An outstanding Australian Guineas in store this weekend at headquarters, with a high class group of Victorian 3yos topped off by a former WA filly and a highly-rated NZ raider seeking to break the Kiwi hoodoo in this race.
Making his debut on the blog is avid Aussie racing enthusiast, Darryl Frenc. You can read more of his work on his site, Winning Punter.
Flemington R7 1630 local
Group 1, 1600m, 3yo
Before we talk about the speed map it's important to note how the track will play, which is to be honest I have no idea. Last time out it's been Grandstand side and by Race 7 who knows where they will be. Lately the tracks have been drying up from the heat and becoming rock hard where they haven't been aerated or watered and we are seeing fast lanes usually from the middle to the outside of the track. Rail stays in the true from last time and let's hope we have a fair track although I am guessing the fence will be off and 5-10 metres in from the rail will be the go.
Mahuta and Xtravagant will both go hard and forward, but I think Mahuta will cross to take the front with Xtravagant just sitting off him. While there will be some pace there are also a lot of back markers Tivaci, Vanbrugh and Tarzino will all go back. I think the race will be strung out enough that horses like Palentino won't get stuck too far out. Palentino will probably be worse than midfield with Snoopy and Sailing By midfield and Bon Aurum sitting in front of them. The rest of the horses will be back behind Palentino. Mahuta and Xtravagant will have the field stretched out a little but I don't think it'll be so flat-out that every backmarker will come into this. To win from the back, a horse will need to have very good acceleration to run these leaders down.
Mahuta - The D.K Weir factor is strong in this one. Technically the horse has been up since it's first start September last year but Weir keeps his horses fit and strong at all times, just look at Burning Front who has been racing since March last year and has still won his last two races. The reason you will be able to get overs for Mahuta is that because he has been up for so long, people are waiting for that picket fence to come down and are scared to get into him but D.K Weir horses are different they can sustain long preps. His last start win was strong setting a solid pace up front and fighting off the swoopers to win, that was giving Sailing By a 5kg start now only has to give her 2kg. At set weights he becomes an even stronger chance, he will be fitter now after running that last race off a freshen up. Front runners on a firm surface over the Flemington mile historically have a strong record. Don't let the fact that Xtravagant who can gallop along early as well will force the both of them undone, both horses can kick off a strong pace.
Tarzino - Ran an eye-catching fourth behind Mahuta last start and if they go very hard he is definitely a chance. If they try to sit closer to the speed and wait for the leaders to tire he could probably out stay them and win but while they will be trying very hard to win, the Derby is his grand final and I would rather play him there.
Vanbrugh - The mile at this level will be to short for him to win, didn't show enough last start to say that this is more than a lead up run.
Ready For Victory - Run ended a long way from home for this one. Always running on, needs to be first past the post more often.
Xtravagant - Is he the real deal? That's the question that will be answered on Saturday. I think he is going to be a superstar, has been running very slick times over in NZ. Forgive his start two back when he ran unplaced as $1.30 favourite he needs a firm track. Last time he raced he won a Group 1 1400m race by eight lengths, Volkstok'n'Barrel came out of that and won a Group 1 the next start. There has been a lot of fuss about missing his flight and getting here a day late, the trainer said the horse is ticking over and it won't be a problem. The only knocks are: has he travelled OK? Can Matthew Cameron steer around the possible fast lanes at his first go at Flemington?
Bon Aurum - Ran well last start considering he was two and three wide most of the way. When they hit the straight he really knuckled down and only let a few horses past him. Drawing 11 isn't ideal but he probably gets a good tow in across behind Mahuta. He's one for exotics but I can't see him winning.
Sovereign Nation - Ran a good fourth behind Press Statement in the Caulfield Guineas and a strong fifth behind Tivaci last time out. Don't think he is good enough at the mile to win this, could be one to run fourth but can't see him getting into the placings.
Tivaci - Winner after the very controversial protest of the CS Hayes. I think the fact that he headed Palentino then couldn't go on with it, leads me to believe he won't get past Palentino in this race. To be honest I think when the Anchor dropped in the C.S Hayes it was Tivaci and Palentino who were wide and starting to make their runs it probably was advantageous for them and I can't see Tivaci having the late sectionals to run past Xtravagant and Mahuta, but without a doubt one for the exotics.
Palentino - Weir thinks this horse can be anything and he's probably not wrong. If he had drawn a better barrier I'd be all over him but by that time of the day it might not be that bad an idea to be drawn a little wider. The field should string out enough for him to slot in somewhere close enough anyway. In a big endorsement for this horse Weir said he wanted to run Mahuta last week but the owners over ruled him and ran him here. I believe it's because he thinks Palentino is a moral. Palentino showed a lot of guts last time after being headed and ran the fastest last 200m of the race. If he was drawn closer I'd probably have him favourite but I'm slightly leaning towards Xtravagant now. Top 3 pick easily though and at $8 definitely worth a bet.
River Wild - Forgive run last start as he missed the jump because one of the attendants still had a hold of the reins. Came into that run off some strong Sydney form and if we forgive last start he comes into this race in strong contention. He still managed to run some good times in the CS Hayes after missing the kick by eight lengths and having to weave his way up the rail. I probably would have had him a top 5 pick in this after that tough 1400m run at Rosehill with 61kg on board, if he had really shown me what he can do last start. Even though it was a forgive run there's a bit to unknown going into this for me in such a tough race. I don't like backing Gai horses often but history could repeat here as she won this race last year with Wandjina and Prebble on board.
Snoopy - In the Autumn Stakes he got a really good run and didn't disappoint getting very close to Mahuta, but on the times he ran I can't have him winning this or going close to be honest.
Tulsa - There is a big win in this horse very soon, is it in the Australian Guineas? I'm not sure but he will definitely go close. Barrier 15 isn't to bad as he will be better off going back and coming down the outside anyway. If he doesn't lay in last start he goes very close to winning that race against Palentino. Had no luck and ended up injured in the Caulfield Guineas when he finally got to the mile. This time third up at the mile looks perfect for him, at $21 best long shot by far. Now off to Sydney instead.
Jameka - Could be running on but I don't think she will show her best over the mile against this lot. Next start over longer is where she will be winning.
Perfect Reflection - Blinkers first time for a Weir runner is always a big sign. Didn't have the best run in transit last time and from barrier two she will probably sit a little closer. I think she will be best getting to the outside and working home but barrier two makes that tricky. I'm on the fence with her, I don't like the inside draw but I think she's lengths better than what she did last start. Definitely good enough to win this but just not sure if she will from the inside when Palentino and others will be screaming down the outside trying to catch the break Xtravagant and Mahuta have on the field.
Risque - Very impressive in the Kevin Hayes over only 1200m, gave the rest of the field a decent start was still sitting about sixth with 150m to go before she easily accounted for them with a solid turn of foot. Won the NZ 1000 guineas last prep and Hayes and Dabernig have nothing but glowing endorsements for her. Going from the 1200m to the 1600m of the Australian Guineas second up at your first Australian prep is a tough task. I'll have her in my exotics but with the prep she has I'm thinking they might be trying to get her to the Oaks.
Sailing By - Giving Mahuta so much weight last start and a perfectly run race in transit she would've had to win for me to think she is any chance of winning today.
1 - Xtravagant
2 - Palentino
3 - Mahuta
4 - Risque
5 - Tarzino
6 - Perfect Reflection
3 units Xtravagant
1.5 units Palentino
0.5 units Mahuta Win and 1.5 units Place