TRB Spring Carnival: Horse Racing Tips

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5:50 Flemington Race 8 2500m 3YO F Gp1 SW $1000000 – The Kennedy Oaks

The Track

The track is currently a Soft 5 with the rail out 6m.

The track may make some improvement through Wednesday into the Good 4 range, but there is a 90% chance of 2 to 5mm in showers on Thursday afternoon.

There will definitely be some give in the track, it’s just a matter of whether it can stay in the Good 4 range or whether shows tip it back into Soft 5 territory.

Speed and Tactics

There doesn’t look to be a huge amount of speed. Apicius set an average pace in the Wakeful and I’d expect Stephen Baster to try and be a little more conservative here up to 2500m. He may, however, have to contend with a couple of runners draw wide that may press forward, such as Ocean Mist (12) and perhaps one or two we don’t expect.

Even with just an average pace, many of these up on the lead may struggle at the trip, which is likely to mean the final lead speed section is well below average. That will give those back off the pace the chance to make up ground, if they can be strong at the distance.

Early Pace Rating: Average

Late Pace Rating: Moderate to Below Average

Best Suited: Lead to 4L off the lead

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

Based on exposed form and the prospect that one or two will likely run to a new peak, I can’t see anything less than a 92 rating at the weights carried being good enough to win this. Many of the runners in the field have never come close to that mark so far.

Race Assessment

In our assessed price order.

1. Miami Bound 90-95. Assessed $3.10

She has a great grounding for 2500m here with plenty of miles in her legs and coming off a new peak 92.8 rating when she won the Wakeful on Saturday, which may, in fact, be good enough to win this race. She relished 2000m on soft ground that day and showed the late strength of a filly that should have no problem at 2500m, especially in this type of race.

She’s bred to be a staying type, by Reliable Man out of Arapaho Miss, who herself easily won this race in 2007. That adds a little confidence to her stamina credentials. Add the services of Damien Oliver riding and the fact that the Danny O’Brien stable is really firing this Spring and Miami Bound presents with a very strong profile.

4.  Vegas Jewel 90-94. Assessed $3.80

She was a very solid 2nd to Miami Bound in the Wakeful, which does look the strongest form line leading into this race. Her 92.3 is clearly the 2nd best lead up rating into this race and there’s no reason to think she won’t run the 2500m.

The fact that from a wide draw she may be a little further behind Miami Bound in the run here compared to last start is typically not a positive when trying to turn the tables, but I haven’t placed a big emphasis on it. There’s no doubt Vegas Jewel can win this race and she’s clearly the main threat.

2. Moonlight Maid 89-92.5. Assessed $5.00

She brings the alternative form line from the Vase behind Soul Patch. Moonlight Maid was unsuited back off the slow speed, but so was Soul Patch and he was clearly better than her in the run home. His 3rd in the Derby has confirmed the form is solid, but equally said to me that it isn’t necessarily any better than I’ve rated it.

Moonlight Maid’s best sits in the 88.5 to 90 range, which is over a length inferior to the top two. Of course, she could improve to a new peak in this race, but her chance of doing that doesn’t look any greater than the others, so I must rate her comfortably behind them. I certainly still respect that she can win.

3. Gamay 88-91. Assessed $13.00

At $6 in the current market, this is the filly I’m a good deal different on. I felt she was ideally suited by the pace / her position in the Ethereal and the win was just okay in the circumstances. That performance rated just 88.2, so she needs to improve significantly to win this. That’s not impossible, but I can’t possibly have her at single-figure odds.

14. Stick Em Up 87-90. Assessed $23.00

She looks to me clearly the best longshot in the race. She only won a BM 60 at Canberra last start, but it was against older horses and I thought she showed good staying promised in a strongly run 2000m event.

Her 86.7 rating is well short of the 92 standard, but there’s definitely the potential there to run a big new peak stepping up to 2500m in this race. By emerging sire Dundeel and trained by John Sargent, there’s plenty there to say it would not surprise if she ran a big race.

6. Silent Sovereign 85-89. Assessed $41.00 

Best is in the 85-86 range and while she might appreciate the 2500m, the improvement she needs to make is huge.

