where he went down by a length to Alizee.
He was posted four wide with no cover in that race and was still doing his best work late, which bodes well for this run over the mile.
He’s five from nine third up, with two seconds, and the mile is definitely his ideal distance. He’ll make his own luck on the speed from barrier two, and be very hard to hold out.
Hawkshot is the best of the rest. His win in the Autumn Stakes over Deal Maker and Ringerdingding was breathtaking, leading all the way, and winning by nearly four lengths.
He tried to do the same thing in the Australian Guineas, and beat everything bar Mystic Journey. He had to do a lot of work in the run that day from the widest barrier, but he draws brilliantly from barrier four and he’ll be in front for a long way.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #13 Mystic Journey, with a saver on #2 Hartnell. Will also play exotics around #2, #13, #12 #1 and #4.
The last on the program, commonly known as the ‘get out’ is the Grand Handicap Sprint over 1200 metres down the straight at Benchmark 80 level.
It’s a wide open race, but I’ve landed on one at odds in Villa Sarchi. I’m prepared to give him a chance here up in class and down the straight. The form around him this preparation has been fantastic, running a length behind Makahu Boy and Our Gladiator at the Valley, and then running under two lengths off Redcore at Sandown.
He got the worst part of the track last start at Pakenham, and still came home strongly to finish a length and a half off River Jewel. He’ll need some luck in the run, but he has untapped potential, and at the $15 quote I’m happy enough to find out whether he can break through to win a black type race here.
Mastering is at rock-bottom odds at $3.40, but he looks a very good chance here. He beat everyone home bar the talented Usain Bowler down the straight three starts back and then hung on to win over Harbour Grey over 1400 metres at Caulfield.
He travelled six wide at this track last start, and duly finished last. He’s had a six-week break since then, and his trial win over Miss Siska and Silentz was encouraging.
He maps to get a lovely run, and the appointment of Damien Oliver is an asset. Blue Tycoon, at odds, is next best. The form around him this preparation has been pretty solid, running two lengths behind Greyworm at the Valley, and then a length against Rox the Castle in his next start.
He failed off of a hot speed at the Valley last start, but for a 1200-metre race, there doesn’t look to be much speed on, and he could prove hard to run down.
Recommended bet: Each way bet on #12 Villa Sarchi, and playing exotics around #12, #5, #4, #2 and #6 to finish the day off with a bang.
Best bet: Race 4, #3 Schilldora.
Second-best bet: Race 8, #13 Mystic Journey.
Best value: Race 3, #12 Flit.
Best roughie: Race 9, #12 Villa Sarchi.