Monday, 31 October 2016

The Melbourne Cup preview - part 3, the bets!

And now for the important bit! I hope you've read the rest of the preview, otherwise it feels like I've wasted a lot of time...

Runners #1-13
Runners #14-24


Viewing from inside the course after about 500m, still well short of the first turn.

Expecting a solid early pace where they string out passing the post the first time, no notable interference and any horse who wants to get in, can. The above graphic probably gets stretched even further if there is genuine competition for the lead. But pace maps are hard enough to nail in a six-horse race let alone a 24-runner handicap worth Steve Austin (the original). Last year's map was all based around early speed and then Kingfisher got smashed out of the gates and it all went tits up, chaos theory reigned and a 100/1 shot got the chocolates.

There are enough out & out stayers in this field to want a war of attrition. And whether it's deemed team tactics or not, when you have a big hand from Godolphin and Lloyd Williams, they will ride to set up a contest for the best horse to prevail.

Two horses get into this race 'light' - Hartnell and Oceanographer, meaning if the handicapper had another go at setting their weights now, they'd both go up two to four kilos. Both possess the sprint to catch the leaders off a solid pace, if they avoid those falling off the pace from the 800m and are in position to unwind as they straighten. Oceanographer unleashed a ridiculous 56.81 for the last 1000m on Saturday, that'd win decent quality sprint races but this field is much stronger. Hartnell has been set for this race and will be much better suited in the wide open spaces of Flemington rather than the wet camber of the Valley.

The Japanese horse will get them running along, he has no interest in the Australian sit-sprint style, or the European gradual build-up of the speed. Tommy Berry knows if he can run them off their legs, most of them will lose their acceleration when it counts. But, if he happens to miss the start, it could mess the speed hypothesis up completely.

Ratings, in predicted finishing order
Curren Mirotic
Secret Number
Who Shot The Barman
Wicklow Brave
Our Ivanhowe
Grey Lion
Big Orange
Bondi Beach
Grand Marshal
Heartbreak City
Sir John Hawkwood
Beautiful Romance
Rose of Virginia
Excess Knowledge

which leaves a trifecta something like this:


$72 for 50%

Work out your own win and place bets around the top few. Best of luck everyone!

The Melbourne Cup preview - part 2, runners 14-24

Continuing on from my assessment of the top half of the field.


14. Sir John Hawkwood - Group 2/3 stayer who won the weakest G1 in the land a month ago (the Metropolitan) and then looked hopelessly out of his depth at Caulfield. Off to the retirement paddock after this. Simply no.

PROS: Has the miles in his legs for a hard grind.
CONS: Beaten in races like the Tattersall's and Brisbane Cup. Needs the field to stop in front of him, simply isn't of this class and nor is his jockey.
PACE MAP: Can go anywhere from 14, won't matter.

15. Excess Knowledge - Waterhouse (and Bott)-trained, so there'll be blind money for him. Ran seventh last year, parked on the pace and swamped at the end beaten 3.1L after winning the Lexus on the Saturday. Ran fourth in the MV Cup which was a brutal race for those up on the pace. Third behind Almandin at previous start, giving him 3kg. Gate 21 with an average jockey aboard, not much going for him.

PROS: By Monsun, no worries about running the race out.
CONS: Return runners in the Cup have pretty poor record, especially if unplaced. Wide gate, average jockey.
PACE MAP: Has to go back or will be seven-wide stalking the pace.

16. Beautiful Romance - ran third at 20/1 in British Champions F&M Group 1 last year behind Simple Verse (beat Bondi Beach in the St.Leger a month earlier) but little else to recommend her. Beaten >10L by Dartmouth, Treve and Minding in higher class races. Drawn the paint, has a canny young jockey in Damian Lane aboard but needs an outboard motor more than luck.

PROS: Lightly raced, still has upside. Talented young jockey aboard.
CONS: Inside draw rarely advantageous, appears harshly weighted compared to other visitors.
PACE MAP: Midfield fence, will need to ride for luck.

17. Almandin - impressive winner of the Bart Cummings a month ago with seemingly plenty in hand. Boasts a win over Protectionist early in his career and also ran second to star French gelding Solow. Took two years to hit the track in Australia, had a light winter campaign to prepare for the spring, then kicked into gear once he hit 2400m at Caulfield. Plenty of upside in him with only 11 starts under his belt as a southern hemisphere 7yo, hasn't faced most of the field and has a quality lightweight jockey aboard.

PROS: Formlines against top grade horses in Europe, albeit two years ago. Won very easily at Flemington, this is a big step up but has plenty of ticks - stable, jockey, breeding...
CONS: Gate 17 and considerable class rise.
PACE MAP: Front half of the field trying to squeeze in.

18. Assign - another from the Hickmott/Williams stable. Promising start to his career in Ireland, running a close second to multiple G1 winner Fascinating Rock and then won a Premier Handicap as a 3yo, hasn't kicked on here. Tenth run in Australia, still improving. Started 2.20 against Real Love in the autumn after winning the Victoria Cup. This campaign, he ran second to Almandin at Caulfield before winning a pretty ordinary Herbert Power off the limit weight. Drawn 22 with Katelyn Mallyon aboard (excellent front-running jockey), he seems well out of his depth.

PROS: Has always shown talent, can go forward or back.
CONS: Huge step up in class and drawn the car park.
PACE MAP: Has the option of going forward but could find that end of the field very hot.

19. Grey Lion - certain to attract a lot of mug money as the only grey, finishing ahead of the weekend boom horse Oceanographer in the Geelong Cup and trained by a Cumani. Distance no concern, has trained very well at Werribee, has formlines through One Foot In Heaven who ran sixth in the Arc. Probably out of his depth but still has upside, include in multiples.

PROS: Will be going strong at the business end, Geelong Cup run should tighten him up.
CONS: Ran last in the Prix Kergolay which was a strong market for Americain and Dunaden. Looks a bit rich for him.
PACE MAP: From 16, I expect Glenn Boss to try and slide across slightly back of midfield.

20. Oceanographer - the boom horse from the weekend, an exceptional win in the Lexus to get into the field. Only a 4yo by northern clocks, he won three of his first five starts, then went into the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot, one of the hottest contested races of the week, at 7/1, but over-raced and dropped right out behind Sir Isaac Newton (who started 8/1). Has race in handicaps throughout his career, unlike most of the higher class stayers. Why this is relevant is the pace and competitive nature - rather than stop-start affairs, there's a lot more going on and tactics are critical. Has a considerable 7kg weight turnaround on Heartbreak City from the Ebor when he was unlucky, ran on nicely in the Geelong Cup at his first local start, then unleashed outstanding sectionals (56.81 for last 1000m!) to win the Lexus on Saturday from another postcode. Impressive Lexus winners traditionally back up well in the Cup, has plenty going for him.

PROS: Momentum. Absolutely flying and if he can back up, that's a huge headstart on most rivals.
CONS: Not many. Step up in class but his acceleration counters that.
PACE MAP: Ideal draw, expect Chad Schofield to sit behind midfield and work home off the solid pace.

21. Secret Number - highly-rated 3yo (started 7/4 in UAE Derby) but obviously had plenty of problems, having just four runs since October 2013. All four runs have been in the quinella, including the Queen's Cup here last year, when he suffered interference and ran second to Dandino. Won the Doonside at Ayr in September, a race Scottish and Exospheric came out of from 2015. Warmly tipped in the UK today by Pricewise and some others, definite chance at odds.

PROS: Has raced in black type races throughout his career, under-rated due to lack of racing.
CONS: Is he battle-hardened enough with four runs in three years? How brittle is he?
PACE MAP: Drawn beautifully in 10, can slot into perfect position about four pairs back, one off the rail.

22. Pentathlon - Kiwi visitor, won the Trentham Cup, second in the Wellington Cup, fourth in the Auckland Cup (behind Rose of Virginia). OK in the MV Cup but miles behind them in the Lexus on Saturday. Might end up the longshot of the field on the totes. Absolutely no hope.

PROS: Won't slow down at the end.
CONS: Won't go faster at the end either.
PACE MAP: Midfield on the rail, gets in the way.

23. Qewy - led all the way to win the Geelong Cup, ahead of Oceanographer. Generally doesn't lead, more of a front-half of field stayer who keeps on going. Ran home well over 4000m at Royal Ascot but that really is a plodders' race. Handy, has decent Timeform ratings, but don't expect him to be looming up at the clocktower.

PROS: Has travelled well, no concerns about stamina.
CONS: Beat Oceanographer once, can't see it happening again.
RACE MAP: From 15, there's plenty of competition to go forward. Being posted three or four wide won't necessarily stop him.

24. Rose of Virginia - not a hope in hell. In four starts in much weaker fields, she has started no shorter than 70/1 this campaign. Ran second in the Auckland Cup in March, ain't done squat since.

PROS: May improve for more distance.
CONS: Woeful on Saturday.
RACE MAP: Hopefully goes back and stays out of everyone's way.

Final analysis including selections and exotic bets still to come....

The Melbourne Cup preview - part 1, runners 1-13

Back after a short holiday with the family, hence the lack of posts for Derby Day. But now we're back in action for Cup day with a detailed preview!

Last year, we had the outlier race - farcical slow pace, biased track, plenty of interference and a 100/1 shot winning. Although it was a strong field, that combination of pace and bias created a mess and the shock result. This time around, it is a weaker field on paper but a slow pace is highly unlikely.

Weather - a cool spring day in the high teens, tiny amount of rain will not have any effect on the track. Haven't heard the official trackman's report but Flemington drains so well, they'd probably need to water it anyway to prevent it from getting too firm. Fair for everyone but any horse needing heavy rain will be disappointed.

The track raced perfectly on Saturday, no change expected.

Now onto the Race That Stops The Nation.


AU$6.2m, Group 1 Handicap
Flemington 1500 AEDST, 0400 GMT

1. Big Orange - 60/1 shot last year when jumped to the front from gate 23 and controlled the pace to a walk. Masterful ride by Jamie Spencer who gets a better crack at it from barrier 7, won't have to lead but will aim to hit the front early and make it a hard slog in the straight. Similar lead-up winning the Goodwood Cup and a Newmarket G2, only up a kilo and a half from last year. Read Jamie Spencer's thoughts on the race here - he's confident.

