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A couple of runners with positive futures at Sandown Hillside, one just setting off down the handicap path, and another who will hopefully be doing just that after today.
ABRADED (Race 1, Jordan Childs) joins us from Darren Weir and, the relative unknowns generated by that sudden and enforced switch aside, he looks well positioned to get off the mark at the fourth time of asking in a maiden which perhaps doesn’t contain the quality it might for a $50,000 race. There have been big gaps between this three races thus far, so that he gets back to the track just three weeks on from his comeback run at Geelong, with the move back up to 1400m promising to suit on the evidence of that display. He’s well drawn in four and Jordan should be able adopt a prominent pitch, one that will hopefully enable to strike on in the straight. The once-raced Bullock is the most interesting of those amongst the opposition with experience, whilst it would be no surprise were the O’Brien-trained newcomer Reinvigorate to prove a danger, too.
ZABELARINA (Race 7, Jordan Childs) went about her job with authority when breaking her duck at the third attempt on Hillside last month. She was able to boss the field then, making all before kicking to win decisively. Into a BM70 for fillies and mares now, she’s most unlikely to get things her own way to that kind of extent again, so she’ll now need to prove herself all over again, this sure to reveal a lot more about what kind of rank she can end up taking. It’s worth pointing out that the runner-up from that maiden, Monarch Court, rather let the side down next time, going some way to underlining the kind of step forward Zabelarina herself is going to need to take taking this sizeable step up in grade. She’s wholly unexposed, however, and there’s every reason to think she can do precisely that as, like Abraded, she makes the move up from 1300m to 1400m. She’s also nicely drawn in barrier three. La Tigeresa gave the very exciting Clarice Cliffs a race of it at Geelong before winning a BM64 on the same Hillside programme that saw Zabelarina winning, and she’s very clearly the one to beat here today.
It’s certainly been a winding, if not overly long road Last Vein has taken to get to Kyneton today. Not a long one as she remains young and with a whole load of residual potential, some of which she can hopefully now tap into and expand upon, after all she’s more than likely the most choicely-bred runner on display this afternoon!
A striking chestnut, LAST VEIN (Race 5, Jordan Childs) is by the ill-fated Unencumbered out of a top-class racemare in Victory Vein, one who was sadly lost not long after producing Last Vein. Racing for Tony McEvoy, she got off the mark with next to no fuss at the fourth time of asking on the synthetic surface at Geelong last August. A step up from 1300m to a mile, and a more notable one in grade, found her out at Bendigo the following month, though on viewing she looked to be beaten by more than simply the trip or the class, simply not herself. A break of four and a half months saw her back at Geelong, this time on turf and with Darren Weir, and putting in a performance which went a long way to show that she’s on a handicap mark she can exploit, just found out by the marked drop back to 1100m in finishing third to Good Offa – who went on to run well in a much higher class next time. Facts and formlines don’t really do justice to Last Vein, though, more the strong suspicion that there’s a good deal more left in her substantial tank and from her enviable pedigree to think she remains capable of operating at a considerably higher level than she’s being asked to today.
'As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.'
Donald Rumsfeld could, and perhaps would, apply his famous analysis of WMDs in Iraq to the flurry of stable debutants we have running at present. At Colac's Cup meeting this afternoon we have another two out of three runners in total. It's all a learning process and stretching to find more of those known knowns!
Whilst we have a number of incumbents from another superpower source at present, AMBLEVE (Race 1, Jordan Childs) has arrived from Lindsay Park and has been with us rather longer, having made the switch to our premises in the five months since the third of three starts for Hayes et al. She’s a three-year-old daughter of Hinchinbrook out of a useful and speedy mare, and she has displayed more than enough ability so far to think she can be found a maiden before too much longer. Indeed, with the sex allowance she receives this afternoon she just emerges top of our in-house ratings ahead of Stage Front and Defies Logic, so if she’s ready to give it her best shot returning to action – and there’s little reason to imagine she won’t be over a 1200m trip that could well end up proving something like her optimum – she looks set to take the beating first up at Colac today.
For ANDREA MANTEGNA (Race 7, Jordan Childs), the route to the Colac Cup has been rather less straightforward, circumstances dictating a change of stable of late. He’s a smart performer, one proven in Cup races of this level, successful for Darren Weir in the Ararat Cup in November before running mid-field in the Ballarat version a fortnight later. He’s been off seven weeks since running some way below form at Flemington, disappointing there even before perhaps finding the distance of 2500m just stretching his stamina in rain-softened ground. That stamina point isn’t set in stone as of yet, though today’s intermediate trip of 2000m does suit him well, as does a soft surface more generally, so hopefully a short break and a change of scenery won’t have interrupted him but instead will see him back on his game, as a reproduction of his best sort of form makes him a massive player here.
In the following race we’ll be looking to see a better display from GO FERRANDO (Race 8, Jordan Childs) than on his handicap debut at Cranbourne last month. He looked to be struggling from a relatively early stage on that occasion, clearly well below the form he achieved in winning that Werribee maiden on Christmas Eve. That maiden success remains a stand-out performance, and whilst there’s no suggestion it was a fluke, we need him to get back to the level of that display at the very least here today. With rain forecast, the possibility of softer ground could yet represent something of an unknown (unknown), especially as the going was rated a Soft 5 at Cranbourne.
We’ve two very interesting runners this afternoon, interesting for diverging reasons, one being all about the chance suddenly being thrust upon him, the other the context of the race to her early development.
The opening contest at Morphettville offers AZURITE (Race 1, Zac Spain) a much more winnable opportunity than he has generally been facing in Victoria. To say the BM82 he’s engaged in is lop-sided would be something of an understatement, with only Olympic Academy and Azurite himself within the actual handicap, the remaining five all limited performers firmly up against it at the weights. The race really ought to be a match, then, between the top two, and a match-up of the competing formlines from Victoria and South Australia. It’s difficult to have any firm conviction on which will emerge the stronger, so let’s hope the receipt of 5.5kg from Olympic Academy will be enough to swing it our way.
