Without a Fight completed the rare Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double on Tuesday as star jockey Mark Zahra went back-to-back in the big one after…
The All Star Mile is supposed to be Victoria’s answer to The Everest, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way yet.
The Everest, run over 1200m at Randwick in October, without question attracts the best sprinters in the land.
The All Star Mile, trying to find a home in March while rotating around the three major Melbourne metropolitan tracks, is yet to truly assemble a field worthy of the name.
Chris Waller makes a mockery of the concept every year, nominating and accepting with his horses before pulling them out a week or two beforehand. There is usually a better field to be found from who isn’t running rather than who is.
Still, it’s a high profile race that will be keenly contested and eagerly watched, and a winner must be found.
Once again, we find I’m Thunderstruck, Alligator Blood and Mr Brightside suiting up against each other. These three geldings squaring off in feature races has been one of the highlights of the 2022/23 season, and a real throwback.
This will be the fifth time they have met as a trio – so far Alligator Blood has finished in front twice, I’m Thunderstruck twice, with Mr Brightside getting ever closer.
I’m Thunderstruck has met Alligator Blood six times this season – while I’m Thunderstruck has won the head-to-head battle four times, the twice that Alligator Blood has finished ahead of him has delivered two Group 1 wins. In fact, “The Blood” has won three Group 1s this season, with “Thunder” stuck on one.
Alligator Blood and Mr Brightside have raced each other five times, with the former holding a 4-1 advantage including wins in the Underwood Stakes, the Cantala Stakes, and the Futurity Stakes three weeks ago.
Mr Brightside and I’m Thunderstruck have taken each other one seven times in the last year – the ledger is 5-2 in Thunder’s favour, but Mr Brightside won a Doncaster against his rival, and also finished in front of him in the Futurity last start.
The other point to note is that these three have never all raced at 1600m together, but they have each had a one-on-one battle.
Mr Brightside beat I’m Thunderstruck into second in the 2022 Doncaster at Randwick. I’m Thunderstruck beat Alligator Blood into second in the Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington in September. And Alligator Blood beat Mr Brightside into third in the Cantala at Flemington in November.
So, where does it all leave us, with the added intrigue of clashing at Moonee Valley? They are certainly the three favourites, as well they should be, with a stranglehold on the betting.
The engagement of Keats and Gentleman Roy should ensure a searing tempo, so Alligator Blood won’t be able to dictate terms as he might like to do. He’s won plenty of races after sitting handy and even won the Stradbroke from midfield, so he does have more than one arrow in his quiver. He’s the one to beat.
I’m Thunderstruck was good first-up even though he loomed to win and didn’t quite go on with it. Last time out, staying at 1400m was against him and he raced too close to the speed to be effective. From barrier five in this field, his best chance is to be in the fourth or fifth pair and if it’s a test of stamina at 1600m he’s the best placed to be last man standing.
Mr Brightside was ridden poorly last start, setting further back than he needed to while Alligator Blood got all the favours. At WFA he needs to be sitting handy rather than leading or finding himself at the tail of the field. He might finally get the chance to shine if given all the favours by Luke Currie.
Can anyone take it up to the big three?
Cascadian has always swum in the deep end of the pool, and handled himself well. A Doncaster and All Aged winner, he has raced against the three favourites five times in the last year, and finished behind them all each time. Add to that it’s his first time at the Valley and he has a few things against, honest campaigner though he is.
Laws of Indices is yet to win in Australia from 14 attempts, despite running some competitive races. He was there in I’m Thunderstruck’s Golden Eagle, popped up in Cascadian’s All Aged, Mr Brightside’s Doncaster and Alligator Blood’s Stradbroke. He has finished a couple of lengths behind Anamoe both starts this prep, and will have each-way admirers.
Of the other more established weight-for-age competitors, My Oberon was supposed to be a first-up specialist but flopped in the Futurity, so is hard to come into. Aegon’s level appears to be a length or two off the best, but could run a drum at odds. Nugget was placed in the Orr Stakes, but appeared out of his depth last start.
Keats is there to lead and ensure the race is truly run. It’s great to see Tasmania represented via The Inevitable. So Si Bon must be a hundred years old, but will show up.
Pounding and Gentleman Roy are two fit, firing and in-form horses that could run races at big odds. Pounding has been airborne in recent months, flying through the grades. He’s still only a 4yo, and is improving with every start. Gentleman Roy would be a Group 1 winner if the stewards had a different view of the Orr Stakes, and while he was a touch underwhelming last start, can be trusted to bounce back.
Alenquer is the big question mark of the race. The ex-international is now with Michael Moroney and having his first start in Australia, also being first-up off a break of almost six months. He has raced almost exclusively in Group 1 company over the last 20 months, and has won a Group 1 over former Cox Plate winner State of Rest.
There’s only one three-year-old in the race this year, and that’s the Peter & Paul Snowden filly Sheeza Belter. She’s sneakily compiled a pretty good record since arriving from Perth early last year.
Sheeza Belter won the Sires Produce and Group 1 JJ Atkins in the Brisbane carnival, beat the older mares in the Hot Danish at Group 2 level in the spring, and ran third against the older mares against last week in the Group 1 Coolmore, giving the quinella significant weight.
Selections: 1.I’m Thunderstruck 2.Alligator Blood 3.Mr Brightside 4.Sheeza Belter