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.
The next five weeks are what racing fans in Australia wait all year for.
Caulfield Guineas, Caulfield Cup and The Everest, Cox Plate, and the Flemington carnival bookended by Derby day and Stakes day, with the Melbourne Cup in-between. The cream of the crop all taking each other on for big prize money and bigger thrills. And it all kicks off this Saturday with three Group 1 races.
The Caulfield Guineas can throw up a memorable two horse war, sometimes in the betting beforehand, but often on the track itself.
In recent times, we’ve seen Super Seth nail Alligator Blood in the last stride, All Too Hard finish over the top of $1.22 pop Pierro, and Helmet and Manawanui go toe-to-toe. Who can forget God’s Own chasing down Paratroopers, who was running in quicksand the last 50m. Each time there were several lengths back to the rest of the field.
This year sees Anamoe and Artorius vying to see who is the superior animal. They met each other twice as two-year-old’s, splitting the result one-all, and Anamoe had Artorius’ measure in the Golden Rose to make it 2-1 his way.
Both Group 1 winners at two, they have long been fancied as the two to beat in the Caulfield Guineas.
Anamoe returned in the Run to the Rose having suffered a minor setback in his lead-up, but put any doubts behind him with a win of authority. In the Golden Rose itself, try as he might, he just couldn’t catch In The Congo, who ran slick time from the front, helped by a track that didn’t hinder front-runners.
Artorius hasn’t been able to post a win this campaign, frustrating his backers. First-up in the McNeil, he copped some bad luck before savaging the line too late, and second-up he loomed to win the Exford Plate but couldn’t put away Mr Mozart. In the Golden Rose, he was once more a long way back, took the scenic route down the straight avoiding a wayward horse, all the while blazing home.
To add intrigue to this “match race” in the Guineas, Anamoe has drawn 15 and Artorius will jump from two.
You could argue that a swap of gates would be beneficial for both. Damien Oliver on Anamoe will have some quick decisions to make once they jump to avoid being posted on a limb, while Damian Lane on Artorius is in danger of being cluttered up on the fence in a big field.
There will be 14 other jockeys looking to keep Anamoe deep and Artorius trapped in, you can be sure of that.
Assuming even luck for all, no horses from the Golden Rose will be able to beat both of Anamoe and Artorius, so Coastwatch, Tiger of Malay, Captivant and Giannis will have to improve several lengths.
But oftentimes luck is not even for all in horse racing. Coastwatch and Captivant have drawn awkwardly, so that makes their task tougher. Tiger of Malay has drawn to get a cosy run behind the speed, and has enough quality to win if he gets the breaks.
The Golden Rose is unquestionably the best three-year-old form every spring, so can the Victorian lead-up races provide the winner ahead of them?
The Guineas Prelude is another key form reference, a race that Lightsaber won after sitting outside the leader on a soft speed. Alpine Edge ran fourth after getting boxed in behind them. It’s likely if you swap the runs you’d swap the result. Alpine Edge finished next to the filly Startantes up in Queensland two starts back, and that horse ran sixth in the Golden Rose, so you can line them up.
The Stutt Stakes is often seen as the B-grade Melbourne form heading into the Guineas, but might have more sting in it this year. Forgot You was an impressive winner after taking a while to warm up, but it looks like the VRC Derby is more his goal.
Mr Mozart did some work early in that race, was forced wider than he’d like on the turn and was in front everywhere but the post. Let’s not forget he beat Artorius fair and square in the Exford Plate, albeit getting 2.5kgs off him. Jye McNeil will push forward from barrier eight and likely lead the field with Lightsaber. There are worse each-way plays.
There’s a few horses making up the tail in this field, but Prix De Turn creates some interest having his second ever start. Unfortunately he’ll be jumping from barrier 16, so will likely have to be snagged right back to last and have too much to do. He shapes as a lovely Carbine Club type on Derby Day.
This becomes a tougher race to dissect now that tactics on the two favourites are going to play a huge part from their barriers, and the race may well be won and lost in the first 400m.
It takes brave punters to really step into the favourites with the barriers they have, so an each-way play might be the better scenario. Mr Mozart and Tiger of Malay are drawn to get the best runs.
