There was a claim (and counterclaim) of interference in a bizarre case of 1st v 1st, as it seems like connections of Ciccina and Vendidit weren’t happy with having to share the prize money. But stewards dismissed the objections.
Group 1 racing returns to Melbourne after a five month gap with the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday.
There has been quite a bit of debate in recent weeks about the pattern of Group 1 racing in Australia and whether we have too many of them. It has long been an issue, and we addressed it five years ago at The Roar, with a series of essays over a week.
It’s certainly been bemusing to see the exact same things we were saying back then being repeated in the wider media now.
But, while spring hasn’t quite arrived yet, it’s certainly in the air. And from a racing perspective we are seeing some quality horses return to the track.
12 really good horses have been assembled for this year’s Memsie Stakes, with a handful of proven class horses tackling a strong second tier that are either on the rise or in really good form.
Behemoth is the defending champion and multiple Group 1 winner, so we start with him. He was a dominant winner of this event last year and followed it up with an equally impressive win in the Rupert Clarke. The Caulfield 1400m in spring is his domain.
Behemoth returned with a first-up win in the Spring Stakes, albeit on protest, in a cracking match race with Beau Rossa, following the same pattern from last spring. Barrier nine can be a sticky one at this track and distance, and he’s never won from wider than gate six, which could be a niggle. But he’s a deserved market-elect.
Beau Rossa also comes over from Adelaide after that strong Spring Stakes performance, tacking his biggest test to date. He stamped himself as a future Group 1 contender with a seven length win in benchmark 64 grade in April this year, and is well worth his place.
He’ll need to find a length or two to beat all of these, but will camp behind the speed from a cruisy draw and put himself into the race at the right time. Let’s find out how good he is.
Five horses are lining up here after tackling the P.B Lawrence Stakes, but they don’t have a lot of respect with the bookies at this stage.
Sierra Sue won that race with some authority and is right back in form after a middling autumn and winter campaign in Melbourne and Brisbane. Let’s not forget she won a Group 2 on Turnbull Stakes day last year at only her seventh start, and is still quite lightly raced for a five-year-old mare. Her best may well be still to come.
Finishing behind her were Red Can Man in third, and Archedemus, Streets of Avalon and Sansom who filled three of the bottom four placings.
Red Can Man was fantastic from a three wide position, continuing on a really solid June/July campaign, but this is different gravy. Sansom didn’t show anything like his best in the Lawrence after winning the Bletchingly, and you’d like to see him redeem himself. Archedemus doesn’t have anything on his resume to suggest he can win this.
Streets of Avalon, however, does have two Group 1 WFA wins at the Caulfield 1400m to his name, albeit softer events than this, and this is certainly his track. Most agree that he’s not quite up to the level of the real A-graders, but he still looks over the odds at $21 or more. Any horse that is tough and honest, and can lead up a field at Caulfield is always a chance to sneak off with a big race.
Five horses are hitting this race first-up, each one of them a fascinating runner, all of them previous Group 1 winners, and none of them you could say with certainty that don’t still have their best in front of them.
Aegon is a Kiwi sensation that won a Group 1 in New Zealand at only his third start, and won his first Australian start in the Hobartville Stakes in February to make his career five from five. His bubble burst as short priced favourite in the Randwick Guineas, and then he never made an impression in the Doncaster.
A good break through winter should only be to his benefit, and all eyes will be there to assess whether he is the real deal. The query on him in that all five wins so far have come on soft tracks, which he is not going to get on Saturday.
Colette is another wet-tracker, clearly several lengths better on wet ground than she is on dry, where she is still very respectable. But respectable isn’t likely to get the job done in this kind of Memsie Stakes where there is some seriously good opposition. The question is also what kind of race she is being set for as an Oaks winner, even though she is well credentialled at 1400-1500m.
Tofane is currently vying with Behemoth for favouritism, and is simply as good a 1400m horse as there is in the country right now. She’s started three times at exactly 1400m, all of them in Group 1’s, and she’s won them all. Those wins were in the 2020 All Aged Stakes at WFA, and the Stradbroke and Tatt’s Tiara from the recent Queensland winter.
She’ll carry residual fitness from that Brisbane campaign, and while not a noted first-up specialist, she’s also never resumed over 1400m, which is clearly her pet trip. From barrier four she’ll get to sit where she likes, stalking a strong tempo, and Craig Williams will produce her at the right time. If Tofane doesn’t win, whatever beats her does.
Inspirational Girl is another interesting runner, the Railway Stakes winner about to be seen outside Western Australia for the first time after transferring to the Danny O’Brien stable. She was clearly levels above the restricted company she was mostly facing in Perth, but tackles some of the big guns now.
The knock on this mare is how forward she will be in order to be a true winning chance, and will likely be at the tail of the field from an inside barrier, so is going to have to pass some serious horses while ducking and weaving. It will be a tough ask, but she’s on the watch list either way.
Fifty Stars is more known as a wet track horse and better at 1600m-2000m, and does have some decent form both first-up and has some handy form at the Caulfield 1400m across his career, but this one does look a bridge too far.
Streets of Avalon and Archedemus will take up the cudgels, crossing from out wide, and will probably have to go past Red Can Man to do so, as he’ll be looking for a forward position from barrier eight too. The pace could be right on early. It all shapes to benefit the horses that are tight in the market, as they should get good runs behind it.
Selections: 1.Tofane 2.Behemoth 3.Streets of Avalon 4.Beau Rossa
The support card at Caulfield is also as strong as we’ve seen on Memsie Stakes Day.
Blue Diamond winner Artorius resumes in the McNeil Stakes, which is often a spring-shaping race when it comes to three-year-old’s as they forge paths to the Golden Rose, Caulfield Guineas and/or the Coolmore Stakes.
Masked Crusader is equal third favourite for the Everest, coming off a preparation where he ran in four Group 1 races, winning one of them and running a blazing second to Nature Strip in the TJ Smith. The Hawkes camp has sparingly raced this horse, always expecting he’d be at his best as a five-year-old and beyond.
And then we have the Cockram Stakes for mares, which looks a duel between two stars in Probabeel and Instant Celebrity, with some pretty good types chasing them too.
The elite horses are emerging from their spells, and the racing is going to be on in earnest. Let’s have it.