Aurie’s Star Handicap Day is the first real indicator that the Melbourne Spring Carnival is near, and the Group 3 feature headlines a nine-race program at Flemington on Saturday.
At publish, the track is rated in the Soft (6) range.
Race 1 - 12:05pm
2021 Country Achiever John Ledger (2530m)
I’m going to give Schabau another chance second-up and out to the 2530m at Flemington on Saturday.
The Pastorius gelding has been a great horse for Robert Hickmott and connections since arriving in Australia, and he returned plenty of typically pleasing performances and results last spring.
He clearly needed the run when he finished down the order fresh from a long spell last time, but I’m confident that run will have brought him right on.
3 Units Schabau
Race 2 - 12:40pm
VRC Member Stuart Pettigrew BM70 (1410m)
Sharp Response is yet to return a poor effort, and he can record another win at Flemington on Saturday.
The Maurice gelding stamped himself as a runner to follow with an impressive win on debut at Sale, and only just missed in a better race at Caulfield before saluting at Sandown, last time.
Fitter fourth-up, I think that this looks a great opportunity to strike on a Saturday.
3 Units Sharp Response
Race 3 - 1:15pm
Jockeys Celebration Day BM79 (1100m)
This is a pretty tough race to analyse from a betting perspective, but I’m going to have something on Ashford Street.
Ashford Street recorded consecutive wins at Murtoa at Casterton, and stepped up into city company at Caulfield a fortnight ago, taking up the lead and ultimately finishing second.
He can go forward again on Saturday from barrier 5 and will be in this for a long way.
3 Units Ashford Street
Race 4 - 1:55pm
VRC Member Julie Purnell BM84 (1410m)
Lindhout has been a strong and consistent performer this prep and can record another win in the fourth at Flemington on Aurie’s Star Handicap Day.
The Time For War mare jogged in to record a comfortable win here two starts back and kept all of her best work for late when third, beaten half a length here last time.
She’s rock-hard fit and with even luck, I can’t find a reason why she won’t be in the finish.
5 Units Lindhout
Race 5 - 2:35pm
VRC Member Kate Crosby BM84 (1100m)
Oxley Road hasn’t been seen at the races since March, but he was impressive during his debut prep, and he can make a winning return in the fifth on Aurie’s Star Handicap Day.
The Exceed And Excel entire won each of his first two career starts, including the Group 3 Zeditave Stakes, and he was sent to the paddock after finishing fourth in Listed company.
This is a drop in class from those races and he’ll be tough to beat.
4 Units Oxley Road
Race 6 - 3:15pm
VRC Season Premiere Plate (1410m)
Groundswell has been freshened since his recent Brisbane winter campaign, and I am confident that a return to Flemington on Saturday will also result in a return to winning form.
The Fastnet Rock gelding returned some lovely efforts and results earlier this year, winning at Listed level in Adelaide most notably, and he was last seen finishing a head second in the Spear Chief Quality.
He tends to run well when fresh and he is drawn to receive every chance in this contest.
4 Units Groundswell
Race 7 - 3:55pm
VRC Member J Hoy Trophy (2000m)
Hosier has recorded three wins from as many starts this prep and looms as the runner to beat again in the seventh at Flemington on Saturday.
The Macedon Lodge runner found form around some terrific gallopers during his UK racing tenure, and he has improved for each of his three starts back this time, and as the bar has been raised.
Given that his smallest win in Australia so far was his last-start four-length triumph, he is more than ready to step out in Saturday company.
6 Units Hosier
Race 8 - 4:30pm
Group 3 Aurie’s Star Handicap (1200m)
This is a fascinating edition of the Aurie’s Star Handicap, and has drawn a field rich with formed runners, as well as some of the Spring Carnival’s most exciting prospects.
King Of Hastings returns to Victoria from a successful campaign in Queensland, and he rates as a key winning chance in Aurie’s Star Handicap betting, at a nice price ($10 at publish).
The Ilovethiscity gelding has continued to improve with each start this prep, culminating in a lovely win in the Glasshouse Handicap last time.
He is four weeks between runs, but I can’t imagine that will be a problem.
2 Units E/W King Of Hastings
Race 9 - 5:05pm
VRC Member M Kiely Trophy BM84 (1600m)
This is a wide-open race and a tough way to end the day from a betting perspective, but I am going to have a small each-way bet on the resuming Coolth.
Coolth has recorded three wins and two placings from just eight career starts so far, and he was a consistent performer in races like this one, last prep.
He is a previous winner when fresh and could prove over the odds at around the $10 mark.
1 Unit E/W Coolth