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The Stradbroke preview

The biggest day in Queensland racing heads to a different venue, albeit across the road from the traditional host. Doomben racecourse hosts a crackerjack card including the Stradbroke, Derby, JJ Atkins, Qld Guineas and Brisbane Cup tomorrow. A truly great day of racing. Taking the reins for the Stradbroke preview is sharp local judge Joshua Langdon, @wenin_rome.

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Stradbroke Handicap
G1 1350m AUD2,000,000
Doomben
1537 local, 0637 BST


For those of you who like to use historic statistics as a guide to picking a winner, well you can throw those stats out the door this year as we are at a different track and distance for the 2015 edition of the time honoured Stradbroke Handicap.

For the first time ever in the history of the glamour race of the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival, the Stradbroke Handicap will be run at the Doomben racecourse over 1350m instead of the normal 1400m at Eagle Farm. Doomben is a much tighter track than Eagle Farm and is historically suited to those on the speed or no worse than midfield and this is very much how it has largely played out during this year’s carnival.

However, before we throw everything out the window there are possibly two key historical statistics which could still hold firm this Saturday despite the change in course and distance.

1: Only 1 horse has won carrying more than 55.5k in the past 10 years
2: Only 1 favourite has won the race in the past 10 years with Black Piranha winning at 3/1 in 2009

Given that the race is still set under handicap conditions then there’s obviously a real chance that these recent statistics are still worth taking with a bit more than just a pinch of salt this year.

It’s interesting also that only three fillies have won the race in the past 20 years…History against the favourite here?

Doomben Track Bias
Eagle Farm generally provides a lot more opportunities to those drawn wide and coming from the back; whereas Doomben has a much tighter turning circumference and it can be almost impossible for those to make up too much ground on the leaders in the home straight. An example of this bias is the Doomben 10,000 (which is also run over 1350m) where over the past 30 years the winner has come from barriers 1 – 5 over 50% of the time (six of those wins have come from runners drawing barrier 1). Compare this to Eagle Farm where over the past 10 years, five of the winners have started from double figure barriers. In 2014 we saw the first three last year coming from barriers 13 and wider.

Speedmap:
The scratching of Lord of the Sky throws up a massive spanner into the mix here as he was going to be the main leader and the race will now likely be run at a slower tempo which could suit those in the front half of the field. Hot Snitzel, Temple of Boom and Fontelina will likely cross from wide barriers, and so be able to do so with minimal speed directly inside them, while Srikandi and El Roca shouldn’t be too far behind them, box seating along on the rails. Overall tempo now looks moderate at the very best.

1. Boban
Boban comes into this race after producing his best performance since the Chipping Norton Stakes early in 2014 to win the Doomben 10,000 over the same track and distance two weeks ago. However, the drop from WFA to handicap may hurt him here as both Generalife and Charlie Boy see him 3.5kg better off at the weights. He has once again drawn well in barrier eight and this should give him every opportunity if he’s good enough. The history of top weights in this is horrible.

2. Hot Snitzel
He also comes off a last start win, producing a career best rating to win by 1L margin over Knoydart and Our Boy Malachi in the BTC Cup (1200m). He does drop in weight here, but so does Knoydart and the extra 150m should be a positive having won up to 1400m previously. However, the draw hasn’t been too kind to him, and despite being likely to come in to barrier 13 following the removal of the emergencies from the field, it will be a massive task for him considering the work he is likely to do early in the race to get up on the speed.

3. Sacred Star
The Kiwi comes off a nice first up run in the Doomben 10,000 finishing a 3.6L 3rd. The step up in distance should be much more to his liking, having won the Magic Millions Cup last year at Eagle Farm over 1300m, but probably would have preferred the traditional 1400m even more. That being said he has drawn very well and should be able to box seat the leaders. The race looks like it could suit him, he flies second up winning 50% of the time and he won’t get a better chance to win a G1 in Australia. A serious player.

4. Smokin’ Joey
Smokin’ Joey came into this race last year fresh off a fantastic win in the Goodwood, but the scene is a bit different this time round finishing a disappointing 14th in the same lead in race. Doomben is unlikely to suit his racing pattern and I can’t have him winning this.

5. Generalife
The General was my top pick before the barrier draw, but now I am struggling to fit him into my top three. He has drawn the car park, and the simple fact is that horses find it extremely hard to win from there at Doomben over 1350m. However, he has all the form lines to suggest that he should be about a genuine chance here to win his first G1. His run in the Doomben 10,000 was fantastic and if he had enjoyed a similar trip to Boban then the placings would be reversed. The drop in weight here gives him a 3.5kg swing on Boban and as such should have him covered here if the barrier gods had of been a little bit kinder. Unfortunately they haven’t and it’s hard to picture him featuring.

6. Temple of Boom
He finished an extremely close second in this race last year behind River Lad after starting from an identical barrier in gate 14, so I am therefore not going to give him no hope this year. There appears to be minimal speed immediately inside of him so he could end up getting a nice sit about two wide just off the leaders, but it’s unlikely that the likes of Sacred Star and Charlie Boy are going to give up their gun runs easily so he could still be kept a bit wider. He has a good record at G1 level, despite generally starting at long odds, having placed 15% of the time and does he has a G1 win under his belt. However, his form this preparation has been well off his best and definitely nowhere near the level he was this time last year when he finished second in this race.

