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Mackinnon Stakes preview

On a star-studded card at Flemington, one of the highlights is the Longines Mackinnon Stakes. In the past it has been a lead-in to the Melbourne Cup but with the transition towards European style campaigns, this race has seen smaller fields of perhaps lesser quality. Only one horse backs up from the Cox Plate and they've boosted prizemoney up to the $1m mark, not sure what else they can do? It's not an elite field, but there's still a bit of quality in it, and regular contributor, Kieran Fitzgerald, @kjob85, saddles up with the preview.

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Mackinnon Stakes
Group 1, weight-for-age, 2000m.

1. Mourayan (4)
Following a strong victory in the 3200m Sydney Cup in the Autumn, Mourayan has disappointed this spring in his two starts. The Sydney Cup seems to have been a bit of a fluke – it was this horse's only win in the last 12 months and just his fifth from 40 starts. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when Nick Williams from the Macedon Lodge stable said this horse would not be running and go straight to the Cup, but then accepted for this race less than an hour later. Are they treating this race as a warm up then? Here it would be best to look elsewhere.

2. Mr Moet (5)
Western Australian star who has had mixed results in the east, with his best result this prep being a fourth placing in the JRA Cup at Moonee Valley two starts back. There is no doubt that this is a very talented horse, but his underwhelming performance in Melbourne needs to be kept in mind. Is he up to a G1 weight for age race on Derby Day? His form this prep has to indicate not. He has closed strongly in his races but there has not been enough there for me to take him here.

3. Side Glance (6)
This will be this 7 year old gelding's second run in Australia following an alright but unspectacular run in a very ordinary Cox Plate. The Cox Plate is a tough race, especially for internationals who are not used to the Moonee Valley track, and he performed reasonably enough in that race. Side Glance has had reasonable but not standout form overseas, including a fourth in the Dubai World Cup earlier this year over this distance. This seems to be a hallmark of his career – good, but not great. I do not particularly rate his chances here – he has not won at this distance and while he will be fitter for his run in the Cox Plate, this is not his race.

4. Solzhenitsyn (2)
Coming off his last start win in the G1 Toorak Handicap, Solzhenitsyn has performed strongly this prep, simply proving too classy for his competitors in that race following placings in his two previous starts. He is in great form and will be right up there in this race. The break since Caulfield Cup day will help him – last year's winner Alcopop had the same break, defeating the Cox Plate winner Ocean Park in this race. Solzhenitsyn is flying, and I firmly believe that had he been entered in the Cox Plate, he would have won it. A classy runner and the one to beat.

5. Moriarty (9)
While this Chris Waller trained gelding ran a disappointing tenth in the Caulfield Cup, his run was notable for how quickly he flashed home from last. That race followed an luckless 5th place in the Metropolitan where he got held up and struggled to get a clear run. Prior to that race he bolted home for a strong win in the Hill Stakes over this distance at Randwick. 2000 metres and over is his best distance – with wins at the distance against decent opposition including in the Gosford and Brisbane Cups. He has drawn the outside barrier which won't help him but at double figure odds he stands out as a value bet for mine.

6. Jet Away (1)
A bit of an unknown quantity. Jet Away had a huge run in the Caulfield Cup and had he been able to settle at the beginning of the race, he probably would have won it. This is a do or die race for this horse – he needs to win to get into the Melbourne Cup, and champion jockey Glen Boss is gambling on this happening in order to have a ride in the great race, meaning he will be dead keen to give the horse every chance. If he can settle he is a very strong chance. While the rails barrier won't help him, I wouldn't rate it as a major problem and I regard him as one of the best prospects here.

7. Pakal (3)
A German import trained by Mick Price who has performed reasonably well in Australia, including a last start win in the Cranbourne Cup where he held off Sertorius who has subsequently won the Bendigo Cup. This followed some decent performances at Caulfield, but this is his biggest test in Australia so far. His runs here have shown a strong ability to hit the line hard which will serve him well here. It is a step up for him, competing at Group 1 level for the first time here. While he has shown ability, I would consider that jump to be beyond him just yet, although certainly there is potential further down the track.

8. Hvasstan (7)
Backing up after a last start win at Moonee Valley, this Fastnet Rock stallion has fashioned a reputation as the battler's horse and has produced some memorable moments in racing over the past year or so. He looked to be out of form this year but in his Moonee Valley win was classy and he ran strongly over the whole distance (2040 metres). While a victory at this level is probably beyond him at this stage, particularly given that he is backing up after a tough win, there is huge value available and you could do worse than having a flutter for a place.

9. Dear Demi (8)
Last year's Oaks winner and already guaranteed a Melbourne Cup start, Dear Demi has had an impressive prep where she has mostly flown under the radar. She ran third in the Underwood to the champion duo It's A Dundeel and Atlantic Jewel before getting stuck on the rails in the Turnbull and then an awesome third place in the Caulfield Cup. She opened around $7.50 in the markets and at the time of writing had drifted out a bit. This is big overs, she has performed strongly this prep and is well suited at this track and distance.

Suggested Bet
There are three standouts for me in this race: Solzhenitsyn, Jet Away and Dear Demi. I would expect them to finish in that order but unless you are up for a big risk, box your trifecta. While any of the three could win, Solzhenitsyn is the standout and I will be backing him to win – as I said, I believe he would have won this year's Cox Plate had he run in it. Jet Away is a classy horse and Dear Demi has been running superbly. Of the three, the mare could be the biggest surprise at a much bigger price than the other two. Moriarty looms as a big value each way bet and throw him in your multiples. Hvasstan is the only other horse I would rate as a contender, I can't see him winning this but a place bet at big odds is worth a look.

Solzhenitsyn
Jet Away
Dear Demi
Moriarty

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