Can you be an animal activist and still support horse racing? In short, yes.
Arguably the biggest day in racing is upon us with it being AAMI Victoria Derby Day.
It’s the best day of racing all year and this iteration is no exception. We’ve got a brilliant edition of the derby in 2019 headlined by Sydney sider Shadow Hero and the star Victorian Thought of That.
Every race is at group level and we have four Group 1s, headlined by the Coolmore Classic as the supporting cast. The rail is in the true position and the track will at worst be in the soft range. Let’s get into it.
We kick off the day with the TAB Stakes down the Flemington straight. They’ll go pretty slow here but it’s still hard to find a reason why Zoutori won’t win.
He went okay in Queensland, running three lengths off some smart ones in Kolding and Pohutukawa but he is much improved this time in. He resumed sensationally down the straight here beating Parsifal by two lengths, before running pretty much the same closing sectionals as Santa Ana Lane did in the Gilgai, who was then unlucky not to win the Everest.
He’s a good straight horse which is important in these races and he just has a lot more upside than any other runner in the race. Tyzone seems slightly overs in the market. He had a good Queensland carnival winning at Group 3 level before running three lengths off Trekking.
He resumed okay in the Gilgai and that’s the form line I want to be backing in here. Virdine ran home nicely in the Schillaci and should be ready to peak third-up.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #4 Zoutori.
The Wakeful is the next on the program over 2000 metres. Going to back two in this and one of them is Vegas Jewel. She won like a very good horse at Moonee Valley over a couple of smart ones in Oscar Boy and Tragic, before being luckless in the Ethereal.
She travelled three-wide the trip in that race and still kept coming to get within a neck of the winner in Gamay. She draws much better today (5) and I think she’ll take a spot a bit more forward in the run. She maps well and with even luck will be hard to beat. I have to have something on Walking Flying.
She was brilliant when winning over a talented import in Yonkers at Benalla second – up and her run went under the radar at Caulfield behind Serious Liaison and Oscar Boy. I thought she got outsprinted in that race but was doing her best work through the line and will relish getting out to 2000 metres. She’ll be flashing home.
Tisane and Miami Bound will be on the speed in a race without any and could be hard to catch.
Recommended bet: Backing both #5 Vegas Jewel and #9 Walking Flying.
The time-honoured Carbine Club Stakes is the next on the program over 1600 metres. There will be a decent speed set upfront with the likes of Hilo, Rock Amore, Vinco and Royalty wanting to cross. I’ll be backing Brandenburg here.
He steps up in grade a fair bit but he seems very progressive and I think this has been a target race for him, whereas the favourite’s grand final was the Caulfield Guineas. He was brilliant when winning at Kensington two starts back over Cock Match and he came from last to finish second and run two lengths away from the talented Colada in the Stan Fox.
He seems like a Flemington horse and getting out to the mile for the first time will be advantageous. Kavalmo is another Sydney sider who looks over the odds. He still does a lot wrong in his racing but he has loads of talent. He was three-wide without cover resuming at Hawkesbury which was a forget run, but he bounced back to win arrogantly in a Wyong maiden.
He ran a ridiculous last 600 metres there and he’ll get a beautiful run from the good gate (3). Dalasan and Groundswell can’t be discounted but they’re short enough for mine.
Recommended bet: Small bets on both #6 Brandenburg and #11 Kavalmo.
A spot in the 2019 Melbourne Cup is up for grabs in the Hotham, over 2500 metres. There could be a few scratchings in this race due to some horses now being in the Cup field.
This is going to be a proper staying test over 2500 metres with Hush Writer and Haky ensuring a genuine tempo. Pretty keen to play in this race and I think Downdraft will be hard to beat. He seems to be at the peak of his powers this horse. He won three from seven overseas in this preparation, including a second behind Melbourne Cup fancy in Southern France in the St Leger trial.
He got outsprinted over the same trip in the Moonee Valley Cup but that race wasn’t run to suit, whereas this one will be. He maps to get a lovely run off a hot speed and should be hard to beat. Patrick Erin is worth saving on. He has motored home in his last two starts at Randwick behind Come Play with Me and Hush Writer.
He will love the genuine tempo out in front and will be the horse flashing home out wide. Youngstar might not run now that she’s got her spot in the Cup but if she does, she can measure up.
Recommended bet: Backing #1 Downdraft and #6 Patrick Erin.
The first of the Group 1s arrive here in the form of the Empire Rose over the mile for fillies and mares. It’s the hardest race on the program and the bookmakers don’t have a clue.
I’m backing two of them again here and going extremely wide in the quaddie. I have to be on Pohutukawa. She’s been building all preparation for this race. Her run in the Blazer off a very slow speed was excellent, evident by her getting within 0.75 lengths of the winner. Nothing went right at all in the run last start in the Tristarc but I thought she was strong late which is encouraging.