8. Beauty Bolt 85-89. Assessed $41.00 

Comes off 1600m form which isn’t ideal, but she might be one looking for the trip and could elevate significantly. That’s the main thing stopping me from pricing her much longer, because her form is not up to it.

5. Foxborough 82-87. Assessed $71.00

Another John Sargent filly, but she’s well exposed this prep and doesn’t look good enough.

12. Ocean Miss 82-86. $101.00

Ratings are nowhere near good enough. Looks outclassed.

9. Amazing Peace 80-83. Assessed $151.00

Ratings are nowhere near good enough. Looks outclassed.

10. Never Listen 80-83. $201.00

Totally outclassed on exposed form.

11. Song Brocade 79-83. $201.00

Totally outclassed on exposed form.

13. Apicius 77-83. $201.00

Totally outclassed on exposed form.

7. Presently 78-83. $251.00

Totally outclassed on exposed form.

15. Victory Approach 75-80. $501.00

Totally outclassed on exposed form.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Miami Bound– Bet to WIN (stake 1.5% of your total bank.)

 BACK – Stick Em Up– Bet to WIN (stake 0.2% of your total bank.)

3:00pm Flemington Race 7 3200m Gp1 Hcp – The Melbourne Cup

The Track

The track is currently a Soft 6 and the rail is out 3m. Further rain is forecast on Monday (3mm to 10mm) and while a fine day (18c) on Tuesday will help it improve quickly, it’s still very likely to be in the Soft 5 – 6 range.

With the rail coming out a little, I think the track will continue to race well. It may be best a little away from the fence, but if that’s the case, jockeys will be aware of it and there’s plenty of space for them to spread out. I don’t expect any horse to be disadvantaged by the way that the track plays.

Speed and Tactics

The Melbourne Cup is typically run in three distinct phases:

  1. Pace and pressure up the straight the first time as riders look to find positions
  2. A notable pace slow-down through the middle stages, which typically starts to occur somewhere between 2200m and 2000m from home.
  3. A pace increase that usually 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.

In this year’s race, we can see that there is early speed drawn across the line. Master Of Reality (1), Il Paradiso (17), Twilight Payment (19) and Magic Wand (24) are all candidates to press forward.

A number of the runners drawn inside to middle well also be punching up to hold positions, which will make those wider horses work a little. All of that suggests there will be strong speed and pressure in the early stages.

I think it will take a while for that early pace to come out of the race and even if they do then get a few cheap sections, a big increase from no later than the 800m will see the overall race become a strong test of 3200m.

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

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

The 10-year average for the race is a winning rating of 111.6 with a range of 108.5 (Viewed 2008, Shocking 2009) through to 115 (Protectionist 2014.)

As Melbourne Cup winners tend to run to a new peak in the race, their lead up ratings are almost always 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 in the race with a winning chance.

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.

Even Prince Of Penzance met that criteria in 2015 when he came off a very fast and high rating Moonee Valley Gold Cup and dropped to 53kg to win the Melbourne Cup at 100/1. I made the mistake that year of thinking it was a fluke that he couldn’t repeat, let alone run to a new peak.

This benchmark alone has provided 84% of the Melbourne Cup winners since the year 2000, from just 33% of the runners.

When dealing with a field of 24 runners you need to have some clear principles on where you will draw the line and for me that 106+ rating benchmark is the first step.

Without that it’s easy to get lost among all of the possible reasons why a horse “could” win the race and you end up liking half of the field or more.

This year there are 8 horses that meet my rating criteria. In tab number order:

  • #2 Mer De Glace
  • #4 Mirage Dancer
  • #11 Finche*
  • #12 Prince Of Arran
  • #14 Downdraft
  • #18 Surprise Baby
  • #19 Constantinople*
  • #23 Vow And Declare

* Both Finche (wide all the way) and Constantinople (blocked a number of times) were unlucky in the Caulfield Cup and technically fell just below the 106 mark with a 105.7 rating at their lead up. However, even making the most conservative possible allowance for their misfortune last start means they genuinely produced a performance that meets the 106 minimum benchmark.

None of the international horses running in the Melbourne Cup as their first Australian start this Spring have the lead-up rating I’m looking for to be a key contender.

Each year there are typically 7-9 runners that fit into the benchmark group I’m looking for, so this year (8) is right in that range.

