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Emirates Stakes Preview

The VRC Spring Carnival at Flemington concludes on Saturday with the headline event being $1m Emirates Stakes over the metric mile. In theory it's a handicap, but without the emergencies (17-20), there is only 3.5kg between top and bottomweights. It's a top class race that I look forward to every year, and I wish Racing Victoria would make this an early nominations race, so we can excited about this one for weeks in advance too - the betting could be very interesting.

Anyhow, writing the preview for this feature race is a debutant, Tom Stewart. I reckon this is an admirable contribution on debut, it's a tough race to pick as you'll see by the odds comparison (scroll down to R6). You can follow on Twitter @tstewcav26

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2012 Emirates Stakes - Group 1 (1600m)

1 Fat Al - Coming off a month freshen up and a tough win in the Epsom,this gelding out of Al Maher looks perfectly placed. Despite the topweight he has drawn well and Tommy Berry has a good affinity with this horse. His recent trial suggests that he is going to be peaking for this race. Look for him to jump to the lead and if Berry can control the tempo similar to the way he did on Glencadam Gold in the Melbourne Cup, Fat Al will be hard to catch.

2 Happy Trails - This horse has form over Green Moon in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes and is coming back from the Cox Plate to the Mile here which I think suits better. From the wide barrier look for him to get back and if the pace is on he will be storming home late, only worry for me with him is the weight but coming back from weight-for-age I don't think it poses too much of an issue. I think he represents great each-way value and rates highly for me.

3 Playing God - This horse has been staring at the rump of some stars most his life such as Black Caviar and hasn't been able to show his true ability. Coming off a first up 3rd in the Group 3 Prince of Wales at Ascot I can't see him featuring here, this is a massive step up and he hasn't showed me enough to be competitive at this level.

4 Solzhenitsyn - He has been running out of his skin this preparation and this was evident with a win over a quality field in the Toorak beating the likes of More Joyous. As a horse that gets back and likes to fly late I'm a bit concerned about where he might be in running from barrier 2, but if Corey Brown can negate that he will be right in the finish.

5 Wall Street - Perhaps we saw a bit of the Wall Street of old with his third behind the race favourite Fawkner last week. It will be interesting to see how he backs up a week later and from the wide barrier I can't see this horse figuring in the finish. Maybe a place chance.

6 Ambidexter - What a consistent horse he is and he has continued to be competitive this preparation, most notably his close second behind Fat Al in the Epsom. He has drawn perfectly in barrier 7 and with the in-form McEvoy on board look for him to get a perfect run about midfield. Not my top rater but certainly is competitive.

7 He's Remarkable - He has showed a lot of promise throughout his career and lost in a farcical protest in last year's Group 1 Railway Stakes. Since returning from a successful spring last year he hasn't quite been able to recapture the form that would see him be competitive in this race. Not up to this.

8 Secret Admirer - This chestnut mare is as honest as the day is long and although her aim was the Caulfield Cup this preparation I think she is peaking for this race and is perfectly suited over the mile. She has drawn the widest barrier which I see as an advantage for this horse as she can get back and storm home late. She has been unlucky this preparation and run into alot of dead ends, from the wide gate she should settle at the rear and get a clear run into the straight where she can let loose down the outside. Big chance!

9 Streama - Total forgive run in the Myer last week, in a race where there wasn't much speed Bowman decided to take up the running and although it worked in the Tristarc, she is better ridden cold. From barrier 16 expect Bowman to settle midfield or towards the rear to let the mare relax and settle into her rhythm. With Fat Al likely to set up a decent tempo up front the race will be run to suit this mare and she has the turn of foot to put this field away. Big threat!

10 Fawkner - Has been beating questionable opposition but the way in which he is winning is the trademark of a classy horse. He has been able to sit off a hot speed and charge home for emphatic wins his last three starts, all at Listed level. It is a stark contrast to Group 1 level and where he settles from barrier 3 could be a worry but I have no doubt Nick Hall will give him a sweet ride. He will relish the 1600 and is highly fancied by many in this race. Up against a classy field on Saturday this will be his biggest test, if Green Moon is anything to go by then this horse is in with a serious chance.