Whichever way you slice it, it was a highly positive start for BEACH CLUB (Race 6, Jordan Childs) to finish just under two lengths third of seven to Lankan Star in a Moonee Valley maiden at the first time of asking. Still, it’s a long way from there to the Group 2 Blue Diamond Prelude which awaits her at Caulfield this afternoon, but then again the race fits neatly into her early schedule and having done enough at The Valley to suggest she needn’t be overfaced, it’s an ask that can work well to aid her overall progression. Of course, she’s an outsider, and so she should be mindful of the host of highly promising fillies she lines up against, but she’s not a no-hoper of an outsider with so much upward momentum to come two weeks on from that debut.
Four runners across Friday's two programmes, with two of the three we have in at The Valley this evening making their stable debuts.
WISHFUL REALIZER (Race 4, Andrew Mallyon) is Bendigo bound for his start. There was a bit of improvement from first start to second, and if that rate of progress can be maintained now he looks to hold just about the leading form claims, albeit in a maiden in which a number can be said to have sound claims. Reasons for being hopeful that there may, in fact, be an even more substantial jolt of improvement this time are the move up to 1400m and the fitting of winkers for the first time. On the book, Scotch O’Clock rates as the biggest danger, although it’s possible a couple of others may be open to a slightly greater degree of development.
Two of our three runners down at The Valley this evening are having their first start for us having made the transition from Forest Lodge. Clearly, the developments are last-minute and, as such, how well they’ll have taken that change of scenery is something that will only really be able to be assessed on the track tonight. BRINGIT (Race 6, Ben Allen) is a useful five-year-old who is most effective at around 2500m, as he highlighted by winning a course-and-distance BM64 just before Christmas in great style. He was in much deeper in the Bagot Handicap at Flemington on New Year’s Day and that duly proved a step-up too far at this stage. Today’s BM78 can hopefully prove a happy medium. Creedence looks set to appreciate the step up in distance, and is understandably warm as favourite.
WEE GILLY (Race 7, Jordan Childs) wasn’t at all discredited when mid-field in a bunched finish at Sandown last time. She takes a drop in class now, back against mares and back down to BM70 level. Her winning form has all come on ground with cut, and the prospect of getting a ground description with the word ‘soft’ in it certainly ought to be a positive as regards her chance. It may not be that she doesn’t handle good going, more that more testing conditions simply favour her more than they do others. This looks a really good opening for her, in terms of position in her prep and of quality of opposition, and she can certain be expected to be a big player this evening.
As touched upon above, it’s a case of getting to know you with LOPE DE FIELD (Race 7, Ben Allen) who arrives here on a hat-trick having won her last two for Darren Weir, and three of her last four. Those successes came in BM58 and BM64 company at Stawell and Warrnambool respectively, so this clearly marks another step up on the ladder altogether. She’s been a narrow winner on both occasions, so we will see whether she has the scope to progress up to this level stepping into Town for the first time, though if she can maintain the rate of progress she’s managed to summon up over the last couple of months she could well end up getting into the mix.
Two for the price of one at Warrnambool later today. Whilst we don’t intentionally face off our own horses against each other, if the race fits then needs must. So it is with the three-year-old fillies maiden that comes up fifth up on the programme.
Alphabetically she’s just first, and for that reason alone let’s start with NORD AVENIR (Race 5, Jordan Childs). Her debut came all the way back in August, when she was a highly encouraging fourth in a strong maiden at Swan Hill. The winner, Yulong January, has gone on to prove himself useful, borderline smart, and the runner-up, Irish Butterfly, had little trouble in breaking through at Sale recently. The third, Stripping Royalty, has also won her maiden since. It makes for hot form all round. Nord Avenir has progressed for that initial experience and ought to be very competitive in what looks a weaker contest this afternoon.
NOW’S HER TIME (Race 5, Linda Meech) is a newcomer with an attractive pedigree. By Kaphero, she’s out of Granniah, making her the year-younger half-sister to the so-far unlucky Raffine. We’re highly hopeful that she doesn’t meet any of the misfortune that has prevented her sibling from gaining a much-deserved debut success. She’s very promising indeed, and is by no means a second string to Nord Avenir. Both are there very much on their own merits.
A man is driving along pulling a float when he’s pulled over by the cops.
Policeman asks the driver, “Excuse me, sir, could you please tell me what you’re up to today?”
“Of course, mate,” comes the reply, “I’m just taking the horses to the races at Caulfield.”
Policeman takes a look at the situation before returning to the man with a quizzical look on his face. “Okay then sir, would you mind telling me why there are no horses in the float?”
“I know,” comes the reply, “I’m taking the non-runners first!”
Scratched runners play quite a heavy theme at both Caulfield and Kyneton today, where we have a runner apiece, though that should at least ease the path a little for them both.
ABSOLUT ARTIE (Race 1, Neil Farley) hasn’t been seen since finishing six lengths fourth of seven in a three-year-old maiden at Warracknabeal in August. He’ll need to come on from that, especially as he’s been drawn widest of all (though the withdrawals have lessened that disadvantage), but there’s no reason to imagine he won’t do precisely that, giving us plenty of hope with the way he’s been doing at home. He showed a decent amount of speed on that first try, and may well be suited by less testing underfoot conditions today.
The 11-runner BM84 FASTNET LATINA (Race 6, Jordan Childs) is down to a 7-runner event at the time of writing, though it remains a tricky affair for the reasons that Antah looks seriously progressive and Fastnet Latina himself hasn’t been at the top of his game on two of his last three starts, notably so at Flemington last time. The blinkers are the removed now, and there’s encouragement to take that he was much better over this course and distance on his penultimate outing.We know the ability is still there when everything comes together.
A big evening - and perhaps a celebratory night – awaits at The Valley today. With two runners holding standout claims in a couple of the staying events we’re looking at coming away with owners both happy and pocket-filled!
