The Mounting Yard heads back to the Valley this week for another action-packed day of early spring racing.
The meeting is headlined by two Group 2 races, with Surprise Baby making her return in the Feehan and Hanseatic as the early favourite in the McEwen. The track should stay somewhere around the Good 4-Soft 5 range and with the rail back in the true, hopefully we get some fair racing throughout the day.
Let’s find some winners.
Race 1: Three-year-old and up, benchmark 84, fillies and mares, handicap, 1200 metres An intriguing way to kick off the program here in the first. Expect the speed to be quick enough with Call Me Royal, Lady Loft, and How Womantic all settling in the first few.
I need a price of $3.50+ to be backing her but How Womantic goes on top. She won four races in a row last preparation and the form out of a couple of them reads exceptionally well. She was a dominant winner over Ocular at Caulfield who was an impressive winner on resumption on Wednesday, before going on to win the Kevin Hayes Stakes at Group Three level.
I’m prepared to put a line through her last run when caught wide and without cover. Her jump-outs have been only even leading into this but from the ideal gate (2) she should get the run of the race on the speed and have no excuses.
Fabric might be the blowout chance. The O’Brien mare won two from five last preparation and probably could have won a couple more if not for bad luck. Her jump-outs leading into this have been getting better and better and she maps to get a nice run off a genuine tempo.
Cordilla is untapped and was very impressive last preparation. She was an easy winner at Geelong two-back, before stepping up to beat a city class field at Flemington with ease. She might be the horse to watch out of the race going forward.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #3 How Womantic if at $3.50+ come the jump.
Race 2: Benchmark 78, handicap, 1600 metres A few progressive types take place in this race over the mile. Expect the speed to be strong with Surreal Image, No Effort, Thought of That, and Sovereign Award all wanting to be on speed.
Shandy has come back in terrific order and is a horse to watch throughout the Spring. The lightly-raced five-year-old was a dominant winner on resumption at Geelong over 1300m when recording the fifth-fastest last 200m of the meeting, before going to Sandown and exnihilating a couple of smart ones by 2.75 lengths while recording the fastest last 200m of the meeting. If she can get some cover or sit one off the fence from the gate (8) she should be winning.
Sovereign Award is the main danger. The O’Brien Mare was excellent two-back over this track and distance when leading all the way, before chasing strongly last start to get within a neck of No Effort at Caulfield. It’s unknown how she will go off a strong speed but if she does relish it she is a big chance.
It’s somewhat of a raffle outside of those two. Skyman is gunning for three in a row but has had a break between runs and is coming back from 2000m which is a query, while Five Kingdom seems to love this track and was only a length off them here two-back over 1500m.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #14 Shandy at $4.20.
Race 3: Super VOBIS, three-year-olds, handicap, 1500 metres The most open race you’ll find anywhere in Australia on Saturday and if you find the winner, you’ll be shouting the bar. The speed will be strong with the likes of Milton Park, Best, Flinders River and Jay Gatsby all pushing forward.
I am happy to spec a couple at odds and one of those is the first emergency in Flash Flood. The Maher and Eustace Colt was unlucky on debut in a race where they ran a pretty good time. He was only a length or so off Jay Gatsby who he faces again here and has already franked that form in the city.
In his second start, he went back to 1170m, was outsprinted early in the straight, and then flashed home to win on the line while recording the fastest last 200m of the meeting. The rise to the 1500m looks ideal today based on his breeding and he has enough gate speed to take up a position. $21 looks overs. Hit The Shot is the other that has a big chance.
He jumped out well leading into his debut effort at Ballarat on the Synthetic and it was very impressive. They went slowly in that race, he was outsprinted, before rocketing home to win on the line while recording the fastest last 200m of the meeting as well. He should appreciate the genuine tempo here and has plenty of raw ability.
Milton Park has plenty of early speed and might prove hard to run down if he gets some of these out of their comfort zone, while Lunar Fox has plenty of ability and was far from disgraced on resumption.
