Racing heads back to Moonee Valley this week as the new racing season begins.
This year, new champions will be crowned and hopefully, it’s one of yours if you have a share in one. The rail is back in the true position, which means it should play more evenly than it did last start, but the Valley is always a track that favours those on-speed. Expect the track rating to be somewhere between a soft five and a soft seven.
Let’s find some winners!
Race 1: Handicap, 1600 metres
I am happy enough to keep the powder dry here in the first. Victoria Star will push forward from the widest gate (7), while the likes of Prince Ziggy and No Effort could push up and be prominent. Victoria Star looks hard to beat, but the current quote of $1.95 isn’t a betting proposition. The Eurell Gelding has been very good this time in, winning on resumption at Cranbourne over Inn Keeper, before last start running third in the Winter Championship when racing against his normal pattern. That form line seems the superior one in this race and he goes well on tight turning tracks, which means the Valley should suit. Vassilator looks like the only danger. He had excuses in slowly run affairs two and three runs back but was much improved last start when fighting on bravely to finish second – a length off Credence after travelling wide the trip. I’m not sure the Valley is going to suit his racing style, but he can win if things go right. Exasperate won three from his last four last preparation, all but against inferior opposition. He draws the rails (1) and can run a nice race if he is wound up and ready to go.
Recommended bet: I’m going to leave this one for punters much braver than I am early in the day!
Race 2: Three-year-old, colts and geldings, handicap, 1000 metres
One of the more intriguing races on the program presents itself here for punters. Theresabearinthere and Hard Landing will push forward and lead, while Diesel ‘N’ Dust should sit in behind them. I’m happy to be with Hard Landing in this race. He was a good winner on debut down the straight over this distance last preparation when beating eventual Blue Diamond winner Tagaloa by two lengths, before failing in the Blue Diamond Prelude and being immediately spelled. I have loved what I’ve seen in recent jump-outs and I think this is a target race for him on resumption. He will be hard to run down. Theresabearinthere is going to love the Valley you would expect and has fitness on his side. The only query I have surrounding him is the fact that he ran down the track at listed level, before winning last start against much inferior opposition than he faces today. He would need to improve off that run to be winning but there’s nothing saying he can’t. Jabali Ridge was terrible last start down the straight, but it took some very smart types to beat him at this track two-back when he was unlucky not to be in the finish. If they overdo it early, it would be no surprise to see him storm all over the top of them late.
Recommended bet: #1 Hard Landing each way at $7.
Race 3: Three-year-old, fillies, handicap, 1000 metres
Another good three-year-old race where we might see some of these progress to black-type races early in the Spring. They are going to go incredibly quick here with the likes of Esta La Roca, Miss Divine Em, and A Beautiful Night all pressing forward and wanting to lead. I am going to stick with Esta La Roca and think she represents good value. This filly did a fair bit wrong on debut at Cranbourne, before staying there second-up and completely dominating her rivals in an impressive front-running display. They ran slick time in that race (quicker than this favourite over the same distance two-back) and she showed she can sustain a run off a strong speed, which is what she is going to need to do here. She draws perfectly (2) to get to the front early and try to run them into the ground. Peggy Selene is the main danger. She was terrific two-back when beating the smart Kick it Baby by three lengths at Ballarat, before going to Sandown when she was nutted on the line against Parlophone who has since won a black-type race in South Australia. She maps to get a good run off a strong speed and will go close. Clean Machine comes out of what I think will be a very strong form reference heading into the spring. She led them up on resumption at Caulfield and was only beaten a neck by the very talented Saltpeter, while beating Savannah Cloud by 0.75 lengths. That horse is well in the frame in Thousand Guineas markets. Miss Bosetti and A Beautiful Night are the best chances for the roughie punters.
Recommended bet: #7 Esta La Roca each way at $9.
Race 4: Benchmark 78, handicap, 1000 metres
One of the more wide-open races on the program awaits punters here. They will go quickly over this scamper with A Good Yarn and Iknewshewasmine both vying for the lead along with Fill the Flute. I am going to give Propelle one more chance this campaign. This Mare was incredibly unlucky two-back when running a length off Our Campana and Miss Iano when she was bolting for a run for the last 200 metres, before having plenty of excuses last start when Craig Williams made multiple mistakes throughout the race, which cost her any chance of being in the finish. She will need luck from the inside draw (1) but if she gets it, this seems like a very winnable race considering she was only two lengths off Alfa Oro three starts back. A Good Yarn is one who can run well. He was only beaten a length by Widespread three-back, before absolutely trotting in last start when beating Hawker Hurricane by three lengths. He draws well (2) to either lead or sit just behind the leaders and he might prove hard to run down around the bend. Brooklyn Hustle is too short for mine but does bring in good form from last preparation. She was only a length off them in the Blue Sapphire last preparation, before running fifth in a star-studded Coolmore. She likes this track and will be running on strongly late in the piece.
Recommended bet: #7 Propelle each way at $6.