SAN REMO (Race 3, Jordan Childs) will be happier this evening back up at 3000m, the extra distance important to him for all he was a very good fourth over the shorter 2500m here last week. He’s holding his form admirably well, a stayer with consistency, and that’s a virtue not all of this evening’s rivals can boast. He’s back down to BM70 level for the first time since winning at Cranbourne in December, and probably has a last-time winner from there in Benall as the one to beat. If it comes down to a finish between the two we’ll be hoping Jordan’s strength will count for plenty!
Later on the programme MOSH MUSIC (Race 7, Jordan Childs) takes in Heat 2 of the Stayers Series the first leg of which San Remo finished fourth in last time. This sees a marked step up in distance for her, from a mile to 2050m, and given the way she finished from off the pace at Sandown last time it promises to unlock a good deal more of her raw potential. It’s well worth noting that the front was firmly the place to be at Sandown that day, and Mosh Music was running against the grain in getting as close as she did to finish third to Pure Scot there, albeit in a small field. She strongly looks the one to beat today – in fact it will be something of a surprise if she’s not up to gaining compensation and, at the same time, opening up a host of new possibilities.
One Swiss hero may have been conspicuous by his absence in the Rod Laver Arena yesterday, Serb and Spanish ones there in his place, but another Swiss Hero will be present in or around Melbourne today.
It’s clearly a big step up from Hamilton maiden to Sandown BM70 for SWISS HERO (Race 3, Neil Farley), but such has been the upward trajectory he’s followed from first start to second to third that we feel he’s well worth his place in the line-up. On the face of it an opening mark of 62 would appear to overstate what he achieved in winning what was just an ordinary race at Hamilton, but then again he went about things with a bit of authority there, and that despite not getting an ideal run through, suggesting he can maintain his progression for a while to come. What is clear is that he’ll need to, the opposition this afternoon offering far more in the way of previous form and future potential. At the top of the weights Tony McEvoy’s Be My Star warrants plenty of respect, as do impressive maiden winners Camp View and Scorpios Sunset.
A late meeting at The Valley but early work compressed into two races for us, three runners in the first two events, including the first tracks of a potentially smart two-year-old. All of which means a plausibly early evening depending on whether or not we opt to stay for the return of the mighty Redkirk Warrior.
Start off where you mean to carry on, that’s the view we’ve taken with BEACH CLUB (Race 1, Jordan Childs). If you want to race at Moonee Valley start off doing so. She’s a beautiful daughter of Zoffany, who himself excelled over a mile, out of an unraced Dylan Thomas half-sister to champion juvenile Overreach. It’s a pedigree to be excited about, and we wouldn’t be starting out at the Valley if we didn’t think she was precocious and speedy enough to do herself justice. She’s sharp. Withdrawals have limited the opposition to an extent, though Lankan Star, from an Aga Khan-bred family, has already shown ability and Hulk is bred to be very good. We will see!
It had to happen in the end. Both PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 2, Jordan Childs) and SAN REMO (Race 2, Damien Thornton) have been in each other’s sights for a while. We’ve managed to keep them apart until now, but today’s 2500m BM78 feels like the ideal calling card for both. They’ve both improved with racing, progressing as their stamina has been drawn out and they’ve gradually got the hang of Australian racing. It’s a really difficult pick between the two. If San Remo were to get back to his fluent self as seen at Cranbourne he’d surely be hard to beat today, acknowledging the shorter trip plays against his strengths to a degree. Prinz Hlodowig is coming off a Caulfield high, however, and given he’s the marginally more progressive of the pair he’s the one to plump for if a gun was pointed at one’s head. There’s precious little in it, though, and we’ll just hope that one of the two prevails for OTI Racing.
Plenty of points of interest amongst today’s twilight meeting on Sandown’s Lakeside track, including four runners each with a more than reasonable chance of flying the flag successfully for Alexander Racing.
The opening maiden is run over 1300m, and whilst there is a fair amount of proven form on the table, it’s not that high a standard given the value of the race. Our representative is ZABELARINA (Race 1, Jordan Childs) who starts out for us having endured a stuttering start to her career so far. She’s a Bel Esprit four-year-old out of an unraced close relation to none other than two-time Horse of The Year Might And Power. Her debut came back in August 2017 for Robert Smerdon, though circumstances would demand a switch to Matt Cumani by the time she made her second start eight months later. This marked a step in the right direction, finishing a good fourth of 12 behind Longmu at Ballarat, though it’s another ten months from then to now, and another change of scenery to boot, so quite what she’s capable of and whether she can start making up for lost time remains to be seen. Her form is good enough to think she can go close, whilst her potential remains almost entirely untapped.
CONNERY (Race 3, Ethan Brown) makes his much-anticipated comeback in a BM64 over 1400m. Ethan Brown takes the ride and so reduces his 61kg impost by 1.5kg, and he looks to be very viably handicapped judged on the progress he made in the early part of last year. Both his wins came over 1600m, and it is possible that the extra distance could be important to him, whilst we’ve also left the visor off for this return to action. He’s gone well fresh before, at least, so should be tight enough to go at the first time asking. The race around Connery is competitive without looking unduly strong, last week’s course-and-distance runner-up Burgonet probably chief amongst the dangers.
It’s probably fair to say MAN ALIVE (Race 5, Jordan Childs) has been slightly underwhelming since transitioning into handicaps, though it bears reiterating that any lack of stamina has not been behind his last two runs over 2500m and 2400m. And it remains early days in his overall progression. He has to turn the tables with So Belafonte and Apocalypto from Hillside earlier in the month, though he didn’t enjoy the cleanest of runs that time, caught wide after a sluggish start, plugging on without ever quite being able to get on terms come the finish. He’s got blinkers in place now, and hopefully they will provide the impetus required for him to start achieving more at this level.