From there I’m looking to find horses that have the best potential to run a big new peak on the day and looking for angles that might take the shine off other chances, the help shape my final assessment.

Race Assessment

In our assessed price order.

23. Vow and Declare 106-111. Assessed $8.00.

He looks a top chance to me. His Caulfield Cup 2nd placing gives him a 106.3 which is the right lead up rating to be a key chance and everything about the run said to me that he’s ready for a step up to 3200m.

We saw how much he relished 3000m in the Tatt’s Cup this June and the way he’s built to this race in his last two starts suggests to me he’s set to run a big new peak on Tuesday.

With big ticks on those two key factors that I look for and especially with that proven history of being better over the longer distance, I expect him to be somewhere in the finish on Tuesday.

He’s drawn wide, but too much is made of wide draws in all forms of racing, so I never factor alone let that put me off a horse I like. Shocking won this race from barrier 21 and Cross Counter won last year from barrier 19. Vow And Declare looks a great value bet in the race.

14. Downdraft 106-111. Assessed $9.00.

His win in the Hotham on Saturday with 59kg was excellent and dropping back to 53.5kg brings him into the Melbourne Cup with a 108.3, the best lead up figure in the field.

Horses dropping significantly in weight out of the Hotham have a strong history of being competitive in the Melbourne Cup and Downdraft was more impressive than any of them in the past. As we’ve seen in the past, it’s not always the European’s with the best form that come here and run well in the Melbourne Cup, it’s the ones that can settle in, adapt and show some improvement.

Downdraft well and truly showed on Saturday that he’s done that and for me must be among the leading chances.

11. Finche 105-111. Assessed $10.00.

He worked wide for the entire trip in a strongly run Caulfield Cup and was still only beaten 1.6 lengths. I also noticed that he was still very prominent in the run through, so there was plenty to like about the performance.

He ran a big new peak in the Melbourne Cup last year when 4th at just his second Australian start and has had a full 12 months under Chris Waller since, aimed specifically to peak in this race on Tuesday. With three-time Melbourne Cup winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy in the saddle, he presents a very solid profile for the race.

18. Surprise Baby 106-110. Assessed $12.00.

His Bart Cummings win back in early October and a drop to 53.5kg in this race sees him come in with a 106.3, meet the rating benchmark. Like Vow And Declare, he still has that untapped potential about him as a stayer, which could transform into a big new peak on Tuesday. His profile puts him right in the mix.

2. Mer De Glace 104-108. Assessed $13.00.

He brings the right rating credentials of his Caulfield Cup win, but I have a little query about whether he can improve to another new peak up to 3200m, which will be needed to win this race. His turn of foot is exceptional and she showed that in the Caulfield Cup, but I felt that he peaked late and some of the others were coming back against him on the line.

I’m not sure that’s the profile of a horse ready to excel at 3200m. I might be right off the mark on those observations, but you can’t like them all and I have to stick solid with what my first impression of him was out of that race.

12. Prince of Arran 105-108. Assessed $13.00.

He loves racing in Australia and dropping to 54kg off his Geelong Cup win gives him a 106.9 rating and 106.5 prior, which is a strong profile to be among the genuine chances.

19. Constantinople 104-108. Assessed $14.00.

The most difficult horse I found to assess. All the attention was on him after an unlucky run in the Caufield Cup and he has the right type of improvers profile, but I still have a few queries around whether he’s quite the finished product as a racehorse yet.

Some of the comments by European form experts have certainly played a role in that assessment as well as a very good point made as to why the world’s leading trainer Aidan O’Brien would relinquish this horse from his stable if he felt he was a serious Melbourne Cup winning chance?

Perhaps I’m reading too much into all of that, but at single figures odds in the market, I don’t need much encouragement to look past him. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won, but I’m happy to risk.

13. Raymond Tusk 104-109. Assessed $18.00.

He didn’t have the best of luck in the Ebor Hcp back in August and looks to have a real improvers profile. I don’t have him among the main chances, but his ratings are just outside of that group, which puts him strongly into the second tier of contenders. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he won.

20. Il Paradiso 102-109. Assessed $19.00.

Lightly raced Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds have won the last two Cups, so he deserves plenty of respect. He was right on track with his ratings before a below par lead up run in the St Leger Stakes. That keeps him out of my top contenders, but he’s definitely in the second-tier group.