Race 5: Fillies and mares, benchmark 78, handicap, 1600 metres
I don’t think they are going to go extremely quickly over the mile here with Brimm and Moscow Red looking the two leaders, with Soveriegn Award and West Wind sitting behind them. I think West Wind represents good value today. Last preparation she met the favourite here in Sovereign Award in a great form race, all but at Flemington, and beat her narrowly so I think the price differential between the two is a bit silly. She is lightly raced, just having the six starts as a five-year-old, and she had absolutely no luck on resumption when never really getting a clear look at them at Donald. She then went to Sale and ran around like a drunken sailor in the straight, losing second place on protest. She without doubt would have won that race if she ran straight and I’m hoping she will be on her best behaviour today because if she is, $8 is a gift. Sovereign Award is the main danger. The O’Brien mare was fantastic the last time she was at this track when beating Brimm by a head after sustaining about a 1000-metre-long run. She went out for a spell after a disappointing run at Flemington and resumed a winner at Sale when winning by a length. She maps to get the run of the race and I can understand why she is the favourite. Soaring Eagle draws better today (3) and hasn’t been far away from the likes of El Questro in recent starts. Billy Egan goes on today and she is the blowout chance in the race.
Recommended bet: #7 West Wind each way at $8.
Race 6: Benchmark 84, handicap, 1200 metres
I thought this might have been the toughest race on the program to analyse. They will go quick enough with the likes of Sir Kalahad, Titan Blinders, and Santa Catarina all pushing forward. Titan Blinders goes on top but with little to no confidence. He was terrific last preparation, running multiple placings against the likes of King of Hastings and Jentico. In his first-up run last preparation he beat Bam’s on Fire and that reads very well for a race like this, considering he arrives here fresh. He will need to do some work from the wide gate (10) but is a tough on-speed horse who will be suited by the Valley. Condo’s Express does his best racing at the Valley (3:2-1-0) and strikes a much easier race than he was competing in last preparation. He was only two lengths off the likes Score and Zousonic last preparation and a run like that here would probably win. Walker can put him in a good spot from the gate (3) and he will be hard to beat. Wilmot Pass is the most progressive horse in the race, but he is way too short at the $2.70. It’s impossible to know how he is going to handle the Valley, and he draws inside (2) and will most likely get back in the run, which could spell trouble for him. There are way too many queries surrounding him for me to be backing him at that price.
Recommended bet: #7 Titan Blinders each way at $7.50.
Race 7: Handicap, 2040 metres
The pace should be very moderate with only Tavirun and Moss ‘n’ Dale being the only two horses that like to sit in the leading bunch. Tavirun goes up in grade from some mid-week week races but he is in great form, winning last start and running second two-back behind Maliseet. He maps perfectly from the ideal gate (3) to control the race out in the lead, which is going to suit him perfectly around the Valley. He will make it a sit and sprint over the 2000 metres and prove very hard to run down. Polly Grey is closing in on a win. She was fantastic two-back in the Winter Championship Final when beating the rest of the field bar Sircconi who went insane in that race winning by four lengths. She then stepped up to the 2000 metres at Flemington and worked home very strongly to finish a length off Credence. She should be ready to peak fourth-up and is a big chance. Mirimar was solid enough two-back in the Warrnambool Cup, before going to Caulfield and winning over Sircconi. He will get a lovely run behind the leaders and prove hard to beat if he can hit the front around the bend.
Recommended bet: #8 Tavirun each way at $5.50.
Race 8: Benchmark 78, handicap, 1500 metres
The speed looks to be solid with the likes of Falls, Surreal Image, and Do You Reckon all wanting to lead. Tatunka is in terrific form and I am happy to back him again this week. He won three in a row with complete ease around the country circuits, before going up in grade at Caulfield when he had to do a heap of work early to sit near the speed and was then posted three-wide the trip. I thought it was a brilliant performance to end up finishing third in that race and the key might be him drawing better today (5) so he can slot into a nice position around midfield off a hot speed. Winning Partner has been in good form in South Australia. He flashed home two-back to beat the tough Left Hand Man, before running on strongly last start behind a talented type in Defiant Dancer. The three-kilogram claim from Will Price is substantial here and with any luck, he will be in the finish. Falls can improve on the back of two poor efforts and his best is good enough, while Do You Reckon is in good enough form to be competitive.
Recommended bet: #5 Tatunka each way at $7.
Race 9: Benchmark 70, handicap, 1200 metres
We round out the program with an open race over yet another sprinting trip. They will go along at a decent clip with There You Are, Raktoff, and Gennady all pushing forward. Sebrekate has panels on these at his best and I can’t let him go around without me at the current price of $7. He was second to Bivouac (all but running four lengths second) in the Vain Stakes on resumption last preparation, before being unlucky not to win the McNeil Stakes when desperately unlucky against Super Seth at Group 3 level. That form reads incredibly well for an off-season sprint race and his first-up record inspires confidence (4:2-1-0). Proper Rogue draws well here and if you can forgive him on his last start effort, he will measure up here. He was unlucky not to have won against Lucifer’s Reward on resumption, while beating Elderflower home. That form also reads well for this race. Hurricane Fighter is over the odds but does need to gain a start. He worked home well on resumption and has plenty of upside.
Recommended bet: #2 Sebrekate each way at $7.
Best bet: Race 2 #1 Hard Landing
Next best bet: Race 7 #8 Tavirun
Best value: Race 3 #7 Esta La Roca and Race 9 #2 Sebrekate