Recommended bet: Small each way plays on #15 Flash Flood at $21 and #11 Hit the Shot at $8.
Race 4: Handicap, 1600 metres A much easier race to assess (at least on paper) here in the fourth over the mile. The speed should be solid with Alsvin and Shot of Irish wanting to set the speed.
The race sets up perfectly for Junipal. When you look at his form in Sydney last preparation you could easily make a case that he should start in the red. He stormed home at Randwick to beat the ultra-talented Master of Wine, before running on strongly behind Cascadian who has since returned well in some of the early Spring Group 1s. H
is resuming run three weeks back was very good when giving weight to the talented Showmanship and if improves off that run, like I expect him to do, he will be very hard to hold out with his biggest danger giving him 2.5kgs.
Shot of Irish is the main and potentially only danger. His last preparation was probably his best to date, winning three out of a possible four starts. He goes up in weight here from the majority of those runs and comes back on to a good track which are queries, but he is a tough horse who loves winning.
The same can be said for Alsvin who has won his last two at this track over the 1500m trip. He beat a very smart one in Coming Around last start, but he comes back on top of the ground and there is a stronger speed expected here.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #6 Junipal at $2.50.
Race 5: Chandler McLeod Stakes, listed race, 1200 metres The start of the features kick off in the fifth. Expect them to go just above a moderate speed with Felicia and Achernar Star setting the speed.
I thought Age of Chivalry should have been basically similar to Showmanship in the market and therefore he represents good value here. I am prepared to put a line through his last preparation when something was clearly amiss.
In his preparation before that, he was Group 1 placed twice in both the Rupert Clarke behind Begood Toya Mother and the Toorak Handicap when third behind Fierce Impact. He resumed in the Regal Roller three weeks back and only just went down to Virdine, who has been in superb form. That form reads very well for this and from the ideal gate (4) he should get the dream run and take plenty of running down.
Showmanship drops 4kgs after a fantastic win on resumption at Caulfield where he beat the talented Junipal. He won four in a row in Western Australia before coming out here and beat some very good horses. I can see him getting on the rail from the low draw though (3) which is always a worry for those who get back in the field.
Felicia is the only other winning chance. She finally gets back onto a dry track where her record reads well (4:2-0-2). Her last win before a freshen was brilliant when beating Pretty Brazen by 3.75 lengths and if there is a leaders/rail bias, she maps to be the winner.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #3 Age of Chivalry at $3.50.
Race 6: McEwen Stakes, Group 2, weight for age, 1000 metres I found this race one of the trickiest on the card to assess. They’ll set a strong speed up front with Bella Vella, Witherspoon, Despatch, and Rulership all settling on speed.
Rulership should be ready to peak here third-up. He was a length off Ranting on resumption at Caulfield and that horse has since franked that form with a good run last weekend. He then went to a very strong Benchmark 78 Handicap and was held up for the majority of the straight before running on late to finish third and 1.5 lengths off Express Pass.
He is suited extremely well with just the 52kgs under the WFA conditions and he maps to get the dream run from the ideal draw (3). Happy to have something on Bons Away at a price as well. He never really come up last preparation, even though he was still only three lengths off them at Group 1 level. In his preparation before that, he was only half a length off Nature Strip and that form reads very well for a race like this.
His jump out leading into this was superb and with the expected hectic tempo on upfront, he should be flashing home late. Bella Vella won the Sangster last start and went three from three last preparation. She has a fantastic record at this track (3:2-1-0) and if she can take a sit on the leader, she should be hard to beat.
Brooklyn Hustle is going to need luck from the inside draw (2) but she was fantastic last start when beating an average field by 3.5 lengths on resumption. She has plenty of ability and can be in the finish.
Recommended bet: Each way plays on #9 Rulership at $9.50 and #3 Bons Away at $9.
