TRB Spring Carnival: Horse Racing Tips

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4:55pm Flemington R8 – 2000m Open G1 WFA – The Mackinnon Stakes

The Track

The track is currently a Good 4 and the rail is out 8m.

There are a few showers around on Friday, but mostly sunny 19c on Saturday, which should see the track race in the Good 4 range.

Because of the rain on Melbourne Cup day we’ve seen the rail moved out further than in recent years to the 8m position for this meeting, versus 3m for the last two years.

That will get them away from most of the heavy wear on the track, but not all of it so I expect the inside / hard on the fence will be a disadvantage with the best ground a few horses off.

Speed and Tactics

Trap For Fools (8) looks to go forward and control this race with no pressure from other runners.  Doubt Defying (10) is likely to press forward but won’t want to go too hard. Latrobe (3) can be right up there but likes to relax into a steady gallop, while It’s Somewhat (1) should be ridden more positively from an inside draw. Blair House (2) and Prize Icon (5) shouldn’t be too far away.

The likes of Shillelagh (6), Mickey Blue Eyes (4), Octabello (7) and Extra Brut (9) will be in the back half of the field.

When he doesn’t get pressured, Trap For Fools can relax into a slow to moderate speed and make the race a sprint home. That looks likely to be the case here.

Early Pace Rating: Slow to moderate

Late Pace Rating: Fast to very fast

Best Suited: Lead to 3 lengths off the lead

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

The standard of this race comes down to how Blair House performs. His 106.9 rating from the Caulfield Stakes is dominant in this race.

If he under-performs then something in the 101.5-102.5 could be good enough to be right in the finish.

Race Assessment

3. Blair House: Forecast 103-107. Assessed $1.90

Comes off a big 106.9 rating in the Caulifled Stakes when a very narrow second to Benbatl with a big gap to Humidor. Those two then ran 2nd / 3rd behind Winx in the Cox Plate in marginally better ratings, really confirm the strength of Blair House’s form for this.

I don’t necessarily expect he’ll run right up to that peak again, but he can afford to rate 1 to 1.5L lower here and still have an edge over the others.

The main risk is if he gets too far back with Shillelagh and Extra Brut in a race that becomes a sprint home, but from barrier 2 that seems very unlikely. I expect him to settle handy to the pace and have a head start on them. The performance of Godolphin this Spring provides every reason to be confident he can come out and put up another top performance. He’s a dominant top pick.

9. Extra Brut: Forecast 100.5-104. Assessed $7.00

He’s been a revelation this Spring, running some strong figures over 1800m two starts ago and then of course last start in the Derby.  The quality of that win suggests to me he has new peaks beyond 101.8 to come and if he does that in this race then he can certainly post a challenge to Blair House.

The query is that the two big figures he’s run so far while seemingly all being about Good ground (which he gets in this race) with that slow track failure in between, also had good to fast race pace. That meant he was able to settle well back while still rolling at a good speed and then sustain that with sound sectionals home to win. This race looks a much different scenario where they’ll go moderately early and sprint a fast last section. He’s yet to prove he can be as effective in those conditions. That speculation aside, his overall talent and potential for new peaks should be respected.

8. Shillelagh: Forecast 100-103.2. Assessed $8.00

This mare is flying, racing in career best form and went to a 102.5 rating winning the G1 Myer last Saturday. In a smaller field here her sectional speed is a big asset and certainly gives her a good chance to run very well. If there is a query it’s that after 29 starts this is the first time we are seeing her step up to 2000m. That makes me wonder whether the stable has previously thought that the distance wasn’t ideal for her and this race is more about “she’s going so well, why don’t we have a shot?”

If there was an opinion that she would be a strong at 2000m then surely she would have been given a go at the trip previously in a good stakes race, especially with her tendency to finish fast at the end of 1600m. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, we’ll see.

7. Latrobe: Forecast 98-103. Assessed $8.50

He’s the big query runners here, initially brought out by Team Williams for the Melbourne Cup, a decision was made to hold him back from that race and instead come to this. His overseas peaks put him around the 103 mark which could certainly be competitive here, but they have both been at 2400m. His 2000m is far less impressive. History is showing us though that these internationals deserve plenty of respect so I’m certainly not ruling him out, but I have to prefer others at this trip.

4. Trap For Fools: Forecast 100-102.5. Assessed $28.00

He’s such a consistent and honest type and has gone to new peaks in each of his last two starts, culminating in a 101.5 last start. With the prospect of controlling the lead here and the ability to sprint a fast last section he could definitely give some cheek and run a competitive race.

1. Its Somewhat: Forecast 96-101.5. Assesed $41.00

Aside from a one-off spike (104) when he won the 2017 Doncaster Hcp on a Heavy track (heavily favoured by the bias), the best of his other form has peaked in the 99-101 range. A more positive ride may help him reach the upper end of that limit or even a shade better, but the reality is that it’s unlikely to be good enough.

2. Prized Icon: Forecast 98-100.5. Assessed $61.00

You have to go back 2 years to his 2016 Victoria Derby win to find a rating where he’s exceeded the 100 mark. He can be consistent around that 99 level, but that’s well below the standard needed to get in the finish of this race.

5. Doubt Defying: Forecast 95-100. Assessed $151.00

He’s flying in career best form but quite a few lengths below the standard of this race.

6. Octabello: Forecast 95-99. Assessed $201.00

Racing very well but doesn’t have the ratings quality and will be done no favours settling a few lengths off the moderate speed.

10. Mickey Blue Eyes: Forecast 92-99. Assessed $501.00

He’s been beaten 4+ lengths in recent 3YO races this Spring. He’s nowhere near good enough for this class of race.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – BLAIR HOUSE – Bet to WIN at $1.95+ (stake 2.5% of your total bank.)

3:00pm Flemington R7 – 3200m Open G1 Hcp – The Melbourne Cup

The Track

The track is currently a Good 4 and the rail is out 2m. The weather looks set to play a key role with 90% chance of rain on Monday with the possibility of an afternoon thunderstorm. 5mm to 15mm of rain is forecast.

It’s a very similar forecast for Tuesday with a 90% chance of 5mm to 15mm, most likely early morning through to early afternoon.

Forecasts aren’t always correct, but it’s hard to imagine that Flemington will totally miss rainfall on both days. The track does handle water particularly well but I have to think that at best we’ll be looking at a surface perhaps still called Good 4 but approaching Soft 5 and at worse if 10-15mm arrived on both days it could get into the Soft 6 range.

I’m working on a Soft 5 surface.

Speed and Tactics

The Melbourne Cup is typically run in three distinct phases:

Pace and pressure up the straight the first time as riders look to find positions

A notable pace slow-down through the middle stages, which typically starts to occur somewhere between 2200m and 2000m from home.

A pace increase that typically starts anywhere from the 1200m to 800m mark and continues to build through each 200m split. The sooner it happens the more of a gruelling staying test it becomes.

Pace and Pressure up the straight the first time

There should be good pace and pressure through the first 900m of this race before they turn out of the straight for the first time. The two that look likely to press forward and be right up near the lead include Runaway (12) and Rostropovich, drawn widest in (24).

Finche (15) and Marmelo (10) should also be positive early and look for positions just off the lead, while Inside them there’s a few that will be keen to hold a handy position including Best Solution (6), Chestnut Coast (4) and Vengeur Masque (2).

Next comes the wave that will be looking to work forward up the straight for the first time and then slot across into positions somewhere between just off the pace to midfield and they can add to the early pressure until positions are found.

That group could include Muntahaa (13), Sir Charles Road (14), Sound Check (16), Magic Circle (17) and Cross Counter (19)

Tactics on Ace High (22) will be interesting. His typical style says he’ll press forward from out wide to be somewhere up near the lead. If he does that it will certainly add more pressure to the early stages.

