The Mounting Yard has had a few poor weekends in a row, but we’re hoping to bounce back this Saturday at Moonee Valley, who host their first meeting of the off-season.
The track is a Soft 6 currently. I expect it to be no worse than that on Saturday, and there’s a possibility we could get an upgrade. The rail is out four metres, and that generally favours those on the speed at this track, as well as inside barriers being advantageous.
It’s a good card, with plenty of horses who could go on to win black-type races taking part. Let’s crack into them!
Two-year-olds, handicap, 1200 metres
I found this race to be one of the most intriguing on the program. There are plenty of horses engaged here with a ton of early speed and natural ability, which made it hard to map and dissect. I landed on the second elect in Crosshaven. He jumped out well leading into his debut run at Geelong and he was superb there when winning by three lengths while only extending away on the line. He ran the fastest last 1000 metres of the meeting in what was a highly rated race, with the fifth-placed horse winning subsequently and the sixth-placed horse, Insaaf, running a narrow second to the talented Chequerboard at Sandown. The query is the tricky gate (7) and where he gets to in the run, but I’m willing to gamble on the fact that Stackhouse gets some luck, because if he does, it’s hard to see him getting beaten.
Albarado is the danger at double-figure odds. Everything he has done in his career has been very professional, and I think he held off a smart one on debut in Alcyone. He draws perfectly here (3) to either lead or sit behind the leader, and with improvement, he is in the mix.
Sense of Honour was brilliant on debut and has since had five months off. That race didn’t rate all that highly, though, and the hit-outs she has had leading into this run resuming don’t inspire confidence that she is at anywhere near peak fitness.
Johnny Boss will need a ton of luck when getting back from the low draw (2), but if the gaps come, he is the blowout chance after a luckless run at Caulfield last week.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 3 Crosshaven at $3.60.
Three-year-olds, handicap, 1600 metres
I’m happy to bet into the race and I’m going to be on two runners who are well and truly in the market. La Chevalee gets back onto a firmer track, which isn’t ideal for her, but this horse is in career-best form and nothing is suggesting she can’t win again. Two back she was held up for what seemed like an eternity before getting clear and flashing home to win by 0.75 lengths. She then went to Flemington and was winning with arrogance against the likes of Debt ‘n’ Deficit, who was a good winner in a higher grade in her previous start. She maps perfectly again (5) and I think she will be fine around the Valley.
Smoke Bomb is the other I will be on. He has been fantastic this time in. Two back in Benchmark 64 grade he won by five lengths in what was a brilliant display before going up in grade to Caulfield when he bundled the start, which effectively ended his race before it had begun. From the low draw (2) he can go straight to the front and will be hard to run down.
I’m confident that the winner comes from these two, but Librate can’t be underestimated. She has been excellent this time in, but coming back in trip and the wide gate (9) are two negatives that might make it hard for her.
Recommended bet: Win bets on both No. 2 La Chevalee at $3.60 and No. 5 Smoke Bomb at $5, with the larger bet on No. 2 La Chevalee.
Benchmark 78, handicap, 1600 metres
Yet another intriguing race here. I’m happy to play around the favourite, Sikorsky, after drawing out in the car park yet again (11). The other jockeys are going to keep tabs on where Damien Oliver is early in the race and will try their hardest to keep him posted wide.
I’m happy to play at a couple around him, and one of those is Strategic Phil. The form from last preparation low looks pretty good, with a close third behind Heptagon and Danon Roman, and his last two runs this time in have been terrific. He was building into the race nicely before getting checked at Caulfield two back to eventually run a length off Viral before going to Sandown and getting his nose down just in the nick of time to beat Sonaree. He maps well from the ideal gate (5) and should be ready to win again fourth up.
Heavenly Emperor is the other I want to be on. He won two from four last preparation, which included a win over this track and distance, before ending the preparation with a win at Flemington over Classic Weiwei. He resumed from a four-month break a month ago when running three lengths off Viral. He goes well second-up (3:2-1-0) and there doesn’t look to be a stack of speed on, so he should be able to find the lead and prove hard to run down.
Sikorsky is the best horse in the race and therefore is still a chance, although, as touched on previously, he will have to overcome a few obstacles. Holbein is the best of the rest after a much-improved effort last start.
Recommended bet: Each-way plays on No. 3 Heavenly Emperor at $9 and No. 5 Strategic Phil at $7.50.
Handicap, 1200 metres
It seems to my eye to be a race in three here, and I’m keen to be on Tavisan. The 1200-metre distance is a slight query but is negated to an extent by racing at Moonee Valley. He is a horse that generally takes a while to get properly fit in a preparation, and he was just even in his first two runs in before coming to Caulfield and winning well a fortnight ago by half a length when he never really looked like losing. The Mick Price team seems to think he will take even more benefit out of that run, even though he was third. With any added improvement it’s hard to see them beating him today. He should find the rails from the good gate (5), and there’s no reason he can’t win again on Saturday.
Great Again is the obvious danger. He was superb in Western Australia, having a 50 per cent win rate and winning multiple times at listed level. He was poor in his first Victorian run when finishing down the track on Ballarat Cup day, but he went out for a spell and bounced back in a big way on resumption when winning the Straight Six at Flemington. There’s a slight query on how he will handle the Valley, but he should still be in the finish.
Ashlor and Spirit of Aquada are a must for the multiples. Both haven’t been far away in recent starts and have good records at the Valley, but they probably need to find a new peak to win this.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 2 Tavisan at $3.20.
