This Saturday in Sydney is the first day of the championships, with an absolutely brilliant card of racing being assembled.
There are four Group 1s on the card, including the Sires Produce, Australian Derby, The TJ Smith and the Doncaster handicap, and every other race is at least at group level.
The weather prediction for Saturday is a brilliant 27 degrees and sunny, so get down to the track for one of Australia’s great race days.
The first race on the program is the Group 3 Kindergarten Stakes for the two-year-olds. It seems to be a two-horse race between both the Godolphin runners, and I sided with Bivouac. He beat Cosmic Force in the Lonhro Plate, who franked that form in the Pago Pago winning by seven lengths, and then finished two lengths off Yes Yes Yes and Bellevue Hill in the Todman, who both franked that form in the Golden Slipper, and the Baillieu Handicap. The soft or heavy track suits, and I expect him to be peaking here.
Athiri is the big danger. She beat Accession and Stronger on debut before running very well in both the Blue Diamond prelude and the Blue Diamond itself. She finished a length off Kiamichi in the Magic Night Stakes, who subsequently went on to win the Golden Slipper a fortnight ago. She gets in better at the weights as a filly, and she’ll be running very well. Evening Slippers ran a length off Bivouac on debut and then resumed with a tough win to break her maiden at Warwick Farm. She maps well to get a nice run on the speed.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 1 Bivouac.
The Carbine Club Stakes for the three-year-olds is the next race to analyse. It’s a very interesting race here, and I like two of them in this, but Fun Fact goes on top. He should have arguably won two starts back at Canterbury when he just never got a run at them, and I think Blake Shinn went too early on him last start at Kensington, and the horse did a good job to finish as close as he did. He’ll go to the lead or sit second behind Home Made in a race without much pace in it, and he loves the give in the ground. He’ll be hard to run down.
Ranier is the other one I’ll be backing. He came home well in the CS Hayes three starts back before going to the Australian Guineas, where nothing went right. He travelled three wide without cover in the Phar Lap Stakes on a heavy ten last start, and he maps to get a pretty nice run in the middle of the field. The August had a much-improved run last start at Hawkesbury behind Grimoire, and he maps to get a good run with the services of the Mauritian magician Karis Teetan on board.
Recommended bet: Each way plays on both No. 6 Fun Fact and No. 2 Ranier.
The Adrian Knox Stakes for the three-year-old Fillies at Group 3 level is the next on the card. I’m prepared to stick with the favourite in Amangiri here. She’s drawn the car park, but there doesn’t look to be an abundance of speed in the race, so I think she’ll get across okay. She’s been breathtaking in her last two starts, breaking her maiden at Kensington by three lengths, and then beating the older horses by five at Hawkesbury. She’ll enjoy the rise to the 2000 metres today, and she’ll be very hard to catch.
I’ll be saving on Romani Girl. She came home solidly at Kensington behind Eugene’s Pick two starts back and then ran really well off a tough run in the Kembla Grange Classic behind Pohutukawa and the now favourite for the derby, Frankly Awesome. She’ll get a good run in midfield and be letting down strongly in the straight.
Zalatte is a chance. She never got a run at them two starts back in the Surround Stakes behind Nakeeta Jane and she pulled up lame last start. If she’s at her peak fitness wise, she’ll be another one running on strongly.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 6 Amangiri with a saver on No. 10 Romani Girl.
The much anticipated Country Championship is the next on the program, over 1400 metres. I’m going to steer clear of the two favourites here, and I’ve landed on Unbiased. He draws out wide, but Mitchell Bell should be able to either get him a nice spot or drag him back to the rear of the field. He won the Gunnedah Cup with ease last preparation, and he resumed by winning the Tamworth qualifier in impressive fashion. Cody Morgan has obviously had him set for this type of preparation, and he loves the give in the ground. Good value.
Safe Landing is another at odds who can run well. He finished five lengths off them in the Goulbourn qualifier after travelling three wide without cover, and he got in after fading to finish second against Noble Boy at Muswellbrook. He draws to get a nice run on the speed, and he could prove hard to run down. Noble Boy is of course a chance. He’s won five from six, including a commanding victory in the Muswellbrook qualifier. I just can’t have him at the $3 quote.
Recommended bet: Very small each way plays on both No. 2 Unbiased and No. 8 Safe Landing.
The Chairman’s Quality Handicap at Group 2 level over 2600 metres for the stayers comes here in the fifth. I like two of them again here, but it’s hard to go past Supernova. He flashed home in his first Australian start at Rosehill to finish behind Sondelon and then absolutely destroyed them last start over 1900 metres at Rosehill again. He draws well again from barrier six and he can seemingly run well in all conditions. With even luck he’ll be very hard to beat even though he’s rising in grade.
Muntahaa is over the odds here. He won the Ebor at York before coming here for a Melbourne Cup tilt, where he was a long way off them, but he still beat more than half the field home. He was never going to win resuming in the Australian Cup over 2000 metres, but he steps up to a more suitable distance here, and he’s only ever missed a placing once from four tries when second up. He can run a good race at odds.
Goathland was unlucky last start when never getting a clear run and he’s won at this distance before. He’ll get a nice run just off the speed.
Recommended bet: Sizeable win bet on No. 19 Supernova with a saver on No. 1 Muntahaa.
