Group 1 racing returns to the calendar this Saturday with the running of the Winx Stakes (1400 metres) at Randwick.
A new racing season has begun and the countdown is on until Australia’s greatest race, The Everest, I mean the Melbourne Cup…
However, if the rumour mill is any guide, the spring carnival might be rocked before the first Group 1 race of the 2019-20 calendar.
Multiple racing journalists appear to be circling around a story that involves the Racing Victoria integrity department.
While no announcement has been made yet, if the rumours are true, several high-profile participants could be sitting out for a lengthy period.
For the sake of the sport, I hope the rumour mill is wrong. Racing has a coloured history, but in a changing world, the industry can’t afford many more self-inflicted blows.
Watch this space.
In the meantime, after a winter break, I’m back in the chair to look at some of the key races each Saturday with my thoughts and advice.
Just I have done in the past, I’ll be keeping a running tally of the profit/loss (hopefully the former) from my selections.
Moonee Valley (VIC)
The track is rated Soft 5 at the time of writing. Rail true for the entire circuit. Note: This is the first meeting at The Valley since March.
Race 2 at 12:35 pm – $135,000 three-year-old fillies handicap (1000m)
An eight-horse race with a ton of speed on paper should make for a competitive race. Most of these have blacktype form, so it’s one of the stronger early three-year-old races you’ll see in early August. Favourite Jedastar was outclassed in the Lightning Stakes back in February, but she’s well back in class and looks the likely leader.
She will be hard to beat if she’s wound up for this assignment. Tasmanian raider Mystical Pursuit is unbeaten on the Apple Isle and comes into the race on the back of two trial wins. She has drawn barrier one, which could be a blessing or a hindrance. She won’t lead, but she could get a gun run into it and, with luck, could be there at the finish.
The horse I like at reasonable odds is Taraayef. She was too keen on debut at Sandown but raced much better second-up when a dominant winner. I’d imagine jockey Luke Nolen will stalk the speed and look to finish over the top. With two runs under her belt and natural improvement, she could be the winner.
Suggested bet: Taraayef (6) to win.
Race 8 at 4.25pm – $125,000 Benchmark 84 Handicap (1200m)
Very keen on a horse that is first-up, although has enjoyed a jump-out prior to this. The Kerry Edwards-trained Rox The Castle is unbeaten at Moonee Valley from two attempts and has four wins from six starts over 1200m. He handles good and soft ground (as well as heavy) which is what you want on what could be a shifty surface.
His first-up record is sound but not brilliant, but he should be suited to a genuine tempo on Saturday. There looks to be enough speed in the race for jockey Jack Martin to take a sit about two pairs off the lead and make a run for it at the 400m mark. I just hope the instruction isn’t to lead or sit outside the leader.
While I think Rox The Castle is the best horse in the race, I don’t want him to work too hard first-up. I’m expecting Tavisian to roll to the front from a wide gate and take control. Hopefully Sheriff John Stone also wants to lead or be on the pace.
Suggested bet: Rox The Castle (7) to win.
Track rated Heavy 9 at the time of writing. Rail true for the entire circuit.
Race 2 at 12.20pm – $120,000 Benchmark 70 Handicap (1200m)
There’s a short-price favourite here who I think will be hard to beat. The Chris Waller-trained True Detective was impressive enough in his first attempt on a heavy track last time at Rosehill. But not impressive enough to be around the $2 mark.
I thought the best value on the card was perennial bridesmaid Lifetime Quest. Trained by Kris Lees, this four-year-old has one win and five second placings from six starts, but is on the biggest track in his short career and racing on a bog track for the first time. Normally I wouldn’t go near a horse having their first run on a wet track, but Lifetime Quest’s dam was a mudder and the breeding chart suggests he can handle it.
I think at the $5.50 or $6 mark he’s great value in a market dominated by a horse with two career starts that were both decided by small margins.
Suggested bet: Lifetime Quest (5) to win.
Race 6 at 2.45pm – $125,000 Benchmark 78 Handicap (1800m)
Eight runners at the time of writing, and some of these will struggle to beat home the ambulance. European import Attention Run won on debut in Australia a month ago in similar conditions and I like that Chris Waller has given him four weeks between runs.
He should be improved from that and will be harder to beat. The Gai Waterhouse-trained Light Exceed is the danger and could lead all of the way, but I’m just hoping he’s a bunny for my pick.
Suggested bet: Attention Run (1) to win.
Race 7 at 3.25pm – $125,000 Open Handicap (1300m)
Favourite Haunted should be hard to beat in a more suitable race but I think he’s worth taking on at the price. He’s clearly the best horse, but this is a trickier race than you’d expect in early August. The horse I think could run a race at odds is import Milk Man.
While he wouldn’t be suited to the 1300m, Australian trainers don’t mind running a middle-distance horse first-up over a shorter trip. The former French horse also won a recent trial and should be suited by the wet ground. I think he’s worth a gamble.
Suggested bet: Milk Man (5) to win.