Sandown Classic day, formerly known as Sandown Cup day, is the perfect way to round off the Melbourne Spring Carnival. The attitude out at Sandown (now known as Betfair Park) is far more relaxed compared with the earlier days of the carnival. Shorts and thongs replace suits and ties while an esky and fold out chair are almost a prerequisite when enjoying the sunshine out on the spacious grassy banks of the Sandown home straight.
In this year’s Sandown Classic, Zipping will be trying to become the first horse in history to win the race for three successive years. Interestingly, during the week John Sadler, who trained Zipping to his last two Classics, has resigned as head trainer for Lloyd Williams, and Zipping will be now trained by Robert Hickmott.
After experiencing a summer heat wave in November there is no chance of the track being rain affected and we can also expect more sun and high temperatures on Saturday. So here’s how I think the day might unfold.
Race 1 – Cool Melbourne Plate (1700m)
Continuing on the Lloyd Williams/Robert Hickmott theme, Tintern looks a standout chance in the first of the day while one of his dangers could be stable mate Interlocking. Tintern looked a very promising horse before being injured and the stable probably didn’t want to rush him back to full fitness too quickly this preparation. However he has improved markedly with racing and last start was back to his best defeating a more than handy field over 1800m at Flemington on Oaks day. Interlocking is another who is on the comeback trail first up here from a two year absence. While he looked to have a lot of ability in his first four starts you would think he wouldn’t be winning just yet. O’reilly’s Clock is a very good galloper and a deserved top weight. He was back to his best running on hard late last start behind Poised To Win as he always does. He will get back and he will run on, I just believe Tintern will be able to get too much of a break. Rhyno Chaser has recently changed stables and although his form doesn’t look too flash he has loads of ability and could be a blowout chance.
2. O’REILLY’S CLOCK
3. RHYNO CHASER
Race 2 – Triple M’s Hot Breakfast Stakes (1000m)
Stirling Grove was my top selection for what looked a stronger race on paper last week at Flemington before he was scratched at the barriers and I see no reason not to stick with him here. Shaaheq was another that debuted impressively at its first start and has to be given a good chance. With only four of the thirteen runners having raced before this race shapes as a bit of a lottery if you don’t like the favourite.
1. STIRLING GROVE
3. SUBLIME GIRL
Race 3 – Rokk Ebony Handicap (1300m)
Diamonds At Dusk wasn’t all that far away last start behind the very smart Burdekin Blues on Oaks Day. He will have no problem over the extra hundred while the prospect of a firm track is perfect. From barrier six he should get a nice run on the speed and be ready to pounce as soon as they straighten. Snip Esprit is a former Perth horse who impressed at his first Victorian run when he finished hard late to grab fourth behind Ahdashim on Cup day. The long straight at Sandown looks as though it will suit and he should be finishing hard again late. Jennings is a grand old campaigner who once held a track record at Sandown on the Lakeside course. While he has lost some of his early speed he’s still a classy galloper who will be right in this race first up. Tolka Rock prefers the sting out of the track to produce his best while Mr Slick is dropping sharply in grade but has been racing terribly. Spirited Halo would have to rate some hope on his last run.
1. DIAMONDS AT DUSK
2. SNIP ESPRIT
Race 4 – Snowhite Stakes (1400m)
Registered as the Twighlight Glow Stakes, this race holds a special place in my heart. It was in this very race four years ago I first backed and witnessed the whirlwind finish of Divine Madonna. While I doubt there are any fillies that will go on to be as special as her in this year’s event it shapes as a decent race all the same. Marquardt hasn’t won in seven starts since she beat Manhattan Rain on debut. Despite this though she has been racing in the very best company and I suspect the filly that beat her last start was very smart. She only has to handle the extra distance to win here and her breeding suggests that shouldn’t be a problem. Europa Point is the obvious danger however I suspect her run last start was flattered by a track that favoured horses getting well of the fence. Illusionary is a good roughie who should appreciate the extra trip while Husskila cannot be left out of calculations on her last run.
2. EUROPA POINT
Race 5 – Kevin Heffernan Stakes (1300m)
Lucky Secret will go into the race as a short priced favourite as he has absolute panels on the rest of the field in terms of sheer class. The huge question mark though is the extra hundred metres as he has never raced beyond 1200m and is a genuine speed horse. If he is able to dictate in front then he may just be too fast and too good however if something takes him on then the extra distance could be a major concern. Hard to tip against him but I don’t want to back him at his early price. Falaise was only a length behind Lucky Secret last start and he should be able to find himself closer to the speed here over the extra trip. He could be the value runner. News Alert is the obvious second pick after running on nicely in the Salinger last start. He only has to run a strong 1300 here and if the favourite fails to do the same he will be mighty hard to beat. Cocinero, Posadas and Diplomatic Force all have blowout chances.