Race 7: Atlantic Jewel Stakes, listed race, three-year-olds, fillies, 1200 metres A few of these will be targeted for some of the three-year-old Group 1s going forward. I think they will go at a moderate clip with only Night Raid, River Night, and Dirty Thoughts going forward.
I am happy to be with Night Raid here. She should find the front from the good barrier (5) and she has stacks of ability. On debut last preparation she was luckless when finishing a length off A Beautiful Night at Flemington. That horse subsequently won the Blue Diamond Preview in slick time. She went out for a long spell and returned at Tatura on a heavy track when winning by 7.25 lengths.
She didn’t beat much there, but it was the manner in which she did it in which was so impressive. She has plenty of ability and will be very hard to run down. River Night shapes as the main danger. She was very consistent last preparation and her only run over 1200m was a cracker, running a head away from Khoekhoe and beating the third horse by 3.5 lengths.
On resumption, she ran two lengths off Bella Nipotina. She was on inferior ground that day and if the track is fairer here, and dryer, she will be hard to hold out. Agreeable was dominant on debut at Geelong when winning by two lengths in the easiest of fashion. She was immediately tipped out and then resumed and suffered a tough run when travelling three wide and without cover.
She should have improved off that run and maps better here.
Aidensfield is another with plenty of talent who is a must for the multiples.
Recommended bet: #9 Night Raid E/W at $5.50.
Race 8: John Feehan Stakes, Group 2, weight for age, 1600 metres An incredibly exciting race here with the two fancied runners expected to gain a start in two of the biggest races this country has to offer. Expect them to go at a moderate tempo with only Sircconi and Streets of Avalon wanting to go forward.
Harbour Views has been set for this race since earlier this year and if he is as good as the Williams camp thinks, he will put this field to the sword over the mile. He worked home nicely in the R A Lee Stakes in Adelaide last preparation, before being a dominant winner at this track over 2040m when beating Double You Tee. He pulled up lame last start, so I am prepared to put a pen through that run.
He has been given a ten-week break leading into this and his two jump-outs have been superb. From the inside draw (2) he should get the gun run and as long as he sees clear air, he should be winning. Surprise Baby has bigger targets in mind than this, but she is flying leading into this.
The Pruesker mare was unlucky not to be in the finish in the Melbourne Cup last Spring and has been installed as favourite for the event this year. She is a winner over this track and distance previously and if they do happen to go quicker than expected, she will be hard to hold out. Coming Around is the blowout chance.
He was a fantastic winner two-back at Flemington when beating Labrnum when winning by 1.75 lengths (and putting six lengths on the third horse), before running on strongly last start. He will get an economical run and should be running on late.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #8 Harbour Views at $4.20.
Race 9: Handicap, 2040 metres We finish the day with a race for mostly resuming stayers over the Cox Plate distance. The tempo will be slow with the likes of Vin De Dance, Dabiyr and Naval Warfare settling on speed who aren’t natural leaders.
The race sets up perfectly for Dabiyr who was good on resumption when doing his best work late over a mile to finish alongside Orderofthegarter, who has since ran well without much luck. His second-up record is hard to ignore (3:3-0-0) as is his record at the Valley (2:2-0-0), with one of those wins being a 4.5 length demolition job.
He has enough early speed to take up a position in the run and should prove hard to hold out if he hits the front around the bend. Credence is absolutely airborne and must be a good chance. The Cumani Gelding was terrific when beating a talented one in Grinzinger Star, before following that up with a huge win after travelling wide and without cover over Vassilator.
As long as Poy is positive from the rails draw (1), he will go close.
Naivasha has a good second-up record and has beaten better horses than these in the past. She will take improvement from her first-up run when beaten easily by a smart one, while Skelm faces a big drop in weight and will be running on strongly.
Recommended bet: Win bet on #3 Dabiyr at $4.
Best bet Race 8 #8 Harbour Views
Next-best bet Race 5 #3 Age of Chivalry
Best value Race 6 #9 Rulership