PROS: Complete focus on the Cup this season, drawn much better. Field is undoubtedly weaker than last year.
CONS: Got it easy in front last year plus heavy on-pace/rail bias. Can't imagine that happening again. Topweights have to be champions to win this and there have been plenty of British/Irish raiders carry the #1 saddlecloth and go home with their tail behind their legs.
PACE MAP: Goes forward, but could be some competition for that.

2. Our Ivanhowe - unlucky here last year from gate 22 when squashed against the rail at the 250 when he would have been right in it. Goes up 1kg. WFA campaign in the autumn, close up fifth in the Australian Cup when well supported, ridden upside down in the BMW then dropped out sharply and pulled up lame. Returned after a short break to win the G1 Doomben Cup. Hasn't set the world on fire this campaign but caught the eye at Caulfield flashing home (ran second in same race last year).

PROS: Drawn ideally in six, set for the Cups this year and jockey is one of the best going around.
CONS: Not the same horse he was in Europe, just one win in his last dozen starts. Topweights have to be superstars to win the Cup.
PACE MAP: Just ahead of midfield, with options to go to the rail or stay one-off depending on track condition.
WARNING: The comment for Our Ivanhowe may be subject to confirmation bias as I backed him at 33s a couple of months ago.

3. Curren Mirotic - career wins only at 1800-2000m but beaten only a lip in the Tenno Sho Spring over this trip in May (seven places ahead of Fame Game, last year's Cup favourite) and a single length by Gold Ship and Fame Game the year before. Genuine G2 horse by Japanese standards, running at massive odds in the top echelon but 10-25/1 in G2s. Believed to be his final campaign before retirement so this is a last shot at the stumps but Japanese visitors have an incredible record here. 9yo by Australian standards will scare a few off but it didn't stop Red Cadeaux.

PROS: Japanese staying depth is the best in the world, placed both starts over two miles.
CONS: Hasn't won since Nov 2013 and this is his swansong tour.
PACE MAP: Will go forward from the wide gate and try to set a genuine pace.

4. Bondi Beach - Galileo entire who returns to Melbourne as a more mature horse than last year when still a northern hemisphere 3yo. Galileo progeny are on fire at the moment, running the trifecta in the Arc de Triomphe and winning G1s north of the dotted line regularly. Less tested this campaign running in small fields, never out of Ireland and no better than a G3. Part of that will have been to beat the handicapper but also he's had a few issues. The alternative view could just be that the O'Brien stable are spoilt for riches. No luck last year being caught wide and bumped around from gate 18. Rises 3.5kg as an older horse in a weaker edition. Ryan Moore didn't seem particularly confident in this preview but that could just be his nature.

PROS: More mature now, drawn five and has best jockey in the world aboard for the world's best trainer who will win the race sooner or later.
CONS: Comment from Francesca Cumani on seeing him at Werribee was that he seems to have more on his mind than racing, take that at face value.
PACE MAP: Midfield, likely to be tucked on the rail.

5. Exospheric - talented British import who has yet to run beyond 2400m. Gave him no hope in the Caulfield Cup as he'd been labelled a difficult horse to train and had multiple gear changes. Made me look like a chump with a storming run into third, after going back from an inside gate. The trainer recommended sending him to the paddock after that, with an eye on the autumn and next year (when imports traditionally flourish) but connections wanted to chase the big pot while they could. Damien Oliver returns after suspension.

PROS: Great run at Caulfield, huge chance if able to springboard from that.
CONS: Trainer wanting to put him away for next year.
PACE MAP: Went back at Caulfield, expecting same here with expected solid pace and no previous runs over the journey.

6. Hartnell - star of the spring until he got spanked by Winx in the Cox Plate in the highest-rating race ever in Australia. Still beat multiple G1 winners at Moonee Valley, a track he obviously didn't handle so you can't mark him down for that. Last year he was beaten 10.25L in the Cox, rating 117. This year beaten eight, he rated 123. Much better horse this year, ran 15th last year at 30/1 when drawn wide, went back and had to work home in the worst going. Well known that he won the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot two years ago over this distance when he was rated higher than all his rivals, and repeated the dose three weeks later over 2600m in the same circumstances. In all his other starts over 2400m or further, he has just a single win with no other placings - in the 2015 BMW. In the other starts, he faced stronger opposition (Great Voltigeur and St.Leger in the UK, Sydney and Melbourne Cups in Aus) and has been beaten at least six lengths. On-pace and did it too hard in the UK races, led in the Sydney Cup and then was caught too far back here last year. His wins earlier this preparation came off moderate pace - can he sprint off a solid clip? Needs a bit to go right but this campaign has been all about winning this race - the Cox Plate would have been a bonus.

PROS - best local form, smashed Jameka in the Turnbull and meets her better at the weights. Take out Winx from the Cox Plate and he'd be 5/2 here. Handicapper would raise him 3kg if given another chance.
CONS - those distance queries in high class races.
PACE MAP - too far back last year on ridiculously slow race. This year's edition will be the opposite so McDonald may chance his luck sitting back again.

7. Who Shot Thebarman - third in 2014 (best of the locals) and 11th last year. Has won just one race in two years (Zipping Classic 2015), has collected plenty of place money. Beaten under a length in the MV Cup last week when he hit the front too early as the leaders wilted after a hot, contested pace into a stiff headwind, the winner had the cold sit and peeled off late. Super honest, drawn 20 but has Hugh Bowman aboard. Can't see him winning but must include in exotics.

PROS - quality run in MV Cup, no concerns about the distance and has best local jockey aboard. Prince of Penzance was second in that race last year.
CONS - doesn't win often and drawn the car park.
PACE MAP - has to go back from 20 on a fast pace.

8. Wicklow Brave - County Hurdle winner at Cheltenham in 2015, beating last year's Cup runner-up Max Dynamite. Has mostly campaigned on the Flat since and this race will have been in Willie Mullins' mind for quite a while. Last three runs - just over 3L behind Big Orange at level weights in the G2 Goodwood Cup (also 2L behind Sheikhzayedroad who won the Long Distance Cup on British Champions Day); third behind Quest For More in Lonsdale Cup at York (ahead of Trip To Paris, fourth here in 2015); won the Irish St.Leger with a daring front-running ride defeating Arc third Order of St.George - all very tough, won't shirk the task etc.. He'll need to be tough as he's drawn 24 and his racing style is prominent. Dettori has to push forward and hope for a trail, probably in the three-wide line which would suit him fine.

PROS - trained by a genius, ridden by Dettori who got his pants pulled down by Michelle Payne last year. Genuine stayer who will relish the hot pace and be ready to pounce if he finds cover.
CONS - gate 24 and Dettori who has been going home empty-handed for many years.
PACE MAP - likely to be caught three-wide unless the pace is so hot they get strung out early. But with enough horses going forward, he might get the cover he needs. Forward of midfield.

9. Almoonqith - the eye-catcher from Caulfield from cosy gate two. Unlucky last year, slow out of the gates, stuck at the back, couldn't make ground like all of them at the back. Then went to Sandown 11 days later to win the G3 Sandown Cup over this trip. Had done precious little in seven starts this season before flashing home last start at 70/1.

PROS - has hit form at the right time of year.
CONS - three poor runs at Flemington and drawn 19. Guaranteed to be unders now.
PACE MAP - worse than midfield.

10. Gallante - Sydney Cup winner who tried to control the race in the Moonee Valley Cup but was taken on all the way by Authoritarian and copped the worst of the stiff wind crossing the course, plus in the worst ground. Second to Jameka in the Naturalism the start before, coming off a 23 week spell.

PROS - Genuine excuses last time and previous two runs were very good.
CONS - By Montjeu, has never won on a dry track (just two thirds from eight attempts). Gate 2 is mighty awkward unless he pings the gate.
PACE MAP - with so much pace in the race, I'd expect Shinn to take a sit just in behind.

11. Grand Marshal - almost fell last year at the 300m in the wash-up from Dettori pulling out on Max Dynamite. Might have finished top ten but that's about it. Had the cosy run in the MV Cup last start and was entitled to win, poor in the Metropolitan before that. Needs the heavens to open to be any chance of picking up a decent cheque here.

PROS - Very good this distance range, the harder the slog the better.
CONS - Needs a lot of rain to show his best in this class.
PACE MAP - Midfield.

12. Jameka - devastating win in the Caulfield Cup but absolutely everything went right for her on the day. Jumped straight into the box seat, her main rivals missed start and/or over-raced, and a stiff headwind down the side meant nothing could make ground before she pounced hitting the bend. Can't imagine the distance will pose any concern after that win on top of the VRC Oaks but she is by a General Nediym mare. Drawn three, potentially awkward off a hot pace - she'll be locked on the rail with leaders coming back on her so Nick Hall will have to be very smart on which gap to take and when.

PROS - form of 121 beaten only by Hartnell this spring. Gave nothing else a chance at Caulfield.
CONS - penalty for winning the Caulfield Cup puts her into record weight-carrying contention for a 4yo mare. Could not have had more go right for her at Caulfield, that can't be repeated. Awkward gate.
PACE MAP - can see her about four back the fence. Tricky but that's about where Prince of Penzance was positioned last year from gate one.

13. Heartbreak City - the handicap plot horse from Ireland. First it was for the Ebor Handicap, the richest handicap in Europe, now it's for the richest handicap in the world. Ignore the hurdle form completely. He won a two mile handicap at York last year then was thrown in the deep end running in the Cesarewitch and Irish November Handicap. On his return in March, he won at Cork by 12L forcing trainer Tony Martin to go into damage control mode to protect his handicap mark. The Chester Cup was never going to suit him, followed by two hurdle victories before romping home in the Ebor. Now he brings that to Melbourne with a trainer who hasn't made the trip before (but won't be short of knowledge with owners and other trainers) and cops gate 23. That could be offset by the choice of jockey, Joao Moreira, the star of Hong Kong, but he'll need luck to get in from there. At York, he cruised up before unleashing his sprint. If he goes back, he will need to burn energy to work his way through the field before making his run. He doesn't have the same weight advantage he had in the Ebor.

