Racing heads back to Caulfield for Memsie Stakes day, which is the first Group 1 of the spring.
South Australian raider Behemoth heads the market as the $4.20 favourite, while PB Lawrence winner Savatiano is at $5. The supporting card is very good with the Cockram Stakes, McNiel Stakes, and the Heath Handicap all at Group level. The rail is in the true position, which should hopefully make for fair racing and the track should be on the better side of soft with fine weather predicted for the rest of the week!
Race 1: handicap, 2400 metres
A wide-open affair confronts punters in the first. The speed should be relatively quick with Exemplar, Play Me Now, Tavirun, and Persan all wanting to settle in the first few. I thought Tavirun would be the hardest to beat. This Gelding has been terrific in his last couple of starts. Two-back at Sandown, he was far too good when beating Reserve Street by a length and it’s fair to say the jockey didn’t push him out late. He then went to the Valley and had the tough job of carting the field up to a tearaway leader and his resilience to keep kicking and only finish 0.7 lengths off the in-form Mahamadeis was excellent. He should get a lovely run behind the leaders and prove hard to beat. Skelm doesn’t win out of turn but may be the biggest danger. The Kelly gelding was only a length away from Cups horse Aktau in the Mornington Cup last preparation and was doing his best work through the line on resumption over 1500 metres. Persan is a false favourite and a good opportunity for those who lay. He hasn’t really beaten anything and his only win over further than 2000 metres (2500 metres) was a real sit and sprint affair. He won’t get that here and arguably rises in grade from being beaten by High Emocean last start. Baffling price.
Recommended bet: Playing exotics in this race including #4, #6, #7, and #2.
Race 2: Benchmark 78, handicap, 1100 metres
You won’t find a deeper Benchmark 78 anywhere in Australia for the next year. Except the speed to be quick enough with Rulership, A Good Yarn, and Reward with Return wanting to lead. I was happy to play around the favourite and thought Express Pass was good value. The Nick Ryan gelding has seemingly come back a much stronger and smarter horse after finishing two lengths off Sansom and He’ll Haunt us at Group level last preparation. On resumption, he was brilliant when sprinting off a slow speed to nab Acumen on the line recording the fastest last 400 metres and 200 metres of the meeting. He should strip fitter here and with any added improvement off that, it seems as though he is a Group level galloper and that might be good enough to win this. The Closer was very good last preparation, putting back-to-back wins on the board at Sandown, before finishing a length off Sylvia’s Mother at Group level. She was completely luckless on resumption at this track and there’s an argument to be made that she would have won with clear air. She maps well from the good gate (3) and is another who seems overs. Windstorm has plenty of ability but does seem short enough. He took a long time to get to Massimo last start and even though that horse has franked the form, this is his biggest test to date by far.
Recommended bet: #11 Express Pass each way at $6.50 and #14 The Closer each way at $13.
Race 3: four-year-old and up, Benchmark 90, mares, handicap, 1400 metres
It is another cracking race here for the mares and we are sure to see a few of these in some spring features. A maximum capacity field will ensure they go at least moderately out in front. I’m happy to be with Affair to Remember. She went super last preparation, narrowly beating Sierra Sue at Sandown, while putting 4.25 lengths on Walking Flying, who has won three races since. She was unlucky not to win in the Sires Guineas at this track over a mile, before running on strongly in the South Australian Oaks to run a length off Toffee Tongue. She jumped out superbly leading into this and there is no better jockey than Damian Lane to get her clear running from the tricky gate (2). I must have something on Acting, who looks to have bounced back from a poor preparation. She jumped out very nicely, leading into her resuming run at Caulfield. Although she wasn’t beating the winner (Bless her, who is a $7 chance in the Cockram later in the day), she struck interference in the straight, which cost her a clear second. She should be fitter from that run and looks to be over the odds. Laburnum must carry around the big weight but was very good last start when running 1.75 lengths off Coming Around. She maps to get the run of the race and can surprise. Watch out for Paradee, who is still untapped and a bit of a dark horse for races like the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup in a year without many internationals.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #14 Affair to Remember at $4 and something each way on #4 Acting at $10.
