The first Group 1 of 2018 will be held at Caulfield on Saturday and it is set to be an outstanding contest.
There are seven Group 1 winners in the 2018 Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes and it shapes to be a fascinating form reference for the Melbourne Festival Of Racing.
Darren Weir has a strong hand with Black Heart Bart, Tosen Stardom and Brave Smash, but you can make a case for just about every horse in this field.
Will Weir claim another Group 1 victory or will there be an upset? We have analysed all 14 runners and our complete 2018 Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes tips can be found below.
It is tough to know what to make of Hartnell ahead of the start of his Autumn campaign. He was outstanding in the P.B. Lawrence Stakes first-up in the Spring and if he is able to reproduce that effort he is the horse to beat in this race. However, he was beaten as favourite in both the Makybe Diva Stakes and the Underwood Stakes before he failed to fire in both the Ladbrokes Stakes and the Melbourne Cup. His first-up run in his past three preparations has been of the highest quality and I am happy to gamble that he will bring a semblance of his best form to the races.
Black Heart Bart
There is no horse in the country that has a better record at Caulfield over 1400 metres than Black Heart Bart and he won this race 12 months ago. He failed to win a race during his Spring Racing Carnival campaign, but he finished second in the Memsie Stakes and was enormous when second in the Railway Stakes before he had excuses in the Kingston Town Classic. He maps to get a lovely trail into this race just behind the speed and he doesn’t run a bad race at Caulfield.
Tosen Stardom is set to start the Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes as a narrow favourite. He showed what he is capable of when he won the Toorak Handicap and the Emirates Stakes in the Spring and the scary thing for his rivals is that he may still be able to improve on that. The issue for Tosen Stardom is that he will likely get a long way back from the wide barrier draw and if they go slowly – which I expect they will – he could find himself too far back. I am confident that he will win another Group 1 race this campaign, but I am happy to take him on in this race.
Brave Smash is the x-factor in the Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes. He was extremely poor last start at The Valley in the Australia Stakes, but he is obviously a much better horse than that performance suggests. This is the first-time that he has been tried over 1400 metres in Australia and on his effort in the Australia Stakes I have to take him on in a race of this quality.
Lord Of The Sky
Lord Of The Sky has never won at a distance greater than 1200 metres and he is jumping up from the 1000 metres of the Kensington Stakes. He is a horse that can run well when you least suspect it, but a race like this is surely beyond him at this stage of his racing career.
Tshahitsi led from start to finish to win the John Dhillon Stakes last start in what was right up there with the best performances of his career. He is a consistent horse that rarely runs a bad race these days, but he doesn’t have the upside to win at this level.
Mr Sneaky returned to the races with a second place finish in the Australia Stakes and he ran easily the best closing sectionals in the race. He does have the benefit of the in-form Kerrin McEvoy in the saddle, but he does map a touch tricky and he will likely be in the second half of the field. The High Chaparral gelding does look under the odds at his current price.
Thronum has only had the ten race starts, but he has recorded five wins and he never gave another horse a chance in the Australia Stakes. Mark Zahra will likely roll forward on him again from barrier eight and that does look like his best chance of claiming a maiden Group 1 victory. He would need to improve to have any chance of beating the likes of Black Heart Bart, Hartnell or Tosen Stardom, but he does have upside.
Dollar For Dollar
Dollar For Dollar was unlucky in both the Chester Manifold Stakes and the John Dillon Stakes. He is a horse that generally rates at a very similar level and that means he will win plenty of races, but a contest like this one does look beyond him.
Single Gaze was an absolute marvel during her 2017 Spring Racing Carnival campaign – she didn’t win a race, but she was excellent in the Underwood Stakes, Ladbrokes Stakes and Caulfield Cup. It is tough to see her winning first-up over this distance, but expect to see her hitting the line strongly.
Shillelagh was sent to the spelling paddock after she finally lived up to her potential to claim a Group 1 victory in the Kennedy Mile. The Savabeel mare did have all the favours in that race and this will be a much tougher affair.
Abbey Marie was not disgraced during the 2017 Spring Racing Carnival, but she does seem to be just a touch below the level that is required to win a Group 1 race at weight-for-age level. She will get a long way back and hit the line nicely, but I don’t rate her as a genuine winning chance.
Jetster Halo has recorded three wins this preparation, but this is a huge jump in quality. She looks completely outclassed in this field.
The Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas winner will be one of the most interesting horses to watch in the Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes. He didn’t show a great deal in the Spring, before he produced easily the best performance of his career to claim a huge upset win in the Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas. There is a genuine question mark over the form coming out of that contest and I would need to see produce at that level again before backing him in a Group 1 race.