The Melbourne Spring Carnival is right around the corner and the action heats up this weekend with a quality nine-race card set at Flemington. 

The Group 3 Aurie’s Star Handicap headlines proceedings, and we’ve got you covered with our best bets across the entire program below. 

Race 1 - 12:10pm

VRC Member Damian Cubela Plate (1410m)

Berkeley Square hit the line well for second when fresh at Caulfield a couple of weeks ago where he let down beautifully out wide. 

He was an impressive winner of his maiden on debut at Geelong back in May before quickly being sent back to the paddock, and he’s certainly up to winning a race like this given the right ride from Craig Williams. 

His final 200m last time out were the fastest of the entire meeting and from barrier 3, I expect him to be saving his best for late. 

2 Units Berkeley Square

Race 2 - 12:45pm

Villa Paradise (1410m)

Defiant Diva strips fitter for two runs back and looks capable of improving on her recent win at Sandown over a touch shorter. 

The daughter of Dissident found the front over the final stages, winning by 1.5L after settling well back under Ethan Brown. 

There doesn’t appear to be a lot of speed on paper, so another patient ride should do the trick, and she doesn’t mind a bit of sting out of the track. Nearing peak fitness now, I think she’ll be hard to beat. 

2 Units Defiant Diva

Race 3 - 1:20pm

VRC Season Premiere Sprint (1100m)

Not a race I’m overly keen to dive into, but I think there’s some value on the Mitch Beer-trained Sunrise Ruby at double figures. 

This mare by Casino Prince returned in impressive fashion at Randwick last month where she just lacked the fitness in the finish when beaten by nearly a length by Lady Brook. 

I think she’d appreciate a bit more rain about, but she was an impressive winner second-up at Albury this time last year before going on to run second behind the always consistent Calgary Queen at Kensington. 

1 Unit E/W Sunrise Ruby 

Race 4 - 1:55pm

The Riverside (2000m)

I have a bit of time here for Coolth with fitness on his side. 

The son of Dundeel gave his usual honest effort at Sandown a few weeks ago, pushing forward to land on speed where he only weakened late to run fifth. 

His form prior was just as good, most notably finishing two lengths off Welsh Legend here at Flemington over shorter – and he does have a win and two placings to his name over 2000m. 

Ben Melham’s recent form has been equally strong, and I think we’ll see the pair find cover early and save their best for late. 

1 Unit E/W Coolth

Race 5 - 2:35pm

Group 3 Aurie’s Star Handicap (1200m)

King Of Sparta almost picks himself in the feature. 

The Snowden-trained four-year-old resumed a narrow winner of the Bletchingly at Caulfield a couple of weeks ago where he really didn’t find the track conditions, or the barrier, to suit. 

He still overcame all of it to fend off Scallopini in the finish, a run he can only improve on from a much kinder draw. His second-up win in the Magic Millions Guineas earlier in the year was full of merit, and I’m tipping that same class to shine through. 

3 Units King Of Sparta

Race 6 - 3:15pm

The Parade Lounge (1620m)

He’s Our Bonneval has been impressive since arriving in Australia, winning on debut at Caulfield and running a length third over the same track and distance to Edison a month ago. 

The ground he made up in the finish really caught the eye, and so too does his record over the mile of three wins and five placings. 

Rain-affected ground should suit, and although the barrier is a slight worry, it helps knowing Craig Newitt has retained the ride.

1 Unit He’s Our Bonneval 

Race 7 - 3:55pm

The Rose Room (2530m)

This is a nice price for Horrifying all things considered.

The son of Shocking was a tricky horse to follow earlier in his career, but he’s really turned things around winning two of his last three starts, which includes the Flemington Cup last month where he led to score by two lengths. 

This is his first go at 2500m but he absolutely loves racing at Flemington. Craig Williams has a feel for him now, and if he finds the front again I think he’ll take a power of beating. 

2 Units Horrifying 

Race 8 - 4:30pm

The Skyline Lounge (1410m)

Wide-open race, and there’s some good value on offer for the Clayton Douglas-trained Shandy.

This daughter of Fiorente runs an honest race more often than not, as we saw first-up at Sandown back in May where she flew home late to win narrowly off the speed. 

She found the mile a stretch too far in her latest assignment at Caulfield, but she should find this more suitable with two wins to her name from four starts over 1400m. 

Her first-up form is just as strong, and with some relief at the weights, I think she can run a race.

2 Units E/W Shandy

Race 9 - 5:05pm

Jockeys Celebration Day Sprint (1100m)

All eyes will be on the Hawkes-trained Fire, who steps out in search of his hat-trick after scoring by a dominant margin in an impressive on-pace performance at Sandown three weeks ago. 

This lightly-raced son of Fastnet Rock is clearly a horse going places, and he can really stamp himself as a potential Group winning horse later in the spring with another big display here. 

He’s drawn to make his own luck on-speed once again and with some relief at the weights under Damien Thornton, I can’t fault him. 

2 Units Fire