However, given his Caulfield Cup effort he’s almost no chance of winning or even running well if he has to work early from that barrier, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a change of tactics where they looked to ride him more conservatively and give him a chance to finish the race off. His win the 2017 Victoria Derby came when conservatively ridden around midfield from a good draw.

There will naturally be plenty of attention on what James McDonald does on Yucatan early. The way he won The Herbert Power suggests to me that they’ll look to ride him quietly early, with the confidence that he can sustain a long run from the 1000m if need be.

When will the big pace increase come?

This is such an important part of the race.

I suspect we’ll see the pace start to built at least 1000m from home here and possibly from the 1200m mark. If the pace is moderate through those middle stages and James McDonald doesn’t see anything happening that is likely to allow Yucatan to flow into the race then I expect he’ll start making a move no later than from the 1000m mark. That in itself is likely to force other jockeys to react and get going on their mounts.

The likes of Muntahaa, Magic Circle and Prince Of Arran are likely to be back off the speed and will be more suited by a tough staying test than a sprint home, so I’d also expect their riders won’t be leaving it too late to get rolling forward either.

That should see this race become a tough staying test of 3200m. I would be very surprised if the moderate pace of the middle stages continues towards the 800m of further and it becomes more of sprint home.

WFA Performance Ratings

History gives us a good guide as to the performance rating (at the weights) it typically takes to win a Melbourne Cup.

The 10-year average for the race is a winning rating of 111.5 with a range of 108.5 (Viewed 2008, Shocking 2009) through to 115 (Protectionist 2014.)

As Melbourne Cup winners typically run to a new peak in the race, lead up ratings are typically below the eventual winning level.

History shows that a lead up rating of no less than 106-107 at the weights is the right benchmark to put yourself among the genuine winning chances if you can then run to a new peak on the day.

More so, it’s the horse’s final lead up run / rating that proves the most powerful predictor of Melbourne Cup performance.

Since the year 2000 only Efficient (2007), Viewed (2008) and Green Moon (2012) didn’t bring a last start rating that met that 106-107 minimum standard. Green Moon ran to that level at his second last start before the Melbourne Cup.

Each year there are typically 7 to 9 horses that meet that rating criteria. That means we’ve seen 83% of the winners since the year 2000 come from 29% to 37% of the runners.

13% of winners have come from horses that don’t meeting that rating criteria, but they make up 62% to 71% of the field.

That’s a powerful factor to look at this year’s race. They key is finding a horse that has the right 106-107 minimum last start rating platform that can then improve to a new peak on the day to win the race.

This year there are 8 horses that meet the minimum 106-107 last start rating criteria (in number order):

  1. Best Solution
  2. The Cliffsofmoher (technically 105.8 LS but was achieved under a very unfavourable Caulfield Cup pace scenario so I’ve included him)
  3. Magic Circle
  4. Muntahaa
  5. Marmelo
  6. Yucutan
  7. A Prince of Arran
  8. Cross Counter

Race Assessment

11. Yucatan: Forecast 110-114.5. Assessed $4.20

His Herbert Power win is one of the best Melbourne Cup lead ups we are ever likely to see. Even on the raw winning margin he brings a 108 rating to this race which is on par with the best of the others and we know that he was essentially pulled up over the last 75m. I estimate that cost him 5 lengths (given he was still 6L in front inside the 100m mark) and adding that back takes him up to a forecast 114.5 rating.

If he runs up to that then he’s almost certainly the winner of this race. The fact that A Prince of Arran and Brimham Rocks dominated the Lexus Stakes on Saturday only helps to confirm the strength of Yucutan’s run.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed, especially in a race like the Melbourne Cup and that’s why he’s $4.20 in my market and not a dominant odds-on chance. There are certainly threats to him in the race. I can’t possibly mark him any longer than $4.20 though.

Plenty has been mentioned about the barrier (23) but a rule I have about betting which has made me a lot of money over the years is to never let the barrier put me off a horse if everything else says it’s a great bet. The market over-reacts to wide draws and provides more than adequate compensation in its pricing and that’s the case here.

Yucutan is a clear top pick and at $5.50 to $6.00 a nice value bet.

1. Best Solution: Forecast 107-112. Assessed $8.50

International stayers that have a lead up run in Australia and perform well (e.g. finish 1st to 3rd) have an outstanding record in the Melbourne Cup. Since 2005 there have been 19 of them for 3 winners and a +94% betting profit. In 2014 Protectionist was 0.9L 4th in the Herbert Power but arguably should have won or at least finished 2nd after being held up at a crucial stage. If we add him to that list it’s 4 winners from 20 runners and a +137% POT.

Best Solution’s Caulfield Cup win had a stack of merit as well documented in the media and brings him into this race with a 108.6 rating at the weights, well above the minimum 106-107 rating standard need to be a genuine contender.

It would be remiss to not comment about his ‘big weight’ especially with the controversy about him escaping a weight penalty for winning the Caulfield Cup, justified by the fact that only Makybe Diva has won this race in the last 40 years with 57kg or more.

That stat is obviously true, but I don’t believe there’s as much in it as there is made out to be. There’s a myriad of reasons why a horse doesn’t win a race or fails to run up to its best, weight is just one of them and a minor one at that.

When Dunaden was beaten 10 lengths in 2012 with 59kg after winning the Caulfield Cup, would carrying 3kg less or even 5kg less have made a difference? Of course not, there were other reasons for his failure.

If you actually look at horses that came into the Melbourne Cup with a big weight of 57kg+ then there aren’t many that also brought the ideal profile into the race as a likely Melbourne Cup winner. When you look at the record of those that have, it’s certainly nothing outside of normally expected boundaries to suggest the weight is a defining factor that stops them winning.

Criterion in 2015 is the most recent horse I would suggest carried the right profile and he ran 1.3L 3rd with 57.5kg at 20/1. It’s easy to argue that Best Solution comes in with a better platform for the 3200m of this race than Criterion did.

The other thing I like about Best Solution is that from barrier 6 he’ll be able to find his position easily and switch off to relax very early, which is a definite advantage in a race like the Melbourne Cup. I can see him getting a very similar run to Rekindling last year.
He’s a definite contender to win this race.

3. Magic Circle: Forecast 107-112. Assessed $8.50

He might be a seven-year-old, but he’s still only had 21 starts and since transferring to new trainer Ian Williams he looks like he’s become a new horse. He’s run to consecutive new rating peaks, winning the Chester Cup over 3750m by 6 lengths and then the G3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown Park by 6 lengths over 3265m. The way he drew away from his opposition over the final stages in that race was particularly impressive.

He hasn’t raced since May (166 days) but that Chester Cup win was first up off a 209 day break over 3750m so I don’t read anything into his time off at all.

I’m typically against internationals that haven’t had a lead up here, but their growing numbers in this race over the years and increasing dominance over local horses appears to be making that factor less significant. That’s especially true if I dig deeper into the rating credentials brought by such horses and line up how they’ve performed, even if not winning.

Everything about Magic Circle says he’ll run very well here.

23. Cross Counter: Forecast 106.5-111. Assessed $10.00

He’s a lightly raced northern hemisphere 3YO (will be 4YO in January) that has plenty of form and rating strength across his last two runs at York and Goodwood. Two starts ago he bolted in by 4.5L in the G3 Gordon Stakes with a new career peak rating, before finishing a very close second to Old Persian last start in the G2 Voltigeur Stakes. The 3rd horse from that race Kew Gardens went on at his next start to win the G1 St Leger at Doncaster.