8. Mustajeer 104-110. Assessed $21.00.

His 6th in the Caulfield Cup was a very solid lead up for this race. It was just outside of the rating benchmark I look for so I don’t have him among the main chances, but he’s certainly a second-tier chance.

1. Cross Counter 102-110. Assessed $23.00.

His rating to win this race last year could win it this year with 57.5kg, but it’s a stretch to think he could suddenly find that form again when none of his runs since have come close to that. In addition, his lowest rating in the last 12 months is actually his last start.

My price reflects plenty of respect for last year’s win, while recognising that his last start run is not typical of a horse that wins The Melbourne Cup.

4. Mirage Dancer 102-110. Assessed $23.00.

His Caulfield Cup 3rd placing gives him a 106.2, which puts him in the qualifying group with the right lead up rating. Historically that says he can win. The query is whether he has a new peak in him stepping up to 3200m.

3. Master of Reality 101-107. Assessed $51.00.

His last two runs overseas have been plain and that’s not the profile of a Melbourne Cup winner.

5. Southern France 101-106. Assessed $51.00.

With 55.5kg here, his rating in the Irish St Leger last start is comfortably short of the benchmark I’m looking for. He’s also had plenty of racing through the Winter and into Spring, so I have to question how much is left to run a big new peak?

7. Latrobe 101-107. Assessed $51.00.

He was soundly beaten behind a few of the other internationals here in the Irish St Leger last start and if I’m not keen on them, I have to be less keen on Latrobe.

15. Magic Wand 102-106. Assessed $51.00.

4th in a fast run Cox Plate was solid, but I have a query about this Mare at 3200m. She won over 2400m at a 3YO Filly, but in fourteen runs since then, her four lowest ratings have come the four times she raced over 2400m. All of her best figures are in the 2000m to 2200m range. It would be a big surprise to me if she came out and suddenly ran to a big new peak at 3200m.

21. Steel Prince 101-107. Assessed $71.00.

He has some talent, but his last two runs are poor. He’s impossible to like.

6. Hunting Horn 100-105.5. Assessed $81.00.

His MV Gold Cup win was solid, but well below the standard needed here. Plenty of recent racing by international standards also makes me doubt if he has any upside.

24. Youngstar 100-105. Assessed $81.00.

Her last start 3rd at Randwick was her best run in 12 months, but it’s still well below the standard needed for a Melbourne Cup.

10. Twilight Payment 98-104. Assessed $201.00.

He looks outclassed. He finished well behind some of the other internationals here in the Irish St Leger last start and was a longer price than them in the market.

17. Sound 100-104. Assessed $201.00.

Has not looked the same horse since come to Australia last year. He’s outclassed on his form here.

22. The Chosen One 99-106. Assessed $251.00.

He’s regressed backwards off a good Herbert Power Stakes win three runs ago. Impossible to like.

16. Neufbosc 100-103. Assessed $301.00.

His ratings are nowhere near the standard needed here.

9. Rostropovich 97-103. Assessed $501.00.

His ratings are nowhere near the standard needed here.

Betting Strategy

At the current prices the two best value runners are Vow And Declare and Downdraft.

 BACK – Vow and Declare – Bet to WIN (stake 0.5% of your total bank.)

 BACK – Downdraft – Bet to WIN (stake 0.4% of your total bank.)

3:45 Flemington Race 7 2500m 3YO  Gp1 SW – The Victoria Derby

The Track

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

The big issue is the weather forecast. The Bureau says there is a 95% chance of rain with a predicted range between 5mm and 20mm. Flemington copes with rain very well, so the unknown is whether we get enough rain to create a genuine wet track or whether it stays bordering the Good 4 to Soft 5 range.

It has been three years since we’ve seen a track at Flemington where the ground was Soft and rail true. Historically that means the inside is a disadvantage. The 2018 Melbourne Cup Day meeting was on a soft track with the rail out 2m and the inside was a disadvantage with jockeys looking to get wide in the straight.

If the forecast rain arrives on Saturday and the track moves into the Soft range, we’ll almost certainly see that pattern. If there’s not as much rain as forecast and it stays in the Good 4 range, the track should race more evenly, with still a hint that getting off the fence will be best.