Jamie Kah celebrated her move from SA with a big-race win aboard Belwazi at the weekend, and she is drafted in to take the ride on WEE GILLY (Race 8, Jamie Kah) who sneaks into the BM78 right at the bottom of the handicap. There’s quite a lot to like about her chance, more so than her current $11 odds would imply. She was successful in BM78 company (fillies and mares race) at around this sort of trip at Cranbourne on her penultimate start in August, and clearly found the drop back to a mile all against her when coming back at Pakenham last month. She was doing all her best work at the end there, when behind the very progressive Laure Me In, and will clearly benefit from the return to a longer distance. Her best form has come when encountering a testing surface hitherto, but there was probably enough in that most recent run to suggest she’s not entirely ground dependent.
Flemington hosts one of its 25 meetings a year and Camperdown its one and only this fine Saturday, and they are the venues of interest for us, with the decision being made to direct Fastnet Latina to the former instead of an alternative option he held at Morphettville.
AZURITE (Race 2, Jye McNeil) failed to live up to expectations at Moonee Valley most recently, unable to match the level he’d performed to in a couple of previous outings, being pushed wide only a partial excuse. He’ll need to get back on his game now, in an open handicap which effectively equates to a BM95. That sees him up against it in relation to some of those towards the head of the weights, the ever-threatening Lycurgus specifically. There’s not much strength in depth to the race, however, rather typical of these sorts of races over these longer trips. Conditions will be fine, and he ran well in a similar race at Flemington two starts back.
FASTNET LATINA (Race 8, Jordan Childs) looked to face a simpler task at Morphettville, but the money on offer for that BM90 was poor compared to that on the table for this BM84. The counterbalance being that it’s considerably more competitive. He goes up beyond a mile for the first time having served notice at Caulfield a fortnight ago that he’s ready for such a move now, the strength of his finish catching the eye when fourth to the reopposing Black Sail on that occasion. He’s 2.5kg better off with that rival for just over a length and a half, so strictly speaking there really should be precious little between them. Our hope is that the added distance can now draw that little bit more from Fastnet Latina at this stage of his career. The problem is that the dangers certainly don’t begin and end with Black Sail, Five Kingdom and Laure Me In both upwardly-mobile handicappers who are likely to prove a major part of the conversation.
Having finished just over five and a half lengths eighth of thirteen to Off Peak at Seymour on debut, ROMAIYA (Race 3, Neil Farley) heads to Camperdown for his second start needing to progress for that initial experience. He was unable to take advantage of an inside draw on that occasion, though now has been done no favours the other way, widest of all in 14. As we stated prior to that debut outing, he can be expected to do best at around a mile in the medium term, and with that in mind he takes an incremental step up from 1300m to 1400m this afternoon. Unless he’s unable to find any cover from that barrier he should prove a good bit more competitive here.
Our likely winner today comes in the earlier meeting at Ararat, whilst Go Ferrando has more on his plate as he makes the transition into handicap company at Cranbourne later on.
It was a better race than today's in which LAMINGTON DRIVE (Race 3, Harry Coffey) finished third on debut at Seymour in the dying days of 2018. He have good chase in finishing two lengths third of fourteen to Happily To Be on that occasion, whilst simultaneously giving the impression he can improve a fair chunk further for the experience and, more so, today's distance move up to a mile. Runner-up that day, Tavsomefun, has himself gone on to win his own maiden in conclusive fashion at Cranbourne, giving the form of the race an extra boost. Lamington Drive doesn't face rivals of the same ability as that pair this afternoon, those to have achieved most, Pentian and Plum Pudding well exposed as modest (and in the case of the former well out of sorts when last seen). Ciaran Maher's once-raced Run By Night is out of a New Zealand Oaks winner, so for all he was well back in the field when starting out six months ago, he does at least retain a deal of potential returning for his second go and in a thin race is probably the one to be most wary of on balance.
The is, of course, a lot more depth to the BM64 in which GO FERRANDO (Race 5, Neil Farley) makes his handicap debut at Cranbourne. That said, the eye is immediately drawn to the one three-year-old in the line-up, the filly Rock Dove. Godolphin's daughter of Epaulette has run with merit in two handicaps whilst gradually having her stamina drawn out, and looks as if she could take off now getting beyond 2000m for the first time. Never be afraid of one horse, though, and Go Ferrando has of course already proven himself granted such a stamina test, as when stepping up to break his duck at Werribee three weeks ago. He won from the front under a cute stop-start ride from Neil Farley there, and whilst those tactics may prove difficult to replicate here, it could be that the likely stronger tempo will allow him to settle comfortably a bit further back. Werribee runner-up Enrico Pallazzo couldn't do much for the form next time unfortunately, but it's now Go Ferrando's job to strike on in open company, and after just six starts he is the most lightly-raced in today's line-up.
An extensive (or nerdy) look at the statistics shows that, over the course of the past two seasons, our debutants have improved on average by 1.77kg from first start to second. Had Wishful Realizer ran better by that much on debut at Werribee he’d near enough have dead-heated! So today the relevant question is: does he find himself in a stronger, weaker, or similar level of maiden at Pakenham this evening?
In being beaten just under a length and a half by Vogue Empress first time up, WISHFUL REALIZER (Race 3, Andrew Mallyon) certainly got off to a positive enough start, all the more so given he did more early work than those he ended up finishing behind. He's up to 1200m now in a move which his pedigree suggests ought to help. As for today’s opposition, it seemingly revolves around No Drama Darci given her most recent second to the useful filly Notation would set a clear standard. That came fifteen weeks ago, though, so he does have his well-being to prove. In the frame in both starts to date, Jennikay borderhops from SA and isn’t the most straightforward to assess as a result, whilst newcomer Destacado represents the Hawkes yard.
The answer to the question, then, would appear to be determinant on whether No Drama Darci can replicate her form from Geelong in early-October. If not, a 1.77kg step forward should see Wishful Realizer bang there in the shake up.
It’s the next rung up the ladder for the lightly-raced, fast-progressive Mosh Music today, stepping out into Metro company for the first time following on from her highly taking successful handicap debut at Geelong.