It’s easy to look at the fact that he’s only had 9 starts and assume he’s not experienced or seasoned enough to win a Melbourne Cup, but lightly raced types have an outstanding record in the race. Since 2005 we’ve seen 14 horses with less than 10 starts in the Melbourne Cup for two winners (Rekindling and Protectionist) and six placegetters including a couple at big odds.

In terms of Southern hemisphere 3-year-olds that are so lightly raced we saw Rekindling win the race last year after just 9 starts and back in 2007 Mahler came out and ran 3rd after just 7 starts.
Cross Counter’s career peak rating two starts ago is superior to the ratings Rekindling and Mahler brought to the race. His last start rating is similar to Rekindling and better than Mahler.

The concern is that he did a have a set back a couple of weeks ago and missed an entire week’s work. Trainer’s meticulously plan a horse’s preparation to peak on the day of a race like The Melbourne Cup so it’s hard to imagine that missing an entire week’s planned work hasn’t had some effect. That’s the unknown here, but everything else points to him running extremely well. He can certainly win.

5. Muntahaa: Forecast 106-111.5. Assessed $11.00

His last start win at York in the Ebor was highly impressive. I particularly liked the way that between the 800m and 400m virtually every other horse was under pressure chasing and he was still travelling comfortably on the bridle. When asked for an effort he responded and forged clear to win easily by 3.3 lengths.

That was a new peak for him and certainly meets the minimum standard I’m looking for to give him a genuine chance of winning. At the weights his lead up rating from the Ebor is virtually identical to Heartbreak City who won that race in 2016 before coming here to run a very close 2nd to Almandin. Muntahaa is a definite contender.

2. The Cliffsofmoher: Forecast 105-110. Assessed $15.00

He comes into this race off a 105.8 rating at the weights on the Caulfield Cup, which was achieved under a very unfavourable slow pace scenario in the middle stages and he did sprint the fastest last 800m in the race, so I’m happy to give him a little extra credit, which means he meets that 106-107 lead up rating criteria that I’m looking for.

Team Williams runners should never be underestimated in this race and it wouldn’t surprise me if he can a new peak on Tuesday. He’s not among the top chances, but it wouldn’t surprise to see him run very well.

9. Marmelo: Forecast 104.5-110.5. Assessed $15.00

An eye-catching Caulfield Cup last year run saw him go into the 2017 Melbourne Cup as equal favourite but he didn’t fire on the day. He bounced straight back to form at his next prep though when he was a very close 2nd in a G2 race at Longchamp in an equal career peak rating, before winning his next two and finish second last start, all with ratings within 0.5 to 2 lengths of his peak.

There’s a school of thought that he races best when fresh and that’s why he comes to the race this year without an Australian lead up run. He brings the right ratings platform and could end up finding a position early and getting every chance to conserver energy for the sprint him.
He’s got all of the right credentials to run well this year.

17. A Prince of Arran: Forecast 106.5-110. Assessed $16.00

With 53kg in the Melbourne Cup, his two Australian lead up ratings of 107.5 and 107.8 in winning the Lexus on Saturday are certainly in the right zone to be a contender. The query is whether he can quickly elevate to a new peak on the day as Melbourne Cup winners tend to do? Or whether he fired all his shots on Saturday just to make the race?

He’s perhaps one of the less likely to hit a new peak on the day but I wouldn’t totally rule him out. A previous win at 3200m says the distance is no query.

16. Ventura Storm: Forecast 104-108.7. Assessed $41

He benefited from a great ride and track pattern to win the MV Gold Cup with a 105.4 rating. That’s outside of the range needed to be a winning contender and given the favourable scenario it was achieved it’s hard to give him any extra credit.

With a 107.7 career peak and good draw he’s certainly capable of running well and could run something like 4th to 6th but I can’t see him winning.

10. Avillius: Forecast 101-107.8. Assessed $61

He looks grossly under the odds in the market to me. He was on a nice upward spiral in his ratings since arriving in Australia, achieved in moderately run races where he showed terrific closing speed. However, in the 2500m Bart Cummings he encountered a strong pace and had every chance to really elevate his rating, but only went ahead slightly from a 105 to 105.3 at the weights in this race.

That may have showed us his limits and it’s hard to take any confidence when he just nosed out Jameeh in that race who was soundly beaten by A Prince of Arran and Brimham Rocks on Saturday. His Cox Plate rating of 103.3 while not something I will hold against him, it did nothing to enhance his prospect for this race and even on his peak he fails the meeting the 106-107 lead up rating required.

He might have a new peak in him for this race, but I can’t possibly see him improving the 4-5 lengths he will need to in order to get in the finish of this race as a likely winner. Taking $13 seems to be giving away money in my eyes.

13. Finche: Forecast 103-109. Assessed $51

He had every chance in the Geelong Cup and ran to a 102.7 rating, which is well below the lead up standard needed for a Melbourne Cup. On the positive side is that he is a very lightly raced horse with only 9 starts (see comments on Cross Counter for the record of such horses in this race) and his overseas peak around the 107 mark suggests he could run reasonably well here.

He looks like he will stick on all day so if he can find his position early and switch off then he could jag a position from 3rd to 6th.

22. Youngstar: Forecast 101.5-109.5. Assessed $51

The lack of pace in the middle stages and figures she needed to sprint home to do anything in the Caulfield Cup show that she had no chance at all to run up to hear best. Her prior Turnbull rating of 107.6 at the weights is the right platform for this, but there’s a long way between that figure achieved in a slowly run 2000m race and running to that level, let alone a new peak in a genuine 3200m test. She could run a decent race, but I can’t see her going close to winning.

24. Rostropovich: Forecast 101-109.5. Assessed $51

He comes out here as another northern hemisphere 3YO (13 starts) and his final 107.6 overseas rating would have certainly put him among the contenders. However, his Cox plate run was fairly plain.

For a horse that is better suited at 2400m I felt he should have offered much more over the 2040m, even if racing up on the lead on a genuine G1 pace. It wouldn’t surprise me if he improved into this, but I can’t consider him a serious winning chance.

4. Chestnut Coat: Forecast 100-108. Assessed $67

A 108.2 peak in Japan at 3200m is a solid reference for this, but his last start in Japan was plain and he was poor in the Caulfield Cup. You could blame the soft track in the Caulfield Cup, but there’s a good chance he’s going to strike at least a Soft 5 in this race. Impossible to like.

19. Sir Charles Road: Forecast 103-108. Assessed $81

He doesn’t have the class / ratings quality to challenge in this race, but he is a 3200m horse so will run the trip out better than many of the others here. If he can run right up to his best or a new peak then he could run a respectable race and finish in the 6th to 10th range.

6. Sound Check: Forecast 99-106. Assessed $101

His best ratings aren’t up to the standard of this race and he was plain in the Caulfield Cup. Pass.

7. Who Shot TheBarman: Forecast 102.5-106.5. Assessed $201

He’s a great warrior of this race lining up in it for the fourth time with previous finishes of 5th in 2016 and 3rd in 2014. He comes off a solid lead up behind Ventura Storm last start and we know he’ll run out the trip, so he could possibly finish 5th to 10th this year.

15. Vengeur Masque: Forecast 101-106. Assessed $501

His recent form is plain and his career best is nowhere near this standard.

21. Runaway: Forecast 100-104. Assessed $501

He was a popular win in the Geelong Cup but his 102.3 career peak on that day is still many lengths below the standard of this race. He’s outclassed.

8. Ace High: Forecast 95-104. Assessed $501

I felt he was grossly overrated as a chance in the Caulfield Cup and after a soft run up near the lead he offered nothing. Even if he bounces back his career best is still nowhere near the standard needed to win this.

14. Red Cardinal: Forecast 97-105.4. Assessed $501

Not even the magic of Darren Weir has been able to get him to show any decent form this prep. He’s likely to be at the back end of this field.

