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Mackinnon Stakes preview

There is simply nothing finer than Derby Day at Flemington. You can have your Royal Ascot, Breeders Cup, Arc day.... Derby Day beats them all, and it's rare that the Derby is actually the best race of the day! Group races from go to whoa, there's nothing finer.

Taking the reins to preview the WFA feature of the day is long-time contributor, Kieran Fitzgerald, @kjob85

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Longines Mackinnon Stakes
Group 1, WFA, 2000m
3pm Melbourne time (0400 London)
Form guide link

1. Side Glance - scratched

2. Happy Trails (13) 59kg
A 7 year old gelding purchased for just $11,000, Happy Trails has been a great success for his trainer Paul Beshara, having amassed over $2m in prize money including Group One wins at Flemington in the Turnbull Stakes (over this distance) and Emirates Stakes, as well as a close second in last year’s Cox Plate. His best result this prep has been a second place in the Underwood to another runner here, Foreteller. His other runs have produced midfield finishes, although he had excuses each time, being caught up and unable to break through. He was amongst the close finishes in the Cox Plate, a good indicator for this race, and I rate him as one of the better chances here. He has been hitting the line strongly and performs well at Flemington.

3. Foreteller (10) 59kg
One of the most consistent performers from Chris Waller’s stable, Foreteller should never be written off. He was a huge fifth in the Cox Plate, and had strong runs prior to that in the Dato (third) and a win in the Underwood where he showed his trademark strong acceleration to edge out Happy Trails. This distance is perfect for him and his work this prep indicates he will be right in the finish here. Like Happy Trails, he has been up since August however, which may start to tell following a big, fast Cox Plate. At big overs in early markets.

4. Hawkspur (8) 59kg
Another runner from the mighty Waller stable, Hawkspur scored a tough win this prep in the Chelmsford Stakes at Randwick, a race he also won last year. Whilst often going out as a favoured chance (he was favourite for last year’s Caulfield Cup, finishing seventh), Hawkspur is quite inconsistent, and his Melbourne form has not been impressive, with his best finish a fifth in last year’s Turnbull. His runs in this year’s renewal of that race, and of the Caulfield Cup, were not strong and I can’t see him making amends here.

5. Moriarty (3) 59kg
Another one of Waller’s runners, Moriarty tasted success recently in the Craven Plate at Randwick over this distance. His subsequent run in the Caulfield Cup was poor – he simply ran out of puff in the straight. Moriarty usually performs strongly without quite getting there, but then pulls out a win – his run in the Craven was impressive, ridden cold at the rear of the field before running home strongly and just edging out Rising Romance (subsequent second place getter in the Caulfield Cup). However, I would say that run was his peak this prep and I won’t be backing him here.

6. Brambles (9) 59kg
A Peter Moody-trained gelding who is running on Derby Day before backing up three days later in the Cup, hoping to repeat the double of some champions of the turf including Carbine, Phar Lap, Rising Fast and most recently, Rogan Josh. While Brambles has yet to prove himself as being in that class of thoroughbred, he has been in strong form of late and is being talked up as a real chance here. He won a minor race at Flemington three starts back, followed by a third in the Turnbull and a fourth in the Caulfield Cup, with both producing strong runs to the line. This would be his biggest win yet, but he is probably outclassed here and given the ultimate target is three days later, I would be surprised if he was pushed all the way, as he would need to be, to win here.

7. Mourinho (11) 59kg
Mourinho’s spring campaign has produced some excellent results, including a thrilling get out stakes at Moonee Valley where I took him at $19 (after a shocking day on the punt) and he edged out his stablemate Hvasstan to get the chocolates. He followed this up with a second place in the Dato to the people’s champ The Cleaner, then a third in the JRA Cup to the same horse, followed by a win in the listed Cranbourne Cup. After being unfairly left out of the Cox Plate (while unqualified 3 year olds were allowed to run), Mourinho’s connections are racing him here. You could do much worse than take an each way bet here, with huge odds on offer.

8. He’s Your Man (5) 59kg
A French-bred entire running here with the Waller stable, He’s Your Man has had an impressive prep, with 3 wins (including the Epsom Handicap) and two third placings. He raced at Flemington in summer this year for two placings, so the trip down to Melbourne should not trouble him. The markets have him at or near the top early on, and justifiably so. His form of late, and over this distance, makes him a very attractive prospect here and I rate him as a red hot chance.

9. Farraaj (15) 59kg
Irish-bred horse having his first run in Australia here. His form over in England has been strong and this distance suits him well. As always when an international is having their first run here, it is hard to say how they will take to Australian racing, how the trip will have affected them and so on. He races well first up which helps, but he is running in quite a competitive field so I rate him as one to watch, but can’t take him this time.

10. Star Rolling (6) 59kg
At his first run this prep, Star Rolling won the G2 Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield, but has struggled in subsequent runs. His barrier draw here should make it easier for him to get out in front where he needs to be – if he gets back he will probably struggle based on his last few runs. Even if well placed, the field here is probably too strong for him, with a number of Group One winners running. He has been found wanting against similar competition previously.

11. Spillway (14) 59kg
First run this prep produced a second place to Star Rolling in the Lawrence, but subsequent runs have been weaker. While the Hayes stable have been flying lately, Spillway has not quite lived up to expectations – he could only manage a ninth place in a weak The Metropolitan at Randwick at his last start. His form has not been strong enough to suggest that he will be competitive here.

12. Amralah (4) 59kg
First run in Australia for this Irish-bred entire brought out to Australia by the Lloyd Williams stable. Amralah’s form in England has been impressive, with his last run producing his biggest win yet in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes. As with Farraaj above, the usual caveats apply with international horses running first up in Australia. The Williams stable have had mixed success over the last couple of years bringing horses out here and it will be interesting to see how Amralah goes. I am putting him on my watch list but won’t be backing him in a competitive field.

13. Criterion (1) 58.5kg
A horse many predicted to win the Cox Plate, Criterion ran home strongly in that race for 7th after running into some interference early on. Prior to that race he was second to a barnstorming Fawkner in a strong Caulfield Stakes, and second to Junoob at Randwick before that in the Hill Stakes. This horse has been in great form and is justifiably being favoured by the early markets. He can run home hard and fast when called upon, and could well do so down the Flemington straight. With the inside barrier, he should be well placed to be right in the finish.

14. Costume (2) 57kg
A New Zealand mare having her first run here. Her last start was a win over 2040m (at big odds), which should be a good preparation for this race. Whilst her career record has produced decent success in New Zealand, she has not performed at this level before and it would seem too much to expect her to be in the finish.

15. Rising Romance (12) 56.5kg
Another Kiwi horse, this one with a proven track record in Australia including a win in the ATC Oaks in the Autumn and a second placing after a beautiful run in the Caulfield Cup, with only a huge run down the straight by the Japanese winner (and now Melbourne Cup favourite) Admire Ratki preventing Rising Romance from saluting. She seems ideally suited here and I rate her as one of the top chances, with a good price on offer to boot.

Verdict
As you would expect in a Group One race (especially one providing automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup), there are a number of live chances here. FORETELLER is on top for me, being well suited here and coming out of the Cox Plate (a good indicator for this race), as does CRITERION who is a red hot chance. RISING ROMANCE is difficult to overlook, and I would never leave out HAPPY TRAILS. Finally, MOURINHO is a good roughie who has been in top form.

1. Foreteller
2. Rising Romance
3. Criterion
4. Happy Trails

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