A horse racing preview in April? Isn’t the carnival another six months away??
The average Aussie can be forgiven for thinking that horse racing is a sport that only happens during the spring each year in Melbourne. However, horse racing is one of Australia’s biggest industries. It employs over 50,000 people and generates more than $5 billion in gross domestic product each year.
And while Melburnians are lucky to have the biggest carnival in the country, each state gets their opportunity to showcase what they have to offer. Sydney’s carnival is held in autumn and is clearly the second biggest in the country.
As Sydney’s autumn carnival draws to a close, we turn our attention to the big card of racing on Easter Saturday with the headline event being the Group 1 Sydney Cup, a race worth $500,000. First run in 1862, the Sydney Cup is run over 3200m and has long been regarded as one of Australia’s premier staying events. Yet despite its prestige, only one horse has been able to land the Sydney-Melbourne Cup double, the great Makybe Diva.
This year’s race is shaping up as an even contest with horses coming into the race with a range of form, which can make them difficult to line up. With fine weather predicted until race day, it looks as though the surface will give every horse his or her chance. Here’s my thoughts on the main events.
Race 6: The Sydney Cup (3200 metres)
Usually, staying races include of a lot of horses who have been finishing midfield in their lead-up races with the aim of peaking for their ‘grand final’. This Sydney Cup is a little different: eight of the top ten in the race have won or placed at their last run.
I’ve settled on Macedonian, but only just. He has been up for a while yet trainer Peter Moody has just backed off him since his solid third in the Adelaide Cup (3200) just over a month ago. He has a win over current favourite Mourayan over the distance and his run in the Mornington Cup was excellent. Macedonian will be ridden by Dwayne Dunn who is regarded as one of the best distance riders going around.
Mourayan is next best. He was terrific in the BMW last start over 2400m. He sat up on the pace and was only run down by Cedarberg. He drops from 59kg to 54.5kg, the second lightest weight he has ever carried in a race and his form this time in has been excellent. He is bred to stay and provided he can get a soft run in the first half of the race, he will be hard to run down.
Once Were Wild looked like she was ready for the breeding barn after a couple of lacklustre efforts earlier in this preparation, however she shot back into form with a tough victory last start in the Chairman’s Handicap over 2600 metres, a traditional lead-up to the Cup. If we go back to her run last spring in the Lexus Handicap, she was narrowly beaten by Maluckyday and Linton who were both flying at the time. She certainly has the ability to win this, yet the last part of the race will be the query with her. She is one who will be hoping for the rain to stay away.
The race certainly doesn’t end with these three, there are another six or seven with genuine chances. As the market is so wide open, you are guaranteed to land a good payout if you can back the winner. For the multiples, I would suggest you throw in Above Average, Muir, Bid Spotter and Count Encosta. Promote Laristan if dry and Hawk Island if very wet.
- ONCE WERE WILD
BEST ROUGHIE: COUNT ENCOSTA
The action doesn’t stop with the Cup. There are three other Group 1 races on the program. Let’s take a look at them and then try to find our best bet for the day across the whole country.
Race 4: Champagne Stakes – (1600 metres)
This race is always tricky as the majority of two-year-olds have never raced over the 1600m before. This year, only two of the twelve runners have done so, with Cocky Raider running second last week in the Fernhill Handicap. After his run in the Sires Produce a fortnight ago, I would be very surprised if Pane In The Class wasn’t in the finish here. He came from last on the turn to finish third and suggested that the step up from 1400m to 1600m would be ideal for him. His run was even better considering the first two from that race, Helmet and Uate settled first and second throughout the run. Helmet is the main danger, he was seven weeks between runs going into that Sires Produce win so he would have gained plenty of benefit after that run. The Darley team of two-year-olds have won almost everything this season and I expect him to go close to adding to their record. Salade was a stakes winner on debut and then found it too difficult jumping to the Golden Slipper at only his second start. He finished off well late in that race and expect him to again be flashing home. Next best is Cocky Raider.
- PANE IN THE GLASS
BEST ROUGHIE: COCKY RAIDER
Race 5: Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000 metres)
This race can quite often be a trap race, similar to the Mackinnon Stakes in the Melbourne spring. You rarely find a horse who has been set for it, usually it is made up of horses who decided they couldn’t win the Sydney Cup, or for horses who are making one last desperate bid to salvage a poor carnival. In saying that, the prizemoney is as good as the Sydney Cup and that is why Mornington trainer Pat Carey has decided to keep his emerging stayer Cedarberg for this race. This horse has taken his time to develop and Carey would have been concerned about running the 3200m and flattening the horse before the spring. He drops back in distance from the BMW however his recent form has him as top pick for mine. Retrieve tackles the older horses after being the first colt home in the AJC Derby a fortnight ago behind Shamrocker. He too drops back in distance however he has proven to be very effective at the trip finishing top two at three of his four attempts. This could be his last run in Australia before heading overseas and his connections would be expecting a good one. Galizani has continued to improve at every start and this is not out of her reach. She is bred to stay and can reel off fast finishing sectionals. Look out for her late. The next best could be My Kingdom Of Fife who is an English import who won at his first Australian start for Chris Waller two weeks ago. The trip won’t be a concern however he doesn’t want it too wet.
BEST ROUGHIE: MY KINGDOM OF FIFE
Race 7: All Aged Stakes (1400 metres)
The last of the Group 1s for the day and in my opinion the most interesting. Hay List is the clear-cut favourite in early markets, however he is tackling the 1400m trip for only the second time in his career. And although he won his other attempt at this distance , it was in a field of just six at Belmont almost two years ago. His run last start behind Black Caviar was excellent and it showed that he was back to his best. He is going to be up on the speed and is likely to have Melito breathing down his neck all the way. She loves this trip and is my tip to take out the race. There looks to be a lack of genuine speed in this race and with Melito being proven at the trip in this company, she gets the nod ahead of Hay List who will be right there in the finish. As for the rest, well take your pick, there are still eight group 1 winners that are yet to be mentioned. I expect to see Shoot Out rapidly improve, he is a weight-for-age horse and this is more suitable than the 1200m first-up. Best roughie in my opinion is Hinchinbrook, he has chased home Black Caviar at his past three runs and the step up in distance should suit, he is a great place chance. There race doesn’t stop there with many other winning chances.
- HAY LIST
- SHOOT OUT
BEST ROUGHIE: HINCHINBROOK
As for my best bet around the country, we go to Caulfield in Race 7, horse number 6, Set For Fame. She is a top class mare who just found More Joyous and Melito a bit too hot to handle last start in Sydney. Prior to that, her run at Flemington was excellent. She has a great record at this track and distance and can handle any surface. Currently at $4.60, she looks a good thing for mine. Happy punting!