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Derby Day - Mackinnon Stakes preview

The $1m WFA contest on the card is the Group I Mackinnon Stakes, a funny old race which is part traditional lead-up to the Melbourne Cup, part hangover from the Cox Plate. Dissecting the race is another debutant previewer, Kieran Fitzgerald, @kjob85, welcome aboard!

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Mackinnon Stakes 2012

Winchester
Imported American galloper who has failed to fire in his three starts in Australia. He did however have an impressive run in the Caulfield Cup – he was running last with 400m to go and roared down the straight to finish 9th. While he has won over this distance in America, his runs in Australia have produced three ninth places from as many races and he should find it too hard here.

Glass Harmonium
Always entertaining to see prancing around in the mounting yard, Glass Harmonium was the winner of last year's Mackinnon Stakes after finding the lead early and never surrendering it. Since then, he has struggled to regain his past form after recovering from a throat operation. This horse has a highly unpredictable history at the jump, and a lot depends on whether or not he jumps well or not. If he does he will take the lead early on, but in his last few runs he has struggled to maintain the pace. Based on his recent form at this level, he is likely to find it too tough here.

Alcopop
Has been a bit of a surprise packet this spring. Alcopop's best seemed to be behind him after disappointing results earlier this year but he finished a strong second to eventual Cox Plate winner Ocean Park in the Caulfield Stakes, then looked like he might win the Caulfield Cup before being run down by arguably the best stayer in the world in Dunaden. This horse is in great form and with champion jockey Craig Williams on board (replacing his usual mount, the less experienced Dom Tourneur), he could produce one of the day's surprises.

December Draw
Looked like he had made a strong comeback after a year off from injury, but had a disappointing run in the Caulfield Cup where he was a well-backed chance. The drop in distance will suit him – he ran strongly in the Turnbull Stakes over this distance, after winning that race last year. He has solid form on firm tracks and the inside barrier shouldn't hinder his chances too much as he likes to head towards the front early. Has not been well fancied in the early markets but should finish strongly on the day. This horse is often overlooked but should not be forgotten.

Prairie Star
Only his second start in Australia. Prairie Star has had excellent form in France, beating some very good horses over long distances. He ran a decent fourth in his first run in Australia carrying 59 kilos over this distance and that race will have done him a lot of good in stepping up in a race like the Mackinnon. His performance over Group 2 level in Europe should not be ignored and he should perform strongly here. There is a lot of value on offer in the markets early on for this horse and he must be included in the chances.

Back in Black
Ran fourth of seven in the ridiculously slow Geelong Cup. He is better suited to this distance, having won over it three times. However, his form has not been up to the standard of a race like this and he will find it hard going.

Ocean Park
One of the stars of the Spring Carnival, taking out the Underwood, the Caulfield Stakes and of course the Cox Plate, all in brilliant style. His recent form cannot be faulted, and he produced one of the highest-rated Cox Plate wins in history with a barnstorming race home. Definitely the horse to beat here. The only chink in his armour may be some residual fatigue after the Cox Plate – it was an epic run home in a tough race and he has never backed up just seven days later before. Despite this, he looks in great shape and it would be a brave punter who took him on. Seeking to replicate the Cox Plate-Mackinnon double of So You Think in 2010.

Zabeelionaire
Has been racing well without breaking through recently. He had a solid run in the Caulfield Cup and is well suited to this distance, with it being smack bang in the middle of the distances he has won over. He is probably not so well suited to a weight-for-age race, especially at this level, but he could surprise. Zabeelionaire is definitely a horse to watch but it seems like he will really hit his stride next year.

BETS:
Hard to look past Ocean Park but at such short odds, maybe roll him into a trifecta with Alcopop and Prairie Star for the minors. Both are also good each-way bets, with Prairie Star offering good place odds at around $3.00.

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