The Mounting Yard is jumping up to Randwick this weekend for the first day of the Championships.
It’s one of the best days of racing on the Australian calendar, with four Group 1 races on the program, including the time-honoured Doncaster Handicap, as well as the Australian Derby, the Sires Produce and the TJ Smith Stakes. Every race on the program is at Group level, besides the Country Championship. As always, watch for any track bias early in the day. Let’s get into it!
Race 1: Kindergarten Stakes, Group 3, two-year-old, 1100 metres
We kick off the program with a Group race for the juveniles. We have six last-start winners running here, and I’m happy enough to be in team Godolphin’s corner. Damaged debuted at this track three months ago in a very strong maiden when going down to the talented Return With Honour after making ground on him late. He was then sent for a spell and resumed in a maiden at Warwick Farm where he absolutely smashed his competitors when winning by two and a half lengths. He draws out (10) but should have the speed to get across or sit wide with cover, and he should be hard to hold out late. I want to have something small on Jerle as well at a huge quote. He handles a heavy track well, which is a query for some others, and I thought his last two runs have been impressive. He finished alongside the talented I Am Swerving two back in a Canterbury maiden, before winning well at Gosford last start. He draws all the favours (6) and shouldn’t have an excuse. Rulership was brilliant when winning on debut in a strong maiden, before narrowly missing in the Blue Diamond Prelude and having no luck in the Blue Diamond. He draws perfectly to get a good run either leading or on the speed and should prove hard to get past. Zeftabrook and Harmonium are the best of the rest.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #4 Damaged at $4.20 with something small each way on #3 Jerle at $41.
Race 2: Carbine Club Stakes, Group 3, three-year-old, set weights, 1600 metres
The time-honoured Carbine Club arrives here in the second. I’ve narrowed it down to basically three chances and due to the price differential, I’m happy enough to be in the Godolphin corner again with Promotions. He’s in terrific form. He won on resumption over 1200 metres at Kembla Grange to win by two and a half lengths, before having excuses two back at Warwick Farm when travelling wide and without cover in the run. His win in the Canberra Guineas was tremendous when he had to avoid trouble early in the straight to eventually win by half a length. He is fourth up now and rock hard fit, as well as stepping out to the mile, which is an obvious positive. He needs a good steer from Hugh Bowman. Reloaded is a bit too short for my liking, but he’s an obvious chance. His run three back behind Brandenburg, who is a light weight chance in the Doncaster, was brilliant, and he was good again last start in the Rosehill Guineas behind Castelvecchio. He draws perfectly (2) and is a winning chance. Grand Piano is the only other chance. He’s went to another level this campaign, winning on resumption when coming from last, before repeating the dose last start at Benchmark 70 level. This is harder, but he’s very progressive.
Recommended bet: #2 Promotions each way at $7.
Race 3: Country Championship, set weights, 1400 metres
There’s bound to be good stories galore in a race that is fantastic for the old battler. It’s not a race I’m keen to invest in with a big field full of different form lines, but I landed with Bobbing on top. He won the Provincial Championship at about this time last year over Spring Charlie when he was second up, and they’ve went with the same preparation again this time in. He resumed in the Qualifier at Muswellbrook when running a neck away from Two Big Fari when he probably just peaked on his run late. He should be fitter for that run here and if he gets some cover he can be winning. Ligulate won the Qualifier well at Tamworth and there’s no reason to suggest he can’t win again here. Outside of those two, it’s a raffle. Al Mah Haha shapes as a decent chance going down in weight, while Irish Songs isn’t the worst at a huge quote if he can get a start.
Recommended bet: Leaving this one alone.
Race 4: Adrian Knox Stakes, Group 3, three-year-old and up, fillies, quality, 2000 metres
We’ve got a cracking race for the three-year-old stayers here. I narrowed it down to three main chances, and one of them came up well over the odds and that horse was Betcha Flying. She was superb last preparation, which ended up culminating in a narrow defeat at listed level against Akari at Flemington in the spring. She spelled for four months and has came back in good order. I wouldn’t take too much out of her first-up run, which was a glorified trial, but more her second-up run when she ran through the line nicely to run two lengths off Paradee in Melbourne. She looked like she is craving getting out to the 2000 metres on that run, the Waller camp has set her for this and she only needs even luck from the wide draw (11) to be right in it. Paradee has plenty of ability and shapes as one of two dangers. I had her as my best bet two back at Flemington when she beat Diasonic by two lengths, and her last start win at the valley at Group level was brilliant after having no luck in the run. She draws out (12) but has enough early speed to cross them. Colette is flying at the moment, but is too short for my liking. She destroyed them by six lengths in a class one and maiden race at Newcastle two back, before winning well again last start. She will appreciate getting out to 2000 metres and draws all the favours (4).
Recommended bet: #10 Betcha Flying each way at $21.
Race 5: Chairman’s Quality, Group 2, three-year-old and up, quality
Nothing would overly surprise in this race with a few talented ones out of form. I think Gallic Chieftain represents some value. He ran a neck away in the Metropolitan last preparation on a soft track and that form reads pretty well for this race. He hasn’t been overly impressive in his two runs in this time, but I thought he went through the line well enough to suggest he’s ready to do something. He’s four from eight third up, loves a wet track and goes well over 2400 metres. He ticks a lot of boxes. The Chosen One was a good winner in the Herbert Power in the spring over Prince of Arran, and there’s nothing to suggest he can’t improve on his path to the Sydney Cup. Carif ran second to the European stayers in Downdraft and True Self in the spring, but he hasn’t come back well, while Angel of Truth will dictate the race out in front and if they go too slow, might be able to pinch it.
Recommended bet: #3 Gallic Chieftain each way at $11.
