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Winterbottom Stakes Preview

This year's 'summer' carnival in Perth has been stretched out to three Saturdays under the moniker of the Ascot Racing Masters. The premier sprint race of this carnival is the Winterbottom Stakes, which in recent years has been won by star sprinters in Buffering, Miss Andretti, Ortensia and Takeover Target - all of whom have won Group races abroad. It takes a good'un to win it, and this year's field has plenty of those.

I've brought in a star recruit for this preview, WA racing specialist Terry Leighton. You can follow him on Twitter @PerthRacingGuru. And he's tipping up some juicy odds on his debut...

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Winterbottom Stakes
Group 1, WFA, 1200m
AU$1,000,000
1700 local time, 2000 AEDST, 0900 GMT


The second of WA's three group one events promises to be the pick of the bunch. While the Terravista v Malaguerra showdown might not quite be the Apache Cat v Takeover Target of 2008, it definitely has parallels.

What adds so much intrigue to the 2016 running of the Winterbottom is the form of some of the locals who are yet to be tested against quality group one horses. It promises to be some type of race.

1. Terravista - This race and this campaign was to some degree an afterthought by trainer Joe Pride which does make you worry a little. After an indifferent autumn campaign, this son of Captain Rio has by Pride's own admission been given these two runs (his previous effort was a solid 2nd in the listed Mumm Stakes at Flemington) as he didn't want him to have a full year off racing before attacking the 2017 Lightning Stakes. There is enough knocks on him before looking at how the travel from over East may have affected him. In saying this, if he is anywhere near his best the locals won't get near him.

2. Malaguerra - The slight, but deserved favourite after a strong win in the Darley Classic. Is third up here so this race was clearly a plan rather than an after thought and he has drawn the inside marble. This should work to his advantage if he can find a spot on the leaders back, but with only a 294m straight he wouldn't want to find himself a couple back on the fence in unfamiliar surroundings. These top two have panels on the rest of the field and if both have normal racing luck, have travelled well and are both at their best then this will be the quinella.

3. Takedown - Not only is the $617,500 on offer for this Stratum gelding but a trip to Hong Kong will be on the cards if he can cause a mini upset. I personally don't like a horse that is down in distance (from 1400m) and may be a little dour. You cannot bring a horse from the East for this race unless it is 100% the initial target. To me that doesn't appear the case. The speed map suggests he may have to work to Sheidels outside and may even be caught deeper if young Jake Casey has a desire to lead on the speedy Vega Magic. Will be taking him on.

4. Rock Magic - One of only two genuine local WFA sprinters in this field. His win over the 1000m in the Prince Of Wales after a short let-up proven to be no fluke when he came out and topped that effort with a slashing second in the Colonel Reeves. Meets Vega Magic 3.5kgs better for that run and should sit a lot closer to that galloper from the better draw. Looked to be a major player in this event until the dreaded bar shoes were added to his gear only 2 days before the race. How much confidence can you really have when that happens?

5. Keen Array - Perhaps didn't handle the straight at his last two after a super impressive effort to comfortably knock off the in form Illustrious Lad. Has drawn well here but this is his 6th run this campaign. A lot for a sprinter. Cannot beat the top 3 who have also travelled over for this race barring a miracle.

6. First Among Equals - WA's best WFA sprinter. This will be disputed with the current form of Rock Magic, but First Among Equals would be unbeaten this campaign had he got any type of luck at his two runs. (Last start replay here, he's in blue with a yellow sash) Met Rock Magic last campaign three times where he was successful twice and only missed on the final occasion as he was on the wrong part of the track. For me he has nearly a length on Rock Magic, all things being equal. If they go mad here as expected and Military Reign or Takedown lead up a three wide line if may well leave the likes of Terravista and Malaguerra hemmed away while the three wide line is the place to be (a little bit of wishful thinking but not out of the question). Brad Parnham is a disappointing jockey appointment with the suspension of Paul Harvey. The instructions should be simple - find the three wide line and get wide on straightening. This horse has a devastating turn of foot if saved up for one 250m sprint. Can win.

7. Battle Hero - Trialled in superb order, before racing outside a reasonably hot pace first up and running a credible third. Something looked to have gone very much amiss second up when beaten a long way in the key lead up. Barrier ten ruins any chances he may have had of causing an upset here.

8. Vega Magic - Boom sprinter who is probably a year away from winning a race like this. Young Jake Casey retains the ride in what can only be described as blind family loyalty. The kid is a struggling apprentice in Western Australia and I expect him to be bullied by the stronger Eastern States jocks. Lacks the strength in a close finish and tactically if they take him on early may get a little lost. Horse very good. Jockey very bad.

9. Regal Commander - Making up the numbers.

10. State Solicitor - Another I am going to knock. Pike has said he is sure he will beat all the locals home. I can't quite understand that confidence after he only just scrambled past a very mediocre Lenience at his most previous outing. I have no doubt he could be something special but from barrier 11, Pike will have to be back somewhere near last or risk being caught wide. At weight for age I think it is an impossibility for him.

11. Sheidel - You'd love to bring a horse back to a track where she boasts 9 wins from 10 starts. Has gone to another level over East and will probably need to go to another level yet again. Boasts a super record in Perth and is another reason this race is just so intriguing. The appointment of D Oliver doesn't hurt either.

12. Military Reign - The only interest in this mare is where she will speed map. Couldn't win no matter what gate she drew, but barrier 12 cruels any hopes. Corey Brown will no doubt spear forward but I can see her being caught three deep and leading up that line. For the sake of the horses behind her, I hope she can stick on gamely to give them a decent cart up on straightening.

Tips:
I will preface this by saying I am purely a Western Australian horse racing analyst. My Eastern States knowledge is by no stretch in depth, so I may have a little bias towards out local nags. In saying that, I have absolutely no doubt the top 2, in particular Malaguerra are simply better than all of ours. Comfortably. But it isn't about who is a better overall horse. If it was, this race would already be over. It is about who is the best horse in the conditions on that particular day. For that reason I am happy putting the Simon Miller trained First Among Equals on top. If the track is playing fairly I can see no reason he isn't the one putting the big strides in late. The $5.50 the place is probably the area I would attack a little harder, but he is well over the odds. He should be the same price (if not shorter with the addition of bar plates) as WA's best hope Rock Magic.

1. First Among Equals (currently 20/1 in places)
2. Malaguerra
3. Terravista
4. Sheidel

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