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Oaks Day preview

Day three of the Flemington Carnival - note that in Australia, we prefer to give people a day to refresh, do the form, say hi to the missus etc before heading back to the track. Helps maintain the track surface too. Michael Courts, @mtcourts, is the man for the preview of some of the key races on the programme.

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It may used to have been traditionally known as Ladies’ Day, but these days Oaks Day is now widely known as “Blokes Day” as – especially this year – punters are left to pick up the pieces after a Melbourne Cup day that left the bookies cashed-up.

I’ll be trackside attempting to do just that, so here’s a look at three races that catch my eye.

Race 5 – The Greys race, 1400m
One of the more quaint traditions of Australian racing is the all-greys race, always programmed the race before the big one on Oaks Day every year. The greys race is always a competitive betting proposition, and this year is no different: my advice for the middle two days of the Melbourne Cup carnival is to tread carefully as so many horses go around purely for owners’ tickets (which is totally fair enough, but it makes that bit hard to line up form).

This year I think there is a real box-ticker in the race in #5 SPECTER for Anthony Freedman and the Pumper, Jimmy Cassidy. After two good runs in 1200m races, he gets out to 1400m, a trip he won at at this track last spring. He usually goes around in better races than this, and at $6.50 looms as an excellent play even on an each-way basis. By Oaks Day, the general rule is that the Flemington track starts to play to swoopers, and off a decent tempo the Pumper should be able to settle him midfield – even if a little wide – and come down the outside to salute.

R6 – Crown Oaks, 2500m
The day’s feature is almost a repeat match race of Saturday’s traditional Oaks lead-up, the Wakeful Stakes. Once again though, I just can’t go past the favourite, #2 ZYDECO, once again for Anthony Freedman with Kerrin McEvoy steering. She’s been given a perfect Oaks lead-up, including a smart third in the Thousand Guineas when she was taken almost on a trial run by Michael Rodd, tracking wide and running home. It was a run that should have seen her start the pronounced favourite on Saturday, however she fought it out in betting with #1 DEAR DEMI who had much the same run she did in the Thousand Guineas in having to weave her way past tired horses to get a run. I will pot Dear Demi again here as I just think she’s one of those horses who screams ‘back me next time’ every time, but the wide draw sure helps.

If you’re looking for one with a bit value, the Kiwi #9 KATE has James McDonald, who came agonisingly close to winning the Cup on Tuesday, aboard. She was a much improved fifth on Saturday and as the adage goes, they don’t travel horses for a holiday...

R8 – 50 Years Fashions On Field, 1000m
For a listed sprint this sure has attracted a crack field. I really like the look of #13 I GET AROUND for Paul Perry and Glen Boss, which will probably run favourite in the race after Cup day winner Unpretentious is taken out. He got on the wrong leg at Moonee Valley when sent out a short-priced favourite and still managed a close second, and evidence (Fastnet Rock, Choisir...) suggests Perry knows exactly how to prepare his gallopers for straight track Flemington sprints.

The market watch will be on #3 WINTER KING, which resumes with his first run for the Stephen Brown stable – Brown being a noted trainer of ‘cast-offs’ who has some serious success with the likes of Sea Lord and Bolton. He’s been placed at both of his Flemington runs behind smart horses like We’re Gonna Rock and Master Harry, so if there is money for him he is a definite threat. I’m not sure if he’ll back up, but #1 GOLDEN ARCHER is advantaged by the set weights and penalties scale if he does run, however he has been up for a while and been toughing it out in some higher quality races – I’m happy to pot him if he does end up running.

That’s all from me – I hope we all have some better luck than the first two days of the carnival, which can only be described as blow-outs. Good punting!

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