Lewis Hamilton led home a Mercedes 1-2 at Sunday’s Grand Prix of Steiermark to complete a dominant weekend for Mercedes.
The Mounting Yard heads back to Caulfield this week after a three-week hiatus.
We have a cracking off-season program, with the feature on the program coming in race eight, where the progressive Harbour Views aims to end his preparation with a win before targeting some of our spring features.
The track should stay at around a Soft 6, which is expected for this time of year, but the rail being out 12 metres will favour those horses who are on the speed.
It’s probably best to look for horses who settle in the first half of the field and like the give in the ground. Let’s get into it!
Two-year-old, handicap, 1100 metres
We kick off with a race for the juveniles over 1100 metres. The speed should be genuine, and it comes from the likes of Saltpeter, Sobriety, Yulong Island and Euphoric Summer. Euphoric Summer looks like a good bet here. The Mick Price-trained filly is the most experienced horse in this field, and that should hold her in good stead. Last preparation she won the Magic Millions clockwise at Ballarat before going to Queensland and running 3.25 lengths off King’s Legacy, who subsequently won two Group 1s, so obviously that form reads well. She was tipped out for five months and resumed well when being narrowly beaten by Miss Bosetti at Mornington. They ran a quicker time than the older horses did over the same distance, which is a big positive, and she has enough early speed to cross from the wide gate (9) and get a good spot in the run.
Saltpeter looks like the main danger. He battled on well in a very hot maiden – Cherry Tortoni and Not a Zak the first two home – on debut before smacking them by two lengths at Geelong a fortnight ago. It’s going to take a good ride from Damien Oliver, but with some luck he will be right in it.
Savanna Cloud is the blowout hope. He has plenty of ability based on recent jump-outs at Pakenham and he draws well (6) so he should get a lovely run.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 1 Euphoric Summer at $4.20.
Benchmark 78, handicap, 1600 metres
It’s basically impossible to be confident about picking the winner in this race. A maximum field always generates some speed, but there doesn’t look to be much on paper. For the sake of a tip I’ll put I Could Do Better on top. The Waller import has won three from seven so far in his career and not a lot went right in his first Australian run at Flemington when being trapped wide and without cover. He draws terribly again (16) but should be fitter, and this is a weaker race.
No Say In It was huge over this track and distance two back before suffering a tough run and just battling away evenly at Flemington last start. He should be able to get some cover from the wide alley (13) and will be running on strongly.
Heavenly Emperor has the speed to cross them early from the wide gate (12) and his run at the Valley last start had merit after getting shuffled back around the bend.
Recommended bet: Leaving this one alone.
Three-year-old, handicap, 1440 metres
I’m pretty keen to bet into this race and there are only a few winning chances, which obviously the bookmakers disagree with. There looks to be a real lack of speed in this race, with only Stardayz a noted frontrunner. Mystery Shot, Selica, Deserved and Arctic Wolf might be handy. I’m happy to be with Mystery Shot after being undefeated from just the two starts. On debut at Warrnambool he won like a very good horse, putting three lengths on his opposition. There have been six winners come out of that maiden, most noticeably Dark Alley, who ran fourth in an Adelaide Cup. He was then tipped out for a spell before resuming a strong winner at Ballarat when winning by a length. Stepping out to 1440 metres looks ideal, and with the lack of tempo he should be able to cross them and get the run of the race.
Selica is one I want to be with as well. This filly was only two lengths off them at Group 1 level two back over 2000 metres before coming right back to 1200 metres last start at the Valley when she was incredibly unlucky. From the good barrier (6) she can settle closer today and take luck out of the equation.
Deserved was a good winner on resumption at Ballarat. This is much harder, but she can fill the placings, while I’ve always had plenty of time for Arctic Wolf, and the form coming out of his maiden win last start must be respected.
Recommended bet: Win bets on both No. 7 Mystery Shot at $4.80 and No. 2 Selica at $8.50.
Fillies and mares, Benchmark 84, handicap, 1200 metres
Another tricky race to assess with it being $7.50 the field. Yet again there’s not a whole stack of speed engaged in this race, but the likes of Power O’hata, She’s a Thief, and River Jewel will settle in the first few. I have Laburnum on top for team Godolphin. She never really came up last preparation, but her best form would win this. She won a Group 3 a few preparations back over the likes of So Taken and Into the Abyss and that form reads incredibly well here. She resumed off a five-month let-up a fortnight ago at Rosehill when having no luck at all and just never seeing daylight in the straight behind a very smart one in Adelong. The trial win in the lead-up to that run tells me she is ready to fire this preparation and she maps to get the run of the race.
It was hard to not be impressed by the run of Zoubo last start at Sandown when she clocked the fastest last 600 metres, 400 metres and 200 metres of the meeting. On ether side of that run she hasn’t had much luck, and from barrier six she shouldn’t have any excuses today.
Zabelarina has won two from three this preparation and has solidified herself as a city class horse. This is harder than the race she won last start, but there is scope for improvement. Include her in all the multiples.
Recommended bet: Another one I’m leaving alone.
Three-year-old, fillies, handicap, 1200 metres
This is a really good race with a few realistic winning chances. The speed is drawn out wide and will come from both Merited (14) and Felicia (10), with Zac Attack and Night Express trying to keep them posted. Some horses just always go around over the odds and that is the case with this Michael Kent-trained filly in Leale. She has been up for a while but is coming off a ten-week freshen-up here. Two back she won well over Debt ‘n’ Deficit at this track before staying at this track and running half a length off Florent while beating home Affair to Remember. Affair to Remember ran third at Group 1 level subsequent to that and Florent was far from disgraced at group level, so the form reads very well. She maps perfectly to camp just behind the front four in running and she can run over the top of them here.
