Caulfield's headline 'autumn' day features a card full of Group and Listed races, including the Blue Diamond, Futurity Stakes and the return of devastating Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist in the Peter Young Stakes. But the most competitive betting race of them all is the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate, a mad dash over the slightly unusual distance of 1100m.
Taking the reins with the preview is Aussie form expert @BrisburghPhil.
G1 Handicap, 1100m
5.15pm local time, 0615 GMT
This is one of the best handicap sprint races in the country, probably my favourite to be quite honest, at 1200m or under. But then again I’m not a great fan of the big sprints down the Flemington straight, so I’m probably biased in that respect. I have also had some great results personally in the past seven years or so. I think the most unique thing about this race is that barriers play very little part in the result. In fact you are probably better off drawing wide than closer to the inside, which is quite unusual for a race at this distance. One year an on-pacer will salute, and the next year a backmarker. It’s always a race with enormous depth and its share of quality performers. Which often makes it very difficult to pinpoint a winner. Below are the last 12 winners and relative statistics (age, weight carried, barrier and starting price).
• 2014 LANKAN RUPEE 4g 56kg (7) $4
• 2013 MRS ONASSIS 5m 52.5kg (11) $16
• 2012 WOORIM 6g 55.5kg (8) $21
• 2011 EAGLE FALLS 5g 57kg (9) $21
• 2010 STARSPANGLEDBANNER 3c 52kg (6) $7
• 2009 SWISS ACE 4g 54kg (18) $31 (I got $67!)
• 2008 WEEKEND HUSSLER 3g 53kg (10) $2.10
• 2007 UNDUE 5g 57kg (14) $15
• 2006 SNITZEL 3c 51.5kg (4) $11
• 2005 FASTNET ROCK 3c 57kg (6)$2
• 2004 REACTIVE 5m 52kg (1) $16
• 2003 RIVER DOVE 4m 51.5kg (10) $17
1. 11 of last 12 winners have first or second up when winning this. (11 of last 11!). Not that significant given most of the runners attempt the race fresh from the spring. The vast majority of this year's runners are in that category again.
2. 11/12 aged between three & five years
3. No horse has carried more than 57kg to win in this period, but five have carried 55.5kg-57kg
4. Only one winner has drawn inside barrier four, with wide draws being no disadvantage overall (6/12 barrier nine or wider)
5. 5/12 sired by a son or grandson of Danehill
6. Average winning price is very high @ $14, especially given there has been two winners around a $2 quote.
Clearly the two speed runners appear to be I’m All The Talk and Lord Of The Sky if previous form is anything to go by. Both are very fast sprinters who are likely to set up a high speed. The likes of Whittington, A Time For Julia & Earthquake should be prominent early, but most of the others will be content to settle off the pace. In summary I don’t think any horse is going to be disadvantaged by the tempo with the possible exception of the two likely leaders bringing each other undone.
1. BEL SPRINTER- He is the class runner of the race, one of only two Group 1 winners in the field. Has won six of eight starts first up with his worst effort possibly his failure in this race last year with the same weight (beaten 4.5L). Won over 1100m first up in the Spring with 59kg in a set weights race but that was only his third win from 17 starts carrying 58kg or more. He doesn’t line up too well historically carrying 58kg and at seven years of age but they will certainly know he is is there if he doesn’t miss the start and strikes his best form. His $17 price is definitely overs in my opinion.
2. FLAMBERGE- scratched.
3. IT IS WRITTEN- Has the fitness edge on all his rivals here, but he only has a 1/11 strike rate at this track, and I’m not sure he is good enough to concede weight to many of his rivals in this. Fresh is best historically, and his age of six is a little against him on that score too.
4. FAST ‘N’ ROCKING- Has won three of six since being Gelded and only 1/17 before that. His sire won the race in 2005 (Fastnet Rock), but he isn’t anywhere near as classy as him. He has a fair record at this track (2/11),and he goes okay second up. Looks a decent chance but will need everything to go right from his wide barrier.
5. SHAMAL WIND- Classy mare who excels fresh (six of her seven wins), but she has only won one race with less than 40 days between runs (second start). Her record is also far better at 1000m or less (5/6), than it is beyond that trip (2/17), so I can’t quite have her in this second up. A win would definitely not surprise though given how strong she can finish off a race. Drawn wide so probably has to go back and come wide.
6. VAIN QUEEN- Is a decent mare who is very hard to beat on her day. She can run fast time and this is an ideal race for her first up, given the distance is perfect, and she should be in the right sort of position to make a bid for victory. Worth remembering she had blinkers applied 3 starts ago. She should have won the first of those, and the third was a career peak performance before a spell. This is her acid test, and I’m not that keen to see her conceding weight to a lot of horses, but she looks a winning hope for sure.
7. LORD OF THE SKY- Has been a bit of a nightmare for punters having been beaten seven times in a 14 start career at odds of $3 or less. His biggest asset here is the 53kg, because his record carrying big weights is very poor (1/8 with 57kg+). His best form is actually on tracks rated dead or worse (4/8 opposed to 1/6), so it’s probably not likely he can beat a field of this class on a good track. He should give a bold sight though off an 8L barrier trial win recently.
