How long will it take for Australian racing jurisdictions to bite the bullet and open their tracks on Good Friday?
A huge Saturday of racing awaits on day one of The Championships.
Yesterday we looked at the Doncaster Mile and the Sires, and today we look at a ripper TJ Smith Stakes and a capacity Australian Derby.
TJ Smith Stakes
What a race this has been over the years, with an honour roll comprising the best of the best. Chautauqua won this race three times and Black Caviar twice. Lankan Rupee, Takeover Target and Apache Cat are other recent winners over the last decade or so.
Trapeze Artist won this race last year in dominant fashion as a three-year-old and comes up favourite here after his Canterbury Stakes win a month ago. He can put in the odd underwhelming performance, but when he’s on song he doesn’t just win; he wins well.
His career average winning margin is just over two lengths, and when you consider four of those wins have been at Group 1 level and another two in black-type events, it gives you an idea of how talented he is.
Shoals, a three-time Group 1 winner herself, was second to Trapeze Artist in the Canterbury Stakes, just no match in the end against a potentially superior horse that also had a fitness edge. She is capable of turning the tables though, and remember she did start favourite in The Everest last spring.
Pierata was fifth in the Canterbury, settling behind Trapeze Artist and Shoals and unable to overtake them. He has since come out and run the closest possible second in The Galaxy to frank the form out of that event. He’s a proper Group 1 horse and is right in the mix.
Osborne Bulls has many admirers, a powerful sprinter with a finishing burst the envy of all. He does give top-class horses a start, though, which makes it hard to win, and his last three runs at the top level bear that out – third in the Everest, with seconds in the Lightning and Newmarket.
He’s been amazing in all those runs, coming from so far back.
Sunlight won that Newmarket and, taking out the William Reid subsequently, now has three Group 1 sprints to her name this season. She’s a remarkable filly, defying all others to catch her from the front, and it’s something that few horses are proving capable of.
Champagne Cuddles was a solid eighth behind Sunlight in the Newmarket, and she is a level below these. The same can be said for Fell Swoop, fifth in the William Reid behind the star filly, which is about his level.
One horse that was behind Sunlight in the Newmarket was Santa Ana Lane. He was first-up from his VRC Classic win (his fourth Group 1 victory) in the spring and put in a fine performance beaten a length and a half. He meets Sunlight four kilograms better for that defeat, which is enough to stamp him as a contender, and let’s not forget he won at the Randwick 1200-metre in September, against the likes of Trapeze Artist, Shoals, Redzel and In Her Time.
Speaking of Redzel, he is here as well, in the number one saddlecloth. He has two Everests under his belt as well as another two Group 1 wins, and he ran second in the TJ Smith last year. He’s not as consistent as he once was and needs to race right on the speed to produce his best.
With Sunlight, Ball of Muscle and Trapeze Artist engaged, the speed battle will be on, so Redzel won’t get his own way up front as he has in his two Everest wins.
Ball of Muscle is a tough old marvel who has been in career-best form this season with four wins from five starts. Those wins were all at Group 2 or Group 3 level, though, and it’s been three and a half years since he’s placed in a Group 1. Still, in this form he deserves his chance.
Vega Magic hasn’t been seen since running last in The Everest as an $11 chance, and he’s a hard one to place these days. Twice a Group 1 winner, he races sparingly and mixes his form, so can only be taken on trust. He generally races well fresh though.
As stated earlier, there is plenty of speed in the race, and backmarkers like Osborne Bulls and Santa Ana Lane will need it. Shoals and Pierata are a bit more versatile and can take a sit wherever depending on how the race plays out in the early stages.
With The Autumn Sun not contesting the Australian Derby, an open betting race is in front of us, but the champion colt still holds sway given the two horses that ran placings behind him in the Rosehill Guineas are the current market-elects.
Mike Moroney trains both Arrogant and Chapada, and both have shown that 2400 metres won’t be a problem, with the former running fourth in the New Zealand Derby and the latter with a third place in the VRC Derby.
Arrogant made The Autumn Sun work to beat him from an on-pace position last start, and Chapada closed off pleasingly behind the pair of them. They are particularly difficult to split.
Surely Sacred, Aramayo and Costello were fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in the Rosehill Guineas and aren’t quite at the level of the others with previous runs also confirming this.
Last week’s Tulloch Stakes provides half a dozen runners, with the most interest in the quinella of Angel of Truth and Madison County. Angel of Truth led all the way and just kept skipping along in the straight after a beautifully judged ride, while Madison County loomed as the winner but perhaps just battled to close out the race on the very heavy going.
Tasmanian Derby winner Cossetot was third in the Tulloch, having previously chased Global Exchange home twice, so the form does all tie together somewhat, but the bottomless track last week does muddy things up somewhat (pun intended).
In A Twinkling is one that could pop up and surprise at big odds given his distaste for wet ground. His good track runs in New Zealand have all been very good, so if we do get a dry track he’s one for multiples.
Global Exchange is sure to have admirers after three wins on the trot in Melbourne, races in which he has been asked to do it the hard way from the tail of the field. He looks the lightly race improver on the up, barrier eight is perfect, and Kerrin McEvoy is sure to give him every possible chance.
Declarationofheart was good behind Global Exchange last start in the Alastair Clark but just wasn’t as strong at the end of 2040 metres as the winner. He’s got some ability though.
Stars of Carrum is the interesting runner, coming off a Mornington Cup fourth against the older horses. Before that he was fourth behind Global Exchange in the Alastair Clark and could have finished closer. He ran the quickest 400 metres to 200 metres in that race and ran second in the VRC Derby in the spring.
Extra Brut won the VRC Derby but hasn’t fired a shot in two Flemington runs this prep and is now five weeks between runs into this. It’s hard to see him figuring, and he needs it dry.
The Australian Derby can often be so hard to assess, with wet tracks in the lead-up and with form from Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand to consider. Sometimes it pays not to overlook the obvious, and the best form behind the best horse is what stands out.