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Oakleigh Plate preview

Love this race, it looks like one of the stronger editions we have seen in recent years. You can have all the WFA races you like, but proper high quality handicaps where the champs carry the weight taking on the up and comers get my blood racing. Often these races have a few deadweights long out of form or turn up as frequently as Halley's Comet - of the 16 runners before emergencies, they all have winning strike rates of 24% or better. Magnificent.

Note this race over 1100m is from the Hillside chute so it's a bend rather than a full turn - not as damaging if caught wide, but note it is run to the second finishing post, a temporary measure to accommodate additional race distances at Sandown during the Caulfield renovations.

Group 1, 1100m, Handicap
of AU$750,000
Sandown (Lakeside)
Saturday, Feb 25, 1740 local, 0640 GMT

1. Roch 'N' Horse
Kiwi mare who has won the two biggest 1200m races at Flemington, the G1 Newmarket Hcp (SP 101) and the G1 Champions Sprint at WFA (SP 20) but remarkably hasn't won in her other four Aussie starts. Has earned the topweight with those wins, and she's obviously won around a bend back in NZ (which has no straight tracks), but first up (90 days or more), she's one from three, way back at her first start. At her best on dry tracks which she gets here. Had a leg issue last week which kept her out of the Lightning. Can win at a price but enough to put me off. 

2. Lombardo SCR

3. Masked Crusader
Once a star who was just beaten by Nature Strip in the 2021 Everest. Now he's not even topweight in a handicap after just one more placing in his last nine runs. So you an either chuck him out because he's 'gone' or take a deeper look and spot that every one of those nine races was worth more than this, with only the Newmarket being a handicap. Excellent fresh record of three wins from seven (but unplaced after last two 90-day+ spells. Not for me but you can make a reasonable case for him at odds.

4. The Astrologist
Honest but only one win in the past year. Cleaned up coming through the grades, comes up short at this level.

5. King of Sparta
Snowden-trainer sprinter who should get the perfect sit from gate three. He's not a big name down south but has plenty of talent, picking off rich races (Guineas and Sprint) at the last two Magic Millions meetings. Needs a fast pace in front so he settles and possesses a strong turn of foot. This is probably a rise in grade but there are only two G1/WFA types above him in the weights, all the others are up and comers. I laughed at his price initially, after a deeper look at his form, he's right in this. Definite chance.

6. Zoustyle
Queenslander who has won five from nine resuming from a spell. Campaigned down here in the spring, racking up a string of placings in the McEwen (G2), Moir (G1), Schillaci (G2) and the Century (Listed). Had no excuses in any of them so he needs something extra to win here, and wanting to lead yet drawn the carpark won't help. Should ensure there's a mad charge for the front.

7. Marine One
Ran a close fourth in the G2 Rubiton over this course & distance a fortnight ago after a year off (from winning the same race last year). Always had a bit of hype about him but had some injury issues. Don't think he's quite up to this yet and happy for him to run against me.

8. Uncommon James
Winner of five from seven, (second on debut and last time out), meets Lofty Strike 2kg better off for being beaten 0.75L in the Rubiton (and 0.4L ahead of Marine One), after six months off. He sat three wide that day and probably went for home a touch early, before being picked off by the winner. Likes to sit forward which won't be easy from gate 14 (comes in one with Lombardo out but all of the emergencies are drawn wider so benefit if they all scratch). Exceptional record, will be better for his last run and experience at the track but in no rush to take this price given the race shape.

9. Asfoora
Flying mare who has won six from eight but one has to question what she has beaten. She has raced in either mares' or restricted company all the way through apart from bolting up in the G2 Caulfield Sprint, the depth of which stretches the definition of Group 2 status a bit, but it was in mighty quick time. She might be a superstar who has just been handled patiently by her young trainer but I'd rather take her on at the price.

10. Lofty Strike
The only 3yo in the race and arrives with a genuine chance. Won his first two starts then got injured and missed the Blue Diamond (beat the winner at his previous start), took on the best in the spring, running fourth in the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes and seventh (beaten 1L, after hitting the lead at the 100m) in the G1 Champions Sprint (behind Roch 'N' Horse and Nature Strip). They planned to bring him here first-up but he was going too well in trackwork, so the stable put him in the Rubiton that he won impressively, ridden cold and then flying home late. Should go very close, just needs to get clear at the right time.

11. Chain of Lightning
Didn't have a lot of luck in the Rubiton finishing a close third behind Lofty Strike and Uncommon James after being blocked at a critical stage of the race. She drew inside that day and suffers the same fate here. Quality mare who won her first five races but finding it a bit tougher now. Will have her fans but not for me.

12. Shooting For Gold
Another Queenslander, a stablemate of Uncommon James, and this time with form through King Of Sparta, having finished behind him at his last two starts. Meets him on slightly better weight terms for defeats under two lengths but it was the manner of the wins that leaves me favouring the King in this match-up. Maps well but class the big query.

13. I Am Me
After three defeats to start her career, she has won seven of her past nine starts, five of which were in the city (four Sydney, one Melbourne). She's been doing it easily of late, so easily the query is how she'll handle the pressure of a big field in a hot race. Maher/Eustace, Jamie Kah, gate 1. Should have the speed to use the gate effectively but doesn't have to lead. Goes close.

14. Mileva
Group 3 mare at best who has an amazing first-up record, winner of four from five, and has won three recent jumpouts to be cherry ripe for this. Just don't think she's good enough against this calibre of opposition.

15. Star Patrol
Resumed with an effortless win in the W.J. Adams here a month ago. Was very handy in 3yo races last season then had just one run in the spring, a third behind Shooting To Win in a G3 at Caulfield. Looked to have stepped forward when resuming, well found in the market.

16. Zapateo
Flying mare from Godolphin with handy cross-over form against some of the leading chances. Bungled the start at Flemington during the carnival, ended up beaten <1.5L by Asfoora, after being at least 8L behind at the 200, on the same weight differential as today. She beat Chain Of Lightning in the How Now Stks in September, and I Am Me in the Denise's Joy at Scone in May, both on soft tracks which she is 7:4-1-0 on, versus 2:0-2-0 on the dry (not seen a good track since Aug 21). Drawn 12, worth a look at odds.

17. Shamino EM1 
Adelaide-based gelding who is in the best form of his career, but still a good deal short of this.

18. Oxley Road EM2 - scr

19. Triple Missile EM3 - scr

20. Bless Her EM4 - scr


Cracking race with any range of possibilities. I'll take a swing at the turn of foot of King Of Sparta, coming from off the pace to nail I Am Me and Lofty Strike, with Zapateo and Masked Crusader not far behind.

Bet King of Sparta around 11.0


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