Race 1 - 12:15pm
Maureen O’Connell Handicap (2510m)
A small field, but there is a fair amount of quality in the opening racing of the afternoon. Sixties Groove has been excellent since he arrived in Australia and he comes into this contest on the back of two strong wins at Flemington. He is a deserving favourite, although I can’t get him as short as his current price.
The Macedon Lodge duo of Kilimanjaro and Crocodile Rock must be respected. Crocodile Rock’s first-up run was too bad to be true, while Kilimanjaro will appreciate the step-up to 2500 metres after a promising first-up performance.
This does look like something of a trap race and I am happy to stay out from a betting perspective.
Race 2 - 12:50pm
Peter Dakin Handicap (1000m)
I am happy to take on Prezado in this contest. There is no doubt that he has ability, but he has only recorded the one win from his seven race starts and I can’t get him anywhere near as his current price.
I’m keen to oppose him with both Invincible Al and Bandipur. Invincible Al has an excellent record over 1000 metres and has been freshened-up on the back of two very impressive wins at Morphettville and Flemington. He is racing in career best form.
Bandipur returned to winning form with a classy win at Royal Randwick and he has performed well in Melbourne in the past. The Commands entire still has a fair amount of upside and with even luck in running, should be in the finish.
2 Units Bandipur
2 Units Invincible Al
Race 3 - 1:25pm
Abigail Bartlett Handicap (1400m)
There are a stack of horses in this field with plenty of upside in this field. Sergeant broke through for a maiden race win at Echuca in impressive fashion last start. He controlled the race from the outset and he kicked away when asked for an extra effort. Damian Lane will be able to take him straight to the front from barrier four, in a race that doesn’t look to have a great deal of early speed, and he will prove tough to run down late.
2 Units Sergeant
Race 4 - 2:00pm
Rhonda Sexton Handicap (1400m)
Harmattan is a mare with some promise and if she can overcome the wide barrier draw she does look the horse to beat. Her usual pattern is to get back in the run and Dwayne Dunn is the perfect jockey for her as he has a great record on backmarkers. She ran well without winning at Group level during the Spring and it wouldn’t surprise if she goes to another level as a four-year-old.
The main danger is Bellaria. She was only narrowly denied at Ladbrokes Park last start and she now be at close to peak fitness. 1400 metres is her pet trip and this does loom as her chance to return to winning form.
2 Units Harmattan
1.5 Units Bellaria
Race 5 - 2:35pm
James Hibberd Handicap (1200m)
There is a fair amount of hype surrounding Gold Mag and it is easy to see why. He won by five lengths on debut at Bendigo and he ran serious time when he won by the same margin at Ladbrokes Park last start. Lindsay Park are confident that he can end up as a Group level horse this Spring and if he is going to do that, he should be able to win this race fairly comfortably.
The big concern is where he gets in the run. The speed map does look fairly ugly and Mark Zahra may have to take him a fair way back. Because of that concern, I can’t get him as short as his current price, although I am still not willing to bet against him.
Race 6 - 3:15pm
Darren Allsop Handicap (2000m)
Another tricky betting race. This is not a race that I’m keen to get overly invested in, but Lloyd Williams-owned import is worthy of a gamble in his Australian racing debut. He only won the one race in Europe for Aidan O’Brien, but he clearly had some ability and Macedon Lodge can produce an import to run well first-up. I’m happy to have a small bet at $13 in what is a very open race.
1 Unit Sir Edwin Landseer
Race 7 - 3:55pm
Group 3 Aurie's Star Handicap (1200m)
This is an intriguing edition of the Aurie’s Star Handicap. You can make a case for a number of horses in this contest, but Home Of The Brace really does appeal. His best form in Europe is more than good enough to win this race and his two recent barrier trials in Sydney suggest that he has settled into Australian beautifully. Godolphin have made an excellent start to the early stages of the Spring and there is no reason that Home Of The Brave can’t keep that run going.
Voodoo Lad is a proven performer and the obvious danger, but he doesn’t have as much upside as Home Of The Brave. Poetic Dream showed some promise in his Australian racing debut, although his European form is not at the same level as Home Of The Brave.
2 Units Home Of The Brave
Race 8 - 4:35pm
Damian Cubela Handicap (1400m)
The Damian Cubela Handicap is a fascinating race and one of the highlights of this card. He will be better over further, but I think that Night’s Watch is well-placed to run a big race fresh. The Redwood gelding has recorded two wins from as many first-up starts and he improved each time that he was seen at the races during his Summer campaign.
Souchez is a horse that Godolphin have clearly had issues with, but the talent is there and the fact that they have persisted with him after he was gelded suggests that he is still going well. He found the line nicely in what was his first race start for a while last start and he raced well at Flemington as a younger horse.
1.5 Units Night’s Watch
1 Unit Souchez
Race 9 - 5:10pm
Charles White Handicap (1700m)
Lloyd Williams has an interesting hand in the final race of the day. Exemplar showed a fair bit of versatility during his racing career in Ireland and he did race well over 1600 metres – he was placed in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes. That sort of form puts him right in this race and he is worth a gamble at double-figure odds.
Mantastic is worthy favourite and his last start effort was tough, but he does look under the odds at his current price. Ethan Brown will likely have to settle him in the second half of the field from the wide barrier draw and he will need some luck in running.
½ Unit Exemplar