Race 4: handicap, 1400 metres
It is another race with some progressive stayers resuming who could have a say in either the Caulfield or Melbourne Cups. They will run along quickly with Sir Kalahad and Yulong January setting a solid pace. Morrissy is flying this preparation and looks suited dropping three kilos back from the Group 2 PB Lawrence Stakes. He won two from three before that run and both were dominant wins at this track, winning by 2.5 lengths and 1.25 lengths respectively. He beat half the field home in the PB Lawrence and that reads very well for this, considering he finished alongside some Group 1 winners. From the rails draw (1) he should camp behind the leaders and prove hard to hold out. I want to save on Nonconformist. This gelding went from strength to strength last preparation, finishing 1.25 lengths off Adelaide Ace in the Autumn Classic, before turning the tables on that galloper in the Alister Clarke when winning by 3.25 lengths. He will be better off whatever he does here, but he a huge talent who could run over the top of them fresh. I am Superman was poor in his first Australian preparation but has jumped out perfectly leading into this run. He draws perfectly (4) to get an ideal run and might be hard to hold out if he can transfer trial form to the real thing.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #8 Morrissy at $4 with a saver on #6 Nonconformist at $7.
Race 5: handicap, 2000 metres
It is another race for the stayers here, which is a pattern early in the program. They will go along at a moderate tempo with Northwest Passage, Vin De Dance, and Dabiyr all settling on speed. A real open affair here and I found it hard to find a clear edge. I ended up settling on Orderofthegarter. I referred back to his overseas form when he was half a length off star Benbatl and beating home Mirage Dancer, who was Caulfield Cup placed last spring. His run resuming over a mile was very good, running second and two lengths off Romancer, who just sprinted quickly. The rise to 2000 metres suits and there is no better man than Damien Oliver to navigate him from a wide gate (12). Polly Grey is the main danger. She was luckless at Flemington two-back when running a length off Creedence, before running home strongly to finish a neck off Mahamedeis last start. She draws nicely (2) and will prove hard to hold out. Dabiyr worked home nicely in the same race as my on top selection so must be in the numbers. He has a terrific second-up record (3:3-0-0) so should be ready to peak. Schabau might be the best horse in the race but this is most likely a tune-up for bigger goals ahead later in the spring.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #3 Orderofthegarter at $3.80.
Race 6: The Heath 1100, Group 3, set weights and penalties, 1100 metres
It is another wide-open race here and the first of the Group races on the program. They’ll set a very strong speed out in front with five or six horses wanting to lead. The McArdle stable might have Humma Humma wound up fresh and ready to win. She is a horse who does her best racing early in her preparations, but she was excellent in South Australia last preparation, winning the Group 3 Proud Miss Stakes. She should sit somewhere in midfield off a hot speed and her first-up record is hard to ignore (5:3-1-0) considering there are some horses who have bigger targets than this in mind. Garner shapes as the main danger. He still has some untapped ability, which was shown in the Redelva last preparation when beating some talented types with ease. He has never missed a place first-up and is undefeated at the track. Dollar For Dollar is a must for the multiples. The rising eight-year-old is another horse who will be wound up and ready to fire fresh, evident by his first-up record (5:3-2-0). He jumped out in superb fashion leading into this and looks to lead them up from the inside peg (1). Banquo might have bigger targets in mind but does have the talent to win this type of a race. He was only just pipped by Microphone last preparation and that reads well for this. He is another who draws perfectly (6) and will get a lovely run in transit.
Recommended bet: Each way plays on #12 Humma Humma at $10 and #8 Dollar for Dollar at $34.
Race 7: HDF McNeil Stakes, three-year-old, Group 3, 1200 metres
A few potential superstars return or continue their preparations in what is a brilliant field. They will go at a very quick speed early here with Loca, Hard Landing, Ranting, and The Last Charge all wanting to lead. I am very keen on the chances of Tagaloa. This Colt was enormous in the Blue Diamond Stakes when travelling three-wide the trip and still being too strong for Hanseatic, who was having a brilliant season. He then went to Sydney and was only beaten two lengths by superstar Farnan in the Todman. He resumes here off the back of two stunning jump-outs and he should get a lovely spot in the run off a hot speed. Immortal Love must be in the numbers. The Price gelding is two from two following a massive 3.5 length win over Khoehoe, who he meets again here. His jump-outs have been brilliant and from the good gate (4) he maps to get the run of the race. Crosshaven is still untapped and one I expect big things from this preparation. He was a dominant winner over some handy types on debut at Geelong, before travelling wide and still proving too strong for them at the Valley. He has jumped out well and can run a big race. Flying Award has a big boom on him from the O’Brien camp and it wouldn’t surprise to see him run well. I’m not sold he is up to this class yet, but we will find a lot out on Saturday.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #1 Tagaloa at $3.80.