18. Nakeeta: Forecast 90-104. Assessed $501

Ran 5th last year at big odds but doesn’t appear to be going as well this year. Looks outclassed.

12. Auvray: Forecast 94-105. Assessed $1001

He’s been an ultra-consistent type, but is unfortunately well outclassed in a race like this.

20. Zacada: Forecast 94-104.8. Assessed $2501

He’s done nothing this preparation, well beaten in his last 3 starts in Australia. Totally outclassed.

Betting Strategy

At the current prices the two best value runners are Yucatan ( currently $5.50 to $6.00) and Best Solution (currently $12.)

Others like Magic Circle, Muntahaa, Cross Counter have claims, but don’t offer compelling value.

Decide on how much you want to outlay on the race and split your bet:

 BACK – Yucatan – 70% of your total race outlay – to WIN (Stake 1.2% of your total bank if working from a dedicated betting bank.)

 BACK – Best Solution – 30% of your total race outlay – (Stake 0.6% of your total bank if working from a dedicated betting bank.)

2:25pm Flemington R5 – 1200m 3YO G1 SW – The Coolmore Stud Stakes

The Track

The track is currently a Good 4 and the rail is in the true position.

There is a possible storm to hit Melbourne on Friday afternoon which could bring 5-10mm of rain, but the surface does drain particularly well so by the time they race on Saturday, assuming the rain isn’t more than expected it should still be somewhere in the Good 4 range.

Where they’ll come up the straight is far from clear cut. At the last similar meeting 15/9 the outside fence was the place to be as it was in a July meeting. However, prior to that in May and perhaps most relevant, last year’s Derby Day they came up the inside in the straight races.

Speed and Tactics

The speed here could be anywhere from well below average to genuine.

In their lead up races both Written By and Sunlight have shown good early speed but then been happy to back the speed off notably in the middle stages before sprinting home.

That scenario could very well play out here, but Written By has produced his best rating numbers when rolling along at a good pace, using his high cruising speed to his advantage. With this being his goal race all campaign, do we now see him adopt those tactics?

However it plays out, with the small field and the fact they’ll be racing up the straight in a reasonably compact bunch, I don’t think anything between the below average and genuine range of pace will disadvantage any horse that is good enough to win.

Early Pace Rating: Below average to genuine

Late Pace Rating: Average to above average

Best Suited: Lead to 3 lengths off the lead

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

Based on exposed form, a rating of greater than 100 (normalised to WFA) will be needed to be competitive in this race. Anything less won’t cut it.

With both Zousain and Sesar bringing last start ratings around the 104 level, the winning mark could be as high as 104-106, which would be more consistent with the historical standard of the race.

As a minimum though we are looking for exposed talent greater than a 100 rating and those close enough that could exceed that mark if they ran a new peak.

My forecast upper rating range for each hose in the race will consider their prospect for a new peak and what that new number could be.

Race Assessment

2. Zousain: Forecast 102-105.5. Assessed $3.30

He comes here with what looks the ideal profile for a Coolmore winner. Chris Waller has become somewhat of a master at targeting this race. So far he’s had 8 starters for 3 winners and 6 placegetters, a remarkable record. Zousain brings a 104 rating from his last start close 2nd in the Golden Rose, beaten by a super talent in The Autumn Sun. Only Sesar has a comparable figure this preparation, his coming on a Heavy track. Zousain’s 104 is comfortably clear of other fancied market runners such as Written By (best of 99.5 this prep) and Sunlight (best of 100.3 this prep.)

Sydney form has been by far the most successful reference in the Coolmore since it went to Group 1 status in 2006. If you backed every horse in the Coolmore that came off a Sydney Group class lead up race, that’s only 21 horses in the 12 years, but they’ve produced 6 winners for a +117% POT. Backing runners from other Group class lead up races outside of Sydney has returned -27% POT. It’s small samples that can quickly change, but it certainly adds a touch of confidence around Zousain who brings the right ratings from Sydney around the best 3YO’s of the Spring so far. That combined with Waller’s undeniable record at getting them to peak for this race makes the $4.00-$4.20 in the market an appealing bet.

1. Written By: Forecast 99.5-104. Assessed $6.50

He made good improvement from his first up rating to a 99.5 last start and while that’s not good enough to win this, he has been set for this race all along so he comes with decent prospects to improve to his previous 102 to 102.8 peaks and potentially a new personal best. I don’t see any value in the $4.20 on offer, but he’s certainly a genuine chance.

6 Sesar. Forecast 98.5-105.5. Assessed $6.50

He comes through the 2YO G1 JJ Atkins during the Brisbane winter, which has turned out to be the form race of the year with the likes of The Autumn Sun, Zousain and Fundamentalist going onto bigger and better things this Spring. Sesar also did that when he resumed at Rosehill with a dominant and outstanding 104.5 rating win in the G2 Roman Consul, which has proven to be an excellent lead up to this race.

On that performance he can definitely win this race and should not be underestimated. The only query is that he is by Sebring who’s progeny have a much better record on wet compared to dry tracks so there has to be that niggling doubt if he can rate as well on a firmer surface.

10 Sunlight. Forecast 100-104. Assessed $6.5

She had no luck in the G1 Manikato last Friday night so we can forgive that run. Her prior 100.3 rating at Caulfield and the fact that she has a one off 103 peak as a 2YO says that she has the talent to mix it with the boys. I don’t see any value in the $4.60 on offer, but she can certainly run well and even win.

4 Lean Mean Machine. Forecast 99-102.5. Assessed $9

He was very good winning first up at Rosehill with a 99.5 rating and then never looked comfortable in the Golden Rose when 3.2L behind The Autumn Sun, providing genuine reason to say his 98.2 rating that day is not indicative of his talent. He’s got the blinkers going on for the first time in this race and looked very sharp in them galloping with Zousain the other day, so he looks perfectly set up to run a big new peak. With Chris Waller’s outstanding record in this race he has to be considered among the potential winners. He’s good longshot value in current markets.

3 Encryption. Forecast 98-100. Assessed $15

He’s $8 in current markets, which looks well under the odds. His Group 2 Danehill win rated moderately and while he was good behind Written By last start, he was still beaten 1.3L with that Colt having further potential to improve. The main issue I see is that Encryption is very well exposed after 4 runs this preparation and his ratings simply aren’t good enough. Even if he runs to a new peak it still only puts him in the race as a longshot chance, not a single figure odds prospect.

8 Diplomatico. Forecast 97-100. Assessed $16

This $1.7m yearling has plenty of hype around him after winning two from two this preparation, but there’s not a great deal of substance to his ratings at all. His last start Listed win in Sydney was moderate on the clock by any standard and even looking at formlines, he beat Legend of Condor by 0.8L who would be no better than a 50/1 chance in this race after being thrashed in the past by the likes of Sesar, Lean Man Machine and even lower quality horses prior to that this Spring.

There’s no doubt Diplomatico has plenty of new peaks in his future, but even if I apply that to this race, it’s still impossible to get him beyond a 100 rating, which is not the profile of a horse that should be $8 in the market. If he can improve a genuine 4-5 lengths in one run to win this race then I’m happy to cop that.

5 Long Leaf. Forecast 95-98.5. Assessed $151

Looks outclassed here. Even a new peak performance on the day is unlikely to get him to be competitive in the finish.

9 Thorondor. Forecast 94-97. Assessed $301

Looks totally outclassed.

17 Paquirri. Forecast 88-99. Assessd $301

Comes to this race first up with generally horrible form, except for one off career spike in the Autumn where he won a G3 race beating Legend of Condor by 1.5L. The reality is that even that rating isn’t good enough for this, but if you use those simplistic form lines, I guess he’s some chance of beating Diplomatico.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – ZOUSAIN – Bet to WIN at $3.5+ (stake 1.4% of your total bank.)

