With last weekend’s Turnbull Stakes program at Flemington relegated to the Sunday thanks to the longer-than-usual AFL season, this Saturday’s Caulfield Guineas meeting has become the 2011 carnival’s unofficial opening.
And what a better way to open the 2011 Spring Racing Carnival than with the return of the world’s fastest horse, Black Caviar.
The Peter Moody-trained speed machine resumes her spring preparation in Saturday’s $200,000 Group 2 Schillaci Stakes over 1000 metres at Caulfield. It seems Melbourne has Black Caviar fever with the Melbourne Racing Club predicting a crowd in excess of 40,000 people.
With her old sparring partner and arguably the world’s second best sprinter, Hay List, on the sidelines through injury and many of countries other top sprinters such as Sepoy, More Joyous, Sister Madly and co all lining up in last weekend’s Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley, Black Caviar will only face eight rivals on Saturday. And most of her opposition’s connections already openly admitting they would be proud to run second behind the great mare.
At $1.06 with most bookmakers, Black Caviar is set to start the shortest priced favourite in a group race since Valerius won the 1961 Chipping Norton Stakes at $1.03. It really is a case of the punters betting that she makes her way around the course safely. Should jockey Luke Nolen choose to really let her rip, then the margin could conservatively blow out to ten lengths or more to the second placed horse.
Unfortunately, it is far more likely that Black Caviar won’t need to get out of first gear on Saturday and will simply coast to the line unextended with bigger fish to fry later in the spring.
Scarily for her opposition, Moody believes that this will actually be the mare’s best preparation. At a press conference held in Caulfield on Thursday, Moody said: ‘It’d be silly to suggest she’s faster, but I think we’ve got a more mature horse and I’m of the belief that this will be her best preparation.’ he said.
The first non-human to have been featured on the ABC’s Australian Story, Moody described the attention Black Caviar is receiving as ‘mind boggling and seemingly getter bigger and bigger every start, the interest coming from outside of racing is phenomenal’.
The 1200 metre Schweppes Moir Stakes on Cox Plate day at Moonee Valley has been locked in for Black Caviar’s next start before a potential mouth-watering showdown with boom three year old colt Sepoy, in the $1 million Group 1 1200 metre Patinack Classic on the final day of the Flemington carnival.
While it is the Black Caviar show grabbing the headlines, in any other year most of the attention would be squarely focused on the potentially vintage line up of three-year-olds set to do battle in Saturdays $1 million Group 1 Caulfield Guineas.
The best of the local hopes in the Guineas looks to be the Rick Hore-Lacy trained Chase the Rainbow who will no doubt be flying home late. However it does appear as though the crack group of NSW raiders headed by already duel Group 1 winner, Helmet, do have an edge on the locals.
Helmet aside, the other main chances in the race lie with recent Golden Rose winner Manawanui and arguably the horse with the most natural talent of any racing in the country outside of Black Caviar, Smart Missile.
With the Caulfield Cup just over a week away and the Cox Plate, Victoria Derby and Melbourne Cup already on our doorstep, the following are a group of horses to look out for over the spring carnival for the once-a-year racegoer.
Secret Admirer – A highly talented mare with a withering finishing burst, trained in Sydney by Graeme Begg. Won the Group 1 Epsom Handicap at her latest start and her major goal for the spring is the Cox Plate. Should she not quite measure up at the highest level she would be the one to beat in the Emirates Handicap.
At First Sight/Midas Touch – These are the best two chances amongst Lloyd Williams’ massive team of Caulfield and Melbourne Cup hopefuls. Both were purchased by Williams from the UK with a view to winning the big cups, and after spending millions of dollars in previous years without getting the formula right, it seems as though he has finally cracked the code with his latest bunch of imports.
Helmet – An exciting colt owned and trained by the powerhouse Darley team. Favourite for this weekend’s Caulfield Guineas, should he win or go close, then is likely to start close to favourite in the Cox Plate later this month.
Testa My Patience – Set to line up in the last race at Caulfield on Saturday, this progressive Mick Price-trained gelding should get the run of the race and looks the best bet on a tricky card of racing.
Ben Asgari is a final-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is upstart’s horse racing guru. You can read more of his work at his blog ‘Ben Asgari Racing’ and follow him on Twitter: @BenAsgariRacing