PROS - perhaps still untapped and has Moreira aboard. Trainer is a genius in managing handicap ratings.
CONS - trainer's first visit to Australia, gate 23, rated close to the best stayers from Europe now.
PACE MAP - has to go back from there, probably three wide with cover.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Cox Plate preview

The hype machine has been ramped up to record levels this week as the Clash of the Champions, linking beautifully to the 30 year anniversary of the 'Race of the Century'. If it can live up to the all the hyperbolae spouted this week, then what a race we are in for. But how often does an event like this live up to the hype it has whipped up?

It's my crack at this one, you know where to send the bouquets or brickbats after the race!


William Hill Cox Plate
G1, WFA, 2040m
Moonee Valley, 1700 AEST, 0700 BST

Happy Trails - run one placing in his last 15, not won for two years. Ran second to Shamus Award years ago, that was his moment. An indictment on the quality of this race that he is in the field.

Black Heart Bart - star of the early spring winning the Memsie and Underwood, with a second in the Makybe Diva at Flemington in the middle. Last time he was beaten by Winx in the three-runner Caulfield Stakes. While the margin was comfortable, there's a huge risk in taking that form literally. The pace in very small fields is always completely false unless there's a bolter in there who is a mad leader. BHB is not a natural leader, it was a sit & stalk race, and against the best horse in the Southern Hemisphere, there was only going to be one winner. Concern from some parties on staying the distance, on breeding alone (by a VRC Derby winner out of a mare sired by a Melbourne Cup winner), I don't see an issue but it's never that simple. Very classy, the others won't want to be giving him a head start down the side.

- star of the spring who demolished all-comers in the Chelmsford, Hill and Turnbull Stakes. Just how deep were those races though? The Sydney races had Waller two-milers running second, albeit a long way back. The Turnbull was the big performance, smashing the clock and beaten Jameka by 3.25 lengths. We all know Jameka did last week. Has he suddenly grown a leg, is it the benefit of further acclimatisation or is he just a late-maturing type? Important to note he is a gelding so it's no certainty the Godolphin stable rate this race ahead of the Melbourne Cup, there's no stud record to protect. Will sit in the front half of the field - but if there's no real speed on, does that mean he could be caught wide, even from gate seven? The obvious danger.

Hauraki - earned his spot here but clearly the back-up for John O'Shea. No worse than second in his last five, struggled to get his head in front in Brisbane in the late autumn (second to Leebaz and Our Ivanhowe at WFA) but better this campaign, winning the Epsom with a storming run home and a reasonably close second to the mighty mare in the George Main. Dwayne Dunn's a gun in .Melbourne, drawn wide but he'll understand the track pattern better than anyone.

Happy Clapper - Group 2 horse taking his chance here at cricket score odds. Ran second to Winx in the Doncaster receiving 6kg from her. Eight kills worse off here and while weight is only a relative measurement, it is a clear indicator of the class gap. Nicely drawn but likely to waste that and drop back worse than midfield. No hope, none, nada...

Vadamos - the mystery horse. Has won eight from 18 and seven from 10 on firmer tracks. Last five runs have all been at 1600-1800 which, considering he's by Monsun out of a Peintre Celebre mare, seems short of his best trip. Started 4/1 against A Shin Hikari in that devastating Chantilly win back in May, and was narrowly beaten by high-class UK 3yo Ribchester in the G1 Prix Jacques Le Marois during the Deauville festival. Andre Fabre is a gun. Does he measure up to Winx and Hartnell? His ratings say he's pretty close and probably gets a soft lead. Adelaide won two years ago, Highland Reel was placed last year - he's certainly in that class, not a WFA superstar of the northern hemisphere but a pretty darn good horse always in contention. Ignore at your peril.

Awesome Rock - lost the Australian Cup on protest in March which just shows how much of a gap there is between the spring and autumn in Melbourne. Won the Feehan/Dato Tan Chin Nam here over a mile to show he can handle the track, but he is several lengths off these on a championship day. Nice run last time in the Toorak conceding weight to the winner but this is on another level.

Winx - the best horse in Australia since Black Caviar. $7.5m in the bank and that's without cherry picking the riches of Dubai or Hong Kong. The picket fence extends back to winter 2015 and there hasn't really been a battle in any of those recent runs. Got the dream run last year to break Might And Power's track record but nothing has got near her since. Drawn three, sits box seat, the biggest thing Hughie Bowman has to worry about is getting blocked in. If she sits directly behind Vadamos, you'd think she just peels off his back about 500-600 out, stalks and lets go as they enter the turn. The pressure's on this time around, last year she was just a hunter, not the hunted.

Lucia Valentina - won the obscenely overvalued Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the autumn, beating home The United States (in a G1, really??) adding a couple of million to the owner's wallet. Third up, very honest but she's a few lengths off the creme de la creme in this part of the world - unless of course the rain has got into the track and chopped it up a bit. Put in your exotics. Something to consider - the gurus from the B Set racing podcast rate her as the best value of the day. She'll be in the back half of the field but with all the pace up can imagine the scenario.

Yankee Rose - breathes a bit of life into the race carrying almost 10kg less than the mighty mare. Impressive record: ran second in the Slipper first up for three months, something no horse had done before; raced away in the Sires Produce; uncharacteristically led first-up in the Golden Rose and ran fifth; tried hard running second in the Flight Stakes behind Thousand Guineas winner Global Glamour; flew home in 33.14 to beat the C&G in the Spring Champion, something no filly had ever done before. Unfashionable workhorse bush jockey, trainer was a former heroin addict who moved out of Sydney to slow the pace of life down on the Sunshine Coast. It's hell of a story but she can't, can she? Forty years since Surround last did it for this age and sex, but some of the 3yo colts who've won haven't been superstars. Samantha Miss ran third a few years ago. Maps two back the fence, needs luck but at the same time, could get the magic gap like Winx found last year.


Vadamos leads, on his own or inside a roughie like Awesome Rock.

Winx sits one back, but will be trying to get off the fence as early as possible. Black Heart Bart on her outside trying to hold her on the rail, while Hartnell lands outside him, hoping they stretch out enough for him to slide in. If no jockey goes forward to sit outside Vadamos, then one of these two slides forward a half-length - they have to try to lock Bowman on the fence.

Midfield it's Yankee Rose on the rail awaiting for the gap when Winx goes outside and Vadamos takes the bend wide. Happy Clapper gets in the way midfield and Hauraki stalks him or sits outside in a three-wide line.

Out the back it's Lucia Valentina and Happy Trails strung out. If Baxter doesn't push forward on Awesome Rock, he's probably stuck on the fence well back.


We know every race is an independent event but the last two G1s in Melbourne show you how easy/hard punting can be. Last week Jameka absolutely box-seated and all her main rivals had problems - missed start/caught wide/pulled hard etc. Then last night in the Manikato, the fav goes back from the inside draw, the leader drifts off the rail and the 60/1 shot pushes through on the rail and wins. Luck makes a hell of a difference and can make all the difference between a price being gross understatement or massive unders! While probably irrelevant, the weather will be utterly horrible, 13C (pleasant for England, bloody freezing for Melbourne in October) with a decent chance of hail.

The hype machine has been working up a frenzy on Winx vs Hartnell this week and I really hope it's as big as they are building it up to - but as a punter I have no problem pissing on someone else's parade when it suits - and the weather gods have lined up the pissing down part!

Lay the pair of them below 2.10 and 3.5 respectively for better than 3/1 the field. Three absolute no-hopers but five Group 1 winners on your side who won't need much to go wrong with the favourites to stake their claim.

Take your pick which one steals their thunder, the next tier are very evenly-ranked.

Crystal Mile preview

One of my fondest racing memories was going to Cox Plate day in my first year at uni in Melbourne, hungover as hell, missing the first couple of races, backing a horse I'd seen win a trial earlier that week at Cranbourne, on the off chance it would jump to the lead and give me a decent run for my money each-way. That horse was Fendalton at 66/1 (missed the 80s) and David Taggart gave it an absolute peach of a ride. Can guarantee I was the only one in the grandstand standing up and cheering him, with reactions of 'How the f$%* did you back that?' from all around. Ah glory days from that massive bet of a buck each-way!

Enough of the old war stories, back to the action. The Crystal Mile has long been part of Cox Plate day but has only been WFA in recent years. Taking a stab at this year's edition is Austalian racing form student Callum Gogerly, @_gogs10.


Schweppes Crystal Mile
Group 2, WFA, 1600m
Moonee Valley, 1535 AEST, 0535 BST

Speed: Not a lot to report. There is no natural leader, but I suspect Tasbeeh (6) will take up a forward spot. Would expect Royal Rapture (5) to be riding shotgun close to the speed while the favourite The United States (1) will most likely be given time to settle towards the rear of the field.

1. The United States - Second up from a spell after an extremely unlucky effort in The Dato first up. Should have finished much closer, crossing the line with Jameka. He is the proven Group 1 horse in this field. He has had his issues since that run though having been nominated for a number of features but has been found to have mucus on multiple occasions. It will be seven weeks between runs against some fit and in form opposition, but there's no doubting he is the best horse in it. It's your call!

2. Stratum Star - SCRATCHED since time of writing...

3. He Or She - Bizarrely named ex WA horse who has put in some excellent performances thus far this time in, all at Group 1 level. He has finished one position behind Black Heart Bart in his last three runs and if he was in this race he would be an odds on proposition. I see no issues back to a mile and don't be put off by his wet track form. All of his failures of Slow ground have been at Group 1 level, so I don't think we have had a true guide yet. He is yet another with a definite winning hope.

4. Lidari - Roughie in this race who is unfortunately known more for being the horse at the centre of the cobalt investigation. Wasn't too bad over an unsuitable trip first up, which indicates he is ticking over nicely. I doubt he's a winning chance here, but look for him possibly in race like the Sandown Cup (2400m) for Queen Elizabeth (2600m).

5. Royal Rapture - A Darren Weir winning machine. He seems to find one of these every spring and it's amazing how he is able to get them to hold their form so deep into a prep. He was great last time in The Toorak Handicap last time after 5 successive wins. Looks like he will probably get all the favours from the draw tucking in nicely behind the speed. He has to go to WFA and beat a pretty handy field, but I'm not brave enough to discount him and Darren Weir.

