Emirates Stakes or family day is undoubtedly the most underrated day of the Flemington carnival. Two Group 1 races, complemented by three other Group races and four Quality events makes it a superior day of racing to Melbourne Cup and Oaks Day. Stakes Day also has a far more relaxed feel without the crushing crowds of Derby or Cup Day. It is a great day to attend for anyone put off by the rowdy, drunken crowds of the other three days of the carnival.
Today’s two Group 1 races feautre potential champion and last start Cox Plate winner So You Think in the $1 million Emirates Stakes, and star sprinter and crowd favourite Apache Cat in the Patinack Farm Classic sprint. Being the fourth meeting in just a week, the rail is likely to be a fair way out and jockeys may be looking to get towards to the outside to find better going. After a hot sunny day Friday, the forecast is for more of the same so expect the track to be presented on the slower side of a Dead 4 for Race 1 before an upgrade to a Good 3 later in the day. So here goes:
Race 1 – Maribyrnong Plate (1000m)
With around half of the field being unraced, the first on the card shapes as a virtually impossible betting proposition. Stirling Grove won by nine lengths on debut, and despite the questionable form out of his race at Morphettville he obviously has a lot of ability. Sweet Cheeks was ultra impressive winning the Maribyrnong Trial on debut at this track and distance. It was a pretty soft win and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her do the same again here. Marmaa was very green at Moonee Valley but still good enough to win, while Ebony Rock from the same stable ran a great race at his first go making up good late ground. She’s Got Gears is backing up from winning on Tuesday which is very rare for such a young horse. Obviously the stable has a big opinion of her. Of the unraced brigade Brightexpectations has won two barrier trials impressively and is likely to start near favourite for Gai Waterhouse. Personally I wouldn’t recommend betting in the race due to the lack of exposed form.
- SWEET CHEEKS
- STIRLING GROVE
- SHE’S GOT GEARS
Race 2 – Phar Lap Club Plate (1600m)
Lucky Thunder is in this race due to missing out on a start in the Emirates Stakes later in the day. He had absolutely no luck last start and was group one placed over this track and distance behind Heart of Dreams in the Cadbury Guineas during the autumn. I think he should get the run of the race just behind the leaders and will be very hard to hold out at this level. Larry’s Never Late looks to be the main danger to the favourite. He ran very well first up before the lack of pace really counted against him last start when he was probably ridden too close to the speed for comfort. He will get back from an inside draw which won’t help but expect him to be hitting the line hard late. Count To Zero is racing as well as ever and was unlucky not to win a decent race at Bendigo last start. He should get a nice run from barrier five and despite his poor winning strike rate; he is as honest as the day is long. Marchelle Belle didn’t have a lot of luck in a good country cup last start however she goes up a lot in weight against the males here. Playwright is enigmatic at best and a non-winning joker at worst. Wouldn’t shock me at all to see him flashing over the top of them however you couldn’t possibly tip him.
- LUCKY THUNDER
- LARRY’S NEVER LATE
- COUNT TO ZERO
Race 3 – Melbourne Cup Community Fund Handicap (2000m)
I’ve never really been a fan of Raffaello, however I think he gets his chance to win here. At his last run over this distance he was an unlucky second behind Miss Maren in the Easter Cup at Caulfield. She has since been group one placed in both the Kelt and Mackinnon. The big weight and a lack of pace on paper are obvious concerns and I wouldn’t want to back him at a short price. My Bentley has been well found in the press and is probably going to start under the odds. At just his first start in Australia for new trainer Mick Kent, he produced a huge run at Bendigo with 59kgs on his back running third to a decent horse. The huge drop in weight and extra distance here are both massive positives however it is a steep rise in class. Timetable is another who drops sharply in weight but rises in class. He looks the probable leader in a race without a lot of speed which is a definite plus. Dr Nipandtuck was very good last start and goes well at Flemington while Occidentalis will appreciate the extra distance and drop in class and is the best roughie.
- MY BENTLEY
Race 4 – Hilton Stakes (1400m)
I’m really keen on Governance here. I was hoping he would start in this race after he ran a very good second coming from last behind smart filly Avenue at the Valley last start. The only worry is that he will get back a long way again however I think he’ll be too good for them anyway. Silver Spur is the definite danger. His trainer Paul Perry must always be respected when he brings a horse down to the carnival, especially when it has as good form as this one. In an absolute raffle for third I will put in Agrippa who looks to be talented and could be the best roughie.
- SILVER SPUR
Race 5 – Patinack Farm Classic (1200m)
This is the best race on a very good card and one of the best races of a very good spring carnival. I couldn’t help but be impressed by the run of Nicconi last start in the Manikato at the Valley. On what was a probably unsuitable wet track he took off before the corner circling the whole field from last before finally weakening near the line. He has been set specifically for this race and the stable has a massive opinion of him. Mic Mac is an underrated galloper but don’t worry, he is a very serious racehorse. He was only just nabbed by his more famous stable mate last start after having to do far more work while the winner got the breaks along the fence. The straight track at Flemington should also favour this horse as he is one from one at the track and distance. All Silent produced one of the best wins of the entire carnival first up over this track and distance in the Gilgai. He is another who has been specifically set for this race and he is three from three at this track. The jury is still out on what is his best distance, but if sprinting turns out to be his best go then he could be one of the best in the world. Apache Cat is a champion sprinter and a deserved crowd favourite. He was either flattered by the win last start after getting all the breaks or with a clearer run he may have won by more. He has failed at his last two attempts down the straight however you have to remember he was won a Lightning Stakes. He has a huge chance. Bank Robber was extremely good first up and looks as though he will get an easier lead than last time. If he is allowed to get things his own way he could surprise. Wanted is a very classy three year-old who had no luck from a bad barrier on Derby Day and is another who has a winning chance in a world class race.