Three-year-olds, handicap, 1000 metres
One of the better races on the program arrives here in the fifth, although it does look like a two-horse race. Ms Catherine is undefeated from three starts and goes brilliantly around the Valley. Her run two back was excellent when winning by 4.5 lengths over this track and trip. The second horse in that race, Mariamia, won at Flemington, which franked the form. She then went to the Typhoon Tracy at Group 3 level and hung on after tiring late to beat Tenley. She comes back to a handicap off-season race here, and even though she is first up after four months out, she should find the lead and be too fast for them.
Sansom is the only other winning chance. The form from that Pakenham Benchmark 78 when he beat Clarice Cliffs and Vainstream looks good now, and he was only nosed out late by the talented He’ll Haunt Us at Group 3 level. His run before going out for a spell was excellent when travelling three wide and without cover to beat Hint of Mint in Adelaide. He draws well (3) and can topple the favourite.
I’m confident the winner comes from those two, but Young Liam is the blowout chance. The 1000-metre distance is ideal for him and his peak rating isn’t too far off the two favourites.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 2 Ms Catherine at $2.25.
Three-year-olds, Benchmark 78, fillies, handicap, 1200 metres
We get into the quaddie legs here and it’s probably best to play wide. I’m going to give It’s Kind of Magic another chance after something clearly went wrong first up at Caulfield on a heavy track. She was fantastic last preparation when running half a length off the likes of Akari and Betcha Flying at listed level. Both of those horses have won good races since, which franks the form. She then comes down in grade to a Benchmark 78 over this track and trip when travelling three wide and still winning with ease. She handled the track well, draws perfectly (4) to dictate the race, and if she can find her best, she wins.
Felicia has been good this preparation. Two back she battled on well when not liking the heavy ground before running well last start to finish a length off Broadwayandfourth. This is slightly easier than that was, and she draws perfectly (1) to get the run of the race.
Kalkarni Royale was far from disgraced in similar grade last start, and I think she would have learnt a lot from that. Her two runs before that were excellent and she has plenty of ability. Selica comes right back to 1200 metres today, but with the change of pattern (racing on speed) she isn’t out of it at big odds.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 6 It’s Kind of Magic at $4.60.
Handicap, 1600 metres
I think this race is another with a lack of real winning hopes and I’m happy to be with Shot of Irish like I was last start. Three back he won with complete ease on a heavy track at Sandown before going to Caulfield and beating Aussie Nugget by 1.25 lengths while putting 4.75 lengths on the third horse in Nobu. I thought he ran well at Flemington last start when getting taken on out in front as well as over racing throughout. He battled on well to finish within three lengths of the winner, and coming back to Moonee Valley and getting what looks to be an uncontested lead should be a recipe for success.
I thought Biometric was the main danger. The Lindsay Park import brought over good overseas form and was completely luckless first up at Caulfield when running into rumps for the whole straight. We still don’t know where his ceiling is in Australia, which makes him the logical danger.
Mask of Time comes back in trip here and brings pretty good Northern State form into this race. He maps to get the sit on the leader from the rails draw (1) and must be respected, while Reykjavik won well last start over Shot of Irish and must be respected based on that form.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 4 Shot of Irish at $2.70.
Three-year-olds and up, handicap, 2040 metres
The penultimate event on the program arrives here and I think a very good horse will come out of it in the form of Django Freeman. The Hickmott trained import was a Group 3 winner at this distance in Germany and placed in Group 1 when running second in the German Derby. He was spelled for almost a year and imported to Australia, where his first-up run was terrific when running three lengths off Reykjavik. He was outsprinted over the mile but really worked home nicely late, with trainer Robert Hickmott saying he would take plenty of improvement out of the run. He rises in distance to 2000 metres here, draws perfectly (1) to sit on the speed and should be hard to beat.
Harbour Views is the main danger, but I think the price differential is silly. The much-hyped Williams Gelding was good on resumption when running three lengths off Buffalo River before going to Adelaide and having excuses when running third. He maps well from the gate (6), but I have queries around how he will handle the Valley.
Hang Man battled on well last start to only run a length off Mahamadeis. He draws perfectly (4) to get the run of the race and should be at his peak fitness-wise.
Tavirun is the blowout chance. I thought he was good on resumption, and his record at the Valley inspires confidence.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 2 Django Freeman at $4.40.
Fillies and mares, Benchmark 84, handicap, 1200 metres
The bookmakers haven’t made it easy for us to salvage our day if a few of these favourites have gone like a busted, but I want to play around two of the South Australian gallopers. Kabini brings over good form lines from the South Australian carnival. Two back she flashed home late to run within three lengths of Behemoth, who subsequently ran fourth in the Goodwood. She then backed up at Group 3 level and ran a solid second behind Humma Humma. That form reads well for a race like this, and I’m not sure why she is such big odds.
Be My Star is the other I want to have a nibble at. She also comes out of that Group 3 that Humma Humma won and ran only two lengths away before disappointing last start in lesser grade at Morphettville. She can mix her form, but the race sets up well for her to lead and give them something to run down.
Broadwayandfourth was a good winner at Caulfield last start and is a prior winner at this track, but Moses did part the seas for her in that race. She still needs everything to go right for her and I want to play around her at those odds.
Recommended bet: Each way plays on No. 1 Kabini at $14 and No. 10 Be My Star at $15.
Best bet: Race 5, No. 2 Ms Catherine.
Next-best bet: Race 8, No. 2 Django Freeman.
Best value: Race 9, No. 1 Kabini/No. 10 Be My Star.