6. Tasbeeh- Ran out of his skin in his first two runs this time in, over unsuitable 1200m and in a WFA Group 1 race. His two runs since have been a little disappointing on face value. It looks like the lead will be his if he wants it, but if the expected rain comes that will categorically rule him out if you hadn't put a line through him already.

7. Federal - Good horse. Turns up and runs well in whatever event he is placed in. Was in a bit of a bumping duel on his way to the post last start in a tight finish with his rival Ulmann. He meets that horse 3kg better for a neck defeat. Goes to 1600m for the first time, but the way he closed last time, you have to be confident there shouldn't be any issues. Any rain a positive. Hard to beat.

8. Ulmann - Ahh surprise, surprise, another Darren Weir runner who has been up since July. He showed great determination to stick his neck out at the right time last start beating a couple of his key rivals. He goes to WFA here and although weights don't mean everything (as Royal Rapture has proved), he meets some of the rivals he beat last time much worse off. I'm not sure he is a genuine WFA horse.... yet. In a race where there are lots of chances, he is one that I'm happy to risk.

9. Observational - Scratched

Tips: It's a bit of a tricky race. There are a lot of variables and some different form lines all coming together. If The United States was rock hard fit and had not suffered any set backs I would be with him, but there is just enough doubt there for me to look the other way. It might be a case of right place, right time for Federal. You get each way odds to find out. Stratum Star and He Or She are definite winning chances as well and it doesn't even end there.

1. Federal
2. The United States
3. He Or She

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Manikato Stakes preview

Wedged in between the two big Cups in Melbourne is the weekend meeting at Moonee Valley, with two top-notch G1s - the renowned W.S.Cox Plate on Saturday, and a more recent development, the Manikato Stakes on Friday night. It's all change at Moonee Valley soon, the course is going to be re-aligned to create a longer straight, which means the quirky track with a straight of under a furlong (200m) will not exist for much longer.

Summoning the courage to return after his mixed debut last week is Callum Gogerly, @_gogs10


William Hill Manikato Stakes
Group 1 WFA, 1200m
Moonee Valley 2130 AEST 1130 BST

Speed: The speed looks solid enough without being too hectic considering it's a 1200m Group 1 event. Expect Buffering (1) to drive through after the first 100m to take it up. I'd anticipate Holler (9) and Capitalist (11) to be thereabouts. Interestingly there are a number of get back horses with Chautauqua (2), Lucky Hussler (3), Under The Louvre (4) and The Quarterback (6) all noted back markers. This should be a cracker!

(It's also worth noting there is forecast rain of up to 20mm on Friday)

1. Buffering, $10 - An old marvel. Hard to believe he raced against the likes of Black Caviar and Hay List. Lining up in his 35th, yes 35th, Group 1 this evening! He did enough first up, sitting outside a hot speed and finishing next to rivals Chautauqua and Lucky Hussler while never really threatening. Should lead relatively easily tonight and history says that at the very least his opposition will need to bring their best to run him down.

2. Chautauqua, $2.50 - The pre-eminent sprinter on the planet who comes here to defend his crown second up. Varying schools of thought after his first up run in the Moir. Do we judge him harshly because we expect him to win every time he steps out? I think there's an element of that. Ultimately, he was unable to run past B-Grade sprinters Wild Rain and Heatherly. After drawing barrier one, you know he'll be near enough to last and on the fence, it didn't stop him last year and he's clearly the default selection here, but is he a betting proposition at that price? Probably not.

3. Lucky Hussler, $10 - Another runner who came through the Moir first up. He finished alongside many of his rivals here in that race too. Even though he has won the Group 1 William Reid over this track/distance I just get the feeling that he does his best work from 1400-1600 on a slightly more expansive track. He'll be back in the pack with some quality finishers so he'll need to perform a personal best to win here tonight.

4. Under The Louvre, $21 - Slightly enigmatic galloper who is armed with a fantastic finishing burst (when he feels like it!). Broke through for an unpopular Group 1 win in the Stradbroke after being a bit of a menace for punters at times in that prep. His form this prep on paper doesn't look like he is going well enough to win a Group 1 at WFA. He was comfortably held by The Quarterback last start and meets him at the same weights here. Interesting to note though that he is 4:2-0-1 at Moonee Valley, a track that you wouldn't think would suit his style of racing.

5. Rebel Dane, $41 - Another veteran of the sprinting ranks. Lining up for his fourth Manikato tonight. His last few runs have been moderate in weaker company. You have to think that this is a bit beyond him at this stage of his career.

6. The Quarterback, $15 - Quality sprinter who was quite impressive first up. Loved the way that he joined in at the 300m, albeit at his favourite track Flemington. He is one of the few horses that can say they have run past Chautauqua (admittedly in a handicap). He probably comes to an unsuitable track and tonight might be a tough task, but I'm a bit of a believer now. Look for him in the Darley Classic down the straight.

7. Japonisme, $41 - Just hasn't seemed to have come up this prep, for whatever reason. He is quality at his best but two runs in this time have been well below that mark. Chris Waller would have pulled the pin on the prep if he'd thought he was a lost cause, that's one of the few cases you could make for his chances tonight.

8. Fell Swoop, $11 - Super consistent sprinter who seems to run a bold race no matter what level he lines up at. Was good first up behind a potential star in Star Turn. If not for a freakish Chautauqua performance in April, he wins the TJ Smith accounting for most of his opposition that day that he meets here. Hugh Bowman was scheduled to have the night off to focus on Winx Saturday, but he is here tonight for the one ride on this bloke. I'm extremely respectful.

9. Holler, $12 - Slightly forgotten galloper who stable elected to send overseas instead of a Sydney/Brisbane campaign. He saves his best for this circuit. The big query is weather he is up to tackling and conquering this grade first up from a spell. I'm not sure that he is.

10. English, $8.50 - Although a little costly for punters this prep, if you can forget what her SP has been out of your head, her two runs in have been more than adequate. She is proven at G1 level having placed in the TJ Smith earlier in the year. If she can lob midfield somewhere with a bit of cover, she will be one of the many dangerous "closers". The Takedown and Our Boy Malachi form looks good now!

11. Capitalist, $6 - Golden Slipper winner of last season who hasn't been disgraced in two runs in. The 3YO sprinters are air borne at the moment and he has form around the best of them. I suspect he was beaten by two absolute A-Graders last time out. Should find a nice spot from that gate. The only query, and it's a big one, is if the track is too rain affected. Stable have openly said that he doesn't go a yard in the wet, so treat warily if we get into the Slow range.

Tips: Such a fantastic race. I'm loathed to ever tip against superstars and even from an unsuitable draw, Chautauqua may simply prove too good. I don't think he's worth the heart palpitations you'll no doubt be receiving during the run if you've backed him though. Buffering will be out on his lonesome and most importantly out of any trouble that might be happening behind him, will take catching. Very respectful of Fell Swoop and English as next best. Capitalist is a fantastic chance but I'm concerned about the prospect of a wet track.

1. Chautauqua
2. Buffering
3. Fell Swoop
4. English

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

2016 edition of the Podcast Review

Last year I posted about all the various podcasts I listen to from time-to-time, and it was one of my more popular posts. So it's time I did it again...

SEN 1116 - Melbourne sports radio station, lots of little snippets of interviews for a variety of sports, but especially Aussie Rules.

2 Guys 1 Cup - only caught this late in the season. Australian comedian Wil Anderson and his mate Charlie talk a lot of shit about footy, often with a guest or two.

BBC 5 Live Sports Specials - occasionally a good one in here, but also plenty I don't bother with.

ABC Grandstand Sports Specials - similar to the above BBC 5 Live rating, just less prolific in output.

All Out Cricket Podblast Podcast - one of several cricket podcasts I follow, and they're all slightly different. Has its moments.

Alt-F1 - very entertaining F1 and general motorsport podcast. Good mix of the serious and the piss take.

Beating the Book with Gil Alexander - Vegas podcast, mostly centred around NFL but baseball and other sports as well. Sometimes insightful, sometimes a little monotonous, but Monday NFL reviews with Storytime with Chris Andrews during NFL season is worth listening to just for that - especially when you know some of the protagonists in the stories!

ESPN Behind the Bets - another Vegas-related podcast. Usually ignore the football season ones, there's enough decent material in the rest of the year to forgive those.

Betting 360 Podcast - from Dave Duffield and the Champion Bets podcast. Seem to have gone quiet lately, reckon he's run out of guests for a while. Plenty of decent episodes in the archives anyway.

Big Footy Podcast - reckon they might have given up on this one. Will give it a couple more months before deleting it. AFL podcast from a fans forum perspective.

Cricket Sadist Hour - another cricket podcast, this one from Jarrod Kimber and comedian Andy Zaltzmann. Have gone quiet of late, they are on notice...

Crime in Sports - my absolute favourite podcast which I only discovered this year. Two American comedians rip the absolute crap out of professional athletes who have turned into the lowest scumbags on the planet. You don't need educational qualifications to make a fortune out of playing sport, and virtually all of the profiled sportsmen (and women!) in this brilliant podcast series are testament to that. Ain't no Rhodes Scholars in here, but a lot of scumbags with not even enough brain cells to cover up blatantly obvious crimes. Love their catchphrase imitating the sentencing judge - "You sir, can fuck off!".

Criminal - another favourite I found this year. Smoothly presented series about criminal events, sometimes a serial killer, another time an episode about assisted dying for the terminally ill (which is deemed a crime or treads a very fine line in most US states). Lot of strange cases from the history books as well.

DRF Players' Podcast - American racing podcast I listen to occasionally, certainly around Triple Crown and Breeders Cup time.

Fox Footy Market Watch, Open Mike and Fox Footy Podcast - the trio of AFL podcasts from the Fox Footy Channel. All worth a listen. Open Mike interviews players of the past, the Market Watch talks about the draft and trading during the season, and the latter one previews and reviews each round of the season.

Freakonomics Radio - one of the more famous podcasts out there, well produced and an easy listen, even on sometimes dull economic subjects.

BBC Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy - plenty of good stuff and also plenty of rubbish. The beauty of podcasts is you can skip to the next one very quickly if it's crap. Includes the Now Show, Just A Minute and the Newsquiz.

