A strong field of 13 will lineup at Flemington on Saturday to contest the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes over the mile.
All eyes will be on Ciaron Maher and David Eustace’s talented duo Sir Dragonet and Explosive Jack in their return to the races, while last start Winx Stakes winner Mo’unga and dual Group 1 winner Tofane are currently jostling for favouritism.
Trainer Matthew Smith won this race last year with Fierce Impact, and he looks a live chance to do the double with impressive Japanese import Keiai Nautique – who debuted for fourth in the Winx Stakes three weeks ago.
This really is an outstanding edition of the $1 million feature, and you can find our thoughts on each runner in our 2021 Makybe Diva Stakes Preview here!
Ladbrokes Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet will kickoff his spring campaign on Saturday in his first run back since May.
The Irish raider added a second Group 1 to his resume with a comfortable win in the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill during the Autumn, and has since had a soft trial at Cranbourne in the lead up to his return.
Ciaron Maher said during the week that his talented stayer will probably need the run, but his outstanding fresh record suggests a place isn’t entirely out of the question.
Fifty Stars failed to produce his best in his first run back when 10th of 11 in the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield two weeks ago.
The Tom Dabernig-trained seven-year-old made up some ground after being caught wide early on, but the damage was already done when he found himself well back at the turn.
The good news is he tends to do his best work second-up from a spell, while the step up to the mile is also a big plus with two wins to his name over the track and distance.
Japanese import Keiai Nautique couldn’t have been more impressive first-up in his Australian debut under Matthew Smith.
The seven-year-old out of Deep Impact stormed home down the outside to finish fourth to Mo’unga in the Winx Stakes, and has since enjoyed a trial between runs ahead of his journey to Melbourne.
Having raced among some good horses like Danon Premium and Almond Eye earlier in his career, combined with the way he hit the line at Randwick suggests he’s a major player out over further.
Imaging is another horse that hasn’t found the winner’s stall in a very long time, but he does have room for improvement after finishing off strongly first-up in the Winx Stakes.
Chris Waller’s six-year-old finished only 1.5L off the winner Mo’unga, and probably would’ve finished closer if it wasn’t for Rachel King’s untimely fall.
He’s only made the one start here at Flemington, but must be included in your numbers with some strong form lines over the mile.
Mount Popa was no match in his maiden Group 1 assignment three weeks ago, but should be better for the run with some fitness now on his side.
The Mornington Cup winner struggled to find room down the straight in the Winx Stakes and simply found himself too far back after shifting out wide.
This won’t be any easier.
Peter Moody’s newly acquired gelding Incentivise will make his much-anticipated return to the races after gapping his rivals by a whopping 12 lengths last time out in the Tattersall’s Cup at Eagle Farm.
The son of Shamus Award quickly firmed into Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup favouritism with Ladbrokes bookmakers on the back of that run, and will no doubt take some beating here coming off a freshen-up.
This is his Group 1 debut, but based on his win over the mile at the Sunshine Coast earlier in April, he most definitely measures up.
Dual Group 1 winner Explosive Jack will get his first look at Flemington on Saturday in his first run back from a spell.
After winning the Tasmanian Derby, the Maher and Eustace-trained galloper was the surprise winner of the ATC Derby at Randwick earlier in April, before going on to make it a Derby hat-trick at Morphettville with a dominant 2.5L win in the South Australian Derby.
Like his stablemate Sir Dragonet, he’ll likely need a run or two to get going before he finds top gear.
Johnny Get Angry
The Dennis Pagan-trained Johnny Get Angry was one of the top stories to emerge from last year’s Spring Carnival when he won the Victoria Derby as a $21 pop.
The son of Tavistock has since resumed to run second-last in the Aurie’s Star at Flemington last month, but it’s fair to say he was always going to be better fancied over further.
A mile still looks too short for him at this stage of his prep and the market price well and truly reflects that.
Aegon got away awkwardly first-up in the Memsie but still made up big ground to run fourth behind Behemoth.
The New Zealand import is a two-time winner over the mile, although he failed to produce his best in the Doncaster finishing over seven lengths off Cascadian during the autumn.
He should be afforded every chance from barrier 4 though, while his form as a three-year-old was nothing short of impressive.
The son of Sacred Falls won the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas last November and is well worth a ticket at some serious value.
Mo’unga is chasing Group 1 win No. 3 on Saturday and appears to be the rightful co-favourite in his second run back.
The son of Savabeel saw off Chris Waller’s mighty mare Verry Elleegant in a thrilling edition of the Winx Stakes two weeks ago at Randwick, and will now head back to Flemington hoping to make it the double.
Based on what we saw first-up, the mile looks ideal for him now and there is no doubt he’s a top chance.
Colette strips fitter for her first-up run where she finished sixth in the Memsie.
The daughter of Hallowed Crown was trapped wide early on before laying in down the straight to finish only 2.5L behind Behemoth.
She’s never raced at Flemington before, but out to the mile on a potentially rain-affected track should suit.
Tofane had her chance at a Group 1 hat-trick denied in the Memsie, but she was far from disgraced running less-than a length third to Behemoth in her first run back.
The mare out of Ocean Park enjoyed a very successful Winter Carnival up in Brisbane winning both the Stradbroke and the Tatt’s Tiara in succession, while she also ends to do her best work second-up.
The six-year-old is untested over the mile, but after finishing strongly through the line last time out at Caulfield, she definitely rates a top-three chance.
Inspirational Girl is looking to add to her unbeaten second-up record on Saturday following a first-up fifth in the Memsie.
The WA galloper changed hands from the Grant & Alana Williams team to the Danny O’Brien stable earlier in the year, and is also a perfect 3-0 over the mile after winning the Group 1 Railway Stakes at Ascot last November.
This barrier looks ideal for her, and the fact she handles soft going is a big plus.