Turnbull Stakes Day at Flemington marks the unofficial start of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival. With the AFL (usually!) finished the weekend before, attention turns to the racetrack and in particular the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m).
Upgraded to Group 1 status in 2006, the Turnbull Stakes, run under the set weights and penalties conditions, is a melting pot of both weight-for-age gallopers being aimed at the Cox Plate and the handicappers looking towards the cups.
2007 Melbourne Cup winner Efficient stormed down the outside to win last year’s Turnbull, adding his name to an honour roll that includes greats such as Makybe Diva, Elvstroem, Northerly, Sunline, Naturalism, Let’s Elope, Better Loosen Up, Super Impose, Vo Rogue, Dulcify, Galilee, Tobin Bronze and Rising Fast.
Turnbull Stakes Day represents the last chance to get to Flemington before the massive crowds of Melbourne Cup week and is a relaxed way to kick off the Spring Carnival, highlighted by some great racing action.
RACE 1 – MARIBRYNONG TRIAL STAKES (1000m)
This being the first two year old race of the season means the nine horseshave never raced and are extremely immature. Without inside information, and sometimes even with it, this is an absolute lottery and a tip would only be a disservice.
RACE 2 – UCI STAKES (1800m)
The wide open spaces of Flemington, as well as the extra hundred metres and set weights conditions make this a very attractive race for the Tony Vasil trained Altius. A lack of speed might make things a little hard as will the presence of the lightly raced Mukarrar who bolted in by the best part of ten lengths at his second start on the Synthetic down at Geelong. Mackadoo should get a similarly soft time up front as he did last start and will again be hard to beat.
RACE 3 – WESTFIELD DONCASTER STAKES (1400m)
I’m quite keen on the chances of the Peter Snowden-trained Skilled, who put an average first up run behind him with a very good third in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude. Considering his record he looks pretty well in at the weights and should be able to take a forward position in a race that looks devoid of speed on paper. Multahem is highly regarded by the David Hayes stable and was an impressive debut winner who should be suited by the step up to 1400m. Best Choice and Territory look the next best.
RACE 4 – THE BART CUMMINGS (2500m)
This is a wide open staying contest with a heap of chances. Mourayan – one of the much maligned Lloyd Williams imports – should be at nice each-way odds and now gets to a distance where he can show his best. Above Average is another who should be suited by the extra distance while Harris Tweed finished ahead of Mourayan last start, although he did have a cosier run. Exceptionally, Capecover, Miles Above and Reputable all have claims in what is a tough race to pick.
- Above Average
- Harris Tweed
RACE 5 – BLAZER STAKES (1400m)
A cracking full field of sixteen plus four emergencies are lined up here. No Evidence Needed, who drops back to mares grade after running a good second to Response in the Group 1 Rupert Clarke last start, is worth a look. She beat Response over this very track and distance the start before and should get the gun run from barrier one. Palacio De Cristal is a very good mare who is suited by Flemington. There are doubts over whether she has the pace she needs to swoop over the top of them here but she is certainly good enough to win this from a good position. Lady Lynette is ultra-consistent and, while I think she may be racing a couple of lengths below her best form, she should get the run of the race from barrier three. Strawberry Field, Majestic Music, Happy Hippy and Rhythm in Paris all have claims while emergencies Dysphonia and Sister Madly come right into calculations should they get a run.
- No Evidence Needed
- Palacio De Cristal
- Lady Lynette
RACE 6 – EDWARD MANIFOLD STAKES (1600m)
Divorces has been extremely impressive at both of her runs this preparation. From barrier one Mark Zahra should be able to position her just off the leaders and she has to be the one to beat. Pinker Pinker should relish the step up to the mile and was very good late in the Thousand Guineas Prelude while Sistine Angel was also obviously very good in the same race. Ringa Ringa Rosie should appreciate both the extra furlong and the larger track as should Speed of Dark who was a touch unlucky in the Thousand Guineas Prelude. Becerra and Brazilian Pulse are the next best in a typically open fillies’ affair where most runners wouldn’t shock.
- Pinker Pinker
- Ringa Ringa Rosie
RACE 7 – TURNBULL STAKES (2000m)
What a race! The highlight of the spring so far. Shoot Out gets his chance to prove once and for all if he is a genuine contender capable of troubling So You Think in the Cox Plate. Considering he was in the quick sand on the rail last start, running third behind Whobegotyou and Typhoon Tracy in the Dato Tan was still a good effort. He’s also a noted ‘big track’ horse so the 2000m at Flemington should be ideal. Dariana was hugely impressive in the Underwood behind So You Think and gets weight off every runner here while Metal Bender was also good in that race and is as honest as they come. Shocking is unbeaten at Flemington, will relish the extra 200 metres and could blow them away. Zipping is massively underrated and loves the track and distance while Vigor, Faint Perfume and Speed Gifted also have claims in a cracking race. Should second emergency Moudre gain a start he is another with a winning hope.
- Shoot Out
- Metal Bender
RACE 8 – GILGAI STAKES (1200m)
Here is another mouth watering race, marking the return of former superstar of the turf Weekend Hussler. Although he probably isn’t a winning hope first up, it’s still good to see the champ back in action. The only doubt on budding super sprinter Hay List is that he is having his first look at the Flemington straight. However even if he doesn’t fully handle it, he still should prove too good. The Mark Kavanagh pair of Catapulted and Bank Robber look the next two while a big run from Sniper’s Bullet at his first start for Robert Smerdon would hardly surprise. Swick is the blowout chance!
- Hay List
- Bank Robber
RACE 9 – HERALD SUN SUPERSTABLE STAKES (1400m)
The Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes from Caulfield looks to be the key form reference for this cracking Listed affair, with the three likely favourites all coming from the aforementioned race. Highlighting the depth of quality of the days racing is the fact that dual Group 1 placegetter Sister Madly probably won’t get a run in the Group 2 mares event earlier in the day and will probably be forced to line up here against two rivals she met in a Group 1 last start! I’m putting her ahead of Woorim, who finished ahead of her last start, because she should get the gun run while he’ll be out the back over the notoriously soft Flemington 1400m. We’re Gonna Rock comes from the same race and for the same reasons as Woorim and he might find it hard to beat the mare. Rockpecker and Magical Pearl have winning hopes however poor barriers will make it much harder.
- Sister Madly
- We’re Gonna Rock
Ben Asgari is a second-year student at La Trobe University who blogs at http://benasgariracing.wordpress.com/ where this article is also posted. Follow Ben on Twitter at www.twitter.com/benasgariracing
Click here for a guide to the big races of the Spring Carnival.