In straight races I expect the middle and just outside of the middle to be the best going.

Speed and Tactics

There’s a notable lack of early speed in this race, which is a key thing to balance with the fact that this race is up over 2500m, so regardless of pace, the ability to run the trip is also very important.

Thought Of That (1) (if he runs) is the clear leader and looks to control the race to suit himself. The only possible pressure I can see is if one or two of the wider drawn runners decided to press forward against their previous pattern. Even if they do, none of them will want to apply undue pressure. All Jockeys will be very mindful of conserving their horse’s energy to run the distance.

If Thought Of That (1) doesn’t run and heads to the Mackinnon Stakes, there will be even less early speed.

Early Pace Rating: Moderate

Late Pace Rating: Above average

Best Suited: Lead to 4L off the lead.

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

Based on exposed form and the strong likelihood that one or more of these runners will improve to a new peak, a rating of at least 96 looks needed to be any threat of winning the race. If either of the two favourites run up to their form, the winning mark is likely to be in the 97+ range.

Race Assessment

In our assessed price order.

1. Shadow Hero 96.5-99. Assessed $3.00.

He’s been building perfectly for this race, with 97.7 and 96.7 ratings in his last two starts and most importantly, showing all the signs of a horse that will could run a new peak at this distance. He hasn’t seen a soft track yet, but on breeding it should not be an issue at all. He has the acceleration of a good horse with what appears to be plenty of stamina, which is the perfect profile to win a Derby.

3. Thought of That 95-99. Assessed $3.50.

He’s become a different horse since the blinkers were applied. He bolted in at Donald and then went to another big new peak when he easily won the Caulfield Classic last start. That win gives him a 99 rating at the weight to be carried in this, which is the best form leading into the race.

Getting control of the race in front is also another huge asset, especially with his ability to accelerate and sustain a sprint. On the flip side, I’m not as confident about him being able to rate higher stepping up in trip as I am with Shadow Hero and it is a different scenario leading all the way over 2000m at Caulfield compared to 2500m at Flemington, on a track where the inside could be inferior going.

On that basis I have him rated behind Shadow Hero, but he’s still extremely hard to beat and may in his own right represent some value late in trading.

2. Soul Patch 93.5-96. Assessed $6.50.

He emerged as a contender last Saturday with a strong win in the Vase. That’s a tough race to assess the real merit of as they went slowly to the 400m and it was then a sprint from that point. What was impressive about Soul Patch though was the way he attacked the line late.

He looked to finish the race with more to offer, so he has to represent some type of threat here. I think $4.80 in the market is well enough found though, so there’s no value there.

4. Warning 93.5-95.5. Assessed $9.00.

He’s relished stepping up in trip over his last two starts, rating 90.2 over 1800m and then another new peak of 93.5 over 2000m when 3.8 lengths behind Thought Of That. He looks a type that will definitely appreciate the step up to 2500m in this race and that gives him a good chance to run to a new peak that could be very competitive.

Tactics will be interesting. He typically settles back which would be a disadvantage in this race and some allowance for that in pricing has been made. Ideally, I’m sure D Oliver would like to follow Shadow Hero (drawn his inside) and then try to challenge over the final 200m. Either way, I expect him to run well.

8. Long Jack 86.5-91. Assessed $34.00.

He won well enough at Geelong last start and could improve to another new peak over 2500m, but his 86.7 rating is well short of the top contenders in this race.

10. Southern Moon 85-89. Assessed $51.00.

2nd to Long Jack last start at Geelong. That form doesn’t look strong enough to me, so supporters are speculating on a massive improvement.

6. Huntly Castle 85-90. Assessed $61.00.

Ratings in the 88-89 range appears his best at this stage, without any obvious signs he could suddenly improve.

11. Relucent 85-89. Assessed $61.00.

Plenty of have drawn comparisons between his preparation and the 2014 Derby winner Preferment but that horse was well ahead of Relucent on ratings. He was beaten by Long Jack and Southern Moon at Geelong last start.

7. Independent Road 84-89. Assessed $81.00.

I can’t see him rating much more than 87-89 in this race. Not good enough.

15. Sign Seal Deliver 85-88. Assessed $101.00.

He has a stayer’s pedigree which could bring some improvement, but his exposed ratings say he’s outclassed.

