After a near two-month break to allow for renovations to the course proper, racing returns to Randwick on Saturday for the annual Group 2 Villiers Stakes (Race 7) over 1600m.
Fabrizio stamped his class all over the year’s most highly publicised raceday when demolishing a capable field in the Melbourne Cup Day Plate over 1800m and on the strength of that showing is expected to take plenty of beating in the feature event.
The training combination of Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott unveiled a likely contender for the two-year-old Magic Millions in impressive midweek winner Debonairly.
The pair are said to be extremely confident in Fabrizio’s chances and the early weight of money also trends in his favour.
In at Unibet headquarters, where our traders are preparing themselves for a voluminous period of racing heading into Christmas, we’re not ready to concede the race to the favourite just yet and will be looking to take him on come Saturday.
With the winner gaining automatic entry into the Doncaster, Waterhouse has earmarked this horse as a probable type for a Group 1 Randwick mile win given his toughness and resilience.
Although his last crack ended in disappointment following a curious Epsom ride by Johan Victoire.
Powering through the early sectionals, the Frenchman set up an eight length lead nearing the turn but Fabrizio was a sitting duck and had nothing left in the tank over the final furlong, knocking up to finish a well-beaten 10th.
Despite an awkward draw out in 11, local hoop Tim Clark should be able to control the tempo with a bit more assuredness but at the prices we feel he’s a good risk and are encouraging the punters to come after us and fund their festive shopping.
Second pick Hazzabeel has thrived since heading east to join the Ciaron Maher brigade and warmed up for this with a tidy second-place finish in the traditional lead-in, the Festival Stakes.
Having foregone a crack at the Kingston Town Classic back on familiar turf in Perth, Maher should have Hazzabeel ready to go but he might be a horse that goes best on top of the ground.
The forecast showers set to hit Sydney in the back end of the week might not work to his advantage and at the prices we’re also happy to oppose him.
Instead, our Sydney form analysts were expecting the main challenge to come from the lightly-weighted High Midnight (pictured above), who showed great tenacity to fend off Reincarnate over 1400m at Rosehill last weekend and has drawn to race on the speed once again.
With James Innes Jr set to take the ride on High Midnight, Glyn Schofield will instead partner 2014 winner Rudy, who has been given a similar preparation by the Gold Coast-based Helen Page.
His run in the Recognition Stakes wasn’t too bad but he’d need to find a couple of lengths off that and despite having respect for the horse’s achievements, it’s hard to make a case for him.
We were also awaiting any market support for the Lee/Anthony Freedman import Sarrasin, who will be making his first Australian start after a spell of nearly 12 months in the country.
Despite the perception he’ll come into his own over more ground, we’re not taking any real chances with him at this stage with inclement weather also likely to be in his favour.
Of the others, Pajaro’s (pictured below right) run in the Festival was credible and he’s a horse who has performed well third-up in the past while Duca Valentinois drops 8kgs off his last run and is worthy of consideration for the wider exotics with the in-form Brenton Avdulla in the saddle.
1. High Midnight
3. Duca Valentinois
Indeed, Fabrizio wasn’t the only favourite at Randwick we were keen to take on with our harbour city traders also taking a set against boom horse She Will Reign in the Inglis Nursery (Race 3) for two-year-olds over 1000m.
Under the tutelage of Gary Portelli, this filly captured plenty of headlines when romping to an eight length win in a very handy 56.04 at Kembla Grange last weekend.
It was a showing which saw her promoted to the upper reaches of our fixed odds market for next year’s Golden Slipper.
However, we can’t help but feel the market has overreacted to the hype somewhat and in a field with more depth, we’re challenging the big hitters to come after us with some hefty bets.
Raw on debut in the Merson Cooper Stakes at Sandown, Vinland had by far the better of Chauffeur in a recent trial and that effort carries slightly more credence in light of the second colt’s subsequent win in the opening event at Rosehill last Saturday.
Trainer Tony McEvoy expressed a query over the hotpot’s ability to produce elite performances twice in the space of a week and we’re inclined to agree, dangling the carrot of odds against for punters to snap up at the time of writing.
Up north, with Waterhouse electing not to run her two charges in direct opposition to each other, Festival winner Sweet Redemption will instead tackle the Brisbane Handicap (Race 5) over 1600m at Doomben but she, too, looks worthy of opposing at current market odds.
Desleigh Forster’s Cylinder Beach defied a huge betting drift to run away with the Recognition and the extra furlong will surely play right into his hands.
While last-start metropolitan winner Man of His Word has been the best-backed runner in early betting as he steps out to a mile for the first time.
The Lough Neagh Stakes (Race 7) over 1350m should also be a competitive affair with a number of these horses very familiar with each other having come through both the Keith Noud and George Moore Stakes, which was won in impressive fashion by Most Important.
Favourite Too Good to Refuse got too far back on that occasion but really hit his straps over the final 100m and with the blinkers back on he looks well placed to turn the tables.
In the far west at Ascot, the Ted van Heemst Stakes (Race 7) over 2100m serves as a warm-up for the Perth Cup on New Year’s Eve and the decision of Geoff Durrant to head straight for that race with Kia Ora Koutou has seen Perfect Reflection take a stranglehold on betting.
Her formline reads pretty strongly with Group 1 placings in both the Kingston Town Classic and Railway Stakes at her past two starts but this is her first go beyond 1800m and we have a legitimate query about her ability to run out the trip.
Instead, our traders were looking to the Fred Kersley-trained Respondent to follow up from his upset win in last month’s Tattersall’s Cup with another prominent showing while Tradesman can also be expected to be closing late and give the favourite something to think about.
Best Bet: Sweet Melody (Adelaide, Race 6, No.8)
Value Bet: Shakespearan Lass (Melbourne, Race 6, No.5)
Lay: She Will Reign (Sydney, Race 3, No.8)
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