She draws well today (7), loves Flemington and loves the mile. If there’s any rain around I’ll be even more confident. Princess Jenni is a big danger. She won the Stocks Stakes in good fashion at the Valley two starts back before being unlucky in the Toorak.
She just never had any room in the last 200 metres there and arguably finishes closer if she does. She’ll get cover and a beautiful cart into the race.
Melody Belle and Spanish Reef are the best of the rest and neither winning would surprise.
Recommended bet: Backing both #9 Pohutukawa and #7 Princess Jenni. Playing a wide trifecta including #9, #7, #2, #6 and #10.
The Coolmore Stud Stakes is the next on the program, over 1200 metres down the Flemington straight. It’s a wide-open edition of the Coolmore. There are five or six chances but I’m siding with Libertini. She is a superstar this Filly.
She won the Silver Shadow by two lengths over Flit when resuming, before getting over Villami narrowly in the Furious Stakes. She was so tough in the Tea Rose over 1400 metres when going down by a neck to Funstar, who could be the best three – year – old in Australia.
This has been a target race for her for a while now and she is a big chance coming back to 1200 metres. Exceedance is a big danger. There’s not much difference between him and the favourite in Bivouac, but this race suits him down to the ground. He draws wide which is a positive and he’ll love the Flemington straight.
Broadwayandfourth is the one for the roughie punters. She beat Oasis Girl and Monetizing with ease in a maiden at Ballarat before storming home to win by a length at the Valley. She beat Villami in that race and if you take a line through the Furious Stakes where Libertini struggled to beat her, she looks well over the odds.
Recommended bet: Backing #12 Libertini but it could be worth having a few bucks on #15 Broadwayandfourth as well.
The feature of the program has arrived in the form of the AAMI Victorian Derby over 2500 metres at Group 1 level. I’m putting the marginal favourite on top here in Shadow Hero. He’s been excellent this preparation.
He gapped them in the Gloaming at Rosehill by three lengths before proving too strong for his rivals late in the Spring Champion Stakes. He beat Castelvecchio in that race who subsequently ran a brilliant race in the Cox plate, running second.
He had the best last 200 metre sectional of the race which points to him staying out the trip and I think he’ll be too strong in the last 200 metres in this race. Soul Patch ran on strongly in the Caulfield Guineas before smacking them in the Vase last week.
He beat Moonlight Maid by 2.5 lengths who is a contender for the Oaks and he was very strong through the line. He’ll get the run of the race. Thought of That and Warning are the only other dangers and it wouldn’t surprise to see them winning.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #1 Shadow Hero.
The Kennedy Cantala over the mile is the last Group 1 on the program. I’m keen on two of the overseas runners here and one of them is Royal Meeting. He showed how good he was back home when winning a Group 1 in just his second start, against horses who have done very well overseas since.
He came over for the Spring Carnival and had his first Australian run in the Moonga where he ran 1.2 lengths off Streets of Avalon. That run was off a 50-week break and the word out of the Godolphin camp was that he needed the run. At his best, he is the best horse in the race and expect a much better performance here in what is his grand final.
Anyone who reads my work was on Chief Ironside at $30 last week when he won the Crystal Mile and we’re sticking with him again here. He was incredibly unlucky in the Toorak when resuming behind Fierce Impact and Night’s Watch, so I can see him turning the tables on them two who are well respected in the market.
He drops 6 kgs from that run in the Crystal Mile and he will get the run of the race from a good gate (8). Cliff’s Edge will lead in a race devoid of speed, while Fierce Impact just needs to hold his form. Neither winning would surprise.
Recommended bet: Backing both #5 Royal Meeting and #15 Chief Ironside. Playing a wide trifecta including #5, #15, #6, #7 and #8.
We end the day with the Begonia Belle Stakes over 1100 metres for the mares. It’s a tough race to get out on this one. I’ve sided with Gift of Power. I thought she went well resuming in the Wylie Handicap at Morphettville when she ran 1.8 lengths off Soothing.
They put a gap on the rest of the field in that race and she just didn’t have any luck at all last start at Caulfield behind Tofane. She was caught wide for the entirety of the race and still kept coming to finish two lengths off the winner.
She seems like a horse that will relish the Flemington straight and she has a brilliant third-up record. Ready to win. Manicure is the danger. She’s done nothing wrong this preparation.
She won when travelling three wide without cover on resumption, and then had to repeat the same run last start and went down by a length. There’s no such thing as being too wide down the straight. She’s right in it.
Miss Iano and Resin are the best of the rest.
Recommended bet: Each way play on #7 Gift of Power.
Race 1 #4 Zoutori.
Race 5 #9 Pohutukawa.
Race 8 #15 Chief Ironside and Race 9 #7 Gift of Power.
R6: 12, 6, 15, 2, 1.
R7: 1, 2, 3, 4.
R8: 5, 15, 6, 7, 8.
R9: 7, 1, 3, 10.