9.Craftmanship 83-87. Assessed $151.00.

Beaten 7 lengths by Soul Patch last start, starting big odds. He’s outclassed.

12. He Is 82-87. Assessed $151.00.

Has had excuses in his last two and gets blinkers for the first time here, but there’s nothing at all in his for to say he can measure up to this.

13. Translator 83-87. Assessed $151.00.

Good effort behind Long Jack at Geelong with the potential for a new peak here, but he’s many lengths below the level needed.

14. Navarre 79-84. Assessed $501.00.

Totally outclassed

16. Lucky Edward 79-84. Assessed $501.00.

Totally outclassed

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Shadow Hero – Bet to WIN (stake 1.5% of your total bank.)

4:55 Moonee Valley Race 9 2040m 3YO+  Gp1 WFA – The Cox Plate

The Track

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

There is some possible rain on Friday and Saturday, plus we’ll have the entire Friday night meeting racing in the true position.

It’s impossible not to think that the inside part of the track will chop out and that horses setting off the fence and running-on out wider will be clearly better suited.

The forecast west winds (up to 35km/h) will only make it more difficult for leaders and horses settling on the fence.

Off the fence and with cover is likely to be the ideal profile.


Speed and Tactics

(Assuming emergencies do not gain a run).

Tactics will be interesting. Magic Wand (2) will be prominent early and is a contender to take up the lead. Mystic Journey (5) will look to hold a position handy to the speed.

The early pressure should come from the favourite Lys Gracieux (11) and Homesman (12) who are likely to press forward towards the lead.

Add Black Heart Bart (10) who may also look to press forward to find a position just off the speed and it’s easy to see a little bit of hustle and bustle in the early stages.

Once they find their positions though, the speed should steady in the middle stages. It will then be a matter of who makes the first move and at what point that is.

Early Pace Rating: Average

Late Pace Rating: Average

Best Suited: Lead to 4L off the lead.

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

Based on exposed form, a rating of at least 105 looks needed to be in the finish of this race. Proven talent at that level of performance is a positive.

Race Assessment

In our assessed price order.

9. Lys Gracieux 103-107. Assessed $4.60.

This Japanese mare comes here off a big 109 rating win last start at home, which would win this race easily. The way that she worked early to settle up on the lead, travelled still under a hold when the others were under pressure and then raced away to win by 3 lengths was extremely impressive.

That was a change of tactics after normally being ridden back in the field and it paid big dividends with a new peak. On that effort she could win this race easily.

Now for the queries…. That run was in June, so she’s first up here, which has to be far from ideal for a Cox Plate. 19 of the last 20 winners of this race were 4th up or deeper into their preparation, with the exception being Winx in 2015, she was 3rd up. Since 2005 that I can easily check, 32 horses have tried to win the Cox Plate 1st to 3rd up, for just the one winner (Winx.) 24 of those runners were unplaced.

We’ve only seen 10 of them start among the genuine chances in the race so it’s hardly a reason to pot Lys Gracieux, but it’s certainly not a positive factor. The other point to consider is that her last start 109 was a big spike in her career, she’s more typically a 105 mare on her best performances with a number of runs lower than that.

In the very large majority of cases, a well exposed horse coming off such a high spike rating and 4 months between months will regress. The question in this instance is how far is reasonable to forecast? She can rate comfortably below that 109 and still win the race. If she regresses to her more normal level of good form around the 105 mark or just below, then she’s certainly vulnerable.

The other angle is if D Lane presses forward and ends up on the lead with no cover then what type of role does the west wind play? It will be in their face from the 800m to 200m home turn.

It’s difficult not to have her on top in this race, because her exposed form makes her the most talented horse in the race, but there are a few factors there that provide reason to be cautious. I couldn’t take the $3.60 currently on offer in the market.

12. Mystic Journey 103.5-106. Assessed $6.00.

With such a relatively even field in this year’s race and a query or two over the favourite, I went looking for horses with some x-factor that could seem them run a big new peak in this race. Mystic Journey certainly fits into that category.

Defeats in her last two runs took the shine off her in the eyes of many, but I think she’s remained perfectly on track for this race. When beaten by Gatting two runs ago, she improved from a 101.3 first up to 103.3 second up rating, the highest 2nd up rating of her career.