8. SISTINE DEMON- Yet to win a race below 1200m so this is really going to test his sharpness. 0/4 first up doesn’t inspire either, but he does go okay for female jockeys. Michelle Payne is aboard, and and she has three wins and a placing from five rides on him. Market says no but this race has no respect for that!
9. A TIME FOR JULIA- Is another good mare, but she too is yet to win below 1100m, and she might be feeling the pinch early in this race. She normally gets up on the pace, but not sure she can get close enough to feel comfortable at this trip, against this quality of opposition. If she can she is right in the mix, and she does meet Shamal Wind 2.5kg better for narrowly defeating her at their last meeting.
10. ATMOSPHERICAL- I was very disappointed in her first up run though it look okay on paper. That was her first defeat from five runs at the distance, and maybe she needed the run. And it was her first go at Caulfield, where she didn’t get a lot of galloping room in the straight. 14 days between runs is good for her (3/4). She is quite hard to ‘knock’ given her decent barrier and overall strike rate, and this is the lowest weight she has ever carried by far. She needs to improve on her last run but peaking in this might have been the priority.
11. GENERAL JACKSON- Looks totally outclassed in this grade and his price indicates that.
12. I’M All THE TALK- Very impressive in a barrier trial recently. He is yet to win from four first-up runs though, and is 0/5 at this distance (albeit a winner at 1200m). Not sure he is up to winning a Group 1 race with these types of negatives hanging over him, and Lord Of The Sky is quite likely to keep him company in the lead.
13. ICONIC- Is one I’m really keen on. He is superbly weighted in this race having won the McEwen, a Listed race first-up last Spring at Moonee Valley with 56kg (beating Shamal Wind). Last start prior to his spell he was beaten less than 2L behind Lankan Rupee over 1200m at the same track at WFA (58.5kg). He meets Shamal Wind 2.5kg for beating her when first-up last preparation. Three of his four wins have been when first-up and the fourth was off a 28 day break. He was very impressive winning a barrier trial at Morphettville in preparation for this, and just needs to get the right run from barrier one here to be very competitive. I’d have preferred the race to be 1000m, and for him to have drawn out a bit but there is no real reason to doubt him on both counts.. A slow track would have been the ideal, but it seems he can race well on any surface when fresh. Very hard to beat.
14. UNDER THE LOUVRE - Is racing out of his class here, but he does race very well fresh, and was a big improver last preparation. He was only just beaten by subsequent Group 1 winner Trust In A Gust in August when conceding it 2kg. He likes this track (2-1/3), and he has won both sides of this distance. Drawn out in barrier 12 won’t hurt his chances, and he should be flying home late. A couple of below par trial performances might be a negative, but he doesn’t seem to have trialled in the past, so perhaps wasn’t asked to do much. $21 about him is definitely ‘overs’ in my opinion.
15. WHITTINGTON- At his best he would rate a chance here but his form in recent times hasn’t really been good enough to consider he has any real hope. The barrier and weight drop look his biggest assets here.
16. EARTHQUAKE- We didn’t really see the best of her last spring, but she won the Blue Diamond (Group 1), for 2yos on this day last year, and is 3/3 at the track. Take away one poor run down the straight at Flemington, one at 1400m (perhaps too far for her), and two losses on heavy tracks (needs dry), and she is unbeaten from five starts. Two trial wins in preparation for this, and this is by far the lowest weight she has carried. She has the Danehill bloodlines, and a 3yo is well and truly due to win this race. The last 3yo filly to win was Miss Kournikova in 2001, and she is better credentialled than her already having won at Group 1 level. Whether she is as good as she was at this time last year is a query, and whether or not she can beat the older horses at this level is also questionable. Statistically and historically she looks the goods though.
17. ELOPING- Scratched
18. NOSTRADAMUS- Is a very interesting runner being the second of the 3yos here, and he is a colt who doesn’t have to give weight to the filly Earthquake. His second at level weights to Brazen Beau last preparation looks good now, considering how well that horse went last week against Lankan Rupee when second in the Lightning. Blinkers go on here, he is 2/2 first up, and his mother Leone Chiara won 4/5 starts first-up in her career. His two runs at this track were both unplaced efforts, yet respectable from wide barriers. One of those was the Blue Diamond where he suffered lacerations and was 3.5L from Earthquake. He at least meets her 2kg better for that, and he have more potential going forward than she does. Excellent chance at nice double-figure odds ($13), and he comes from a very in-form stable.
I’m primarily interested in NOSTRADAMUS & ICONIC at double-figure odds here (around the historical average), but EARTHQUAKE probably has the most going for her on a historical basis. I won’t be leaving out UNDER THE LOUVRE either who could well be the blowout horse at $25 or better. Forced to separate them I’d lean this way:
4. UNDER THE LOUVRE
But there are many other good chances as you would expect in this race. It should be a great spectacle!