It must be AFL grand final weekend because that means Friday night racing at Moonee Valley, and Group 1 racing at that.
The $1 million Moir Stakes (1000m) has drawn a crack field of sprinters to scamper around the tight track and it should be a brilliant spectacle. The race is scheduled to jump at 9.30pm so set your alarms and strap yourselves in.
A reminder that there’s Group 1 racing at both Rosehill on Saturday and Caulfield on Sunday as well.
I’ll preview some races for those meetings later in the week, but here’s a horse-by-horse preview of the main event on Friday night. Good luck if you’re having a flutter.
1. Ball Of Muscle (3)
Trainer: Joseph Pride
Jockey: Glyn Schofield
I don’t think he can win, but he’s going to be a key player in this race. We know he’s going to lead or be right up there on the pace, especially from barrier three. If he crosses Nature Stripe when they jump, which I suspect he will, there’s a chance the favourite gets boxed in. In this race last year he ran last after failing to get the lead, so I’m expecting Glyn Schofield to try and find the front at all costs on Friday night. Ultimately, I feel he’ll get run over in the straight.
2. Trekking (11)
Trainer: James Cummings
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
The winner of the Stradbroke in June resumes from a spell here and this is probably the toughest race he’s face in his 20-start career. He’s reasonably firm in the market and is going to appreciate the genuine tempo, but I’m concerned that he’s going to be short of a gallop in this high-pressure event. In the winter he was a Group 3 horse before going on to win the Stradbroke. Not saying he can’t win, but I think he’s too short in the market to be backing with confidence.
3. The Bostonian (13)
Trainer: Tony Pike
Jockey: Damian Lane
A favourite of mine because he always puts in when in Australia. He won back-to-back Group 1s in the Brisbane winter carnival before flopping in the Straddy. He’s drawn wide, but that’s OK because he’s the kind of horse that likes to settle off the pace anyway. The Kiwi’s first-up record is impeccable and providing he’s travelled well, you’d have to think he’s going to be in the finish here.
4. Faatinah (15)
Trainers: David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig
Jockey: Jamie Kah
Was a good winner at this track earlier in the month, but this is a bigger step up in class. However, he’s in the right stable and a win wouldn’t completely shock. The outside barrier is going to be the biggest challenge, though. I don’t think Jamie Kah is going to be able to get in a good enough spot early to be a challenge at the finish. But if luck goes her way, don’t be surprised to see Faatinah there at the end. One for trifectas at odds.
5. Nature Strip (1)
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: James McDonald
This enigma of a racehorse probably would have been my tip if he drew somewhere between barriers four and nine. After they tried to restrain him in Sydney last start, the stable says it is going to go back to the old method of letting Nature Strip bowl along. The only problem is he’s going to have a problem doing that if he gets stuck in traffic. Barrier one at Moonee Valley can be a blessing or a curse. If you bolt from the barriers you can rail like a greyhound, but if you get stuck you can be a hard-luck story. At $2.80, I’m looking elsewhere.
6. Virdine (5)
Trainer: James Cummings
Jockey: Ben Melham
This Godolphin galloper is a nice enough horse on his day and has drawn a good barrier for this assignment. However, I think he’ll be outclassed when the whips are cracking.
7. Tactical Advantage (8)
Trainer: Kris Lees
Jockey: Brenton Avdulla
A big call by Kris Lees to send his horse here considering there are easier assignments going around, but I guess he has the same thoughts that most trainers do at the moment – these Group 1 sprints are a raffle these days with no outstanding quality in the country. I don’t think Tactical Advtange can win, but good on them for having a go.
8. Bons Away (9)
Trainers: Ciaron Maher and David Eustace
Jockey: Linda Meech
This veteran sprinter has only won once in the past two years, but the way he hit the line last start was encouraging. His past two starts have been at Moonee Valley for two placings, so you’d have to at least include in the exotics if you’re having a trifecta or first four. Linda Meech knows him well, so that’s a big tick.
9. Eduardo (2)
Trainer: Sarah Zschoke
Jockey: Brian Park
Found a couple too good last time when leading and probably takes a sit this time from a good barrier with some speed horses around. The speed map says this lightly raced six-year-old is going to get a dream run, so a place wouldn’t completely surprise. Definitely a knock-out hope if the cards fall the way of jockey Brian Park.
10. Assertive Approach (14)
Trainers: Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes
Jockey: Dwayne Dunn
This young gelding has stepped onto the track five times for four wins, so he’s a bit special. This is undoubtedly his toughest assignment, though. Previously he’s been able to lead in all his races but I can assure you he won’t be leading on Friday night. Dwayne Dunn is going to have to get creative and even though Team Hawkes are the best in the business, I don’t think they can spin a miracle here. A better barrier draw and we might be having a different conversation.
11. Sunlight (10)
Trainers: Tony and Calvin McEvoy
Jockey: Luke Currie
This mare is a special horse. She gives 100 per cent each time she races and has won $4.3 million for connections in just 17 starts. However, she’s had four cracks at 1000m races and has yet to win. I think she’s a chance in this event, but she did have a gut-buster first up on a heavy track and I’d rather watch Sunlight go around with my hard-earned on it. If you’re her biggest fan, you’re getting good each-way odds so jump on.
12. Booker (4)
Trainers: Matthew Ellerton and Simon Zahra
Jockey: Damien Oliver
She’s never been a favourite of mine and I can’t see her winning another Group 1 after stealing the Oakleigh Plate in February at any old odds. Damien Oliver will give her every chance, but I just don’t think she’s up to this.
13. Winter Bride (12)
Trainers: Toby and Trend Edmonds
Jockey: Tommy Berry
A handy mare who has been consistent for connections and flies when fresh. However, this is by far the hardest race she’s ever stepped hoof in and I just can’t see her measuring up.
14. Meryl (6)
Trainer: Lee Curtis
Jockey: Dean Yendall
Had every possible chance last time out in an easier race and couldn’t get it done. Will be making up the numbers.
15. Miss Leonidas (7)
Trainer: Shaun Dwyer
Jockey: Stephen Baster
She’s the best horse in Dwyer’s stable and he’s had Group 1 winners before, but even from a good barrier I don’t think Miss Leonidas can get the job done.
This is a hot race with plenty of speed which means a tough horse is going to be required to win. Personally I think Nature Strip is too short for a horse that has been unreliable in the past. He’s also drawn badly for a galloper that likes to run out in front, but doesn’t always jump the best from the barriers. Personally I think The Bostonian is the best each-way value here with his excellent Australian record and his ability to fly first up. A good ride will be needed, but he’ll be powering home at the end.
The Bostonian each-way.
For those interested in a trifecta, these would be my numbers:
$50 would get you 35 per cent of the dividend.