Last start in the G1 Turnbull, she was no chance of winning when back on the inside in a slowly run race and the quality of her sectionals were excellent. She still rated a 102.3 in that scenario, which I read as something more like 104 merit.

So, in my view, she comes into this race with a very strong platform and ready to peak! Her best is a 105.8 from the All-Star Mile so it’s not unreasonable to think that with a great draw to get a perfect run in this race, she could get back somewhere near that figure, which is extremely hard to beat.

She also ran that rating in the Autumn when wide in the run and covering extra ground, so there’s some chance that her best is actually higher and she can run a new peak here. There’s plenty to like about Mystic Journey in this race, she’s a serious chance!

7. Te Akau Shark 102.5-106. Assessed $9.00.

He’s another with the x-factor to run a big new peak in this race. I’ve been on his bandwagon since his win at Riccarton in November last year showed sectional talent that I’ve rarely seen. It was seriously elite.

He had a few things go against him in his first two Sydney runs this Spring, but showed something like his potential in the Epsom when a nose 2nd to Kolding, giving that horse 4kg in weight. His 104.3 rating from that run is right in the competitive mix here and just off the 105 standard that will put you somewhere in the finish.

After just 9 career starts there’s still plenty of natural potential for a new peak and the shape of his sectionals in the Epsom suggest to me that 2040m is no issue at all, it may even help him improve.

He is drawn very wide and will get a long way back, but by this stage of the day, horses that are taking off and tracking wide from the 800m mark or just before will likely be suited and certainly not disadvantaged.

I think he can run very well in this race and although a $9 assessment is hardly a strong chance it’s still among the top few chances in the race and the betting market is offering terrific value for a longshot gamble.

2. Avilius 102-106. Assessed $9.00.

His 105.5 rating two starts ago when an impressive winner of the Optic White Stakes set him up perfectly for this race, especially with all of his sectional indicators saying that he’s looking for 2000m.

He got that in the Caulfield Stakes but was disappointing, clearly outpointed by Cape of Good Hope and Black Heart Bart, who are also in this race. However, he did start $2.10 favourite in that race and such SP’s carry plenty of merit. He also had to take off on a wide looping run whereas the other two I mentioned got much better runs closer to the inside.

In the circumstances, I don’t think Avilius’ run was all that bad and just the start before he proved he could run-up to a level that is capable of winning this race. That’s a better profile than most have. He’s drawn to get the right run for the way the track will play and any showers that take the edge off the surface will certainly help him.

This race looks a scenario where he could easily bounce back to something like his best and if he does that then he’s capable of winning. I’m not going to underestimate him.

11. Cape of Good Hope 102-105. Assessed $16.00.

He rated 104.3 to win the Caulfield Classic at his first Australian run and there was merit in the performance. He did however start $21 and got the best run of all time behind Black Heart Bart. He needs to improve to win this race, but on the positive side he only needs to find a length and should end up with another good run.

1. Black Heart Bart 101.5-104. Assessed $18.00.

It has been an amazing return to form from this 9YO, running 104.1 and 104.3 in his last two starts. That won’t be good enough to win this and further improvement would seem unlikely, but he still deserves plenty of respect for the fact that he brings consistent form that is right on the heels of the better chances in the race.

5. Homesman 101-103.5. Assessed $21.00.

His first two runs this prep 103 and 103.9 were rock solid, but he was disappointing in the Caulfield Stakes rating 101.5, especially when you consider he had a soft run up on an easy pace. He could easily bounce back here, but his best is likely still not quite good enough.

13. Verry Elleegant 100-104. Assessed $21.00.

She’s hasn’t looked the same horse we saw in the Autumn, but did still improve at her 2nd and 3rd up runs, winning last start at Randwick, so she’s at least headed in the right direction.

Her 100.3 from that run is well short of the standard for this, but she showed last prep that she can rate in the 104 to 105 range consistently, so I’m respecting that she could make improvement back to that level, especially with some rain around.

14. Castelvecchio 100-103. Assessed $21.00.

He comes off a 100.3 rating last start and has a 2YO best of 102.8, neither of which is good enough. However, he does have some x-factor in this race to improve to a big new peak, something which all of the 3YO’s in the last 20 years to win this race have done.