4:40pm Caulfield R8 – 2400m Open G1 Hcp – The Caulfield Cup

The Track

The track is currently a Good 4 and the rail is out in the 6m position.

There are a few showers around Melbourne this week, but fine and sunny weather in between them. That should be perfect for the track, providing natural and even irrigation to keep the surface around the Good 4 level, suitable for all horses.

Moving the rail out 6m should get them past the major traffic / compaction areas of the last two meetings and see the track play very well again.

Speed and Tactics

This looks likely to be a solidly run Caulfield Cup.

Homesman (4) likes to run along at a genuine speed and should be prominent early, but will then get company from Jon Snow (15) and The Taj Mahal (19) pressing forward.

Both of those horses are well within their comfort zone running along at a good speed and will need to do that to cross from their barrier. The Taj Mahal in particular can set a strong gallop and we may see him take up the running.

With the prospect of good sustained speed for the trip, this should be a serious test of staying talent over 2400m, likely to be run in fast time.

Early Pace Rating: Above average to solid

Late Pace Rating: Moderate to below average

Best Suited: 2 to 6 lengths off the lead

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

The 10-year winning average of the Caulfield Cup has been a rating of 108.5 at the weights. The lowest has been Boom Time at 106.8 last year and the best 110.8, which was Dunaden in 2012.

That shows a very consistent and well proven standard of performance that it takes to win a Caulfield Cup and this year appears no different.

Based on exposed form, a rating of at least 107 will be needed to be competitive in the finish, with the winning mark likely to be in the 108-109 range as one of more runners hit a new peak on the day.

Race Assessment

18 Youngstar: Forecast 107.5-110. Assessed $4.80

She brings a 107.5 rating from the Turnbull Stakes behind Winx, which is the best last start rating in the field, stamped by an incredibly fast last 600m rating and terrific strength through the line. That looks a perfect platform to step up to 2400m here. After just 11 starts she also profiles as one of the more likely in this field to hit a new peak in this race, which could see her hit something around the 109-110 mark, a likely winning performance. Time raters may note that she’s yet to run a fast-overall race time and that presents as a risk in what looks a solidly run 2400m race, but it’s important to recognise that she hasn’t had the opportunity to run fast time yet this preparation. She’s been contesting moderately run races that were more about the sprint home. What stands out though is that her work under those scenarios suggests she has the engine to cope with a 2400m staying test run in fast time.

A good reference can be drawn to the 2015 Cup winner Mongolian Khan who came into the race with a similar lack of fast overall times, due to a lack of opportunity. In the Caulfield Stakes his sectional work was outstanding and he showed terrific strength through the line at the end of 2000m, as Youngstar did last start. Mongolian Khan took that profile to impressively win a solidly run Caulfield Cup, significantly elevating his best time rating as the race presented him the scenario to do so. With the right rating credentials, potential to hit a new peak and one of the best staying jockeys in the world on top (K McEvoy), Youngstar profiles perfectly for this race.

2 The Cliffsofmoher: Forecast 106-110. Assessed $6.0

He brings a 105 rating from his 2.6L 4th last Saturday in the Caulfield Stakes behind Benbatl, but the performance had much more merit than that. He settled a long last, around 9-10L off the lead in the early stages and was then significantly disadvantaged when the pace came out of the race between the 1400m and 800m mark where they went a dawdling 38.5 secs. Not only did that ruin any realistic chance he had of winning, but Jordan Childs on Homesman drastically increased the pace from the 800m and by the time that cascaded back through the field, The Cliffsofmoher was left flat footed and actually lost a further length, at a time he should have been making ground. Once he gathered momentum, he unleashed a fast and sustained final 600m sprint, making up a stack of ground and hitting the line powerfully. A 105 rating in those circumstances well and truly says he can rate higher and this looks the race he could do that in.

He comes to this race on the quick back up, stepping up to 2400m (which is the distance of his career peak rating in the 2017 Epsom Derby) and most importantly from a good draw which gives the “opportunity” to hold a reasonable position, no more than 4-5 lengths back from the lead.
If there is a concern it’s that from that inside draw he will likely find himself among traffic and need luck at the right time. If he can get clear though then I expect him to be hard to hold out.

14 Kings Will Dream. Forecast 107-109. Assessed $6.50

He’s been building perfectly for this race all preparation and comes off a 107 rating when 1.8L 3rd to Winx in the Turnbull Stakes last start. Weir is a master at getting his horses to peak on the right day and after just 12 starts there’s no doubt plenty of potential for Kings Will Dream to do that in this race, which can take him to a winning performance. His peak last preparation did come over 2400m where he ran outstanding figures at Morning on a Soft 5 track. If we get more rain than forecast at Caulfield and the track gets close to that range then that may play in his favour. The only niggling concern is that after a perfect run in the Turnbull Youngstar was clearly hitting the line better than him and pulling away. That makes it difficult for to put him in front of Youngstar as a chance here, but that aside he has the perfect profile for a Caulfield Cup winner.

13 Homesman. Forecast 104-108. Assessed $17

With 53kg here he ran to a 109 rating two starts back when he won the 1800m G1 Underwood at WFA but then dropped to a 106 rating in the Caulfield Stakes last week. Anything in that range is good for this race, but he did get a big rest with the pace slow down between the 1400m and 800m in the Caulfield Stakes and didn’t see the 2000m out strongly. That has to raise some concerns about him in a solidly run 2400m here. When he raced overseas he was soundly beaten over 2400m as a 3YO coming off a superior rating at 2000m the start prior. He then dropped back to the 2000m again after that 2400m start and ran a new career peak. There’s no doubt this horse has the figures to win, but that distance angle looks a valid query.

7 The Taj Mahal. Forecast 104-106. Assessed $18

Ran a 104.7 rating winning the JRA Cup at MV last start and does have a 106.2 peak over 2400m when he won the Zipping Classic last Spring. Those figures are unlikely good enough to win, but they can be very competitive and there’s always the potential he could run to a new peak. One key asset this horse has is that he can sustain a high cruising speed and run fast overall time. That should bring him respect as a longshot chance in this race.

11 Ventura Storm. Forecast 104.5-107. Assessed $21

He’s been building nicely for this race and ran a good 104.5 rating in the Turnbull behind Winx last start, clocking some impressive sectionals home and hitting the line well. In the Autumn he ran a 107.3 over 2600m at Randwick and has a 108 rating from two seasons ago over 2400m in Italy when he won a G1 WFA race. Everything points to Ventura Storm being capable of running a big race here. If there was a doubt then it’s that his two best ratings in Australia have come at Randwick and Flemington, while he’s been far less effective at Caulfield. That’s a very minor thing though, on fundamentals he looks a longshot capable of running very well.

1 Best Solution. Forecast 104-104.5. Assessed $26

Comes to this race for Godolphin in outstanding form having won his last three, including two Group 1 wins in Germany. With 57.5kg here though it looks like he’ll need to go to a new peak to get over the top of more lightly weighted rivals and win. The other concern I have is that his terrific recent form has all come in small fields where they have ambled out of the barriers and taken up a position without any pressure at all. He suddenly comes to a big field here from a very wide draw where there will be a stack of hustle and bustle and he’ll probably have to work early to press forward and try and find a reasonable position.

6 Ace High. Forecast 103-105.5. Assessed $26

At $10 in the market he looks well under the odds to me. He comes to the race in great form, but his Hill Stakes win gives him just a 103.8 rating and his career peaks of 104.6 and 104.1 are still well short of the mark that will be needed to get in the finish of this race. Both of those peaks did come over 2400m-2500m so he does bring some potential off that 103.8 over 2000m to hit a new peak here, but it’s is very unlikely that new peak will be in the 108-109 range. It wouldn’t surprise if he peaked to run well, but I have to think he’s among the longshots to win, rather than one of the top few chances as the market suggests.