The first of the Group 1s come in the sixth with the ATC Sires Produce for two-year-olds. I’m pretty keen on Castelvecchio at near double-figure odds. He was brilliant in the Inglis Millennium, beating Accession and Dawn Passage by two lengths, and he stormed home to finish third in the Skyline behind Microphone and Cosmic Force, where the race pattern just didn’t suit him. It’ll be a genuinely run race today, and that suits him, coming from back in the field.
Microphone has done nothing wrong this preparation. He won with relative ease in both the Talindert and the Skyline before running second in the Golden Slipper a fortnight ago. He’ll cross to get a nice run on the speed, and he only has to see out the 1400 metres to be a big danger.
If the track dries up, Tenley has to be given another chance. She was brilliant in the Reisling Stakes and was undefeated before not dealing with the heavy track In the Slipper. She’s another who will appreciate a genuine tempo.
Recommended bet: Sizeable each way bet on No. 1 Castelvecchio. Playing exotics around No. 1, No. 2, No. 13, No. 5 and No. 12.
The most intriguing race of the day in my view is the Australian Derby at Group 1 level for three-year-olds over 2400 metres. I like the two that ran second and third in the Victorian Derby in the spring, but Stars of Carrum goes on top. We can completely forget about his first two runs in this preparation, in which he was completely luckless, and he’s been impressive in his last two runs. He came home steadily in the Alister Clark behind Global Exchange, where he didn’t have much luck again, and I loved the way he hit the line in the Mornington Cup. He’s been set for this race all preparation, and Robbie Laing can get them peaking at the right time.
I’m in Chapada’s corner as well. He was very unlucky not to finish closer to the winner in the Derby last spring. We can again forget his run in the Australian Guineas, where he was posted even deeper than Stars of Carrum, and his run last start behind Arrogant and The Autumn Sun was the perfect lead up to this race. With even luck he’ll be hard to beat.
Madison County is a dual Group 1 winner in New Zealand and the pattern was against him last start in the Tulloch Stakes. He’ll appreciate getting out to the 2400, and he can run a big race.
Recommended bet: Each way bets on both No. 9 Stars of Carrum and No. 5 Chapada. Playing exotics around No. 9, No. 5, No. 2, No. 8 and No. 1.
The time-honoured TJ Smith Stakes is here in the eighth at Group 1 level underweight for age conditions. I’m going to be laying out a fair bit in this race, but I’m sticking with Santa Ana Lane. He was brilliant in the spring, winning the VRC Sprint Classic over basically all the horses he faces here, and his run resuming was full of merit considering he clearly wasn’t wound up. I liked his trial in the lead-up to this and he should strip a lot fitter. He’s overs at $7.50.
I’ll be backing Osborne Bulls as well. His run resuming was brilliant against In Her Time in the Lightning, and he was very unlucky not to have won after an average ride from Hugh Bowman in the Newmarket. He’s two from three third up and he’ll appreciate the solid tempo put on from the leading bunch.
Shoals does look overs as well. She’s had an interrupted preparation this time in but her run resuming behind Trapeze Artist was super. She trialled well behind Zousain and is another that will be running on.
Recommended bet: Backing both No. 3 Santa Ana Lane and No. 7 Osborne Bulls. Will exacta and quinella them as well, think their two that are a class above.
One of my favourite races on the calendar and another time-honoured race comes here in the form of the Doncaster Mile under handicap conditions. I’ve gone for some value here in the form of I Am Serious. Her run resuming was good when she narrowly missed White Moss in the Mille Fox and she had plenty of excuses when favourite in the Coolmore, being posted five wide with no cover. I’m willing to forgive that run, and her form from last preparation – she beat Dixie Blossoms, who won the Coolmore, and finished a length off Avilius, who most think is a top-five horse in the country – is good for this. If she gets a good run from barrier one, and she’ll be in it for a long way.
I’ll be siding with Hartnell again. He hit the line well in the Futurity and then was very unlucky not to finish closer to Mystic Journey after a bad ride from William Buick. He draws well from barrier seven, and his record in these handicap races is impressive. He’ll be hard to beat.
Fundamentalist can run a good race. She got pipped by The Autumn Sun last start and she’ll sit on the speed from barrier two. Don’t dismiss her.
Recommended bet: Each way plays on both No. 16 I Am Serious and No. 1 Hartnell.
The ‘get out’ stakes comes here in the last, with the PJ Bell Stakes at group three level over 1200 metres. Mizzy looks hard to beat here. She went well in the Surround Stakes behind Nakeeta Jane and Fundamentalist in a bunched finish and was far from disgraced finishing three lengths off them in the Coolmore Classic last start. She draws well from barrier eight, is rock-hard fit and has the best form lines in the race. Ticks a lot of boxes.
I’ll be saving on Laburnum. She came home well against Eugene’s Pick two starts back at Kensington before finishing half a length off Final Award in the Canberra Guineas. She’ll go back from the wide barrier and be running on strongly. Fiesta ran well in the Surround Stakes after being posted wide, and she had plenty of excuses in the Coolmore last start. She comes back to an ideal trip here and she’s another who will be running on well.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 9 Mizzy, with a saver on No. 15 Laburnum.
Best bet: Race 6, No. 1 Castelvecchio.
Second-best bet: Race 5, No. 19 Supernova.
Best value: Race 9, No. 16 I Am Serious.