Race 6: ATC Sires Produce, Group 1, two-year-old, set weights
The first of the Group 1 races arrives in a cracking edition of the Sires Produce. I’m happy enough to back two at an each-way quote, and one of them is the Snowden-trained Aim. They’re masters at setting their horses for these types of features and I think they’ve set him for this. You can discount his Magic Millions effort as he had absolutely no luck in the run, before going to the Skyline and running a length off the favourite in this race there. He was solid enough in the Pago Pago and I think he has been looking for the 1400 metres for a while now and he gets it here. Only needs even luck from the low draw (1). Cultural Amnesia is in terrific form. He ran a neck away from the talented Thermosphere two back at Newcastle, before winning with ease at the Kensington track after leading all the way. He draws out (11) but has the natural speed to cross and sit on the speed. He will be hard to run down. The favourite in Mamaragan has the right form lines, but the 1400 metres is a query for mine, and Ole Kirk was unlucky in Melbourne last start and shapes as a major contender.
Recommended bet: each way plays on both #7 Aim at $9.50 and #13 Cultural Amnesia at $18.
Race 7: Australian Derby, Group 1, three-year-old, set weights, 2400 metres
The time-honoured Australian Derby awaits the punters. It’s probably a race in four here, but I’m going to stick with Warning. He had a similar type of preparation in the spring, which culminated in a Victoria Derby win and he aims to repeat the dose here. His best run this preparation was at this track two back in the Randwick Guineas when he really hit the line well, and I think he much prefers this track over Rosehill. He enjoys a wet track so that shouldn’t be an issue and the Freedmans have a brilliant record when setting their horses for these types of races. Getting out to the 2400 metres is ideal. Shadow Hero won brilliantly in that Randwick Guineas two back over a mile, and savaged the line late in the Rosehill Guineas last start. The 2400 metres is a slight query after the Victorian Derby performance, but he shapes as a good chance. Castelvecchio was a brilliant winner last start in the Rosehill Guineas and is a major contender, while Quick Thinker comes here third up and should be ready to peak after a good win in the Tulloch Stakes.
Recommended bet: #3 Warning each way at $5.50.
Race 8: TJ Smith Stakes, Group 1, weight for age, 1200 metres
An absolutely cracking edition of the TJ Smith arrives here. It’s wide open and in a proper dart board job I settled on the three-year-old in Exceedance. The more rain we have the better for this horse, but even on a good surface, he was unlucky not to win the Golden Rose when running half a length off Bivouac. He hasn’t been overly impressive this preparation, running four lengths away in the Newmarket and the William Reid, but we know he can improve sharply and this is clearly the race he’s been targeted for, and he arrives here third up and should be ready to peak. Santa Ana Lane can’t have it too wet, but he is a star and at his best he is without doubt the best horse in the race. He’s been trialling brilliantly and his run in the Challenge Stakes was pretty good when coming from near last. He should be ready to here and try and go back-to-back. Nature Strip is an enigma but gets all the favours here. If he can replicate his performance in the Darley Sprint Classic, he just wins this. He always mixes his form, but he was tremendous last start when winning the Challenge by three lengths. He loves a wet track and draws perfectly (1). He will be hard to run down. In her Time and Pierata were both good enough in the Galaxy and shouldn’t be underestimated at a price.
Recommended bet: #9 Exceedance each way at $13.
Race 9: Doncaster Mile, Group 1, three-year-old and up, handicap
The feature on the program arrives here in the form of the 2020 Doncaster Mile. Melody Belle carries the top weight, but I think she has a few lengths on all these at her best and I expect her to peak on her preparation and be very hard to beat. She was superb on soft ground in the Melbourne spring at Flemington when winning the Empire Rose with ease, before going to the Mackinnon and running second to the extremely talented Magic Wand. I thought her last run at Flemington was full of merit in the All-Star Mile, and she gets to this race third up where she has won four from six, as well as probably getting a near heavy track which she is undefeated on. As long as she can get some cover from the wide draw (14), she will be hard to hold out. Cascadian is an underrated horse and is a good chance at a big quote. His runs two and three back were just too bad to be true as he had no luck whatsoever, and his last start win in the Doncaster Prelude was enormous when coming from near last to win. It was hard to make ground at Rosehill that day which made it even more impressive. He will get back from the wide gate (18) but will be charging home late. Brandenburg gets in with the featherweight and is flying this preparation. He draws well and can’t be discounted, while Quackerjack draws perfectly (1) and has been in good form this preparation. He can give some cheek up on the speed.
Recommended bet: #1 Melody Belle each way at $8.
Race 10: PJ Bell Stakes, Group 3, three-year-old, fillies, set weights, 1200 metres
I think Rubisaki could have the whole of Australia on it in the get out and I think she will be the punters’ best friend again. She is a serious racehorse and is going for six in a row on Saturday. Her last two wins have been exceptional. Two back she won Inglis three-year-old sprint at Warwick Farm on a heavy nine, before coming back down to Melbourne and beating Fascino and Pretty Brazen with ease in the Kewney Stakes. She goes well on soft ground, and the only thing that will beat her is bad luck from the inside gate (2). Outside of her, it’s pretty even. Akari is a talented type, but the query surrounding her is coming back from a mile to 1200 metres. She hit the line really nicely last start behind Shout the Bar, who is now a Group 1 winner and she will be rocketing home late. Sangria is a filly in good form and her win over Absolute Flirt and Garner last start at Flemington reads well for this. She will sit on the speed from the wide gate (13) and give some cheek out in front, while Regimental Band has enough talent to run well in this and is showing juicy odds for the place.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #2 Rubisaki at $2.30.
Best bet: Race 9, #1 Melody Belle.
Next best bet: Race 10, #2 Rubisaki.
Best value: Race 4, #10 Betcha Flying and Race 5, #3 Gallic Chieftain.