MOSH MUSIC (Race 5, Dean Holland) could hardly have developed more encouragingly since a backward debut, improving no end to break her maiden at the second time of asking at Geelong before proving a subsequent 34-week absence to be no issue back there in a BM64 on Boxing Day, the style and substance of that success pointing to bigger things ahead, starting today. Naturally enough she’s in deeper now, though set against that is the fact that the race has cut up, down to just five, Mosh Music the one with all the unexplored potential with the other four those with the more established form to their name.
Pure Scot’s early ability has tapered off somewhat, though she underlined that she remains a force from this sort of mark when runner-up in a BM78 at Bendigo on her penultimate go. She was a sound fourth of 14 at Flemington next time, and for all she has no residual potential to offer, the lesser depth to today’s race gives her reasonable enough claims here. Cash Affair is still on the up, even if her rate of improvement is less steep than Mosh Music’s, and consistent to go with it, putting up a series of three good runs at Flemington since winning at Bendigo in November. She finished off well over 1400m most recently, and now tries 1600m for the first time. She looks assured of putting up another good display, though the question is whether she can up her game to the same extent as Mosh Music.
Like our runner, Miss Adequate won a BM64 at Geelong most recently, though she hardly cut the same impression in doing so, and after 18 starts the strong feeling is that a 2kg rise for that success seems likely to do for her. Likewise, it’s not easy to be too positive regarding the chances of Ice Girl on the basis of her recent displays, seemingly just going through the motions most recently.
Werribee today, and at least one more winner in the offing with a little bit of luck. Here’s why…
The first thing to say about the maiden ROCKY ROAD (Race 3, Dean Holland) contests is that it’s winnable. That’s a euphemism for saying it’s a really weak race. Summing that up is the fact that the horse challenging Rocky Road for favouritism is Peppino, a seventeen-race maiden whose limitations are pretty well exposed by now. By contrast, after just three starts Rocky Road remains with a good bit of upside to him, especially as having raced solely over 1200m to date, the step up to 1400m now can draw more from him. He was coming back from an absence at Seymour last time and should be better for it, Swiss Hero having yesterday underlined the potential benefit of a comeback run. It would be disappointing if he didn’t fare best of those with experience today, and any threats are more likely to emerge from the debutants, no fewer than three coming from the Darren Weir yard, and a three-year-old filly in receipt of all the allowances going trained by Matt Cumani.
Later on the card MIA GEORGIA (Race 7, Jessica Eaton) has a bit more to prove right now, things not having gone all that smoothly for her since she broke through at Pakenham in August. She’s just half a kilo above the mark from which she won there now, meaning she has some potential from a handicapping viewpoint, but she’ll need to show more verve than when a well-held sixth at this track last time. She takes a drop back to 1400m now, a trip over which she ran well when a close (and somewhat unlucky) fourth at Tatura a few runs back, and if she can replicate that kind of form she’s certainly got a big chance this afternoon. In her favour is the fact that the race has cut up quite a bit, an original field of eleven now down to seven, she has a handy inside draw, and if the application of winkers can have a revivifying effect she could yet be a big player. We’ll see whether she’s on one of her ‘going’ days.
A couple of runners, seven hours apart, today, with hopes firmly behind Swiss Hero at Hamilton, concrete expectations in San Remo at Cranbourne.
It hasn’t been a straightforward path for SWISS HERO (Race 2, Neil Farley) to this point, niggles and setbacks setting him back, his development limited to two starts thus far, but there was clear encouragement to take from the second of those, ten months on from the first, improving as the race wore on to finish mid-pack at Werribee on Christmas Eve. Everything about that run suggests it’s one he’ll step up on, perhaps markedly so, this the first time he’s got to the track with a run behind him, and the move up to a mile sure to suit him down to the ground. A couple of the others in today’s line-up have clearly achieved more in their careers to date, Diamond Arrow perhaps chief amongst them, but he certainly doesn’t possess the same scope for progress as Swiss Hero, meaning that he’s by no means one to write off today, with a top three finish seemingly well within his grasp.
On the face of it, SAN REMO (Race 6, Damien Thornton) fluffed his lines at Warrnambool in light of his romp over today’s course and distance in mid-December, but the run of the race was against him, leading out a closer’s race, and back at the scene of that most fluent of victories he really ought to get back to winning ways this evening. He’s evidently very much at home at the track and over the marathon trip, the latter really the making of him in fact, and he finds himself in a BM78 best described as threadbare now, a race short on numbers and depth, with San Remo’s recent winning form making him a standout. Now, he did finish behind the reopposing Weave at Warrnambool, though that one wasn’t ridden quite as positively there, benefiting to an extent, and it would essentially be surprising were the form to be upheld here. Benall showed a bit more spark here last time, and on the balance of probabilities he is more likely to offer a somewhat sterner challenge.
The good news is that Untouched gets a run from fourth emergency in the opener at Geelong today. The less good news is that a couple of the other emergencies to have got in finished some way ahead of her at the same track on Boxing Day.
UNTOUCHED (Race 1, Jordan Childs) showed some speed from the gate on debut, encouraging in itself, though she's going to need to build on the mid-part of her race, unable to maintain that prominent early position before plugging home. She's sure to know a lot more with that initial experience under her belt, with the winkers now there to assist in that respect, though with Maozi and Frankie Pinot having finished several lengths ahead of her on that occasion, it's probably more realistic to envisage her progressing enough to get closer to them as opposed to turning the form around. As well as those with a run to their name, the race also features a clutch of newcomers from top yards.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” On the surface, it may seem overblown to apply the words of Maya Angelou to anything related to horse racing, and specifically today the Australian career of Prinz Hlodowig, but then again racing is but a microcosm of life, the lessons we learn in one directly relatable to the other. Churchill and Angelou wouldn’t have had much in common, but he said something similar of the virtue of perseverance: “If you’re going through Hell, keep going!”
It has been a lengthy road for PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 5, Jordan Childs) to this point, plenty of water having flowed since his sole win as a two-year-old in France, but there’s nothing ungenuine about him and he served notice at Geelong in October that his time was near, going down by the narrowest margin there in a race that has worked out pretty well. A subsequent eight-week pause, combined with a drop back in trip, dulled him somewhat at Flemington just before Christmas, though that run should have brought him back to a peak, and at his peak a handicap mark of 69 is clearly a viable one. Today's twilight meeting at Caulfield offers him a chance to put everything together for the first time since that September day in Normandy back in 2016.