Full Credit to the Boys - Aussie sports podcast, mostly centred around rugby league so I'm an occasional listener at best. Podcast - one of several golf podcasts I tune into, this one obviously a bit more serious from tie-ins with the magazine.

Geek and Friends - entertaining cricket podcast from Peter Miller, the cricket geek. It's better than it sounds!

Hot Takedown - analytics-based podcast from the team at Mostly centred on US sports, but does widen their scope occasionally.

How The Race Was Won - a video podcast focusing on the end of major cycling races. Focuses on key tactics and incidents, if you're just a casual cycling fan, it provides very good insight into the tactics of a race.

How To Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black - lengthy interviews with famous people, but many of them not-so-well-known outside the US. Most of them are interesting.

Radio 4 More or Less: Behind the Stats - myth-busting number crunching, highlighting any peculiar numbers used in the media and calling them out for bending the truth, or simply blatant lies. Naturally, the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump have been covered a few times this year.

Mug Punters - Aussie punters podcast. Has its moments but could cut down on the rambling.

NAB Trade Radio - only runs for 2-3 weeks per year, loads of interviews with player, agents and analysts around the AFL Draft.

Newsjack - topical weekly Radio 4 comedy show, written by the public. Not bad.

No Laying Up - another golf podcast, not too serious. Often interviewing lesser-known players who you rarely get to hear from.

No Such Thing As A Fish - brilliant comedy facts podcast from the QI Elves.

Pardon The Interruption - audio podcast of the ESPN TV show. Listen to it most weeks, but not everyday. Wilbon and Kornheiser make the show, not the same chemistry when they have others filling in.

Roar, the Richmond FC History podcast - relatively new podcast from Rhett Bartlett, son of the great KB. Lots of interviews with players of years gone by, some were club legends, others barely played a game. A great listen for Tiger fans.

Racing Ahead - I used to listen to this religiously back when Shane Anderson was aboard and there was a mandate to question authority. Now it is very much ra-ra, all praise that powers that be, and never question the decisions of stewards, Racing Victoria or Tabcorp with Michael Felgate at the helm. The 60-90min show is chopped into individual interviews on Audioboom these days and I skip most of them (pain in the arse to retrieve via RSS Podcast app, but it can be done). Even Jury Duty, the Monday panel show meant to stir up a bit of controversry, has gone soft these days.

Racing Postcast - previews and reviews of the weekend (and big Festival) race meetings from the expertise among the Racing Post staff. Worth listening to for Paul Kealy alone. Also a weekly football podcast in there which I don't bother with.

Rex Hunt : This Is Your Football Life - interviews with former AFL/VFL players, taking me back to the glory days of my youth!

Rhod Gilbert's Best Bits - Radio Wales podcast from his Saturday morning radio show. Has the occasional dud week, but mostly pretty funny.

Road to the Draft - AFL podcast looking at the young playing talent being dissected by every AFL fan in the lead-up to the AFL Draft.

Punters Post Mortem - from Sky Racing Radio out of Sydney. Pains me to say that a NSW racing broadcast is better than one from Melbourne, but given the current state of Victorian racing media & politics, it has jumped lengths clear. They've even stolen one of Melbourne best analysts, Deane Lester. Weekly review of the weekend's racing.

Sports Geek podcast - sports marketing industry podcast. Not really connected to what I do but I find most episodes very interesting - and it's an area that I could have ended up in with my qualifications.

Star Talk - a bit geeky, an entertaining and often funny look at science and the universe hosted by popular US scientist Neil de Grasse Tyson.

The Steak Knives podcast - seems like an entertaining Aussie punting podcast. But I can't listen to a whole episode because the sound quality is bloody awful. Buy a proper microphone guys!

Stuff You Should Know - brilliant series, been going for years. As it says on the tin, lots of interesting stuff to learn every week! The two presenters complement each other really well.

Stumped - from the BBC World Service and an Indian radio station, another cricket podcast. Only found this one a couple of weeks ago, going well so far.

Talking Tigers - official Richmond FC podcast, marked down severely this year as they now do it live and invite live callers, and lost their compere who was the excellent filling in the middle between Richo & Tony Greenberg. The replacement.. not as polished.

Can't Bowl, Can't Throw - the best of the cricket podcasts I follow, Aussie Dennis Friedman constantly taking the piss out of cricketers around the world, ably assisted by @cricketbatcat.

The Australian Cricket Podcast - this one is either very entertaining or gets on my nerves (mostly due to Menners' voice), it swings like a pendulum regularly.

The Bill Simmons podcast - not as caught up in the hype as many on this one, but he has some good stuff from time to time.

The Clubhouse with Shane Bacon - another decent golf podcast focusing on the PGA Tour.

The Drinks Break - bloody hell, another cricket podcast. Didn't realise there were that many! James Wickham, Lizzy Ammon and others chat mostly about English cricket.

The Final Furlong - now in the ATR stable, this racing podcast from Ireland attracted a cult following and then became mainstream. Cork radio personality Emmett Kennedy hosts with regular panellists such as Kevin Blake, Rory Delargy, Tony Keenan, Vanessa Ryle and Candice Hare. Can be prone to a few too many inside jokes and like most Irish racing folk, heavily biased towards the National Hunt season, but very entertaining. Also home to the occasional special edition on the issues of serious punters, such as bookmaker account restrictions and professional form study. A must for racing punters.

The Infinite Monkey Cage - Brian Cox and Robin Ince present a "witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists' eyes." Can be quite entertaining.

The J Files - music history from Aussie radio station Double J. Unfortunately copyright/performing rights issues prevent them from playing any more than snippets of the songs mentioned.

The No Dickheads Policy - highly-rated last year, the guys have been far less productive this year. Perhaps it was because they sold the Nissan Pulsar which acted as the studio.

The Sounding Board - love this one. Behind the scenes Aussie media podcast featuring Craig Hutchison, formerly a pest of a TV sports reporter, now a media mogul, and long-time footy journalist Damian Barrett. The conversation largely revolves around the work that goes into breaking a story, and then media & PR spin required to stay in control of it. I might not have described that very well and it doesn't sound that exciting but it actually a very well assembled weekly podcast.

The Sportsbet Audio Network - two podcasts in one here. The Audible, which comes out weekly during the Aussie winter, and the B-Set, a new racing podcast which comes out late each week previewing the weekend's racing in Australia. I'm a tad biased as I worked alongside two of the guys on this show many years ago, but it's a really good mix of expertise and humour. Essential listening but assume it's only got a few more weeks left during the Spring Carnival.

The Superfooty Podcast - AFL podcast from the sportsdesk of the Herald-Sun. Won't be much from them for a few months.

The Telegraph Cycling Podcast - runs daily during the grand tours, less frequently between races. Mix of content, pure reporting on races and other times life around the tours. There's also a premium subscription available with even more content, for those with a bit more time on their hands and probably more likely to go out for a 100km ride on a Sunday.

The Tennis Podcast - still on my list but haven't listened to it in ages. Everything's too nice in the world of Law & Whitaker, a bit too posh and cheery rather than questioning authority such as the lack of drug tests on the circuit.

The Traders AFL Fantasy Podcast - as it says on the tin, won't hear much from them for a few months.

The Vertical with JJ Redick - really enjoy this one. Hosted by a current NBA player but not all about basketball. It's more about life as an athlete and how it's nothing like what most people imagine. Also has a lot of great guests on the show, from the NBA and other sports/industries.

The Zone - Aussie sports radio shows across different states. Can take or leave these, only listen to the SA & WA ones, and the SA one might soon get the boot, just can't listen to Kane Cornes, his voice annoys me.

Titus & Sergio's Variety Hour - pisstake podcast talking about sport in Australia mostly. Can never be said that these guys take themselves too seriously...

Under The Influence - have to thank an old uni mate now living in Canada for this one, doubt I'd ever have found it. Extremely interesting podcast about the effects of marketing - what subtle little things led to bacon becoming the world's favourite breakfast meat, or how did a New Zealand advertising agency set up a radio station purely for dogs? Really interesting stuff about how we are constantly being influenced by marketing geniuses, yet we think we are smart enough to make our own decisions. One of my favourites.

Wait Wait Don't Tell Me - American public radio show on the NPR network. A bit like Mock The Week, very funny, entertaining format.

William Hill Golf Podcast - tournament previews each week, only problem is I'm rarely up to date enough to listen to it in time before they too off!

Winners - another RSN production which is nowhere near as good as it once was. Go back a couple of years and we have Friday panels with some of the most astute punters in the country - Dominic Beirne, Daniel O'Sullivan, Ralph Horowitz etc.. These days we're lucky to get one half-decent punter and a TAB mouthpiece. Let's dumb it down guys, that's what the industry needs!

One Forty Seven Seven - Aussie harness racing podcast by a couple of participants/fans of the industry, rather than media types looking through rose-coloured glasses. On a break at the moment, hopefully they return soon - the Inters are coming!

Like A Version - Triple J live in the studio performances from Australia. Probably too old for this stuff now but occasionally a decent musical act for me comes on.

Live at the Wireless - think this one's dead now. Another Triple J podcast, with recorded live gigs.


1. Crime in Sports
2. Under The Influence
3. The Sounding Board
4. Titus & Sergio's Variety Hour
5. The B-Set (part of The Sportsbet Audio Network)
6. Stuff You Should Know
7. Criminal
8. No Such Thing As A Fish
9. The Vertical with JJ Redick
10. Can't Bowl Can't Throw

with honourable mentions to Freakonomics, The Final Furlong and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.

Feel free to add your favourites in the comments!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Caulfield Cup preview

The Caulfield Cup, the premier 2400m handicap of the world and this week we have a dedicated broadcast on AtTheRaces for the UK audience. Hooray, but too bad if I also wanted to bet on Sydney etc. Just spare us the celebrity & fashion bullshit please...

Anyway, enough of the moaning, it's onto the race with my personal assessment of the field.