Race 8: Heatherlie handicap, listed level, 1700 metres
This race wasn’t easy to dissect with mostly resuming stayers taking their part. The speed should be genuine with a big field (16 runners) taking their place. Game Keeper was fantastic last preparation, winning four races on the trot (including the Adelaide Guineas) before coming to Melbourne and carrying 62 kilos on a heavy track at Flemington, beating some handy types. They spelled him after that run and he returned brilliantly at Flemington in the Aurie’s Star, running home for third. He is very well weighted here at the 56 kilos and rising to the 1700 metres looks ideal. Good luck to Luke Currie back in the saddle. Shandy faces a big rise in grade but is in terrific form. She burst away on resumption at Bendigo winning by 1.75 lengths, before never looking in any trouble at Sandown when winning by 2.75 lengths and putting 5.75 lengths on the third horse. She will have to improve to be beating these but there’s nothing saying she can’t third-up. Sircconi was excellent last start in the PB Lawrence and that is obviously the best form reference for this. He is short enough though at the current quote. Watch out for Minola if it does get a start. I doubt it wins but it will be beating more than half this field home.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #14 Game Keeper at $4.
Race 9: Memsie Stakes, Group 1, weight-for-age, 1400 metres
The feature of the program awaits the punters and what a cracking race it is. The speed should be only moderate with Glenfiddich, Streets of Avalon, and Savatiano settling on speed. Mystic Journey copped some criticism from the punters last start, but I didn’t think the run was all that bad. She got caught four-wide the trip and only finished four lengths off them and finished alongside most other runners in the field. Trainer Adam Trinder warned that she wasn’t wound up to win that race and from the good draw (4) today, she can get the run of the race, peel out around the turn and prove too good. I want to have something on the three-year-old in Glenfiddich. He had a very good two-year-old preparation, which culminated in a narrow loss too King’s Legacy in the Champagne Stakes. Ole Kirk was a distant third in that race so that form line reads well. He has jumped out in brilliant fashion and the Peter Moody stable are low flying. If he pinches a few cheap sectionals he will be hard to run down. Behemoth is short enough but was fantastic on resumption when putting two lengths on Dalasan. He maps to get a good run and can have a say late. The Williams pair of Arcadia Queen and Regal Power were always going to improve off whatever they did first-up and they strike winnable races here second-up.
Recommended bet: Each way plays on #11 Mystic Journey at $10 and #15 Glenfiddich at $10.
Race 10: Cockram Stakes, Group 3, mares, 1200 metres
It is another wide-open race to finish the program on. I expect the speed to be only moderate with Felicia and She’s a Thief taking it up. I’m not in love with backing Rubisaki from the car park (13) first-up when she has bigger goals in mind. Bless Her has fitness on side over most of these and is in terrific form. She has won five in a row now and her last two wins, both coming at this track over Chassis and Acting, have been terrific. Most noticeably last start, she put them away in the blink of an eye and never looked like losing. She goes well on any ground and from the good draw today (4) she will get the run of the race again. The horse looks overs in the current market. I want to have something on Perfect Jewel as well. She should have some residual fitness on side after her last run coming nine weeks ago and we haven’t seen the best of her yet. She did everything wrong two-back in the Hyperion at Belmont and was still too good for them. The Williams camp doesn’t bring them over to Melbourne for nothing and she is a big chance. Rubisaki is the best horse in this race without doubt, but there are a few things that are going against her today, and like I said earlier, she has bigger fish to fry than this. Missile Mantra is the blowout chance. She had excuses in some very good form races in Sydney last preparation and trialled lie a bomb leading into this first-up run. She loves this track and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her run a big race.
Recommended bet: Each-way bets on #4 Perfect Jewel at $10 and #12 Bless Her at $7.
Best bet: Race 7 #1 Tagaloa
Next best bet: Race 4 #8 Morrissy
Best value: Race 2 #14 The Closer and Race 9 #15 Glenfiddich