Refreshed after a couple of weeks away from the racing circuit, I’m back in the saddle this weekend as the industry returns to the major tracks.
All roads may not exactly lead to Randwick, but the Rosehill leg of the autumn carnival always has the feel of being not much more than a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
This seemed even truer of this year’s meetings.
Indifferent weather and wet tracks marred some of the major events, and in general, very short-priced favourites or out-and-out roughies showed up in some important races, such that punters had a hard time finding good value runners with live chances.
The results of the Golden Slipper and Tancred Stakes illustrate the point.
Kiamichi probably paid more than she should have, but she certainly eluded most punters, while Avilius was odds-on in a terribly poor Tancred.
You are free to disagree, of course, but I for one am glad to be back at the great old course, where I just feel more confident in having a bet.
And while some have joined me in criticising certain aspects of carnival programming in recent times, there is little doubt that the ATC has served up a terrifically well-balanced and entertaining meeting for Saturday, and the swansong of Winx next week will be an absolute showstopper.
What struck me when first glancing over the field for this year’s Doncaster is the prominence of the mares.
Good mares are always competitive in the autumn Group Ones.
Winx and Black Caviar are the obvious examples, but looking back over the records of most of the big Sydney autumn races, the fairer equine sex has often shown up.
The Golden Slipper represents the most extreme example, with eight fillies having filled the last nine placings.
Back to the Doncaster, Alizee, Dixie Blossoms, Shillelagh, Unforgotten, Eckstein, Aloisia, I Am Serious, Fundamentalist and El Dorado Dreaming make up the best set of mares I have ever seen in this event, and while some certainly have stronger claims than others, I might just box them up in an exacta or quinella and see what happens.
I will definitely be having something each way on the Waller pair of Shillelagh and Unforgotten. Each will be well suited by coming back in distance from the 2000 metres to 1600 here.
The first of the main races, the Sires, is another great battle of the sexes.
Kiamichi takes on Microphone again, but plenty of those that finished out of the money in the Slipper – including some unlucky runners – will make it interesting.
I want to be on the newcomer to this class, Bellevue Hill. He won well last week, and the Waterhouse-Bott team know how to back up a horse within seven days. He just seems to be a tough type, likely to take the step to the next level.
The boys have it to themselves in the Derby, which is very much to be expected.
All the main players from the Victorian equivalent are here, and the presence of some New Zealand top-liners and a couple unproven at this distance or in this class makes for an interesting event.
However, the three-year-olds – in both the shorter and longer distances – are not quite up to the mark this season, and that while the Derby has depth, it does lack class.
I remember my surprise at seeing Stars of Carrum running away with the Vase on Cox-Plate day, but he held that form in finishing runner-up to Extra Brut a week later.
His run against older horses last start was good enough for him to make a forward showing on Saturday.
For even more value, and despite the terrible barrier, I will have a small wager on Aramayo, who looks as though he might stay.
The fillies and mares are back in force in the TJ Smith Stakes, which looks like a rerun of the Newmarket a month ago, and for that matter, last year’s Everest and Darley Classic.
In Her Time, who ran in all of those races, is the notable absentee, but Trapeze Artist is back and Sunlight is in outstanding form.
Shoals was excellent first up, and she is absolutely good enough, but she doesn’t appreciate too much moisture under foot, and she has flopped badly second up before.