The upset win of It’s Somewhat in the Doncaster ensured that Round 1 of the Championships just about went our way on a day that will long be remembered for the astonishing performance of Chautauqua.
However, punters are expected to fight back in style this weekend and we’re bracing for a record-day turnover wise.
The first of the Group 1 races is the Australian Oaks (Race 6).
Having claimed the Derby with Jon Snow, the Kiwi training partnership of Baker & Forsman will attempt a sweep of the three-year-old staying events with their highly rated filly Bonneval.
While this race represents her first Australian start, she’s proven at the 2400m having followed a similar path into the race as last year’s winner Sofia Rosa, fighting off fellow contender Devise to win the NZ Oaks at Trentham recently.
With top local jockey Hugh Bowman (pictured above) booked for the ride, the stable have reason to be confident, although Baker cautioned that he was unsure how she would cope with the expected heavy conditions.
Our traders are expecting a stiff challenge to come from David Brideoake’s Nurse Kitchen, who was pretty unlucky not to land the Vinery Stud Stakes at Rosehill last time out.
Running into dead-ends along the rails, Blake Shinn hooked her to the outside halfway down the straight and she really hit top gear in the final 150m to narrowly miss gunning down Montoya’s Secret.
Of the others, Lasqueti Spirit and Harlow Gold ran the quinella in the Crown Oaks last spring and arrive with genuine claims.
The former, especially, should appreciate racing back against her own age group after running into the likes of Winx and Jameka of late.
Harlow Gold has been competitive in both the Australian Guineas and Vinery but is a bit of a ‘non-winner’ for ours and we’re happy to accommodate punters keen to back her.
The best of the outsiders is probably Waking Moment, who found a second wind at the 100m mark to get up and nab Perfect Rhyme in the last bound of the Adrian Knox Stakes last week.
Next up is the Queen Elizabeth (Race 7) which threatens to become another procession for the imperious Winx (pictured above).
The mare shoots for her 17th consecutive win and Sydneysiders should get to the track to see her live.
Odds around the 1.10 mark are a fair reflection of her superiority and offer ‘better than bank interest’ for those wanting to load up on a near certainty.
We are also encouraging our clients to ‘multi’ their favoured selections throughout the day with Winx in order to give you a better return for your dollars.
With the two-time Cox Plate winner enjoying such a stranglehold on betting, we’re anticipating plenty of interest in our ‘Winx Out’ market, which pays on the best-placed finisher of the other eight runners.
With runs on the board, Hartnell (pictured above) heads the betting there despite a slightly underwhelming preparation, although there were signs at his most recent run, where he chased home Our Ivanhowe in the Ranvet, that the horse was back to something approaching his best.
With The United States pretty well handled on that occasion, we were instead expecting the main challenge in this market to come from Happy Clapper, who was game in defeat in the Doncaster and is a horse we’ve always had a favourable opinion of.
The Sydney Cup (Race 8) hasn’t attracted the greatest field of all time and thus presents a terrific opportunity for Darren Weir to claim a Sydney major with the lightly raced Big Duke.
After requiring a protest to see off Our Century on Slipper day, the rising star needed no such concession when powering to victory in last Saturday’s Chairmans Handicap and the strength of that performance has seen him installed a dominant favourite for this.
Mindful of the fact that we’ll be chasing our tails after the great mare storms to victory, our traders have earmarked him as a worthy lay and we are inviting punters to come after us on ‘the Duke’.
Second pick Assign, from the same yard as Melbourne Cup winner Almandin, comes off a hard-fought win in the Neville Sellwood but looks a bit of a query at the two miles after finishing down the track in the big one at Flemington last year.
Instead, our traders are expecting a solid push to come for Penglai Pavilion, one of two runners for the Newmarket-based Charlie Appleby.
Appleby’s charges feasted on some of the local staying races last spring and it’s a telling sign that the stable have likened this gelding to Geelong Cup winner Qewy.
The camps’ other runner, Polarisation, had to be withdrawn from the Chairmans due to a minor leg problem but appears fit and ready to take his place on Saturday.
Of the others, Who Shot TheBarman (pictured above) has been aimed at this race all along and shouldn’t be discounted while our traders are also expecting Almoonqith to perform far more capably than his odds indicate.
The final major of the Championships, the Coolmore Legacy Stakes (Race 9), looks a particularly open affair on paper and we’re hoping for an exciting race.
Andrew Noblet’s Silent Sedition has had a slightly unusual preparation but handled the drop back from 1500m to 1200m in some style in the William Reid Stakes at the Valley two weeks ago.
Parked three-wide mid-race, the bay mare showed real tenacity to get past Star Turn before fighting off a challenge from Hellbent.
Her trainer later admitted a desire not to have a month between runs heading into this race was the catalyst for running her back over a sprint distance.
However, with no less than eight of Saturday’s starters coming out of the Coolmore Classic, that event looks a pretty useful reference for this.
Eventual winner Heaven’s Above, who nudged out Silent Sedition (pictured above) and Danish Twist in a desperately tight finish, meets the favourite a tad better at the weights and is the one to beat again for ours.
Danish Twist is another horse we often fancy but she’s really struggled to cope with both of her runs on heavy surfaces this preparation and with similar conditions expected she is overlooked.
Chris Waller’s Foxplay is one of only two three-year-olds to take part and while a late check cost her third place in the Vinery she was arguably entitled to finish closer than she did.
We’re less than inspired by the ordinary record of that age group in this race in recent years and are also happy to take her on.
Of the others, we’ve seen some early each-way interest for the other three-year-old, Oregons Day, while Zanbagh should relish the conditions and is another to consider for exotic players.
Good luck and good punting!
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