Derby Day is arguably the strongest day of racing in Australia each year, and four Group 1 feature races headline the nine-race program at Flemington.
The rail will remain in the true position around the entire course and the track is set to be rated in the good range.
Race 1 - 11:40am AEDT
Group 3 Carbine Club Stakes (1600m)
Aysar has improved for three starts this preparation, and the Carbine Club Stakes looks a lovely race for him.
The Deep Field colt was an impressive winner at Ladbrokes Park when resuming, and has since finished sixth in the Group 3 Prelude and second in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas.
He looks to be at peak fitness for this contest, and I can’t find a reason why he won’t be in the finish.
4 Units Aysar
Race 2 - 12:20pm AEDT
Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m)
The last two winners of the Wakeful Stakes have gone on to win the Oaks, and I think that Personal will be tough to beat on Saturday.
Personal has returned plenty of eye-catching efforts since debuting in January, and filled the minors behind Tagaloa and Hanseatic in the Blue Diamond Stakes most notably in autumn.
She is another horse that has continued to improve with each of her three runs this preparation, and she was last seen finishing second in the Group 1 Thousand Guineas.
The rise in trip appears as though it will suit, and she’s drawn to receive every chance.
3 Units Personal
Race 3 - 1pm AEDT
Group 2 TAB Stakes (1200m)
Octane returned an eye-catching performance in the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes last time, and he’ll relish a return to the straight in the Salinger Stakes.
The talented South Australian won three races in succession earlier this prep, including one over 1000m here at Flemington in August.
He returned from a freshen up with a fair effort for fourth at Caulfield in September, and he’ll enjoy good improvement from his last-start effort.
4 Units Octane
Race 4 - 1:40pm AEDT
Group 3 Lexus Hotham Stakes (2500m)
The winner of this race will gain ballot-free entry into the Melbourne Cup, and I think that it will be Ashrun.
Ashrun has returned many excellent efforts in some of the world’s best staying races, and he has found form around some of the world’s best horses.
He arrived in Australia off the back of consecutive second-placings in a Listed race at Deauville and the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay, and he kept all of his best work for late when fourth in the Geelong Cup.
I think he’ll enjoy big improvement for that effort, and can return to winning form in this contest.
4 Units Ashrun
Race 5 - 2:20pm AEDT
Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m)
Cult hero Mystic Journey will take her place in the Empire Rose Stakes field and is up to winning.
The Needs Further mare has obviously been outstanding throughout her career, but it is fair to say that the best two performances that she has produced so far came over a mile at Flemington.
She needed her first two starts to tune up when resuming this time, but returned to winning form in the Group 2 Stocks Stakes at The Valley last time out, and will relish a return to her pet track and trip.
Missile Mantra has stripped fitter for four starts this preparation, and she is up to running a bold race in the Empire Rose Stakes, at a price ($26 at publish).
The Smart Missile mare filled the minors in the Rose Of Kingston Stakes here two back and while she just tired late to finish fourth in the Ladies Day Vase last time, she was still just half a length from the winner.
2 Units Mystic Journey
1 Unit E/W Missile Mantra
Race 6 - 3pm AEDT
Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m)
Anders wasn’t able to justify his odds-on favouritism in the Blue Sapphire Stakes last time out, but his form prior to that run was excellent, and I think that he can and will bounce back in the Coolmore Stud Stakes.
The Not A Single Doubt colt put paid to his rivals in the Listed Rosebud when resuming in August, repeating that effort and result in the San Domenico Stakes in what was his only other run this time in.
Given he was off a freshen-up last time out, I think he’ll enjoy good improvement into this race, and the $10 available for him at publish is over the odds.
3 Units E/W Anders
Race 7 - 3:45pm AEDT
Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m)
Young Werther has made only two starts at the races so far, and this is clearly a big rise in class, but he looks to be an above-average racehorse and he is getting out to a very nice price in Victoria Derby betting.
The Tavistock gelding was an easy winner at Geelong on debut, and was all but undone by bad luck in the Super Impose Stakes after being held up at a crucial point of the race.
Given the winner of that race (Khoekhoe) has since franked the form by just missing in the Moonee Valley Vase, I’m happy to stick with Young Werther, particularly getting further out in trip.
3 Units Young Werther
Race 8 - 4:30pm AEDT
Group 1 Cantala Stakes (1600m)
Rock charged home from the tail of the field in the Epsom Handicap and with even luck, he is up to winning the Cantala Stakes.
The five-year-old son of Pierro has been a good horse for Team Hawkes since debuting, but clearly needed the run when fifth behind the likes of Dreamforce and Kolding first-up in the Tramway Stakes.
He could hardly have been more impressive in the Group 3 Cameron Handicap second-up, and he appears to strike the Cantala Stakes in absolute peak condition.
He is drawn to receive a lovely run from barrier 2 and with only 54kgs in tow, the $13 available for him at publish could prove to be big overs.
3 Units E/W Rock
Race 9 - 5:10pm AEDT
Group 3 Furphy Sprint (1200m)
Diamond Effort was a late scratching from last week’s Manikato Stakes and given I had her on top in that race, I am very confident she’ll be in the finish of this Group 3 contest.
The Mossman mare won each of her four starts in autumn this year, peaking with a win in the Hareeba Stakes, and she picked up where she left off with an eye-catching first-up effort in The Heath.
She was luckless when fifth in the Moir Stakes and only just missed in the Schillaci last time out, and she is primed to win on Saturday.
5 Units Diamond Effort