- MIC MAC
- ALL SILENT
Race 6 – Emirates Stakes (1600m)
The headline race of the day is always a really competitive betting affair with a big field and many chances. So You Think did the unthinkable last start in winning the Cox Plate at just his fifth start in a race. He led all the way and ran the second fastest time in the race’s history. He could be the next superstar of the Australian turf, however he will need to be to win here. This race is an absolute graveyard for three year olds and just two years ago champion Weekend Hussler couldn’t win with only 51.5kgs on his back, So You Think carries two kilos more here. I also believe he is a better horse over 2000m as evidenced by his fifth in the Guineas. He will start favourite and as much as I would love to see him win, in my opinion he is far too much of a risk to back at short odds. Gold Salute comes into this race off the exact same break he did when winning the Winter Championship over this track and distance. He probably would have won the Rupert Clarke had he not played up in the gates and with a decent barrier and a little more luck in the Toorak he reverses the result on Allez Wonder. He should get a good run midfield with cover and if he can finally get some luck in running he could finish over the top of them. Walking or Dancing is well drawn and will appreciate the extra two hundred metres. Despite being at big odds he represents great each way value. He never got a chance last start when he was disappointed for a run up the straight and that race has been a good guide to the Emirates in recent years producing last year’s winner All Silent. Black Piranha and Road To Rock are both good horses coming back from the Cox Plate. Both are far better suited over the mile however both are up in the weights and drawn poorly. If they could swap barrier positions I’m sure they would. Snipers Bullet rarely wins but is an honest horse and is always around the mark at this level, he can’t be left out. Eagle Falls is very good although I think he is best when kept to the sprint distances while I don’t think Rightfully Yours quite runs a strong enough 1600 at group one level. Vigor was set for a race over double the distance of this race and even though I think he is very good at the mile I can’t have a horse who was set for the Melbourne Cup.
- GOLD SALUTE
- WALKING OR DANCING
- SO YOU THINK
Race 7 – Matriarch Stakes (2000m)
Purple ran a huge race last start when she was under hard riding before the turn after being caught in traffic only to charge home late to run second to Lady Lynette. Unlike that horse who she meets again here, Purple has no question marks at the 2000m. She can race forward or back depending on the pace and has drawn a perfect barrier. She has to go on top for mine. Lady Lynette was the horse who beat Purple at Caulfield, she then won impressively at Moonee Valley from an outside gate. Her next run was in the group one Myer Classic and she finished second (by a long way) only beaten by the star mare Typhoon Tracy. The only worry, and it’s a big one, is whether she will run out the 2000m. If she does, she will be very hard to beat. Moment In Time has run two terrific races over the mile at her last two starts. She was only beaten a long head by Lady Lynette last start at the Valley and she is now looking for the extra distance. The open spaces of Flemington are also a huge plus for this mare who has a definite winning hope. Pravana is a non winner who always runs on well. She may now be looking for the two thousand metres and it is a big risk leaving her out of any multiples. Prima Nova and Keeping Score are good roughies who have some chance, while Estee is a money muncher who is suited by the extra distance.
- LADY LYNETTE
- MOMENT IN TIME
Race 8 – Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2500m)
It’s hard to go past Hume, who ran a huge race in the Lexus Quality last start when only beaten by subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Shocking. He’s drawn a much better barrier here and should race closer to the speed. If you forgive Hissing Sid one bad run in a race where hardly anything made ground then he has to rate a good chance here. Not only did they not make any ground from the back at his last start in the Moonee Valley, he over-raced and didn’t have a lot of luck in running. Before that he was only beaten by Alcopop and Shocking which reads extremely well for this. Lodge the Deeds didn’t get as far back as Hissing Sid but it was still a very good run in the same race. The start before that he ran second to Speed Gifted in the Metropolitan and he has to be given a great chance here. Bid Spotter could be the horse on the way up. He won impressively in Sydney last start albeit in much weaker company and he shouldn’t be overlooked. Sterling Prince and The Sportsman are both honest on pacers who have a chance while Zupacool wouldn’t shock as he is a promising young stayer who will appreciate the larger track and extra distance after winning well in a weak Bendigo Cup last start.
- HISSING SID
- LODGE THE DEEDS
Race 9 – Emirates Airline Handicap (1400m)
The last race of the Flemington carnival is a typically wide open 1400m handicap. I have always liked Barwon Express and he gets his chance to win a decent race here. He won impressively in Adelaide last start and he is drawn to get the run of the race here. El Mandon finished ahead of my top pick two starts ago at Caulfield before falling in at Bendigo last start. I have a slight query on him at the 1400m however he is another who gets his chance here. Kiloton will go forward and make his own luck which is a big plus over the Flemington seven furlongs. He has to rate a big chance on his best form. Nine year-old Royal Ida just doesn’t know how old he is and ran another huge race last start over this track and distance on Derby Day. He does cop a lot of weight in these open handicaps these days however you can’t leave him out on his last couple of runs. Itsamonty, Sound Journey, Okay Oky, Imashadow, and Arenti all have claims in what is a very hard finish to the carnival.
- BARWON EXPRESS
- EL MANDON