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Flemington Super Saturday preview

Autumn carnival time in Australian racing and it's Flemington's great day, comprising the Newmarket Hcp, the Australian Cup and a support card of all black type races (incl. three Group 2s). Far less crowded than the spring carnival but not too far short of the quality. Tasked with the previews is astute local punter Michael Courts, @mtcourts.

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Flemington’s ‘Super Saturday’ remains one of my favourite days on the racing calendar anywhere in the world. Yes, the lustre might have been lost somewhat when the VRC bizarrely decided to shift the Australian Guineas to the previous Saturday a few years ago, but the day is still up there with meetings in the Melbourne spring for its all-round quality.

So, without any further ado, let’s go about hopefully finding the winner of Saturday’s two Group 1 races – the country’s best sprint, the Newmarket Handicap, and the weight-for-age Australian Cup.

Race 6 – G1 Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m)

The day's first Group 1 - also the first leg of the quaddie - is Australia's best straight track race, the Newmarket Handicap. Often attracting big fields (and with $1 million on offer, it's not hard to see why), it has been won in the past two years by two of the biggest stars of the Australian turf, Black Caviar and Hay List. This year however we're presented with a disappointingly small field of 14 that lacks a marketable G1 star - save for the globetrotting Ortensia and the unbeaten WA raider Barakey, who remains an unknown quantity after his late scratching before the Oakleigh Plate last month.

That said, there still has to be a winner and there is money to be made from the punt, so let's see if we can find the winner. To narrow it down, I'm potting a number of horses based on my analysis and historical precedent. The Oakleigh Plate last month was a very weak race for a G1 following the barrier incident involving Barakey and Shamal Wind – the top two in the market – resulting in Barakey coming out and Shamal Wind running poorly. I am drawing a line through the race, so G1 winners Lone Rock, Ortensia and Woorim are out, as are two horses that ran nice races at odds at Caulfield – Undeniably and Spirit of Boom.

Look, it’s almost legend now that a horse hasn’t won the Newmarket first-up in almost 90 years. My pick for the race in Barakey therefore has an enormous historical hurdle to jump, but I think he can do it. Simply put, he would have probably won the Oakleigh Plate had he not suffered that misfortune and been odds-on in this race as a result – so close to $5 represents enormous value for an unbeaten G1 winner. He was never meant to go first-up into the race and I have no doubt cunning WA trainer (responsible for Hay List’s early successes, remember) will have cranked him up to be fit and firing for this assignment despite missing his lead-up run.

I think Satin Shoes will run a very nice race at odds. She does her best work early in preparations, good second-up, looks overs at $17 the place in a thin race. Moment of Change is the race favourite, albeit at poison odds, and while you can't completely pot him (and he's a winner), I feel he’s better over further (7f to a mile). And the unknown Queensland raider Better Than Ready has red flashing lights over him with the booking of C Williams, so keep safe.

5 – 11 – 2 – 13

Race 7 – G1 Darley Australian Cup (2000m)

I have a strong lead in the day’s other Group 1, the weight-for-age Australian Cup which has attracted a nice field including last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon. I’m really keen on Mark Kavanagh’s three year old Super Cool to take it out. He’s a real untapped type and I am taking a massive lead with Kav’s stable jockey Michael Rodd – who is known to struggle with his weight – getting down to 54.5kg to ride him when there would have been no shortage of quality jockeys ready to take the ride.

He didn’t quite stay the trip in last year’s Victoria Derby but his form is otherwise excellent against his own age. He’s the one on the up with a stack of untapped potential, and is on top for me here.

For a roughie, I’m going with Adelaide visitor Eclair Surprise. He was dynamic first up over there (admittedly not against much) with 62.5kg before the pace of the race and pattern of the day in the traditional PB Young Stakes lead-up at Caulfield went totally against him. Importantly, he’s 2/3 at Flemington including a listed win over 1800m on Melbourne Cup day last year (god bless him!) and at $31 it’s worth saving on him.

Green Moon is hard to toss, sure, and it’s probably my Cox Plate bitterness still coming through but he’s still a wfa risk to my eye. Do Team Williams seriously want to turn him into the next wfa star or do they want to have another crack at the big one in November? Glass Harmonium looms as the likely leader and he’s shown the ability many times before to be strong at the end of 2000m. If the race breaks his way he could definitely pinch it with smart jock Steve Arnold engaged.

13 – 8 – 1 – 3

Good punting!

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