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Turnbull Stakes meeting preview

It's October, the footy seasons are over and spring racing really gets serious now in Australia. After a stunning debut last week on the AFL Grand Final, Michael Courts, @mtcourts, displays the breadth of his expertise with a look at some of the main races on the card tomorrow at Flemington.

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Turnbull Stakes Preview

With last weekend marking the end of the season of Australia’s oval ball codes, it is finally time for Melbourne’s spring racing carnival to take centre stage in Australia’s packed sporting landscape. Officially known as Melbourne Cup Carnival Preview Day, Turnbull Stakes Day features three Group 2 races and five listed races as support to the day’s eponymous feature, widely regarded as a key lead-up for the spring’s three main features – the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups and the Cox Plate.

Those who followed last week’s tip on Ryan O’Keefe for the Norm Smith Medal in the Grand Final at $15 should now have a nice bank for the entire carnival, not just this week. With our betting accounts flushed with funds, let’s see if we can find a few winners at Flemington on Saturday.

Race 5 – Group 2 Blazer Stakes (1400m)
One of my key rules for the punt is to not back out of form mares. With that said, rules are made to be broken and I’m jumping on the superstar mare MOSHEEN (#1) to get her spring campaign back on track with a return to the winner’s stall. The four time Group 1 winner’s preparation has suffered a few setbacks with a throat operation delaying her seasonal reappearance, while regular rider Danny Nikolic has sat out the entire spring so far having been stood down (now banned for two years) for threatening a steward. However, under Nick Hall at Caulfield last time out, Mosheen hit the line hard for fifth, crucially goes back to Flemington where she is a dual G1 winner, and is out to a more suitable distance (1400m): and so looks a nice bet at $5 against a fairly even bunch of mares. Current race favourite Soft Sand ($3.50) appears under the odds for a horse that often finds trouble (and will need luck from barrier 1 if she goes back), is yet to win beyond 1200m, yet to perform outside 3y/o fillies grade or at Flemington. I’m willing to risk her here.

Race 7 – Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m)
The feature of the day looms as a wide betting race, with the Lloyd Williams-owned Green Moon currently holding early favouritism at $5. While it looms as nearly a field leg if you’re inclined to take a quaddie, I’m going with last year’s winner DECEMBER DRAW (#3) to repeat the dose. The Mark Kavanagh-trained galloper has a sensational record on his home track, winning four of five with the only defeat a respectable eighth here last month when first up after nearly a year out injured. His last run was an excellent third in the Underwood Stakes to Ocean Park when he looked beaten early in the straight but fought on and managed to hit the line hard. His record beyond 2000m in Australia is imposing – with only last year’s Caulfield Cup failure when injured badly in the run his only defeat – while in-form jockey (and Kavanagh’s stable rider) Michael Rodd should give him a great ride from barrier 3. At $5.50 he is a much more attractive price than the odds-on offered when he went around in this race last year.

Race 8 – Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m)
The day’s major sprint, and a key lead-in for many of the short-course spring features, has a relatively short priced favourite in BEL SPRINTER (#4). With Australia’s two best sprinters in Black Caviar and Hay List missing the spring, the pickings are finally rich for the likes of Bel Sprinter to step out of the superstars’ shadow and claim some Group 1 sprinting glory. He looks to have returned in fine fettle judging by last month’s win at Moonee Valley, and is still at reasonable odds at $2.60 to atone for his interrupted autumn preparation that promised so much yet delivered so little. If you’re keen on a roughie here, Mark Kavanagh’s LIVEANDLETDIE (#5) has performed down the straight first-up before, and ran a bottling seventh in this year’s Newmarket Handicap – Australia’s best sprint handicap – in his last preparation.

Race 9 – Listed Headquarters Tavern Stakes (1400m)
To close out the day we have another open race but I will try and tip you all into one at a bit of odds. SHADOWFAX (#7) was too keen first-up over a slightly unsuitable distance at Moonee Valley but after being flushed out wide on the turn (having also drawn wide), he fought on well in the straight against a fitter bunch of sprinters. Second-up he draws a gate for Michael Rodd here and at $13 he looms as an excellent each-way chance in an open field. He’s performed second-up before at 1400m (three wins, a second and a good fourth) and if the rain comes as it is suggested, it will be to his advantage. At the very least, include in your multiples.

There you have it folks. Good punting to you all!

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And if you're into racing and fantasy sports, then you should play StarStable and join my mini-league (code - 782704). It closes Saturday morning at 10am.

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