After a pretty tough first day of the Championships, we return to Randwick for an absolute belter of a card for day this Saturday, featuring a ripping Queen Elizabeth and very open Sydney Cup.
I am looking forward to Rosehill’s two Group 1 Weight For Age (WFA) races on Saturday, the Ranvet Stakes (2000m) and George Ryder Stakes (1500m).
Assuming a wet track no better than a soft 6, I am sticking with Addeybb in the Ranvet Stakes on the basis he is a world-class performer on a slippery surface.
In Addeybb’s last race, the Group 1 Champion Stakes at England’s Ascot, he easily beat home Magical on a slow track with the latter having a soft track victory over Sir Dragonet who won the 2020 Cox Plate on a muddy day.
However, one cannot rule out a win for an improved Very Elegant, another great horse in the wet, given Chris Waller describes the mare as being stronger this year.
There is also the slight chance that Sir Dragonet may find form over a more suitable distance, as he did after coming from England to win the 2020 Cox Plate victory on soft ground, but his recent 2021 form is pretty atrocious perhaps in unsuitable shorter distances.
Master of wine and Colette, both very good wet track horses, also add depth to a pretty good Ravet Stakes, one of the better fields of recent years.
In the George Ryder Stakes, which also has added numbers due to the wet track and races postponement, I am sticking with Avilius at this stage on the basis of him being in very good form as a superior wet tracker who should benefit from a reasonable pace in a bigger field.
Other good chances include Funstar and Star of the Seas, as the latter is also a very good in Sydney on wet tracks around this distance.
But this piece is also about the recent history to these two Group 1 races.
Watching WFA races is a passion for me as they provide a forum for the very best horses to perform on a day where too much importance if given to a two year old race where few go on to be WFA calibre horses.
The two Group 1 WFA races on Saturday are often won or placed by top horses on their way to the 1600m Doncaster Mile, the most famous mile race in Australia, or the 2000m Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Sydney’s premier WFA race during the Autumn carnival.
To run well in the George Ryder, run at various times since 1973 between 1400m and 1500m (latter since 1986), a horse not only has to possess considerable speed but toughness and enough fitness to run a distance just short of a metric mile.
Over the past 40 years, a number of multiple Group 1 champions have won the George Ryder including Campaign King (1987, 1988), Schillaci (1993), Lonhro (2003, 2004), Weekend Hussler (2008), and Pierro (2013).
One of my favourite ever horses, Manikato, a hulk of a horse, also won two George Ryder Stakes (1979 and 1980). Manikato also won the 1978 Golden Slipper.
But Winx, the greatest of all WFA horses in my lifetime, won the George Ryder Stakes on four occasions (2016-2019).
While Winx was a great horse on any track surface, the mare was even better on wet tracks, as seen by her seven length victory in the 2017 George Ryder on a heavy track.
Lonhro, another great horse, was also perceived to be at his best in his two George Ryder Stakes wins, according to his jockey Darren Beadman who declared him “just about unbeatable over 1500m at Rosehill”.
In his 2003 victory, Lonhro thrashed his rivals of a relatively slow pace coming home the final 600m “in a stunning 32.47sec, 400m in 21.24sec and the last 100m in an incredible 10.76 sec”, yet the 2004 victory saw the stallion produce a great finish to beat a top field including Grand Armee and Private Steer by nearly two lengths under hands and heels rising.
Here are Lohnro’s two George Ryder victories, one racing near the lead, the other coming from behind.
The George Ryder victories led Beadman to declare Lonhro a better racehorse than his father, Octagonal (the 1995 Cox Plate winner).
Of the Ranvet Stakes, this race is part of Sydney’s Autumn carnival which offers three Group 1 races at the 2000-2400m range. The other two races are the 2400m Tancred Stakes and the 2000m Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
The Ranvet has been won by a number of multiple Group 1 winners in recent decades, including Grand Armee 2005, Tie the Knot 2001 and 2001, Super Impose 1991, Better Loosen Up 1990, and Hyperno 1981.
One of the easiest victories was by Grand Armee in 2005 who, a year earlier, beat Lohnro easily in the latter’s last race in the 2000m Queen Elizabeth Stakes after being left alone with an easy lead for a fair part of the race, which turned into a sprint home.
I remember this race because one overseas punter, who had backed $1 million on Lonhro to win the Australian Cup at $1.55 and four weeks later had $2 million on Lonhro in the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill at $1.85 for a $1.7 million profit, blew the lost and much more with a $5 million loss on Lohnro that day at the odds of $1.20.
But Grand Armee was an excellent horse over 2000m with his speed and endurance, particularly in Sydney, although he also won the 2004 Mackinnon Stakes on Derby Day during Melbourne’s Spring carnival.
In 2020, a great battle also occurred down the straight when the top English horse Addeybb beat Very Elegant, one of the more exciting finishes.
On Saturday, I look forward to these two very good Group 1 WFA races that may add to the history of these two very good races where many good horses run and often champions win.
The Golden Slipper, at least for me, is a just the sideshow.