1. LUCKY SECRET
2. NEWS ALERT
Race 6 – Betfair Sandown Guineas (1600m)
Kidnapped looks the best bet of the day after a dynamic win last start in the Carbine Club on Derby Day. Don’t worry about the poor record of Carbine Club winners in this race, as I doubt many were as impressive as Kidnapped. He was jogging on the turn and swept round them from last like the field was standing still, with something in reserve. I doubt the $2.50 on Betfair will last long and suspect he will start much shorter than that. Khas Kura is the stable mate of the favourite and looks the main danger mainly because it is impossible to line up the form on paper. He has been running very well in weaker Saturday class in Sydney and the mile looks as though it should perfectly. Another bonus is that he should be up on the speed while his more favoured stable mate will most likely get a long way back. Disco Summit fought on bravely behind the favourite last start at Flemington and while it is hard to see him turning the tables on the winner he should run well. It’llbefantastic and Silver Spur both come out of the same race last Saturday and both have strong claims while Majestic Music is a good filly even though I believe her win was slightly flattering on Cup Day due to being in the right part of the track. Turf Express will appreciate the drop in weight however he was obviously lucky to win last start on protest and I doubt he will measure up in this class.
2. KHAS KURA
3. DISCO SUMMIT
Race 7 – TMB Printing Sandown Classic (2400m)
Zipping is trying to become the first horse in history to win this race three years in a row and I believe he has a great chance. He is currently around $5 on Betfair which is a point and a half longer than the favourite Scenic Shot. For some unknown reason for the first time in his career Zipping laid down in the barriers on Derby Day and had to be scratched from the Mackinnon Stakes which Scenic Shot then went on to win impressively. What you have to remember is that Zipping beat Scenic Shot by a length in the Cox Plate and may well have done the same in the Mackinnon had he ran. If that was the case he certainly wouldn’t be $5! Scenic Shot is in career best form and is as honest as they come. It was probably his career best win last start along with his Brisbane Cup victory over this distance carrying 60kgs in the winter. It’s impossible to knock him. Master O Reilly isn’t one of my horses. As I have said before, he still hasn’t won since the 2007 Caulfield Cup where he had 50.5kg and a freakishly good run in transit. He is always running on well every start yet not winning. Despite this though if he was ever going to win another race it looks to be here as the long uphill Sandown straight suits genuine stayers and his fitness is obviously not an issue. Either his long suffering fans will finally collect here or he will officially be confirmed as a milk drinking pretender. Raffaello was good winning last week over 2000m at Flemington and he probably should have beaten Miss Maren in the Easter Cup during the autumn. The obvious question mark is the distance however it wouldn’t surprise me if staying turned out to be his go. Miss Maren was very good last start in the Mackinnon and she just continues to step up. I’m not sure if she is as effective over the staying distances however she will be around the mark again. Zarita and Purple are both very good honest mares however I think they are both just a few lengths off the top few chances here while C’est Le Guerre is the best of the roughies and the blow out hope.
2. SCENIC SHOT
3. MASTER O’REILLY
Race 8 – Race-tech Stakes (1500m)
Walking Or Dancing was my second pick in the Emirates and while he was outclassed there he should have a great chance in this. He loomed up at the top of the straight last start before the class told out and he did beat Sound of Nature home in the Bill Ritchie two starts ago. Sound of Nature looks well suited back to this distance as he seemed to not run out the 1800m last start. He has won at this track previously and two starts ago he did finish ahead of subsequent Emirates Stakes winner All American in a hot form race. Nine Tales is in career best form and will race on the speed for trainer Mick Price and give himself every chance. He is a must for all multiples. Ahdashim is a very good horse who I believe is best when kept to the sprint trips. The query is the distance however if he runs it out he will be right in it.
1. WALKING OR DANCING or SOUND OF NATURE
3. NINE TALES
Race 9 – T B V Summoned Stakes (1500m)
I like the chances of three potentially very good mares who are all coming from good runs on cup day and are all on the way up. Rose Syrah was the run of the race last start as well as her stable mate who was an absolute tragedy beaten in second place but we better move on from that before I start having more nightmares. She gets another hundred metres to wind up here and the big uphill straight at Sandown should suit her down to the ground. Flying Tessie couldn’t have won any easier on the same day in the last race. She was back last before getting through the field and then absolutely demolishing her rivals. She is another who will be suited by the long straight and open spaces of Sandown. Avienus is another good mare on the up. She looked to be gone in yet another different form race from cup day but continued to fight on and win against a decent field of mares. Unlike my other two selections she will be on the speed and not reliant on the pace. Amberino and Dane Julia look the next best in a typical wide open mares race with plenty of chances while Sparkling Satine, Pink Shimmer, Yesterday, Hidden Energy and Zauberin all have legitimate claims.
1. ROSE SYRAH
2. FLYING TESSIE
For full details of ticketing and raceday transport, see this link from the Melbourne Racing Club site.