BMW Caulfield Cup
Group 1 Handicap, $3.15m, 2400m
Caulfield 1630 AEST, 0630 BST
Rail out 6m, strong northerly wind expected (direct headwind coming down the side, approaching final turn)

Preferment - Australian Cup and BMW International winner in the autumn but hasn't got within 7L of the winner in his three runs so far this prep, all behind Hartnell. Getting older, perhaps he takes longer to warm up each campaign or maybe it's simply his targets are the championship races rather than the lead-up races where he was successful last spring. Drawn 12 after the scratchings, he'll probably sit wide and midfield, hoping for some cover. Up to the task but topweights rarely win this. But is this a weak year where history can be overcome?

Our Ivanhowe - third in the race last year after Ben Melham did a glorious job of landing him one off the fence from gate 13. Came into that race with a second in the Bart Cummings and a substantial drop in weight. This year, he arrives from a WFA preparation over a shorter trip in higher class. Has always had a big reputation, but apart from last year's third here and the Doomben Cup win, he hasn't really lived up to it. Dwayne Dunn hops on and he's a genius, plus it could easily be argued that this year's Cup is not as strong as 2015. Drawn ideally, chance at odds.

Exospheric - talented but enigmatic performer making his first start in Australia. Has formlines through Scottish and Sir Isaac Newton which give him a genuine chance but the fact Lee Freedman has had to go straight for the lugging bit and glue on shoes suggest he is a right pain in the arse to train. Still a stallion but unless he improves his behaviour, I can see a snip on the cards. Perhaps coincidental but his two poorest runs this season were in front of big crowds at Royal Ascot and at York for the Juddmonte. There's no hiding from the crowd at the start of this race, he might be over the top before they're even in the gates.

Scottish - in-form British raider for Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby. On-pace, very honest and you can make genuine excuses for the only two unplaced runs of his career. This has been his target all season. Ignore any concern about not having won over 2400m. He ran two close seconds over that distance as a 3yo and this season's runs over 10 furlongs are the ideal prep. He will either lead or sit right on the pace, exactly the profile you need at Caulfield with the rail out six metres.

Sir Isaac Newton - blue blood of the field who ran in the hottest race of the European season last time, the Irish Champion Stakes, but was well beaten and out of his depth. Previously relatively close fourths behind Highland Reel and Postponed in top G1 races, and won the Wolferton Hcp at Royal Ascot, one of the better flat handicaps in Europe. A late maturer, the O'Brien camp pulled Highland Reel and Order of St George off the plane to leave the Caulfield Cup to this one. An embarrassment of riches for the stable who are absolutely flying, do not rule him out although the smart guys have queried his lack of speed out of the barrier and why Colm O'Donoghue is aboard rather than a genuinely elite jockey. Loyalty or lack of confidence? Will race in the Lloyd Williams blue & white silks after being purchased, at least partially,yesterday.

Tarzino - SCR

- has talent but we haven't seen it this campaign. Might have settled too close to the lead in the Bart Cummings last time out, but that's really clutching at straws. No hope.

Sir John Hawkwood - getting on a bit (only 7 by Northern Hemisphere clocks) but in career-best form, no worse than third in past seven starts, including winning the G1 Metropolitan (how is it still a G1?) and a second in the G2 Brisbane Cup. Drawn perfectly in five but Blake Spriggs aboard is a bit of a worry - he's not exactly elite. Genuine and will be in the mix for second to sixth, would need to be a low-rating race for him to occupy the winner's stall.

Articus - German-bred (never heard of the sire but dam won German Oaks), German-trained, and that's about as much as we know. Trained by Andreas Wohler, master of most dominant Melbourne Cup winner in decades in Protectionist, but that's only a recent occurrence, this is his first run for him so settle down on the hype. Once ran second to a horse (Iquitos) who subsequently placed behind the aforementioned 2014 Cup winner and later won the Preis von Baden. Iquitos also ran in the Prix Foy in France and was beaten behind Silverwave Percentages say his price is ridiculous for what he's done so far, blind faith has no place in evidence-based punting.

- talented Godolphin runner now faced with a hefty task from very wide draw. Will go forward as he did in the Turnbull (third behind Hartnell and Jameka). Winner of the Alister Clark in the autumn, third in the ATC Derby. Has won 50% of his starts on dry tracks and also a winner here. Tough ask for Avdulla, but has a similar profile to the great Might And Power (ok I'm getting old that was nearly 20yrs ago) as not quite a top Sydney 3yo but with maturity, is now a real chance here.

- star mare drawn a little wider than ideal but shouldn't be a major problem. Destroyed her opposition in the Naturalism to be guaranteed a run here, but remember that was a relatively weak race. Followed up with a second to Hartnell in the Turnbull. She is very good but in my opinion, any value in her price has long disappeared. Drew wide in the ATC Oaks, ran fourth. Can't afford any mistakes from this barrier at this price. Could park three wide with cover and just run away from them on the turn, but am inclined to risk.

Real Love
- star WA-owned mare who is perfectly set up for this. Flogged them in the JRA Cup at Moonee Valley last time and drops 5.5kg. Drawn in the middle, will push into the front half of the field and be ready to pounce on the turn. The firmer the track the better, Weir trained, Craig Williams aboard, every possible chance on paper.

Set Square - SCR
Big Memory - SCR

Sacred Master
- Chris Waller, tick. Tommy Berry, tick. Lightweight, tick. Newcastle Cup winner, tick. Draws a nice gate after being forced back in the Metropolitan, tick. Definite chance here, don't be swayed by which one Bowman is riding, he'd never make the weight on this one. Best of the locally-trained males, do not leave him out.

Fanatic - SCR

- OTI runner for the hot Victorian stable of Ciaron Maher. Drawn 15 after scratchings, he was close up last week in the Herbert Power but that's nowhere near the strength of this. Thrashed in the Mornington Cup in April, won the Murtoa Cup three weeks ago. That's a decent formline for the Mt.Gambier Cup, not a $3m Group 1.

Go Dreaming
- not a hope in hell. From gate 1 with Katie Mallon aboard, he'll jump to the front and then let one or two cross him, hoping for the dream soft run. Couldn't win this with a tow rope and a wet sail, but if he was mine, bloody oath I'd be running him!

De Little Engine
- gets out to his preferred distance range and ran home well, although well beaten in the Turnbull. Country Cups this spring look ripe for the picking for him, despite being a weak cup, it's still a step too far for him.

Vengeur Masque
- gets a run now with two scratchings. Lightly raced, has only had three runs in Australia. Ran fifth in an English St.Leger so obviously has a bit of talent. Watch for him in a race like the Sandown Cup or next prep.

On pace is generally the place to be at Caulfield with the rail out, and with a stiff headwind down the side, parked just behind them looks the prime position. Jameka might just get caught wide as jockeys surge forward trying to camp just behind the lead, and a three-wide line being created could set it up for Preferment or even Sir Isaac Newton to make their runs out wide. Meanwhile in behind the leaders, the likes of Real Love, Sacred Master and Sir John Hawkwood set ready to pounce when the gaps appear. Scottish is the most likely horse to benefit from Tally crossing from the outside gate and giving him some cover. There'll be a traffic jam on the corner, and that means luck can play a major part.

1. Sacred Master
2. Real Love
3. Our Ivanhowe
4. Sir Isaac Newton

2,12,15 x 1,2,4,5,8,11,12,15 x 1,2,4,5,8,10,11,12,15 (34% for $50)

Friday, 14 October 2016

Balmoral Handicap preview

It wouldn't be a big Ascot race day with a nasty handicap to deal with. The Balmoral Handicap concludes the programme; if you need this race to bail you out....good luck!

Returning to the fold to preview this minefield of a race is the astute @rightjudgeiam.


The Balmoral Handicap
Class 2 Handicap, £250k, one mile (straight)
Ascot 1625 BST, 0225 AEST
Generic prices quoted from time of writing

This extremely valuable Ascot handicap is being run, for just the third time, over the straight mile on Saturday 15th October. It is precisely the course and distance of the Royal Hunt Cup run at the Royal Meeting however instead of a field of 30 this race is restricted to a maximum field size of 20 runners. The going is set to be somewhere between good and soft depending on how much rain falls from Thursday afternoon when I started writing this piece. Currently the going is given as good, good to soft in places and with just a few millimetres that could be soft by 4.25pm on Saturday.

As with most very valuable handicap races, top class handicap form will be a pre-requisite and by having a look at all 20 runners we should be able to come up with a short list of candidates who fit the bill which should narrow the field. In race card order:

GM Hopkins: 5-year-old Gosden-trained regular in these valuable, large field handicaps. He won the Royal Hunt Cup over C&D in 2015 and was a decent second in this race off one pound lower last October. Here he races off 110 which is 7lb higher than his last win in the Hunt Cup. Last time out he ran in the Cambridgeshire, which could well be a key trial for this event as it was last year, where he was slowly away after rearing as the stalls opened and he can be considered a fair bit better than that. He is a high class horse who could go very close. However, as with any horse racing off such a lofty mark he faces a stiff task in my view. 12/1

Tullius: 8-year-old trained by Andrew Balding, regularly runs in Group and Listed races and has his first try in handicap company since the Lincoln of March 2014 where he was second off just one pound lower. He won the Group 3 Diomed Stakes in June and goes well on soft going. If he were able to produce his best form he may go close. I always question whether horses of his age and profile ever win these big field races. 25/1

Firmament: progressive 4-year-old from the O'Meara yard; been running extremely well in top handicaps and beaten half a length into second on both last two starts over seven furlongs here at Ascot. He now finds himself 12lb higher than when winning three starts ago over a mile yet still seems to have more to come. Got put up 2lbs after last run. He's 8/1 and clearly well fancied in the market.

Master The World: 5-year-old David Elsworth representative and a regular in most of the valuable races of this type. Indeed he ran in this race last year off a mark 4lb lower where he came third. Ran a huge race in the Golden Mile at Goodwood when chasing home a very well handicapped Franklin D but was tailed off in the Cambridgeshire last time out. 25/1

Here Comes When: 6-year-old from Andrew Balding yard; has only run in four handicaps in his 23 turf runs, the last in the 2014 Royal Hunt Cup. Goes well with cut in the ground and won a minor event on his latest outing. Some of his Group race form would appear very attractive in handicap company such as getting beat just three and a bit lengths in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes of 2015. How relevant that kind of form proves in a race like this is open to interpretation. 25/1

Bronze Angel: Now a 7yo, this Tregoning trained stalwart has won two renewals of the Cambridgeshire and this race two years ago off the same mark and under the same jockey as this time round. He has only made the track twice this term finishing down the field both times. Really asking a lot for him to find the form required to win such a red hot contest off that preparation in my eyes and 33/1 is only fair.