8 Duretto. Forecast 103-105.5. Assessed $26

Overseas galloper who can get to the 104-105.5 range on his overseas form with some prospect of a new peak. His main aim is the Melbourne Cup so it will be interesting to see what claims he can stamp for that with his performance here.

17 Nights Watch. Forecast 104-107. Assessd $26.00

He comes into this with a 107.4 rating from the Caulfield Stakes last start which is very competitive, but he looked to peak and fade on his run over the final 100m in that race, which is not a good indicator stepping up to a genuinely run 2400m race.

20 Jaameh. Forecast 104-105. Assessed $31.00

Second emergency so will need a couple of scratchings to get a run. His last two performance sit in the 104 to 104.7 range and he has shown the ability to run fast time over the distance. He could run a respectable race if he gains a start.

9 Red Verdon. Forecast 103-105. Assessed $31.00

European galloper who comes here well exposed and ratings that look a little short of the standard that will be needed to win this race.

3 Chestnut Coat. Forecast 104-106. Assessed $34.00

Japanese galloper that has some figures that could see him competitive with his 55.5kg, but is likely to get well back in the field and looks like he may be better suited up to 3200m in the Melbourne Cup. I’ll be keeping an eye on what he does here with a view to the first Tuesday in November.

5 Sound Check. Forecast 103-105. Assessed $34.00

European galloper now with Mike Moroney. He comes off a career peak in August when he was a close 2nd to Best Solution and actually meets him 2.5kg better off in the weights for that performance. He’s relatively lightly raced with just 16 starts so it wouldn’t surprise if he ran a decent race and put himself in the frame as a Melbourne Cup hopeful.

15 Sole Impact. Forecast 102-105. Assessed $61.00

A Japanese galloper that doesn’t look to have the ratings needed to win this. Barrier 20 doesn’t make it any easier

19 Patrick Erin. Forecast 103-105. Assessed $61.00

First emergency. He ran a 103.7 when he won the Metropolitan last start, which is not good enough for this, but he is in great form so a new peak is not out of the question. Nonetheless he still deserves to be a longshot.

4 Jon Snow. Forecast 102-104. Assessed $67.00

His best is in the 103.5 to 104 range and his 2400m ratings are a little below that level. He’s likely to be outclassed here.

16 Gallic Chieftain. Forecast 102-105. Assessed $81.00

His best is typically around the 102 level with a career peak of 104.7, which did come two starts ago. After 34 starts it’s hard to imagine him suddenly running a big new peak.

10 Vengeur Masque. Forecast 100-105. Assessed $201.00

He did run a 105.5 spike last Spring over 2600m at Flemington, but the next best of his form sits around the 101 mark, which is nowhere near good enough for this.

12 Mighty Boss. Forecast 101-103. Assessed $251.00

His 105.5 rating Caulfield Guineas win at 100/1 looks a distant fluke now as the best of his other form is in the 100.5 to 102.5 range. He looks outclassed here.

Betting Strategy

This is a very open and competitive race with a number of possible winners, so I don’t want to go over the top with my investments here backing multiple horses and saving on others.

My top pick in the race is Youngstar and she’s a nice value price so I’m happy to play her one out.

 BACK – Youngstar – Bet to WIN at $5.0+ (stake 1% of your total bank.)

Caulfield Race 9 | The Caulfield Guineas | 1600m 3YO G1 SW | 5:15pm AEST

The Track

The track is currently a Good 4 and the rail is in the true position.

With fine and sunny weather leading into Saturday we should get to a Good 3 surface. I expect the track to play well without any significant pattern.

Speed and Tactics

Native Solider (4) should adopt the front running tactics that have been successful for him in his two wins this preparation, but he was rated well in front at 1400m last start so I don’t expect him to go too fast in front here. Tavisan (9) and Leondaro Da Hinchi (10) look to work across but shouldn’t pressure Native Soldier unnecessarily.

That should see this race settle into an even type of pace, with similar or slightly faster rating sectionals over the last 600m.

Early Pace Rating: Even / Average

Late Pace Rating: Average to above average

Best Suited: Lead to 4 lengths off lead.

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

This race is really all about The Autumn Sun. His exposed best is dominant over this field and with the prospect of a new peak up to a mile, we could see a rating of 102 – 103 at the weights (105.5 – 106.5 normalised to WFA.)

Away from him, something in the 94.5 to 96.5 range at the weights will be needed to fight out the finish among the others (and of course win should The Autumn Sun run well below his best.)

Race Assessment

1. The Autumn Sun: Forecast 100 – 103. Assessed $1.65

His 104.5 rating Golden Rose win was genuine Group 1 class performance and none of the others in this race have come close to that level so far. Even if one or more of his opposition run to new peaks it would be rare to see them make a big enough step in one run to match what the Autumn Sun has done so far. What makes things even more ominous for his rivals is that he’s the one in the field that arguably has the best potential to run to a new peak himself, to reach a truly elite G1 level. 1400m in the Golden Rose was short of his best distance and we saw all the signs I’d normally look for to identify a horse that has potential to rate higher stepping up in distance.

The comment we often here about Sydney horses going to Caulfield for the first-time being disadvantaged is actually a myth. Sure, there are isolated cases where some horses don’t handle it, but the stats show that as a group they perform a little better than market expectation and well fancied horses perform much better. I can’t see another runner improving to match the peak of The Autumn Sun, he’s too good. He has the sectional speed to give them a good head start and still run over the top of them in the final 100-200m. The scenario’s that see him beaten here are if he’s terribly unlucky in the run or simply fails to perform anywhere near his best. Both of those things can happen and I’ve allowed for that in my price, but still find him at $1.65. That’s suggesting he still loses this race almost 4 in 10 times and wins a little over 6 in 10 times which doesn’t sound unreasonable at all. $1.90 in the market is definitely a good value price.

6. Gem Song: Forecast 94.5 – 96.5. Assessed $12.00

Comes off a very good 2nd last start in Sydney with a new peak of 94.8 at the weights and good prospects to reach a new peak in this race, especially if they elect to go forward from the wide draw.

2. Native Soldier: Forecast 94- 96.5. Assessed $13.00

His Prelude win brings him into this race with a 94.9 rating which is very competitive among the rest of this field. I thought he benefited from a slow down between the 800 and 400m in that race. If he doesn’t get that here then he might be a touch vulnerable at the end of 1600m.

4. Leonardo Da Hinchi: Forecast 94- 96.5. Assessed $14.00

He’s been very solid in his last two with ratings around the 95 level which are competitive here. Given this is his 6th run in his first prep he may lack the upside of some of the others, but he’s certainly in the mix.

15. Oohood: Forecast 93- 95. Assessed $21.00

The Flight Stakes returned soft figures across the clock, rating well below G1 standard. Her 93.4 ratings is comfortably below the other top chances here, so she’ll need to improve again.

7. Muswellbrook: Forecast 92- 94.8. Assessed $31.00

Brings two ratings around the 93 level which are short of the standard needed, but he does have some prospects to run a new peak.

8. Good N Fast: Forecast 89- 95. Assessed $34.00

He’s been running well from a long way back in the field over 1400m and does have a 95.3 peak over 1600m as a 2YO which can measure up if he could find that form.

5. Outrageous: Forecast 92- 94. Assessed $51.00

With a peak around 92.5 he’s well below the standard needed to win this. His last two have been at 1600m so it’s hard to see him suddenly elevating.