Amongst the opposition there are two horses that stand out as clear and present dangers, though how big a player The Gatting Ball is rests to a very large degree on whether you take the view he ran as well as he did at Moonee Valley last time in spite of working through the worst of the ground, or because he took the shortest route. I’d be inclined toward the latter position without being in any way confident. Franked appeals slightly more after just two starts in this country and with more to come, latterly better than the result when fifth behind Bringit, also at the Valley.
Mornington and Warrnambool host racing this afternoon, and it’s at the latter venue that we’re triply represented. Very high, medium, medium – in that order – is the degree of chance that can be assigned to those three runners.
Starting with our best chance: RAFFINE (Race 3, Jordan Childs). Now, it’s true that in strict numbers terms she went backwards from a very good debut at Geelong when only fourth of nine as odds-on favourite at Terang second time up. It’s also true that the bare facts of that latter run don’t tell anything like the full story. She got no run at all behind Uncle Larry, never getting an out, ending up having no more than a glorified gallop, and there’s little question it would have been a wholly different story with a different path through the race. We’ve found her what looks a great opening in which to gain compensation today, kept to 1400m and in a race restricted to fillies and mares. Of those fillies and mares Raffine comes up against, none have achieved anything remotely close to the form she achieved at Geelong, and a mere repeat of that effort should see her win readily. She’s well enough drawn and, barring any colossal lack of racing luck as at Terang, she really should be winning. Odds against look big.
FASHION STOCK (Race 4, Neil Farley) is a slower burn than Raffine, stamina more than speed her calling, and with that in mind she’s now up beyond 2000m, fitted with winkers too, and combined those factors can see her show more than in three runs to date. Whilst she didn’t continue her bit-by-bit progress at Geelong most recently, the testing conditions were likely no good to her there, and now returned to a sounder surface she should be back on the up. There’s nothing especially daunting about the to-date achievements of those she comes up against in what is a fairly modest maiden today, Westham probably just about setting the standard, albeit an exposed and far from insurmountable one, so there’s definitely scope for imagining Fashion Stock can take a good step forward and get amongst the principals.
What to make of BLANCO CARA’s (Race 6, Jordan Childs) debut run for the yard at Bendigo? Whilst there was enough there to build on, the most pertinent factor appeared to be that a mile is simply too short for her, lacking the requisite change of gear when push came to shove. She gets an additional 435m to play with now and that, combined with the extra sharpness that comeback sighter will have given her, suggests she can be a whole lot more competitive here today. With question marks of one sort or another hanging over all of her seven opponents in today’s BM64, we’re very much hopeful of seeing her make a much bigger impact for us at the second time of asking.
It might be a Dry January for many, but hopefully not Fastnet Latina. On a competitive, high-quality card at Caulfield he'll be attempting to regain the winning thread and quench his thirst having currently gone 637 days between drinks.
FASTNET LATINA (Race 6, Jordan Childs) has of course had his troubles since that last success, at Morphettville in April 2017, but he has showed on a couple of occasions since returning to action that all of his old ability remains intact, most obviously so when finding only OTI playmate Romancer too strong in the Donald Cup on his penultimate start. If he was coming here straight on the back of that effort he'd surely be vying for favouritism this afternoon, and given his subsequent Pakenham run is best ignored (came back mildly lame), there's certainly a case for saying he represents some value in today's line-up, back in peak condition as he is. There is due to be some rain about at Caulfield today, and if that were to hit and have an impact on the state of the ground, then some questions would be raised, Fastnet Latina never having raced on ground softer than good. That slight concern aside there's plenty to like about his chance over his optimum trip at a BM84 level which looks just right for him at present.
Black Sail has long since had a tall reputation, and it's one to a large extent he deserves, a smart performer after all. Though he's perhaps not quite as good as he's threatened to be on occasions, often failing to justify market support, so for all he's a big player once more this afternoon he's by no means home and hosed. The ex-Kiwi Mission Hill appears the most interesting of the remainder in what feels a winnable handicap of its type.
Of course, a new year – and arguably time itself – only really has any significance when viewed through the lens of being an artificial, conceptual man-made construct, and it would be ludicrous to take seriously any belief that in a world more than 4.5 billion years old January 1 is in any meaningful way distinct from December 31: there’s nothing new about it at all. A very happy 2019 from all at Alexander Racing, and may it firmly be a case of New Year, New Cheer! We're counting on Man Alive getting us off to a flier at Sandown today.
There's no getting away from the fact MAN ALIVE (Race 4, Jordan Childs) failed to come up to our expectations at Moonee Valley last time, though it wasn't the longer trip that was the issue - he remains a stayer above all - seemingly as much as the track's tight, cambered figuration which seemed to unsettle him, off balance and off an even keel. He's well worth the benefit of the doubt given the positives he had amassed prior to that, and another crack over this sort of distance at a track that should be more in keeping with his style still promises to provoke a significant chunk of improvement from one so lightly raced. Indeed, Man Alive is comfortably the least exposed runner in today's BM64 field, so hopefully he should be progressing whilst others have plateaued. There are in-form horses to be wary of, however, chief amongst them dual Mornington winner Negasi who narrowly failed to bring up the hat-trick when just touched off over today's course and distance last month. True Gent finished ahead of Man Alive at the Valley, though given the excuses we've advanced ifor that run it's perhaps best not to read too much into that particular strand of form.
2018 has certainly been an interesting year. A bit too interesting sometimes. Interesting in the way the Chinese intend as a curse. If nothing else it has made for a steep learning curve, lessons in experience money simply can't buy. We get to have the last say over the year, however, and enter 2019 on the right note as San Remo, confidence bucked and buoyed at Cranbourne, can make it back-to-back wins in the marathon event at Warrnambool's curtain-dropping meeting this afternoon. May 2019 be boring by comparison!
