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Golden Rose preview

It's Sydney racing in the spotlight again this weekend with the running of the $1 million Golden Rose, a Group 1 for the three-year olds over 1400m. A relatively new race on the calendar, this edition has attracted a strong field. Maybe no superstars, but as you'll read in the preview, it's no easy task to identify a winner. Regular blog contributor Kieran Fitzgerald, @kjob85, returns from his southern winter hiatus to preview this event.

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Golden Rose

1. Sidestep
A colt by champion sire Exceed and Excel and coming from the Darley stable who look like they are about to shine over the spring, and with a strong record behind him, Sidestep would seem to be a strong contender for this race. His form as a two year old (including second in the Golden Slipper) was impressive and in his first run as a three year old he hit the line strongly after a luckless run. However, in his last race in the Run to the Rose, Sidestep finished at the back of the field after being wounded. I wouldn't write him off completely but that sort of thing raises too many question marks for me, particularly in this kind of race.

2. Fast 'N' Rocking
This Fastnet Rock colt is well justified as one of the early favourites for the race. His last run in the McNeil stakes was very impressive – he accelerated towards the line and just ran away with it, including against horses racing here. This was a breakthrough win for Fast 'N' Rocking after a number of placings and he may well be peaking now, with excellent runs in his two races this prep. A fast pace in this race should be expected and this won't trouble him. He is definitely a horse to watch here.

3. Criterion
Like many horses at this stage of their racing career, Criterion presents a bit of a challenge. He is racing second up but has only done so once before (for a win) to judge this against. His return in the Run to the Rose was uninspiring – the colt never seemed to fire and only really got going around the final bend. He has the ability to power home strongly but in this field that will probably not be enough and I would not expect him to be in the placings.

4. Zoustar
Running second up after a late fade out in the Run to the Rose, Zoustar drifted in the markets after drawing the outside barrier. This would seem to be justified. While Zoustar has won or placed in all but one race in his short career, he has done so against opposition inferior to that which he faces here, and that combined with a question mark over his fitness after the Run to the Rose fade out causes me to draw a line through him.

5. Dissident
Racing third-up after two impressive second placings, Dissident has also drawn poorly for this race. Were it not for his poor barrier draw, he would be faring better in the markets and even so, I would include him in the chances. His form indicates that the likely fast pace of the race will suit him, and champion trainer Peter Moody (not one to big note his whole stable) has been talking up the colt's chances in the race. While he is not my pick of the bunch, he is definitely at overs at double figure odds.

6. Aussies Love Sport
Another outside barrier draw, this Gai Waterhouse-trained colt brings with him some strong recent form, including, importantly, three previous runs over this distance with two wins. However, with the exception of his last run he has beaten home some fairly average opposition. I would expect him to run towards the front early, wear himself out in a fast race, and then finish near the back. A possibility for something later in spring, but not here.

7. Windjammer
He ran well in the Run to the Rose until he got stuck in traffic, and his two previous runs were okay, but I just can't have Windjammer. Nothing in his previous runs says to me that he will win here – his only previous win was in a BM72, far from a $1 million Group One race. A wide barrier draw won't help him either.

8. Eurozone
The talk of the town a couple of months ago (I myself put an early bet on him at $17 for this race), Eurozone has significantly died down in hype after a very ordinary run last start in the Run to the Rose. I am not willing to write him off, but this is his fifth run off his first prep, with only a 35 day break in the middle. I still think this horse is of G1 quality, but his last start raises real questions about his chances here. Still, with a starting price over $20 you could do worse.

9. Pitcrew
This is one of those horses that seems a bit out of place here – some decent city wins without being anything spectacular and then suddenly entered in a Group One. If he can find the inside and stay there he might finish midfield, but I wouldn't expect much more. Simply outclassed here.

10. Drago
Racing second up after a huge run in the Run to the Rose, Drago has drawn poorly (13) but I won't rule him out. He had plenty left in the tank after that last race and I don't doubt his chances here. He has run well against strong opposition including G1 winners and if any horse with an outside barrier here can overcome it, I would put my money on him. Not the strongest chance but definitely in with a shot at big odds.

11. Bull Point
Along with Eurozone, Bull Point was the talk of town at the end of his season as a 2 year old, and like that horse he performed impressively, but has drifted in the markets here. The wide barrier draw (12) doesn't help him, and nor does the fact that this will be his sixth run in his first prep, including a very close second place last start where he was lugged with 59kg. While that performance gives some indication of his credentials, it could be that he is worn out by now. In a fast race and coming from the outside, I would be impressed if he came home with the goods here, but Bull Point is definitely one to watch into the future.

12. War
This Gai Waterhouse-trained colt produced a boil-over in his last start in the Up and Coming Stakes, simply accelerating away and being too strong for the rest of the field, including a late challenge from one of his rivals here, Drago. Based on that race, I am including War as a serious chance here – it was a seriously impressive performance and with star jockey Tommy Berry on board, you could do much worse than have a small flutter on a horse that (at time of writing) sits at $26 odds.

13. Prince Harada
The favourite for the race and a strong chance – he was second to a fast finishing Fast 'N' Rocking in the McNeil Stakes last start and has drawn the inside barrier here. He has produced good finishing times and in a quick race will be a strong contender, but this race is very open and I would want a good price to take such a lightly raced colt.

14. Thermal Current
This horse is a bit of a wildcard. He was third placed at his last start to two other contenders here in a strong race, but prior to that he had raced against significantly weaker opposition. I would mark him as a horse to watch rather than a serious contender here.

15. Into the Red
Despite a strong performance first up at Eagle Farm two starts ago, the best comparison we have for Into the Red is his race in the Run to the Rose which was average. Combined with an outside barrier draw, this stands out as the omen bet here – put your money on him if you want to end up that way.

16. Cluster
Cluster has been receiving a fair deal of hype this week, and his performance in the Run to the Rose shows why, with a roaring run late from wide, despite finishing outside the placings. Prior to that in the San Domenico Stakes he ran on very strongly towards the end, seemingly pulling into his reserves for a strong second place. The question is how those strong finishes will play out here, and I am willing to predict that Cluster will finish strongly and be amongst the placings.

17. Marseille Roulette
This horse is quite unpredictable, with decidedly mixed form behind him. I would expect him to run to the front early but his form would suggest he will fade away. In an open race like this, anything could happen but Marseille Roulette is not one I expect to be a top contender.

In case you hadn't realised by now, this race is tough. It is very open, with most horses that are entered being in strong contention – there are only a few that I am willing to rule out straight away. The main lead up race to this, the Run to the Rose, didn't really fire this year so is limited in its utility as a guide. The markets reflect this, with only three horses at the time of writing paying less than $10 for the win, in a race that traditionally goes to well-backed contenders. The one I like the most is FAST 'N' ROCKING off the back of his last two runs, followed by CLUSTER who should fly home and then WAR following his boilover last start, followed by DRAGO from a wide barrier. For your quaddie, I'd field this leg.

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