11 Happy Zero - This horse has a good winning strike rate having won eight of his 24 starts and is in good hands under the care of the Hawkes team. Whether this is the right race for him I'm not sure. He has been unsuccessful at this track and distance previously and his runs this preparation don't suggest that he will be able to mix it with a classy Group 1 field. Not for me.

12 Rolling Pin - What a preparation this horse is having, as a five-year-old he is probably hitting his peak and it has shown with a group 3 and group 2 win under his belt along with a tough third behind Fat Al in the Epsom. Backing up from the Yellowglen a week later into the Emirates isn't ideal and I think this horse is crying out for a trip to the paddock. At his best a place perhaps.

13 Yosei - This mare has been gallant throughout the spring and hasn't had an ounce of luck go her way. She has been competitive in Group 1 Company all and despite being unlucky again in the Myer she never seemed to respond to riding in the straight which might suggest she's winding down this preparation. Also the addition of glue-on shoes is a negative for me, Can't see her figuring here.

14 Pear Tart - This mare looks to have a lot of ability, which was highlighted with a Group 1 Victory in the Tatts Tiara during the Brisbane Carnival. Having said that, this victory was over 1400m and I don't think this horse is a miler. In the Myer she loomed as a threat but hit a flat spot and it was a run that suggested to me she is better suited to a shorter trip. If this was a 1400m race she would be one of my top picks but at the mile she doesn't figure for me.

15 Smokin Joey - He showed some ability with smart wins in town last preparation and looked to be a progressive galloper. Unfortunately this preparation we haven't seen the best of Smokin Joey and perhaps the connections are setting their standards a bit high here. I can't see him being competitive in this race although he is better suited over the mile and showed slight improvement last start for those that want to back him.

16 Spirit Song - This is another horse that is having a very honest and consistent preparation with placings behind smart horses such as the undefeated Callanish and Solzhenitsyn in the Toorak. She likes the mile and has won previously over the distance at Flemington. With a low weight and Craig Williams steering her from barrier 12 she will be competitive. Blowout chance.

17 Free Wheeling - Looks to be a progressive horse and is racing well this preparation. He started with an impressive first up win over 1200m at Listed level and was second behind the highly rated Fawkner last start over 1400m in a Group 3. Looks to be progressing well and will be peaking for this race, I question whether he has the class and turn of foot to be competitive against these quality milers and I'm worried he might be left behind when the others are posing for the photo. Might be outclassed.

18 Star Of Giselle - This mare is flying. She has been winning in excellent style at listed and Group 3 Level. In her past three starts she has been afforded soft leads and she has been able to kick clear of the opposition at the top of the straight. She might not be able to get away with it here and from the wide alley and With Fat Al the other natural leader she will not be afforded an easy lead. This is a big step up and things will not go her way here. Likely to finish in the back half of the field.

19 Over Quota - This gelding loves the mile and has won over the distance at Flemington before, having said that it was in a lot weaker grade. Recent form suggests that he is not up to this and so do his odds. Not for me.

20 Strike The Stars - Another horse that has shown a lot of ability but hasn't delivered on the big stage yet. Since resuming this preparation he hasn't shown the ability that we expected from him and has seemed rather flat-footed. Despite this, the horse has good form at the track running an eye catching 2nd behind Mosheen in the Australian Guineas earlier this year. I would have Mosheen as my top rater if she was in this race and if Strike The Stars can reproduce that form than he is a blowout chance at big odds with a low weight.

Betting Strategy:
- #2 Happy Trails at odds of around $15-16 I'm happy to go each way on him and then have a boxed trifecta or first 4 with ( #2 Happy Trails, #4 Solzhenitsyn, #8 Secret Admirer, #9 Streama, #10 Fawkner). For those that want a bit more value chuck in #16 Spirit Song.

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