SAN REMO (Race 4, Jordan Childs) certainly wasn't winning out of turn when breaking his Australian duck at Cranbourne last time, and he showed there - as he had at Moonee Valley the time before - that he's ideally suited by these proper staying trips. The ease and style of that success suggests that having found both his niche and the winning groove he's not about to relinquish either all that readily, and there's certainly no way you could envisage the reopposing Stanaway pair that chased him home at a respectful distance - Ventura Highway and Crafty Cruiser turning the tables. The danger in what feels a two-horse race if ever there was one is clearly the in-form Duke of Oz.He's yet to try a trip of 3000m+ but served notice at The Valley last time he could well be suited by it, though he is a 1kg 'wrong' with San Remo and doesn't arrive with such a fluent, authoritative win behind him.
Our work will be concluded relatively early at Seymour today, with three runners contesting the opening three maidens. There looks to be a strong enough chance that at least one of them will enter 2019 with that all-important first win under her belt.
In the opening three-year-old contest over 1300m, newcomer ROMAIYA (Race 1, Jordan Childs) is a Pierro gelding we like a good deal. Out of an unraced Commands daughter of the Group 1-winning mare Bonanova, he’s a half-brother to a maiden winner, and is also from the family of Fraternity and Telesto. Tentatively, that points to Romaiya being most effective at around a mile you’d think, so today’s starting-off point looks natural enough whilst giving him a base to build upon. For all Anamagic and Swirl Girl have placed efforts to their name amongst today’s opposition, the form they ran to in achieving those doesn’t amount to all that much, and it’s easy enough to imagine the bigger dangers lurk amongst Romaiya’s fellow debutants. He’s got a handy draw along the inside so long as he has the wherewithal to take advantage of it from the gate.
Next up, LAMINGTON DRIVE (Race 2, Jordan Childs) steps out for the first time over 1400m. He’s also a three-year-old gelding, by Highly Recommended and out of a High Chaparral half-sister to eight-time winner (at up to 2000m) Darci Coup. His pedigree looks more about stamina, longer trips likely to come into play at some stage, so we’ll see where we are with him after this introductory, getting-to-know-you run, and take things from there. This race sees those with experience offering rather more established form than in the opener, Tavsomefun and Happily To Be already having done more than enough to win a race of this nature.
It can be third time lucky for SERGEANT DOYLE (Race 3, Jordan Childs) in the maiden for fillies and mares which follows. A very good third on debut over 1100m at Bendigo, her effort was blunted somewhat when filling out the same position at Geelong in very testing conditions 15 days ago, and the visual evidence of that effort suggests she’ll be more at home returned to a sounder surface. She takes another hike in trip, up from 1300m to a mile now, and she gives the firm impression she’ll be suited by it having stuck doggedly to her task in spite of the going at Geelong. She’s also got an inside draw to play with which does nothing but add extra lustre to her already strong claims. Necessitas has been fairly highly tried to date and will rate more of a danger back down in grade, whilst Croatian showed a lot more back from an absence at Kyneton. Nevertheless, Sergeant Doyle really should take plenty of beating.
As of yet Azurite hasn't quite fully capped off his revival, for that to happen we need to get him back winning, but even so in his last two starts he's done more than enough to show that all the old ability remains intact, and at The Valley today he's got things much more in his favour.
It's worth underlining just what a stiff task AZURITE (Race 7, Jordan Childs) was facing in open company at Flemington last time, right up against it at the weights, and he ended up running another very creditable race, his second on the spin, to show that his time needn't be far off returned to calmer waters. That's the scenario he faces this afternoon, back into a BM78 at a track he's performed well at in the past. With the possible exception of Chapal, who sneaks in off bottom weight, there's nothing overtly threatening amongst the opposition, and so long as he turns up here and replicates the form he's been showing of late it's difficult to envisage Azurite not being right in the thick of it come the end. He's suited by a good test at this trip nowadays, and with Goodwood Zodiac, for one, looking assured of going forward, there's hope things will be run at a reasonable enough gallop this afternoon.
It’s usually best not to overindulge on Christmas Day if you’ve anything to do with racing, as Boxing Day is always a hectic hullabaloo of races, meetings, runners here there and everywhere. This year is no different as we have six setting out from Miners Rest, the majority heading to Geelong, though the tough and consistent Chippenham is travelling to Caulfield with an eye on a big-money payday.
CHIPPENHAM (Race 5, Stephanie Thornton) has been nothing but a credit to himself for some time now, all heart and reliability, finishing out of the frame for the first occasion in a long while at Pakenham most recently but still running well in finishing a close fifth to Amadeus, with whom he reoposses this afternoon. He’s effectively 1kg better off with that rival when Steph Thornton’s claim is taken into account and it wold be no great surprise to see those two-inform horses coming to the fore today. That’s allowing for the fact that as this is a valuable handicap with Ulmann topping the weights from a mark of 99, both are somewhat inconvenienced by the circumstances relative to a few others. Current form often counts for more than that, though, and with conditions bound to suit ideally Chippenham will surely be right there in the firing line once again.
Over at Geelong, we unleash two two-year-old fillies in a field comprised entirely of newcomers. STAR JAN (Race 1, Theodore Nugent) is a Starspangledbanner filly out of a full-sister to the classy dual 7f Grade 1 winner in Hong Kong Joyful Winner. Star Jan’s half-sister also broke her own duck over the same 1100m trip over which she starts out this afternoon. Obviously she brings potential to the table in the form of that pedigree, one which backs up the impression she’s given us that speed should prove a strength of hers, so hopefully she’ll show up brightly at the first time of asking.
UNTOUCHED (Race 1, Dean Holland) holds some similarities to Star Jan in that she is also out of a sister (or a half one, at least, in her case) to a Group 1 winner, that being 2010 Epsom Handicap winner Captain Sonador. The dam of Untouched won a race over 1600m, whilst she is by first-season sire Wandjina, one who looks sure to impart more than his fair share of speed to his progeny. Clearly, then, there are equivalent positives to take from her own breeding ahead of this racecourse debut. Both of our runners are well enough drawn, next door in four and five, and it will be interesting to see how they fare in relation to each other.
