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Alister Clark Stakes preview

The autumn carnival, or Melbourne Festival of Racing as it is officially known, is starting to tail off but there are still a few decent races ahead, including what is likely to be Black Caviar's final race in her home state of Victoria next Friday. This week though, we have the Alister Clark Stakes, a time-honoured race featuring some fairly decent talent from the classic age group. This was one of the early races that launched the career of the superstar of my teenage years - Vo Rogue. Watch this replay from 1987 and you'll realise why he was so special...

Anyway, enough about champions of yesteryear, with the detailed analysis of this year's edition is Kieran Fitzgerald, @kjob85, returning after a successful stint during the spring.

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Alister Clark Stakes
Moonee Valley, Friday, 9.15pm ADST

The 3 year old horses have been flying recently in Victoria, and the Alister Clark Stakes is a chance to see some of them in action. The race is run over the Cox Plate distance of 2040m, providing a rare chance for the 3 year olds to race over a longer route. This year's renewal includes four horses coming off the Australian Guineas held two weeks ago at Flemington.

Hvasstan
Hvasstan provided one of the great stories of the last spring carnival when he won on Caulfield Cup Day, in the same week that the father of his owners, the Gelagotis brothers, had died. He followed this up with a fourth place in the Victoria Derby before a spell. This is his third-up run since his spell after not placing in his first two. He came storming home in the Australian Guineas over a mile from 12th place at the 400m mark to finish fourth, and his previous best performances have been over longer distances.

Sheer Talent
This horse has been in very good form this prep, including a win at G3 level and a strong third in the Australian Guineas. He has not raced at this distance before, with the 1600m in the Guineas being his furthest distance to date. While he has been racing well, based on the Guineas run I would be reluctant to back him for a win here, as he did not seem to have much left in him by the time he hit the line. However, on his recent form he is definitely in with a chance.

Philippi
Unbeaten in his spring campaign, Philippi is racing third-up after being unplaced in his last two runs. He won over 1500m at Moonee Valley last spring, however the field was not as strong as that of this race. Having said that, he edged out Hvasstan at Flemington in spring and is well drawn here. His Australian Guineas run ended strongly after he sat towards the back of the field for most of the race, indicating that the step up in distance will not trouble him. That and his form last prep, including winning here, bode well for his chances in this race.

Bass Strait
Bass Strait comes into this race following two fifth-place finishes in his first runs at Group level, including in the Australian Guineas. That run would indicate that he should be competitive here, but I can't see him winning as he is simply outclassed here. His previous performances have also involved a late charge home towards the line, which is much more difficult at this track given the short straight and tight turns of the circuit.

Gerontius
Gerontius is back up in class after winning his last-start race in a midweek run at Sandown. His best performances have been at lower levels, with his two black type starts resulting in finishes near the back of the field. It may be a tad premature for him to be coming up to G2 level, and I can't see him having what it takes here.

Soldier's March
First start in a metropolitan meeting after some decent form in the country of late. While the jump up in quality is obviously a big question mark, he has placed at up to 1900m giving him some more solid form than some of the others here. He will not win this, but at very big odds you could do worse than throwing him into an exotic.
Green Roller

The only filly in the race is having her third start at the Valley, with her last start producing a second place here. She won a listed race over 2100m in Hobart this prep, making her and Hvasstan the only horses here to have raced over this distance or greater at black type level. Could be a wildcard at what are likely to be big odds.

Suggested Bet
The standouts here are the four horses who ran in the Australian Guineas. Of these, I can't take Bass Strait or Sheer Talent at this distance. This leaves Philippi and Hvasstan to battle it out for the honours. Quinella the two but if you must take one for the win, Hvasstan might just edge out Phillipi. Green Roller is worth putting a place bet on at exceptional value.

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