There are two meetings to look this Saturday night, with Menangle and Globe Derby getting my attention.
There are four Group 1 races on Saturday’s Randwick: the $3 million Doncaster Mile (1600m), Australia’s most prestigious mile handicap; the $2.5 million Weight-for-Age (WFA) TJ Smith Stakes (1200m), one of Australia’s best sprint races; the $2 million Australian Derby (2400m) for three-year-olds; and the $1 million AJC Sires’ Produce (1400m) for two-year-olds.
While the Derby and Sires can be tricky races to pick as horses meet for the first time over longer distances, it is the TJ Smith and Doncaster I am most interested in.
In the TJ Smith Stakes this Saturday, while I don’t see this race as easy to pick as last week’s Tancred Stakes where I declared Sir Dragonet on Roar, I am going to put some of my recent winnings on Eduardo who I also backed at $7.50 in his previous win.
At Eduardo’s last two starts, he smashed his rivals in the Group 1 Galaxy (1100m) by 3.5 lengths when running a slick 1:03.45 on a soft 7 track, after previously winning the group 2 Challenge Stakes (1000m) at WFA beating the Nature Strip in a track record on a good 4 track.
According to Eduardo’s trainer Joe Pride after the Galaxy, the horse is “the best sprinter in Australia and he might be the best sprinter in the world”, and “there’s not going to be a horse turn up on TJ Smith day that’s going to worry me”.
While I am not so sure how good Eduardo is by world standards, there is no doubt that Pride has a horse with incredible potential despite his age (now seven).
In just his third start in 2018, Eduardo ran some of the fastest splits ever seen at that track covering the 400m from the 1000m to 600m in 20.16, the next 200m in 11.11 (31.27 for the 600m), the next 200m in 11.46 (42.73 800m) before he tired the last 200m and was caught on the line in 1.02.8 for the 1100m.
At the time, the racing journalist Ken Boman noted, “I’ve got to go back to Black Caviar to find comparable splits. If he keeps improving, this horse has a very bright future”.
If Pride has conditioned this horse to run a strong 1200m, and I suspect he has given he has only trained him since June 2020, then Eduardo may indeed win easily on Saturday.
But racing is a brutal game, and there is no such thing as a certainty.
I expect Eduardo, ridden by Breton Avdulla, to match or follow Nature Strip early, and hopefully run out the 1200m stronger than his rival.
Of course, one cannot rule out Nature Strip on a wet track, as evident by his easy all the way win in the 2020 TJ Smith Stakes on a Heavy 8 beating Santa Ana Lane by two lengths with Redzel third.
It will indeed be a great race, whether my bet on Eduardo wins or loses.
In recent days, Joe Pride expressed his excitement about Eduardo in the TJ Smith by stating “I can’t shut up about it, I’m just thinking about it all the time … It’s been a long time since I’ve had a horse at this level going so well”.
However, while Pride is confident Eduardo can handle Nature Strip, James McDonald (rider of Nature Strip) argues “He (Eduardo) had all the favours that day, we didn’t get a lot of luck, he only knocked us off the last little bit and six furlongs will suit us better … We drew the widest gate, Eduardo had the rail and got all the favours and just beat him. There’s no question we can turn the tables”.
Nevertheless, if both Nature Strip and Eduardo go out too fast worrying about each other, there is a chance that something can run over the top of them to win, although I am not sure what horse that would be besides Bivouac if it returns to form.
While Bivouac is a multiple Group 1 winner at 1200m in 2020, and was backed heavily on Tuesday and Thursday morning from $6 to $4.40, his form this time in has not been as impressive although his trainer James Cummings has declared the four-year-old is ready to produce a supreme performance given “his Easter weekend trackwork suggests a jaw-dropping effort is on the cards”.
My money, however, rests on Eduardo, having backed him at $4.80 each way (as of Wednesday) despite some concern about the last 100m.
In the Doncaster Handicap, I am going to have a smaller bet on the equal topweight Mugatoo (56kg), another suited on a soft track who has the class and form given he ran fourth in the 2020 Cox Plate (2040m) and recently won the $5,000,000 All Star Mile.
Again to be ridden by Hugh Bowman from barrier 4, one of my favourite jockeys when my money is on the line, Mugatoo should be able to take up a reasonable position and get his chance to finish explosively down the Randwick straight (around 400m).
If the track is no better than a soft 6, I also give Avilius (56kg) a chance at $15 with Cummings stating “An expected soft track will not be his to enjoy exclusively but he does savour a bit of mush. He is such a noble, honest horse and gives his best every time. Victory would not go undeserved”.
Other horses with lightweight chances include Cascadian 53kg, Think It Over 52.5kg (barrier 18), Yao Dash 50.5kg, and Mo’unga 49.5kg.
Mugatoo was $4.40 on Thursday morning.
Good luck punters.