Plenty of fully exposed maidens go to post in the following staying event, though after just four starts VELOUCHER (Race 2, Patrick Moloney) isn’t one of those, the most lightly raced in the line-up in fact. He was rather disappointing at Seymour last week and will need to step up on that run now, though his preceding run at Hamilton indicates he’s capable of doing precisely that. He goes further up in trip now, and is fitted with winkers, whilst the pace make-up race suggests things could pan out in his favour, seeming unlikely to be overly pressured up with the pace. Whilst his claims do rely in large part on the limitations amongst the remainder, he’ll surely be in a better position to take advantage than he was last Thursday.
Off since her second-up maiden win over this same course and distance back in April, MOSH MUSIC (Race 4, Dean Holland) returns to make her handicap debut at BM64 level. She clearly improved massively from first start to second during that opening prep, though we’d expect her to be more tuned up for this opening to her second one. She takes her place in what is a competitive looking heat, with the in-form Kednelly and fellow handicap debutant Blue Earth both looking dangerous. This is a good starting-off point for Mosh Music, and she should put up a positive display whilst also telling us a lot more about what way we plan for her future.
ZUERS (Race 5, Dean Yendall) has been progressing bit by bit in three runs since returning to action, enough to think she’s going to be a more serious proposition over what may just be her optimum trip of around 1200m. Dean Yendall maintains the partnership and the pair have a handy-looking barrier in two to work from. Current favourite Explicitly looks overbet as things stand, there looking to be little reason he should be less than a third of the price of Zuers given their respective profiles. It’s not easy to be dogmatic all things considered, but it may just be that Zuers represents our best chance of a winner today.
‘Tis the season to be jolly grateful if you get through it all in one piece. With that in mind, we’re happy to concentrate on Werribee rather than the usual Christmas inanities on Monday, though any early present would be most welcome, and we have four runners who’ll be attempting to provide just that.
The ground is currently rated Soft 5 at Werribee, and WISHFUL REALIZER (Race 2, Andrew Mallyon) makes his debut in a three-year-old maiden which has already cut up, an opening field of fourteen now down to nine. Even before considering a potential lack of strength amongst the opposition, there’s a good deal about the pedigree Wishful Realizer can call upon. He’s an I Am Invincible gelding, the leading producer of winners in Australia, out of a dual mile winner by Commands named Prinny’s Girl. The dam has already produced a couple of winners from both foals to race. He’s not been done any favours with a wide barrier particularly given the 1010m trip, though the scratchings do at least help some in that regard, as does the aforementioned lack of proven, solid form amongst his rivals.
In the following maiden GO FERRANDO (Race 3, Neil Farley) has probably got a taller order on than when failing to justify favouritism at Hamilton last time, with the three-year-olds First Water and Rebel Romance looking to have a bit more about them in this line-up. However, Go Ferrando is still on the right track more generally, and it’s possible over this sort of trip this third run back from a break will see him spot on fitness-wise. The potential for there being a bit more cut in the ground may give him the opportunity to show a degree of further improvement as well.
SWISS HERO (Race 5, Neil Farley) has met with a couple of setbacks since finishing in behind at Ballarat on debut in February last year. He was off the pace on that first try, both literally and developmentally, and for all the physical niggles he has progressed physically in his time off, so he should offer a good deal more this time, especially as he moves up from 1200m to 1400m. Like Wishful Realizer, Swiss Hero has been dealt a wide draw to overcome, but also like that one he features in a race which looks weaker than an average maiden on quality.
MIA GEORGIA (Race 6, Lucinda Doodt) is returning from the City having fared with respectably when mid-pack behind Esposito Gold at Moonee Valley most recently. She’s proving consistent enough even if her handicap mark would just appear to sum her up at present. She should give it another good go, though whether she can improve to the extent likely to be required to challenge recent course winners/improvers in Diplomac Jack and Silverhawk is another matter. She’s yet to race away from good ground, so if it remains on the soft side that is something of an unknown (but at least is a factor through which she could plausibly improve some).
It's a Saturday at Flemington, so typically competitive fare then, and we'll be crossing our fingers for the best from our trio of runners who are all in at the deep end to one degree or another.
It was great to see AZURITE (Race 4, Lucinda Doodt) show so much more verve when third at Pakenham last time, but we're asking even sterner questions of him now. Into an open handicap, he's up against it on paper, though with Lucinda's 3kg claim he does at least receive all the weight going. The longer trip could potentially help him find more, too, 2500m very possibly what he's crying out for nowadays.
PRINZ HLODOWIG (Race 8, Jye McNeil) goes the other way trip wise, back down to 2000m having been pipped on the line at Geelong. He's had an eight-week break since that run and is in good form, though today's race does look a fair bit deeper than that latest contest. He could run really well and not quite make the first three this afternoon.
ONEHUNDRED PERCENT (Race 9, Stephen Baster) has more to prove than the first two as things stand, limited encouragement to take from his last four runs now, and that why he's a big longshot in today's line-up. We'll keep on working until we find the key to him, and maybe a return away from softer ground could just act in his favour today. Something needs to!
We're off to the Valley with Man Alive this evening, a longer trip there promising to unlock some of that residual potential. Despite what went on at Warrnambool he remains one to be excited about, a bona fide stayer in the making.
MAN ALIVE (Race 6, Craig Williams) is comfortably the least exposed of those taking in the BM64 that comes sixth up, and on top of that, he's even more comfortably the least exposed when it comes to a shift up to 2500m, the stretch in stamina looking sure to suit him down to the ground. Fair enough, he comes up against a couple of last-time winners in the form of Duke of Oz and Franked, but they emerge from a BM58 and a weak Gawler maiden respectively, nothing that need worry us unduly. It's time to get our wallets out and bet like men!