11. Tavisan: Forecast 90- 95. Assessed $51.00

He looks suited by the step up to 1600m but would need to significantly improve.

Betting Strategy

 BACK (WIN) The Autumn Sun at $1.7+ (stake 3.0% of your total bank.)

Caulfield Race 6 | The Thousand Guineas | 1600m 3YOF G1 SW | 3:10pm AEST

The Track

The track is currently a Good 4 and the rail is in the true position.

With fine and sunny weather leading into Saturday we should get to a Good 3 surface. I expect the track to play well without any significant pattern.

Speed and Tactics

There’s a significant lack of pace here and finding a natural leader is difficult.

Smart Melody (2) should be prominent, but going up to a mile I wouldn’t expect that James McDonald will be keen to lead. When connections of some of the wide drawn runners look at a map they should see the opportunity to press forward. That could include Thrillster (8), Aristocratic Miss (10, Peaceful (11) and Anjana (12).

However they sort themselves out, unless something totally unexpected happens, this race should be run at no faster than below average speed with a faster rating last 600m.

Early Pace Rating: Moderate to below average

Late Pace Rating: Above average to solid

Best Suited: Lead to 2.5 lengths off lead.

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

Based on exposed form, a rating of at least 95 will be needed to be anywhere near the finish in this race. The winning mark could push as high as 98-100

Race Assessment

5. Smart Melody: Forecast 98-100. Assessed: $2.30

She was very good winning the Thousand Guineas Prelude last start. She had to do a bit of work early to find her position and never really got a break with solid sustained speed through every section. She was still able to show a nice turn of foot up the straight to put the race beyond doubt and although getting tired over the final stages she still had a length in hand. This race should be run at a much softer speed and she’s going to find her position without doing anywhere near the same amount of work early. That reserved energy will make her acceleration more effective when called on and should also mean she has no problem getting the 1600m. With clearly the best ratings and the prospect of getting the best run in the race she has a rock-solid profile with betting appeal.

1. El Dorado Dreaming: Forecast 95-97. Assessed: $8.00

Her 95 rating first up behind Smart Melody is competitive here and she showed as a 2YO that 1600m is no problem. This race won’t be run as fast though so that has certainly played a role in my assessment.

4. Thrillster: Forecast 94-96.5. Assessed: $8.00

She was a huge run in the Thousand Guineas Prelude sitting wide without cover in a solidly run race and still finishing off, running Smart Melody to a length. A repeat of that 96.5 rating would make her very hard to beat in this, but she did overachieve that day relative to her 14/1 SP and history shows that is a very relevant factor when forecasting what a horse will do next start.

7. Amphitrite: Forecast 93-95.5. Assessed: $16.00

Was an impressive Edward Manifold winner last Saturday, showing a strong sustained last 600m sprint. She’ll need to improve again to win this, but a new peak is certainly not impossible.

11. Anjana: Forecast 93-95.5. Assessed: $19.00

She showed good improvement last start when 2.2L behind smart Melody providing some sign that she may be able to recapture the form she showed as a 2YO that had her as a potential Group 1 filly. She may just appreciate the step up to 1600m here and it would not surprise to see her run a very good race.

2. Fiesta: Forecast 92.5-95. Assessed: $21.00

She’s a super consistent filly but needs to find a length or two to get in the finish of this race.

10. Qafila: Forecast 91-94. Assessed: $26.00

She’s been running on well from a long way back and looks set up to run to a new peak here over 1600m from a softer barrier draw. It wouldn’t surprise if she ran a good race here.

15. Mirette: Forecast 91-95. Assessed: $31.00

Her Benalla maiden win showed that she’s a city class horse, but this is a massive jump up in class, especially from a wide draw. It will be interesting to see how she measures up.

3. Seabrook: Forecast 91-94. Assessed: $51.00

Two runs so far this prep raise serious doubts whether she’s come back with the same level of talent we saw as a 2YO.

8. Krone: Forecast 89-92. Assessed: $51.00

Solid LS in the Edward Manifold, but was beaten 1.8L and this race is a couple of lengths stronger.

Betting Strategy

 BACK (WIN) Smart Melody at $2.40+ (stake 1.7% of your total bank.)

3:30pm Caulfield R6 – 1400m 3YO

The Track

The track is currently a Good 4 and the rail is in the true position.

With generally fine weather leading into Sunday we should get to a Good 3 surface. I expect the track to play well without any significant pattern.

Speed and Tactics

The pace looks likely to be at least genuine here with Tavisan (10) almost certain to press forward, while Native Soldier (16) doesn’t look to have much choice but to press forward or risk travelling wide or back near last.

With enough others inside them likely to be working to hold positions not too far from the lead we should see a good speed and perhaps a slower rating last 600m. That will give every horse a chance.

Early Pace Rating: Genuine or better
Late Pace Rating: Moderate to below average
Best Suited: Lead to 4 lengths off lead.

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

Based on exposed form a rating in the 93.5 to 95 range at the weights to be carried will be needed to get in the finish. The final winning mark will be potentially higher if one or more of the fancied runners can go to a new peak.

Race Assessment

10. Wagner: Forecast 94 – 96. Assessed $6.00

A very interesting runner for James Cummings down from Sydney. While his two wins this preparation have been in midweek grade, the quality of his figures suggest he’s right up to a race like this and he’s now put together two consecutive rating improvements, which shows that he’s really on an upward spiral. From barrier 7 he should end up with a good run around midfield and looks right among the leading contenders at a good value price.

4. Good n Fast: Forecast 93.5 – 96. Assessed $6.50

He was good first up making up plenty of ground from a long way back, running the best last 800m and 600m rating in the field. A better draw could see him settle a touch closer and he certainly has the ratings to win

14. Declarationofheart: Forecast 92.5 – 95.5. Assessed $7.00

He’s the lightly raced improver with just 3 starts under his belt. His 4th to Brutal last start had good merit and he looks to have new rating peaks to come. However even allowing for some of that improvement and the prospect of a good run from barrier 2, I can’t get him anywhere near the $4.40 he is in current markets. He was beaten 1L by Good N Fast last start and while he may have covered a little more ground in the run, he did have the benefit of a first up run, where as Good N Fast was off a spell. I don’t see how there can be so much gap the other way between them in the market.

11. Tavisan: Forecast 92 – 95. Assessed $11.00

His last two runs behind Encryption and Brutal have had plenty of merit and he’s almost certainly going to appreciate stepping out to 1400m. He’ll be up on the pace and could prove very hard to get past.

3. Native Soldier: Forecast 88 – 98. Assessed $13.00

A hard horse to assess. He looked like a Group 1 horse two starts ago when he bolted in a Caulfield, in a performance that even Darren Weir said surprised him. That put the writing on the wall that he was likely to regress next start and that’s exactly what he did. That big win would certainly win this race, but every one of his other 7 career starts are comfortably below the standard needed.

2. Long Leaf: Forecast 91.5 – 94. Assessed $14.00

Prepared to forgive his LS on heavy. Prior was a very good first up run over 1100m and he showed as a 2YO that 1400m is no problem. He could be a big improver in this race.

1. Marcel from Madrid: Forecast 90 – 94. Assessed $15.00

Will be suited by the 1400m and does have a rating from his Morphettville win in May that can be competitive here, but he needs to find around 2 lengths on his form this preparation to reach that.

6. Ragged Rascal: Forecast 90 – 94.5. Assessed $15.00

He was big odds when he won the Heritage in Sydney last start, but there was plenty merit in the win, sprinting home in very fast sectionals from back in the field to win impressively. He’s likely to be a mile back in the run here and will need to put up a similar performance to be competitive, but I wouldn’t rule him out.