Chil The Kite: Another 7-year-old, this time trained by Hughie Morrison, and another regular in the big field handicaps. He has won over this course and distance, been placed in a Hunt Cup off 6lb higher. He won a valuable race at York in 2015 off 5lb higher than today and is another where he would be competitive if running to his best. The question as always is, will he? Unlikely in my opinion. 25/1 may tempt a few who think he might rediscover that York /Hunt Cup form. To produce his best he really needs a really fast gallop from the start that collapses in the final furlong. Always hard to predict whether that will occur.

Emell: Hannon trained 6-year-old who has won only one handicap race over seven furlongs, a pound higher than when in midfield in this year's Hunt Cup. That was a very strong race but with no win at the trip I would think he will struggle. 33/1

Sea Wolf: 4-year-old Irish raider from Ger Lyons' yard, only four starts ago he was second in a class 4 handicap at Ayr and now he's 20lbs higher after winning a good race at the Curragh last time out. He will definitely have to improve a fair amount to win this race from a mark of 102 which always remains possible. 14/1

Morando: Roger Varian trained 3-year-old, has won three of four lifetime starts, up 8lb for decisive win at Ayr in weaker grade, still unexposed and likely to go on the going. This is a significant step up in grade, if you think he can win you are relying on him improving plenty which he might (or might not) 8/1

Dream Walker: Brian Ellison-trained 7-year-old who has hit a rich vein of form, winning three of his last seven starts, and now finds himself on a mark 10lb higher than his last win. I find it hard to imagine that at his age he will be able to find another 6 or 7lbs of improvement required to defy his lifetime high mark. 33/1

Yuften: Roger Charlton trained 5-year-old who has been subject to an ante post gamble following tips from well known pundits. Very interesting runner who was placed in a French Group 1 two years ago. Clearly if he were to reproduce that level of form he would take high rank here off 101. His last start in a seven furlong handicap offered some promise, he won't mind any softening of the ground and the mile trip looks right. 7/1

Third Time Lucky: Fahey-trained 5-year-old who won the Cambridgeshire in 2015 and ran an excellent 4th there this time round despite not getting the best runs. Goes well on a softer surface and hit form in the autumn last year. 10/1

Highland Colori: Andrew Balding runner, eight years old carrying a penalty for winning last time out, that was his first win at a mile and came in first time blinkers. That was his first win since October 2013 and it would take something to believe he would then win back to back races. 25/1

Instant Attraction: trained in North Yorkshire by Jedd O'Keeffe this 5-year-old has run consistently in plenty of good races including the Hunt Cup, likes soft ground if it goes that way but remains 13lb higher than his last winning mark in a class 3. I suspect he lacks the scope or class to win here. 33/1

Donncha: 5-year-old, top class handicapper trained by Robert Eddery, he contests many of the top mile handicaps. Looks like he was given a break before his last start in order to be cherry ripe for this race. He was 4th beaten around five lengths in this off 3lb lower last year so will need to improve to win. 16/1

Remarkable: Gosden trained 3-year-old who was well fancied for the Challenge Cup on his last start but only finished 12th although not beaten far. He may improve for that run and for the longer trip, he will need to if he is to win. That was a very strong race though and the form is to be taken seriously. He has yet to try the trip however. 12/1

Mutarakez: Brian Meehan applies first time cheekpieces to his 4-year-old on his first start since the Lincoln in April. You could only really back him if you had information or if there were a market move. 14/1 seems skinny in the circumstances

Zhui Feng: Champion jockey Crowley rides this three year old for Amanda Perrett. He scraped home by a nose over 10 furlongs in a small field but was a fair fifth in the Cambridgeshire. Needs to find more to figure here. 33/1

Afjaan: Haggas 4-year-old who was well fancied in the Challenge Cup where he ran respectable seventh beaten around two lengths. Has won over a mile on the AW and may appreciate the extra furlong. The yard has been performing really well for some time. Again clearly fancied at 9/1

Comments and Analysis:
When trying to cut the field down to a manageable size in a handicap like this I apply some general rules. Firstly, I would think the winner will already have won at a mile or more, won a class 2 race and is likely to be still improving with strong performances in good handicaps. I focus on the three to five-year-olds as they are the most likely to have scope for improvement. The older horses may be able to recapture form but from a betting point of view I find it hard to support that angle and so I passed on all of them. I'll take it on the chin if one of them wins.

When looking at the form of these runners the key races are probably the Cambridgeshire and the Challenge Cup. Morando won a race worth £15k at Ayr which looks significantly weaker than those two top class races so it will be quite something if he can prevail off 8lb higher. He still makes my short list however which after applying all the above leaves these:

Third Time Lucky
Master The World
Instant Attraction

Firmament very nearly won the Challenge Cup and may well confirm the form with Afjaan, Donncha and Remarkable despite being on worse terms. Yuften remains a bit of a mystery horse, he might bounce back and may well be favourite to do so. He is not the kind of horse I typically back though.

Donncha is solid and may run really well, he just has no real secrets from his mark of 100 despite what appears a plan by his trainer. He couldn't win this off lower last year either. Master The World has to bounce back from finishing one from last in the Cambridgeshire and off a mark he has found insurmountable.

The horse that comes out best for me is THIRD TIME LUCKY. He has had just four starts in 2016 and arrives on the back of an excellent run in the Cambridgeshire where he was fourth overall and second in his group on the far side. Prior to that he was a close fifth in the Clipper Logistics at York where he was just a nose behind subsequent Cambridgeshire winner Spark Plug. Just ahead was Firmament who now meets my selection on 16lb worse terms including the excellent jockey's 5lb claim which to me makes him look really well weighted. Certainly he's far better weighted to reverse the form with Firmament than those who were beaten in the Challenge Cup. My selection will like any cut in the ground, stays the trip strongly, has won a valuable handicap before and I believe can be upgraded on his last run where drawn on the wrong side (was previously close to the winner). I also note that both of the previous winners of this race had run in the Cambridgeshire on their previous start and both were ridden by apprentice jockeys. Third Time Lucky also meets both those criteria although with such a tiny sample it could easily just be coincidence. It does give me a little warm feeling about my bet though!

My only concern is that the draw may defeat us but as that is quite unpredictable I won't let it put me off and I make Third Time Lucky an excellent betting proposition. He is going to be hard to keep out of the frame. I do think a possible saver bet, on one drawn on the other side, may be in order in case the low numbers have a track advantage. Perhaps YUFTEN might be the sensible option as he really might be well ahead of his mark whereas Morando definitely has to raise his game, Master The World has to bounce back from a dismal run and the only other I could consider from the low draws would be Gm Hopkins but top weight and a mark of 110 put me off.

Recommended Bet

THIRD TIME LUCKY 1 point each way 10/1
YUFTEN 0.5 point 7/1 generally

Long Distance Cup preview

Champions Day kicks off with the longest race of all, a curious choice, featuring the cream of local stayers. Look at the line up - an Ascot Gold Cup winner, an Ebor winner, a (English) St Leger winner, Lonsdale Cup & Prix du Cadran winner... this will be a G1 soon.

Stepping up on the first preview of the day is aspiring sports journalist Adam Crooks, @acrooks95.


QIPCO Long Distance Cup
Group 2, £350k, two miles
Ascot 1345 BST, 2345 AEST
Generic prices quoted from time of writing

The spectacular champions day takes place at Ascot on Saturday as the flat season draws to a close. A superb card, featuring four Group 1s, promises to be a feast of high class racing. The Long Distance Cup kicks the card off, run over two miles. A Group 2 contest, I personally feel this race should be made into a Group 1 for next season. A stellar field has been assembled for the curtain raiser, with a number of high class stayers vying for some of the £300,000 up for grabs.

Market leader is Order Of St George, trained by the master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O'Brien. Winner of the Ascot Gold Cup early this year over two and a half miles, he was then turned over at odds of 7/1 ON in the Irish St Leger. His last race came just 13 days ago in the Arc, were he surprised many by finishing third. That race was over one and a half miles, and many thought he wouldn't be quick enough over the distance, but Frankie Dettori gave him a good ride to grab a place. He has the best form in the book, and is the rightful favourite, with a current price of 10/11. However, I am going to oppose him.

My main concern is the quick turnaround he has to overcome, as I feel he had quite a hard race in the Arc and that may just take the edge of him. Also, in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot he was in trouble a couple of furlongs from home, before his stamina kicked in and he ended up winning comfortably. I feel he needed all of the two and a half mile trip that day, and in this field i think there may be one or two horses better over the two mile trip.

Second favourite is the filly Simple Verse, the 2015 St Leger winner. A winner on this card last year, she steps up to two miles for the first team here, after a gutsy victory last time out in the Park Stakes at Doncaster. That race was over one mile, six and a half furlongs, and she needed every single yard of that trip to win the race on the line. The step up in trip should suit, and she also gets the fillies allowance in the race, receiving three pounds of the rest of the field. Top young jockey Oisin Murphy is on board, and I expect a big run from her.

My selection however, is a past winner of this race. The Dermot Weld-trained Forgotten Rules won this contest in 2014. A very lightly-raced individual for his age, just nine career starts, we may not know how good he really is. After winning easily in 2014, he was sent off joint favourite to retain his crown last year. He was travelling really well moving into the home straight, before having his passage blocked and getting almost took off his feet by two other horses. This interference ended any hope of him running his true race, and we can only wonder what might have happened if he had a clear passage. He has only been since once since that run, when finishing second in a Listed race in Ireland twenty days ago. That was a very good run off the back of a long absence. He was only caught in the last 100 yards, but the way he travelled so easily into the final furlong suggests he retains his ability, and with race fitness now on his side, he can reclaim his long distance crown.