Zac Attack is the main danger, also at double figures. She was very good three back when running a length off them at the Gold Coast before having no luck at group level and running down the track. She come to the Valley a fortnight ago and was just outsprinted over 1000 metres when they went at a breakneck speed. Out to the 1200 metres suits here, and she will get the run of the race.
Merited was good last start in what was arguably a better race than this, running 2.75 lengths off Front Page. Both her and Felicia are going to have to do plenty of work early but are still good chances to fill the placings.
Recommended bet: Each way plays on both No. 1 Leale at $13 and No. 2 Zac Attack at $14.
Three-year-old, handicap, 1000 metres
Intriguing race here with a few very progressive types taking their part. Nearly every horse in the field wants to settle on speed, but I’d expect the leading bunch to be Ms Catherine, Acumen and Flostar. I’m happy to be with Elderflower here. I thought this filly showed plenty of ability in her first preparation and has seemingly improved this time in. She kicked off the campaign at Donald when running 3.25 lengths off Young Liam, who ran an incredibly slick time that day. She then come back to a Benchmark 58 on the Ballarat synthetic and won well by 1.75 lengths. She reaches this race third up, so she should be nearing peak fitness, and from an ideal draw (5) she can camp on the back of the leaders and then power over them late. The race sets up perfectly for her and there is plenty of scope for improvement.
I’m terrified of Acumen and I still might back him on the day. He was a dominant winner at Wyong last preparation, winning by nearly five lengths, before winning again in a Class 1. He failed up in grade but clearly something was amiss as he was spelled for four months subsequently. I loved his trial when running a length off Virdine leading into this, and he looks set for a big preparation.
Ms Catherine gets out to a backable price for her followers. She failed on the back of a breakneck speed first-up at the Valley, when the bias was with her, and the pace in this race must be concerning.
Proper Rogue and Wilmot Pass have plenty of ability, but I want to see them first up over 1000 metres.
Recommended bet: No. 7 Elderflower each way at $13.
Benchmark 84, handicap, 1100 metres
We are getting into the quality part of the card now and this race is a beauty. The speed will come from the likes of Sam’s Image, Alfa Oro and Lim’s Lighting, and they’ll go at a quick enough clip. Alfa Oro has plenty of talent and is putting together a fantastic record of four wins from six starts. His last three performances have been brilliant. Three back he won by 2.25 lengths over So Skilled, who has won subsequently when eased down to the line before going to the Pakenham synthetic and breaking the track record over 1100 metres when beating Paperboy by two lengths, again eased down to the line. He went up in grade at Flemington and was superb when being challenged at the 250-metre mark. He dug deep to see off those challengers, which shows he has a strong will to win. He draws nicely again (5), gets back onto a firmer surface, which he will like, and looks incredibly hard to beat.
Sansom has plenty of talent but draws the car park (11) and maps awkwardly. He was exceptional at the end of last preparation when travelling wide and without cover and still holding off the talented Hint of Mint. He was good on resumption at the Valley and there is improvement to come from him.
Sam’s Image gets in with a featherweight and is consistent, while Propelle has jumped out wonderfully leading into this first-up run and does have enough ability to measure up in this race.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 9 Alfa Oro at $2.70.
Three-year-old and up, handicap, 2000 metres
The highlight of the program arrives here in what is a very good race. There’s not a ton of speed engaged here, with only Sircconi the noted frontrunner. Expect Harbour Views and Salsamor to be handy. Harbour Views looks hard to beat, but I’m not overly keen to launch in at the current quote of $2.20. I thought he was very good last start at the Valley when winning with ease over this distance, but his run from two back was very disappointing, and people might be going too early on him being a genuine spring horse. He should be winning this if he is, but he carries another four kilos and draws awkwardly (10).
I want to have something small on Double You Tee to beat the hot pot. The Patrick Payne-trained Gelding won five races last preparation and showed signs of getting back to his best last start at the Valley when 2.75 lengths off Harbour Views. He gets a 3.5-kilo weight swing on the favourite today, and they can be a bit more positive from the rails draw (1) and give him the run of the race. He looks well over the odds.
South Pacific brings over some very good ratings from overseas that suggest he is a group-calibre horse. Oliver jumps on today and it wouldn’t shock to see him run well fresh.
Recommended bet: No. 3 Double You Tee each way at $14.
Benchmark 84, handicap, 1440 metres
We wrap up the program here with another handy sort of race. They’ll run along quick here and the speed will come from the likes of Sondelon, Sonaree and Call Me Royal. I’m happy to be with Victoria Star here. He has won three from five since coming back to Australia after a stint in Hong Kong and is racing very well. He was fantastic on resumption at Cranbourne when bursting through a gap late to beat Inn Keeper, who he faces again here, before coming to this track a month ago and running on well in a better race than this. The form coming out of that race is good, with Danon Roman winning last week at Headquarters. He maps perfectly (6), is well weighted and looks hard to beat.
Onslaught is the main danger. Last preparation he was a length off Vega Daze and Roheryn, and that form reads well for this type of a race. He was only even first up, but an improved run is expected.
Sonaree and Call me Royal are honest on-speed type horses who are major contenders to fill the placings.
Recommended bet: Win bet on No. 13 Victoria Star at $5.
Best bet: Race 7, No. 9 Alfa Oro.
Next best bet: Race 1, No. 1 Euphoric Summer.
Best value: Race 5, No. 1 Leale, and Race 6, No. 7 Elderflower.