The third leg of the two-year-old ‘triple’ crown, the Champagne Stakes (Race 6) over 1600m, is the co-feature on a bumper Easter Saturday card at Randwick.
A late scratching out of the Slipper, Invader was able to score a tough win in the Sires Produce a fortnight ago.
With most of the country’s leading juveniles now in the paddock, he appears to have this one at his mercy.
Unsurprisingly, the Sires has proven to be a terrific guide to this race. No less than five horses have completed the double since 2003 and a number of other runners have produced eye-catching efforts there.
With history in his favour, a rails draw in his pocket and the services of the unflappable Hugh Bowman, everything points to an Invader win.
He’s been chalked up odds-on and we're bracing for several of our big hitters to line up in support of him on the weekend.
Second favourite Whispered Secret is from the same yard as last year’s winner, Prized Icon.
Under the tutelage of James Cummings, she has followed a similar route into this after fighting off Toga Picta to win last week’s Fernhill Handicap.
She looks a pretty hardy filly and has been touted as a potential Oaks-type in the spring.
We probably feel she has further improvement to come at this stage though and will be looking towards others to lay down the challenge to Invader.
David Hayes has a stellar crop of young’uns in 2017 and will tackle this with Mornington Sires winner Eshtiraak. We’ve had our eye on this horse from the beginning and have kept him onside in betting.
It’s worth noting though, that he’s done all his racing on good surfaces down south to date and is thus an unknown prospect on what are likely to be soft-to-heavy track conditions.
At the prices, we also felt that David Payne’s Ace High would acquit himself well.
He remains a maiden after five starts but his recent runs have all been okay and he looks capable of running a place at least.
Later, after a harrowing defeat in the TJ Smith, English will be hoping for a change of luck as she defends her All Aged Stakes (Race 7) crown.
The look on Gai’s (pictured above) face was priceless as her star mare, who forged to the front at the 150m mark and looked a certain winner, was completely overwhelmed by the flashing grey.
Let’s hope it’s actually English we see on the track come Saturday after Waterhouse was fined by stewards for substituting the mare with another horse at a recent trackwork exhibition!
Co-favourite Le Romain (pictured above) is a horse looking for redemption of another kind, after a last-start flop in the Doncaster Mile.
Trainer Kris Lees was at a loss to explain that performance, but all appears well with the horse heading into this, although he has an outside draw to contend with.
We’re keen to take on the two favourites here and are challenging the punters to come after us and really ‘get the chocolates’ over Easter.
Indeed, this race has produced a few surprise winners in recent years.
With a solid form line through a couple of top-level sprints, we reckon Tivaci (pictured above) might be able to do us a favour.
While he couldn’t live with the raw power and acceleration of Chautauqua, Mike Moroney’s bay worked home as well as anything else having raced three wide in the TJ Smith.
He certainly won’t be disadvantaged by the extra furlong here and our traders are expecting him to challenge strongly.
Of the others, Divine Prophet has a 2.5kg weight advantage over most of the field as the only three-year-old runner, but his two runs in Melbourne were only fair and he’ll need to lift.
While the jury’s out on Redkirk Warrior, another horse who probably does his best racing on top of the ground and might not get conditions to suit here.
In a busy day of racing around the country, Second Bullet lines up as the favourite in the Easter Cup (Race 9) at Caulfield.
Meanwhile, Hellova Street, who looks the best horse to have come out of Tasmania in a while, will be looking to notch his first Group level win in the Victoria Handicap (Race 8).
It wouldn’t be Easter without the Oakbank carnival as the tenacious Nishiazabu aims for back-to-back wins in the Von Doussa Steeplechase (Race 6) ahead of a tilt at Monday’s Great Eastern.
Elsewhere, the greyhound racing world also takes centre stage at this time of year with Saturday night’s Wentworth Park card featuring several great races including the Golden Easter Egg (Race 7) over 520m.
After scorching to victory in a scintillating 29.63 in last weekend’s semi-final round, Up Hill Jill has taken a firm grip on betting and should be able to find the lead again from box two.
Her main opposition is expected to come from National Futurity winner Striker Light, who has posted sub 30 sec runs in both the heat and semi-finals.
However, this will be his first ever start from box seven and trainer Brett Bravo conceded he may have a tough time getting across from there.
As a concession to punters, we are offering a Best Tote payout on the six main races on the card with the first, the Magic Maiden Final (Race 1), set to commence at 7.28pm.
We’ll also be open for business as normal on Good Friday with a full card at Ascot for punters to sink their teeth into and international meetings to bet on as well.
Happy Easter and Good Punting!
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