7. Lord of the Sky SCRATCHED

8. Charlie Boy
Charlie Boy has been a different horse since crossing to the Snowden stable and in particular he has been extremely impressive up here in his two most recent outings. Second up he won the BRC Sprint over 1350m and then backed it up with a fantastic 2nd placing to Boban in the Doomben 10,000, also over 1350m. He drew the car park in that race and alongside Generalife had a much tougher run than the winner. He looks primed to run a terrific race here drawing well at seven and drops generously in weight. Interesting to note that Blake Shinn jumps ship, but Craig Williams is obviously no slouch and he is clearly the one to beat for mine.

9. Knoydart
Knoydart has similarly been in very good form this winter carnival and will again be one of the closers late. The question is just how far back he gets, as the race should be run to suit those within striking distance on the turn. From gate four, James McDonald can slip him in to be no worse than midfield if he wants and if that is the case then he has the turn of foot to match it with anything in the field. Just not sure Doomben is his track.

10. Big Money
You can forgive Big Money for his 11th of 16 in the Doomben 10,000 as not even Noah could have cleared a passage for him at the top of the straight. He is better than that; however he would still have to improve lengths here to be winning and it’s hard to see him get past a few others who are just going better at the moment.

11. Black Heart Bart
Black Heart Bart was one of the favoured runners for the Goodwood and flashed home late to finish 4th with some fantastic late sectionals and prior to that he demolished a listed race at Bunbury to win by 5.3L. It’s a shame he couldn’t have drawn a better gate as he would have been a very interesting and possible winning runner. I can’t have him from that barrier at Doomben.

12. Fontelina
Fontelina faded badly in the 10,000 after doing a heap of work from barrier 15 early on to finish second last. Once again has drawn wide and can’t have at all.

13. El Roca
A surprising late acceptance who has really struggled at the races since returning from injury. Last start in the Magic Millions Cup over 1200m he was on speed until they turned and then dropped off badly in the straight so it’s hard to see him turning the tables here on that form to win a G1. He’s not the same horse he once was and despite the nice drop in weight here a win would shock.

14. Srikandi
What do we do with this mare? She was an absolute star last winter carnival, finishing 3rd in this race last year. However, her form of late has been poor, and seemingly had little excuses last start in the Doomben 10,000 where she had one of the runs of the race to only drop out in the straight to finish 6th. From gate one Brown will be able to get her into a lovely position (provided she jumps cleanly which is no guarantee), and with a nice light weight here she should be very hard to beat if she was in last year’s form, but she’s not and will need to improve lengths on her latest outing to win this. Her performance on Tuesday at Breakfast with the Stars suggested that she has improved since that run in the 10,000 working well alongside Excellantes. The race is there for her if she is good enough.

15. Fast and Rocking
He has been a very different horse since he was gelded, but perhaps the class could be a factor here as could the trip with all of his wins coming over shorter distances. He gets a 2.5kg positive weight pull on Charlie Boy from the BRC Sprint, but not sure that will be enough. Not the worst roughie, but would need to produce a career best to win this.

16. Delectation
Delectation gets in very well at the weights, dropping 7kg and has drawn ok enough, but the speed map looks a tad awkward for him and he will likely be forced to drop back from the start. Glen Boss will need to pull some magic here to get him the win. At Eagle Farm he would go very close.

17. Lumosty
She has won her past two starts comfortably over shorter distances in Victoria, and despite these being below the class of the lead in races for her competitors, these performances have rated very well and her late sectionals have been sensational. Despite those high rating performances she drops to a ridiculously low weight of 50.5kg here and as such has been found very well in the market. There is a question mark in her ability to produce the same kind of sectionals at Doomben compared to the wide open spaces of Flemington and from barrier 11 she will still require a fair amount of luck. One of the top chances.

Final Thoughts
You could make a case for a lot of these in what appears to be a very open Stradbroke. Generalife and Charlie Boy are the obvious two for based on their great runs in the Doomben 10,000 plus the significant weight drop; however, the wide barrier has ruled Generalife out for me. Charlie Boy comes into this race with a real sense of timing and probably only needs to repeat his run in the 10,000 to win here from a good gate which will be very important given that this should be run a little bit slower with Lord of the Sky out. The drop to 54kg (5kg drop from the Doomben 10,000) obviously is a massive plus too. Sacred Star is the likely improver from the 10,000 and should be ready to find his best second up where he has won 3/6 over his career. Srikandi is another likely improver on her last start and she will have the run of the race from barrier 1, but there’s a significant question mark around just how good she is going right now. Lumosty has been weighted to win and is a classy enough filly to defy recent history which has only seen three fillies win in the last 20 years, but she will need luck from where she has been drawn and she’s no hole in one. No knock on Knoydart who has similarly been in good form this prep, but he has a tendency to flash home late despite never really being a winning chance. Perhaps they sit closer from the good gate to give him a real shot?

Top Rated
1. Charlie Boy
2. Sacred Star
3. Lumosty
Knoydart and Srikandi both not too far off these three.

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