7. Thorondor: Forecast 90 – 93. Assessed $21.00

He was good last start behind Encryption, but will need to go at least 1 to 1.5L better here to get in the finish and has been up now in his first preparation without a decent break since May. That doesn’t appeal as the profile of a horse that can run to a new peak.

8. The August: Forecast 90 – 94. Assessed $21.00

He was plain last start in his lead up behind Brutal after a very good run behind Native Soldier prior. From a good draw he could make sharp improvement and run a competitive race, but it’s hard to be confident.

12. Fighting Harada: Forecast 90 – 94. Assessed $23.00

He’s been luckless in recent runs and is certainly better than his form reads. However, this is another step up in class

5. Vassilator: Forecast 87 – 92. Assessed $41.00

He’s crying out for 1400m and could make significant improvement. But would need a big new career peak to get in the finish

Betting Strategy

This is a very even and competitive race with a stack of potential winners. On current market prices I’m happy to gamble on Wagner continuing his upward spiral to win this race.

BACK (WIN) Wagner at >$6.50 – Stake 0.7% of your total bank.

Flemington Race 8 | The Danehill Stakes | 1200m 3YO G2 SWP | 4:50pm AEST

The Track

The track is currently a Good 4 and the rail is in the true position.

There is the possibility of a few showers around Melbourne on Friday and during the day on Saturday. The track can probably take a few mls of rain and stay in the Good 4 range though so I’m happy enough to work on that basis.

Exactly where they’ll come up the straight is up in the air with a mixture of patterns based on past similar meetings. I lean towards them more like to come towards the middle of the straight and further out which will give a slight edge to middle / wider drawn runners.

Speed and Tactics

Ef Troop (4) should look to us his free front running style here, along with Native Soldier (12) who went to a new level last start when let run along in front. That should ensure a genuine tempo, potentially faster if one or both get a little fired up. All runners should get their chance to win if good enough.

Early Pace Rating: Genuine or better

Late Pace Rating: Average

Best Suited: Lead to 4 lengths off lead.

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

Based on exposed form a rating of at least 92.5 to 94 at the weights will be needed to get in the finish, potentially up to 98 if Native Solider can show that his dominant last start win wasn’t a standout spike performance.

Race Assessment

3. Native Soldier: Forecast 90 – 98. Assessed $3.20

He was brilliant last start, leading at a strong speed winning easily in fast time and a big new rating peak. If he repeats that then he almost certainly wins this race. The concern is that the performance came out of nowhere and even surprised the trainer Darren Weir and he’s mentioned that a couple of times when asked, which is always a worry. It creates an impression that it could have been a genuine spike and that he’ll regress in his rating here. You can’t ignore the performance but at the same time I can’t forecast him to run up to that level again. He’s a difficult horse to assess.

2. Marcel From Madrid: Forecast 92 – 94. Assessed $7.50

He was good last start when caught wide behind Brutal and does have a 94 peak from last preparation that would be hard to beat here. He’s a definitely contender although I can’t find him anywhere near the $5.50 in the market.

6. Spin: Forecast 92 – 95. Assessed $8.00

He’s the big value in this race. He was heavily backed last start in the Up and Coming Stakes at Randwick $7 to $5 but got a mile back in a very slowly run race that was not much more than a sprint over the final 400m and thus had no chance of winning. However, he recorded a very fast last 800m figure which was the best in the field and gave all bar one of those that finished in front of him 5.5kg in weight. It was a clear sign that although beaten 2.8L, his run was up there with the very best in the race. 1400m might be his best trip, but I like the fact he comes to 1200m off a freshen up and strikes a race with much better speed up font where he won’t be anywhere near as far back. He can run very well here and looks a great longshot at $15-$17 in the market.

12. Tavisan: Forecast 92 – 94. Assessed $10.00

His 93.6 rating when second to Brutal last start is competitive here. He may appreciate further than 1200m now that he’s had two runs at this distance already this prep, but is no doubt among the chances.

1. Encryption: Forecast 90 – 92.5. Assessed $12.00

Got too far back behind Native Soldier last start and should settle closer here, especially with the addition of blinkers. He could be a big improver.

4. Ef Troop: Forecast 89 – 95. Assessed $13.00

He’s a very hard horse to assess. His best as a 2YO was brilliant and could win this race comfortably, but he’s struggled for consistency. His first up run in Brisbane definitely had excuses but doesn’t go anywhere close to suggesting he has returned near his best and was just unlucky on the day.

11. Ocean Knight: Forecast 89 – 92. Assessed $16.00

He was solid first up behind Brutal, but needs a clear career peak to win this race and that looks very unlikely to come over 1200m. He looks to need 1400m and at $7.50 in the market I’d be very happy to lay him, but I suspect he’ll be a drifter on the day.

9. Thorondor: Forecast 89 – 92. Assessed $18.00

Solid ratings around the 90 mark, but needs to find at least another 1-2 lengths to be a player in this race. That’s not impossible, but is speculative.

Betting Strategy

The query over Native Soldier’s last start spike presents plenty uncertainty here, but I’m very comfortably that Spin represents great value in this race.

 BACK (WIN) Spin at $9+ (stake 0.5% of your total bank.)

 BACK (PLACE) Spin at $2.30+ (stake 1.5% of your bank.)

Caulfield Race 5 | The Vain Stakes | 1100m G3 | 2.40pm

The Track

The track is currently a Good 3, but some irrigation is planned and there is the possibility of some overnight rain.

In all likelihood we’ll be racing on a Good 4 surface to start the day. We expect the track to race evenly without a major pattern.

Speed and Tactics

Rock Hard (4) and Tony Nicconi (5) look to cross those inside comfortably to take up the running.  High Ratio (7) will likely follow them across and could put some extra pressure into the race, but D Oliver’s style suggests he’s more likely to look for a sit off them.

Early Pace Rating: Average

Late Pace Rating: Average

Best Suited: Lead to 3 lengths off lead.

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

Many of these are first up, but there’s plenty of rating references across the field in the 91.5 to 94 range (at the weights to be carried) so it’s impossible to see the race won in anything less than that.

Race Assessment

6. Tony Nicconi: Forecast 93 – 95. Assessed $2.10

Was very impressive winning on debut by 4L in good time by 2YO standards. His rating gives him a clear edge over this opposition and I like the combination of the early speed figures he showed in that run back to 1100m here off a freshen up.

4. The August: Forecast 90 – 92. Assessed $6.50

Has won two from two with ratings that can win this race. If he can hold the box seat then that will certainly help his chances, but if he can’t then barrier 1 is likely to become a disadvantage.

1. Long Leaf: Forecast 90 – 91.1 Assessed $9.00

Resumes here from a heavy 2YO Autumn campaign. He’s been very consistent around a rating level that is very competitive, but may need a slight new peak to win.

5. Native Soldier: Forecast 88 – 91 Assessed $11.00

He showed talent when 2L 3rd to Written By in the BD Prelude, but a hot speed did suit that day and it’s not Weir’s style to have them at their peak first up. He could win, but looks under the odds to me at $5.00. Happy to risk.

2. Ollivander: Forecast 89 – 92 Assessed $12.00

Resumes here and his early rating in December 2017 / January 2018 can be very competitive in this. He’s a longshot that could run well.

3. Rock Hard: Forecast 88 – 90 Assessed $16.00

Has won three from three in easier grade but needs a big new peak to get to the winning standard of this race.

7. High Ratio: Forecast 84 – 88 Assessed $67.00

Had every chance in a midweek last start. Yet to get anywhere near the winning standard of this race.

10. Taxi: Forecast FS Assessed $81.00

First starter – would be a surprise.

Betting Strategy

 BACK (WIN) Smart Melody at $2.40+ (stake 1.7% of your total bank.)

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