Selections: 1.Mr Mozart 2.Anamoe 3.Artorius 4.Tiger of Malay
Australian racing feels like it’s in a rich vein of form when it comes to our Group 1 1400-1600m handicaps. The Epsom at Randwick last week and Rupert Clarke from three weeks ago were both fantastic races, following on from a Doncaster earlier this year that was also sensational.
The Toorak shapes as another memorable race, and we could see the birth of a future WFA champ.
No-one in the country missed I’m Thunderstruck’s run in the Rupert Clarke, and based on how well backed he was, half of them were on too. He went back to last from the widest gate, got into trouble on the turn and stormed home to be beaten half a length. This is his first time out to 1600m, but that should only enhance his chances.
Sierra Sue and Dice Roll finished in front of I’m Thunderstruck in that busy finish, and now meet I’m Thunderstruck 3.5kgs and 1.5kgs worse, respectively. Weights and measures, plus the natural progression of a lightly-raced four-year-old against more mature horses suggests they have their work cut out to finish in front of him again.
Superstorm and Elephant had a hair between them over 1600m at WFA in the Feehan at Moonee Valley two starts back, but went on different paths between then and now. Superstorm ran a solid if well beaten third to Zaaki in the Underwood, while Elephant put away a good field in the Sandown Stakes.
Elephant perhaps has the edge between these two, with a 1kg weight swing, a cosy draw and friendlier racing pattern, and is still untapped given how much he keeps improving.
Harbour Views and Lunar Fox were 3-4 lengths behind Elephant in the Sandown Stakes, but may have some admirers given some weight swings, but it looks likely to be enough.
The Stocks Stakes at Moonee Valley on Grand Final Eve is always a strong form race for mares, and two of them present here. So You Assume led all the way and kept going, while Quantum Mechanic put herself back on the radar by looping the field into third. The latter is an outstanding miler with a touch of Group 1 class about her.
Tofane is a mare that had definite Group 1 quality, and carries top weight accordingly thanks to her wins in the All Aged Stakes, Stradbroke Handicap and Tatts Tiara in the last 18 months. It’s very difficult to carry that kind of weight against the boys, but she was only a length behind Incentivise last time we saw her. It’s decent form!
Second Slip brings some of that Adelaide form that usually stands up so well in the Melbourne spring, a tough and hardy on-pacer that should be part of setting up this race as being run at a genuine tempo.
The market does look to have this race sorted with the top-two selections, but there’s certainly plenty of value to be found for exotics and multiples.
Selections: 1.I’m Thunderstruck 2.Elephant 3.Quantum Mechanic 4.Superstorm
Might and Power Stakes
Zaaki won the five horse Underwood without being truly tested, and has only one more rival to defeat in the Might and Power this weekend.
He was only moderately impressive to the eye, but did no more than he was asked or that he needed to. He didn’t look completely comfortable going the Melbourne way, despite having won races that way overseas, so Caulfield may be a trickier assignment for him on that front.
He will no doubt win again, but we just pray that Verry Elleegant is back to her best in the Cox Plate, Incentivise backs up after winning the Caulfield Cup, and Anamoe takes out the Caulfield Guineas and goes there too. Add in Sir Dragonet as last year’s winner, and then we’ll see what he’s really made of.
Probabeel gave Zaaki a hint of a fight in the Underwood, and did at least put the question to him. Most think that 2000m is beyond her best distance, but she’s never had a chance to conclusively prove it given her runs at that trip have been on wet tracks and she needs it dry. We’ll know more on Saturday.
Homesman has met Zaaki a couple of times before, being beaten comfortably both times, but he’s such an honest warrior that you know he’ll front up and give his best.
Noncomformist comes off his Naturalism win, which looked the perfect race for him. He’s never really appealed as a Group 1 WFA horse, but he’s fit and in-form and is certainly no slouch, so will provide a good measuring stick.
Nickajack Cave and No Effort are the despise outsiders of the field. The former in an import that’s only had one run in Australia for a plain effort in the Tancred back in April, while the latter is well outgraded but will lead this field along and couldn’t be any fitter.
Selections: 1.Zaaki 2.Probabeel 3.Homesman 4.Noncomformist