Like most forays to the Central Coast, last week’s punt at Gosford returned nothing and left me licking my wounds.
The autumn carnival wraps at Randwick this Saturday and all the pressure is on Masked Crusader to help punters out by winning the feature event, the All Aged Stakes.
But there are a number of reasons why I won’t be backing the $2.90 favourite in the Group 1 race and I advise punters to tread carefully when having a bet in the race.
Most of us would agree that Masked Crusader was a little bit unlucky when finishing second behind Nature Strip in the TJ Smith a fortnight ago.
Do I think he would have won with a clear run? Absolutely not. He was beaten two lengths and perhaps gets a bit closer with some luck.
That’s racing and when you’re a horse that gets back and runs on, you always run the risk of being unlucky.
Masked Crusader has built an impressive resume with five wins from 11 starts but none of his wins have been over 1400m. This preparation has been a lengthy one for a relatively new horse who has travelled to Melbourne and back and no doubt had a gut buster last preparation.
Is the All Aged an afterthought? I don’t like backing horses when having another run after falling short in their grand final.
I think Masked Crusader can win the All Aged Stakes, but there are too many factors against him to be backing him at the short price.
Below I give my thoughts on five races from three venues on Saturday, including my suggested bet for the All Aged Stakes.
Track Good 4 at time of writing. Rail out 6 m.
Race 6 at 2:55 pm: $500,000 Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m)
This looks like a very tough race at the back end of the carnival. Hilal is the favourite and does look to be a genuine winning chance on the back of a strong second in the Sires Produce Stakes.
However, I thought this race might be won by a progressive horse on the rise and that could be Converge for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.
This two-year-old has been given three runs this preparation and has improved each and every time he’s stepped out onto the track.
His last-start win in the Fernhill was ultra-impressive and that was over the mile, a big tick considering we don’t know if the lot of the field are comfortable at the trip.
Suggested bet: Converge each-way.
Race 7 at 3:35 pm: $600,000 Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m)
I wrote above why I’m not keen to back Masked Crusader, so I’ll write here why I am backing Savatiano to win this Group 1 feature.
First thing, she’s in amazing form. The six-year-old mare has won three in a row and the last was at Group 1 level in the Canterbury Stakes.
While she’s always looked a slight class below the elite horses in Sydney, you couldn’t fault her prep this time around. Mares that find form generally stay in form.
The other reason why I like her is that she maps beautifully to make her own luck in the race. She could lead, take a sit or dictate the speed outside the leader. Hugh Bowman has options, which is always handy.
It’ll be a good race and Masked Crusader is a chance to win, but I’m happy to take him on.
Suggested bet: Savatiano each-way.
Track Soft 6 at time of writing. Rail out 4.5 m.
Race 8 at 3:47 pm: $125,000 Listed Mick Dittman Plate (1100m)
This three-year-old race looks to be a good one. There appears to be plenty of speed with the likes of Kisukano drawn out wide, which should give most horses a chance when the whips are cracking.
The Toowoomba-trained Simply Fly will probably start favourite based on his impressive 9:6-1-0 record, but he hasn’t won at Doomben before and that should be of some concern.
I’m going to back a visitor because I don’t rate the local crop all that highly.
Andermatt comes from Sydney and has shown glimpses of talent without being the real deal just yet.
He’ll enjoy the drop in grade and Ryan Maloney should be able to find cover one-off the rail.
When the pressure is applied, I think Andermatt can find the gear needed to finish over the top of them.
Suggested bet: Andermatt each-way.
Track Good 4 at time of writing. Rail out 8 m.
Race 6 at 3:15 pm: $125,000 Australia Handicap (1200m)
Maybe I’m missing something but Open Minded looks to be the best value runner on the program all weekend.
The Freedman-trained four-year-old has six wins from 11 starts and resumes after being spelled on the back of three wins in a row.
Fitness will be the only concern but I expect Open Minded to jump well from barrier five, find the lead and be very hard to beat.
He’s done that before at Caulfield and I hope he can do it again because $10 is a very good each-way price.
Suggested bet: Open Minded each-way.
Race 8 at 4:30 pm: $140,000 Listed Anniversary Vase (1400m)
Tasmanian raider Still A Star was a close second last time out at Caulfield, beaten by Mr Quickie in a Group 3 race over 1400m. This race looks winnable as she should enjoy a great passage from barrier two.
While she had her colours lowered in the All-Star Mile, it was her first crack at Melbourne and she appears to have settled since.
The Tasmanian Oaks winner will have to beat a pretty good field on Saturday, but with 54kg and no genuine superstars in the race, I think she will provide good sight for punters.
Suggested bet: Still A Star to win.