Derby Day is like Christmas Day for a horse racing fan. With a nine race program that includes four group one’s, two group two’s and three group three events, the opening day of the Flemington Melbourne Cup Carnival is without doubt the best single day of racing Australia has to offer.
Racing aside, Derby Day is also the most popular day from a social perspective. With hands down the largest crowds of any day of the spring racing carnival, Derby Day has a carnival atmosphere.
Usually a great day to find a winner, this year’s card has been thrown into turmoil with a potential 30mm of rain expected to hit Flemington during the afternoon. While the track is expected to be a Good 3 for the first race, there is every chance it will deteriorate throughout the day. I’ve tried to factor this possiblity into some of my predictions. Good luck!
RACE 1 – GROUP 3 CARBINE CLUB STAKES (1600m)
I’m very keen on the chances of Skilled in the first. Although he was admittedly disappointing after being beaten on his merits by Mr Chard at his latest effort, he needed the run that day and he should strip fitter here. The 1600 looks ideal and his did win the Group 1 Champagne Stakes over the distance in the autumn. Mr Chard is the obvious danger and Goldstone can improve.
- Mr Chard
RACE 2 – GROUP 3 LEXUS STAKES (2500m)
The last chance for many to gain a start in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, The Lexus winner from last year, Shocking, provided the Melbourne Cup winner four days later. While Shocking looked a great bet in last year’s Lexus this year’s edition looks nigh on impossible to predict.
If the track is still firm enough then Linton looks hard to beat as would the top weight Alcopop who would be terrific value at his current price if the track stays firm. If the rain has already hit then Moudre is the one to beat with the gun wet track mare Purple who is now looking for the extra trip. Maluckyday is a promising young stayer who is another that wouldn’t surprise in an extremely open race.
RACE 3 – GROUP 2 WAKEFUL STAKES (2000m)
The main lead up for Thursday’s Group 1 VRC Oaks, the Wakeful can be a nightmare to pick the winner. With so many different form lines, as well as the fact that many of these fillies are running over the extra distance for the first time it’s not a race I’m overly keen to get involved in.
Dizlago couldn’t have been more impressive in her first effort over the 2000m last start at Caulfield and the fact that she is proven at the trip is a massive plus. Kittens looks a real stayer in the making and the extra distance should be right up her alley. Brazillian Pulse just keeps stepping up to the mark and is a big chance while Heartsareforlove has to be some chance from the Guineas also. Shamrocker has been racing as though she’s been looking for the 2000m+ while her stablemate Placement was impressive in getting home hard behind Dizlago at Caulfield. Sasa has drawn the car park which won’t help but she is a talented staying filly in the making.
RACE 4 – GROUP 1 COOLMORE STUD STAKES (1200m)
I can’t physically bring myself to tip against Star Witness after being on track Tuesday morning to watch his jump out in which he ran a hard held second behind gun sprinter Hay List. Trainer Danny O’Brien believes his horse just doesn’t handle going around a bend and it is worth noting that his final 200 sectional behind Black Caviar at Caulfield last start was very impressive. If the heavens have opened by this time then it might be worth having something on the proven straight track horse and mudlark Soul. Pressday looks like being a super horse and while he is a definite query on wet ground he may prove to be too good for all of them. Shrapnel and Sistine Angel the next best.
- Star Witness
- Soul (Promote if the track is Heavy)
RACE 5 – GROUP 1 MACKINNON STAKES
It’s always a treat whenever we get to witness Australia’s premier horse So You Think. He is probably a little vulnerable this week due to the fact that he will be ridden back in the field in a bid to teach him to settle for Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup. In saying that, you would have to be either brave or stupid to back against him. Shocking’s record at Flemington makes him the clear second pick. From five starts he has four wins and a close up second to Zipping in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes. Metal Bender is an underrated horse and in my opinion 2000m is his best distance. Again, if the deluge has well and truly hit by this time, it might be worth thinking about last start Caulfield Cup winner Descarado. I also don’t mind roughie Red Colossus who is currently well over $100 and may be worth a cheeky little couple of dollars each way at cricket score odds.
- So You Think
- Metal Bender
RACE 6 – GROUP 1 VICTORIA DERBY (2500m)
Nearly every year without fail the Aami Vase at Moonee Valley proves to be the premier form reference for the Derby and I expect this year to be no different. Rekindled Interest showed last start that he doesn’t have to drop out to last and with a similar run on Saturday he will be very hard to beat. Almindoro is the forgotten horse of the Derby and was arguably more impressive that short priced second favourite Retrieve in the Norman Robinson. At around $12 in the early markets he is definitely worth an each way investment. Retrieve is obviously a major player but he’s been up for a long time, while Digital Fortress was impressive in the same race and will handle a wet track. Lion Tamer was great in the Vase and he has the right sort of form lines to be competitive here. Praecido and Smokin Joey are others will small claims while Shadowofexcellence is a chance if he can sneak into the field.
- Rekindled Interest
RACE 7 – GROUP 1 MYER CLASSIC (1600m)
If the track hasn’t been ruined by the rain then Typhoon Tracy looks the bet of the day. From eight starts against her own sex she has a perfect record of eight victories. She won this race by 6 lengths last year after an aborted Cox Plate preparation and it looks as though connections have made the right decision to bypass that race again. The only real danger to Australia’s 2009 horse of the year is three year old filly Yosei who gets in with a 49kgs under the weight for age conditions of the race. It is worth noting however that gun filly Alinghi couldn’t win the race in 2004 and despite the weight allowance it is still quite a task for the fillies to beat the older more seasoned mares. If by some miracle the rain hasn’t hit by this race then Palacio De Cristal would be my second pick. Sacred Choice, Katie Lee and Culminate can all run a place and will come into calculations even more if the track is heavy.
- Typhoon Tracy
- Sacred Choice
RACE 8 – GROUP 2 SALINGER STAKES (1200m)
Another virtually impossible race with a hat full of chances that will be made even harder by the weather. Dubleanny is unbeaten down the straight and has won on all surfaces, with just 52kg she looks great each way value after an impressive first up run at Caulfield. Set For Fame beat Dubleanny first up so I obviously have to rate her here. While Dubleanny is the better value and meets Set For Fame better off the weights, there was a clear two lengths between them at the finish. Catapulted has run second to Hay List at each of his last two starts which speaks for itself, the fact that he has never seen a heavy track though could be cause for concern by Race 8. Shellscrape and Swift Alliance have great records on wet ground and of the two I would be leaning towards the former. Again if a miracle did happen with the weather then All Silent has to be promoted right into calculations and possibly on top.
- Set For Fame
RACE 9 – AAMI BUSINESS INSURANCE STAKES (1400m)
Unfortunately this very good race will probably be run on an absolute bog and I will have to assess the form with that in mind. Dao Dao is an underrated horse that has won on a swamp-like track before and has been competitive at the highest level. Demerit would probably be my top pick if the track was slow or better but he just didn’t seem to get through the heavy going last start. The wetter the better for on pace runners Jungle Ruler and Prince Braeman who will both be terribly hard to beat with the looming rain. Where Gonna Rock would be the favourite on a decent track but the likely surface is a massive concern.
- Dao Dao
- Prince Braeman
- Jungle Ruler
Click here for Ben’s Beginner’s Guide to the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.