A couple of horses are of interest at bigger odds, namely Quest For More and Litigant. Quest For More has been in superb form lately, but has had a couple of tough races and this may be one too many. Litigant has been off the track for 343 days, but has a good record when fresh. He finished ninth in this race last year (after winning the Ebor after 565 days off at his previous start), but he had no luck in running at all, being trapped wide and then badly hampered in the final furlong. His winning form has been in top handicaps so far, so he has to prove he has the class for this step up in grade, but at 14/1 is worth an each-way poke.

So hopefully we will be kicking off Champions Day with a winner in the form of Forgotten Rules. I feel he is overpriced at 7/1, and in a race paying three places, is an each-way certainty, and has the class to win.

QIPCO Champion Stakes preview

The feature on what is a brilliant QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot is the Champion Stakes, attracting a wealth of talent from across Europe, with over £700,000 going to the winner. And with the best British hope 12/1 currently, the prize could certainly be taken across shores, be it to Ireland or France.

Saddling on for the biggest race of the day is aspiring sports journalist Conor Stroud, @conorstroud95.


QIPCO Champion Stakes
Group 1, £1.3million, 1m2f
Ascot 1545 BST, 0145 AEST
Generic prices quoted from time of writing

Fascinating Rock – 5/1
One of the lighter-raced horses this year in the field, Fascinating Rock represents a real danger as Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen’s charge seeks to defend his title. Following the victory here last year, he was beaten by Found on reappearance but would win the Tattersall's Gold Cup in Ireland. He was surprisingly beaten last time out by Success Days, but could definitely still be a threat, if on top form.

Gabrial - 66/1
The seven-year-old Gabrial will be a big price for Richard Fahey, after just one win in 18 months, in a Listed race at Windsor. Last time out was well beaten in a Group 3, and I can’t see him being closer in this huge step up in class.

Jack Hobbs – 12/1
For a horse that is approaching his fifth year, Jack Hobbs is coming into this race for just his ninth competitive run, if you include his last run, being pulled up at Newmarket. He did pick up an injury that day (stress fracture to the pelvis), and John Gosden will be 100% sure the horse is capable to run, and if the Jack Hobbs of 2015 shows up, we could be in for an upset. Third in this race last year, the Irish Derby winner could certainly throw up a challenge for those more prominent in the market.

Maverick Wave – 66/1
John Gosden’s other runner is again in Godolphin blue, and in Maverick Wave will more than likely be a pacemaker for Jack Hobbs. Only second in a Class 3 last time, Rob Havlin’s mount will surely have little input at the finish in this high quality encounter.

My Dream Boat – 20/1
Clive Cox’s Prince of Wales hero My Dream Boat is the ride of Adam Kirby, after a good fifth in the Irish Champion Stakes. May need another step up, but is returning to the home of his Group One victory in June. Kirby himself has said that he didn’t have a great run through but stayed on really well, so could be one to take at a price. Do not discount easily.

Racing History – 25/1
Another very lightly-raced four-year-old, Racing History is another that is coming back from a long break, this time being a year exactly. His last run came in this race last year, where he was far from disgraced in fourth, three lengths behind the winner Fascinating Rock. One that should definitely not be discounted too easily, but will surely have suited a warm-up run, and even on that a step up will be needed on last year's effort. Champion Jockey (at least for now) Silvestre De Sousa picks up the ride for Godolphin.

The Grey Gatsby – 50/1
Kevin Ryan will probably be a little frustrated with what has been an average year for The Grey Gatsby, after a string of Group One places in 2015. The Irish Champion Stakes winner in 2014 hasn’t recaptured form from ’14 or ’15 this year, and for that reason probably won’t be involved in the finish here. Well beaten in the Arc and the Juddmonte in his last two runs, the likeable grey will need to improve markedly to go close here.

Found – 5/2
If a few of this field are lightly raced, that certainly can’t be said for Arc winner Found, who blew away the field to win by almost two lengths in an Aidan O’Brien 1-2-3. The ultra consistent filly was starting to look like the perennial bridesmaid with a string of 2s by her name, but the win in Chantilly has ended that run in emphatic fashion. Less than two weeks off could be an issue, but if one man can get a horse right again in a short space of time it’s O’Brien, who has decimated all in his wake chasing a record number of Group Ones. Will almost certainly be involved at the finish.

Almanzor – 6/4
Making his first run in the UK, Almanzor will likely go off favourite for Jean-Claude Rouget after winning the Irish Champion Stakes last month. Christophe Soumillon, who is on-board again here, gave him a patient ride that day and if he runs a similar race I can’t see him being beaten. The extra two furlongs suited Found in France, but back at ten furlongs I would take Almanzor to just get the better of Found, and in turn probably win the race.

Midterm – 20/1
The once Derby favourite Midterm is an intriguing runner in this for Sir Michael Stoute. Winning his opening two races, a disappointing Dante led him to swerve the prestigious race due to injury, and wasn’t seen again until last month in France, when putting up a very good battle in the Prix Niel. He was beaten a neck by Makahiki, but Midterm could definitely improve for that run. I would expect the Atzeni runner to outrun his odds, and could be the each-way play in this race. A definite lively outsider.

US Army Ranger – 20/1
The O’Brien trained horse went off favourite for the Epsom Derby this year, and ended up in second, but has since disappointed over 10 and 12 furlongs. Well beaten in a Group 3 two runs back, he didn’t really get going last time until beaten by Zhukova, but did run on well. I would definitely put him down as a horse that wants further than this, given his two best runs have been over the Derby distance. Even with O’Brien training, I would be surprised if he made the first three, and the jockey bookings reflect that with Moore on Found and Heffernan aboard US Army Ranger.

In what is a very puzzling high quality Champion Stakes, I probably couldn’t side against the favourite Almanzor, with Found almost certain to run him very close, but might just need the extra distance that she doesn’t have today. Of the ones at slightly more exotic prices, I would be willing to give My Dream Boat a chance for Clive Cox, and Midterm also for Sir Michael Stoute. But you could do a lot worse than just admiring what is going to be a fantastic renewal.

1. Almanzor
2. Found
3. My Dream Boat

Caulfield Sprint preview

Once the Cup's been and gone, you'd better start looking for the next race to top up those winnings (or dig yourself out of a hole). Straight after the Cup is the Caulfield Sprint featuring the return of star speedster Lankan Rupee and the next step for potential star Hellbent.

Tasked with splitting them is this week's debut previewer, local form analyst Callum Gogerly, @_gogs10.


Dilmah For Lovers Of Tea Caulfield Sprint
Group 2 Handicap, 1000m, AU$200k
Caulfield R9
1710 AEST, 0710 BST

Prices quoted from Sportsbet at time of writing

Speed: 1000m so don’t expect any loafing here. Faatinah (3) will work across to try and be prominent you would think while Wild Rain (4) will look to use the barrier, whether that is leading/outside leader or one back the running line is up to Stephen Baster. Lankan Rupee (1) usually pings the lids and can be prominent, while favourite Hellbent (5) you would expect to be midfield or worse.

1- Lankan Rupee ($11)- Former sprinting superstar who is returning after a year out of the game due to injury. Although only over 1000m having the impost of 61kg is never easy, let alone first up after a year. Stable flagged during the week that the Winterbottom in Perth is a possible target, which seems suitable. I’ll just be watching him today.

2- Our Boy Malachi ($5.50)- Winning machine who has not disgraced himself since being moved to Team Hawkes in Sydney. Just nutted first up after caller Darren Flindell really got our hopes up. Where does he get to from that barrier? First go Melbourne way. Strangely hasn’t raced at 1000m since April 2014. All of which points to him seemingly being a little short in the market at $5.50.

3- Faatinah ($11)- A little disappointing I thought as a well tried favourite last time. Back to 1000m and usually an on pacer, you think that he may have to do some work from that barrier. David Hayes seems to constantly talk up his horse and clearly has a high opinion of him. I’m probably inclined to risk today after last start.

4- Wild Rain ($5.50)- An absolute ripper. One of those horses that you would love to own. She has turned herself into a little bomb proof 1000m specialist. Always has gate speed to either lead or sit off them and with a favourable barrier draw again today you have to think that isn’t going to change again. I thought she might have met her match last start, but was placed behind Extreme Choice (could be anything) and beat home Chautauqua if you don’t mind! Ticks lots of boxes. Is in this up to her ears.

5- Hellbent ($2)- Wow! That was the reaction as the well backed favourite hooned down the outside to pick up his rivals with consummate ease last start. Not only was it visually impressive, but it was also backed up on the clock, running the fastest last 400m of the day. He beat Sheidel who came out last Saturday and won well in her own right. In on the limit with 53kg is another luxury. Although he doesn’t have to drop out to last, you’d think he will be giving some of these a start and he will have to run past better horses than Inz N Out and Trevinder this time around.

6- Grane (Scratched)

7- Ruetigger ($21)- First up today after showing good form up the Flemington straight towards the back end of last preparation. A win over Voodoo Lad two starts ago looks good on his CV. Only run at 1000m was on debut, so you’d think that they might be a little too sharp here. Keep an eye on him down the straight during the Flemington carnival.

8- Viddora ($17)- Freshened after a last start second to Heatherly. That doesn’t look too bad now after Heatherly and Wild Rain finished together last start. Looked to have trialled well last week and from the barrier will have the option of hopefully sneaking runs through to the line. Astute Adelaide trainer as well, keep safe.

9- Take Pride ($41)- High class fromer 3YO who was good in a Thousand Guineas last year. Held on reasonably first up, but you’d think she’d rather step out in distance than come back in trip? Not here.

10- Orujo ($81)- Seems to be racing well at a lower level, step up in class seems a bit ambitious. Would like to see in a BM84 instead.

11- Sunday Escape ($41)- Hellbent has given him windburn on the last two occasions. Meets him either equal or worse off at the weights than on those two occasions, so on that fact alone, it is hard to see him turning the tables.

Tips: This seems to be a reasonably straight forward race (we hope!). Wild Rain you would think would be ahead of Hellbent and given her rich vein of form may take some stitching from the there. Hellbent may very well be as good as he looked last start, but conceding a start to an in form, fit and reliable mare evens the ledger. I’m split 50/50 between the two and at the price you have to go with Wild Rain. Only 2.5 winning chances in this race I believe with Viddora the only other hope.

1. Wild Rain
2. Hellbent
3. Viddora
4. Ruettiger/Lankan Ruppe