There has been plenty that haven’t run new peaks as well and ended up performing more like their form suggested, but the key is that the potential is there. What I don’t like about him though is being drawn on the inside.

Even if he can use it to settle a bit closer, he’s very unlikely to be any closer than 5th / 6th and will almost certainly be on the fence. He could even end up four pairs back on the fence.

Being on the fence is almost certainly going to be a disadvantage on the day, so it looks a very tough scenario for him to run a new peak that is actually good enough to win. Single figure odds look a crazy short price! I expect him to drift.

3. Kluger 99-103. Assessed $23.00.

He ran a 106.8 when 2nd to Winx in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the Autumn, just 1.5 lengths behind her and 2.5 lengths ahead of Hartnell. That’s a performance capable of winning this race, but so far it has been a big one-off spike in his form.

He’s only raced once since and was a plain 8th, beaten 5.6L in a Group 2 race in Japan. He’s a big query runner here that is hard to like, but at the same time he has the talent to win.

8. Danceteria 99-103. Assessed $23.00.

A new import for Australian Bloodstock, he comes off career best form in June / July that includes ratings of 103 and 102. That’s not far off, but definitely won’t be good enough here, so he needs to run a new peak.

10. Magic Wand 99-102. Assessed $26.00.

An Aiden O’Brien runner ridden by Ryan Moore always deserves respect. However, I have his best in the 101-102 range, so he’ll need a new peak and perhaps won’t have the best of the conditions racing near the inside, up on the lead.

6. Kings Will Dream 97.5-101.5. Assessed $81.00.

A great story seeing him come back from a serious injury last year to win the Group 1 Turnbull last start, but a 101.5 from that performance is well short of what’s needed to get in the finish of this race. It’s hard to see him rating any higher than that.

4. Harlem 98-100. Assessed $201.00.

An inconsistent type that did run a solid 102 in the Caulfield Stakes last start, but he’s never backed up a near peak performance with something similar in his career before, so I don’t see him starting now, especially from barrier 1 on this track.

15. Humidor 97.5-102. Assessed $51.00.

16. Mr Quickie 97-102. Assessed $61.00.

17. Gailo Chop 98-103. Assessed $61.00.

18. Dream Castle 96.5-102. Assessed $201.00.

Betting Strategy

This is a very tricky race with plenty of queries, but given I feel the favourite is a touch overvalued at the moment, I’m happy to bet around her and hope to land a value result.

 BACK – Mystic Journey – Bet to WIN (stake 0.7% of your total bank.)

 BACK – Te Akau Shark – Bet to WIN (stake 0.3% of your total bank.)

 BACK – Avilius – Bet to WIN (stake 0.3% of your total bank.)

5:15 Caulfield Race 9 2400m Gp1 HCP – The Caulfield Cup

The Track

The track is currently a Good 4 with the rail in the true position. There is a chance of some showers on Saturday, but they’re very unlikely to be anything that will impact the track. With a cool day of just 16c forecast, the track should race in the Good 4 range.

Last week’s meeting 12/10 along with the prior on 31/8 saw the track race very evenly. I expect a good mix of winners from forward and back, with a wide spread of runners across an even home straight.

Speed and Tactics

There looks likely to be good pressure early in the race as runners attempt to find positions and a few drawn wide likely to press forward. Crown Prosecutor (2), Wolfe (5) and Angel of Truth (14) looks the prominent pace runners with the likes of Hartnell (17), Rostropovich (18) and Finche (19) candidates to work forward.

It will slow up in the middle stages, but in such a big field, runs should start not much later than the 1000m to 800m mark, which will make it a genuine staying test.

Early Pace Rating: Above Average to Solid

Late Pace Rating: Below Average to Moderate

Best Suited: 2L to 6L off the lead.

WFA Performance Ratings – Winning Benchmark

Based on exposed form & ratings a figure of at least 105.5 at the weights to be carried will be needed to be in the finish of this race.

Race Assessment

In our assessed price order.

6. Finche 103.5-106.5. Assessed $6.00.

He’s come back in superb order this preparation with ratings of 105.1 and 105.4 in his last two, which are right on the cusp of the level needed to be in the finish of this. He’s still building into his preparation towards the Melbourne Cup and shows all the signs of a horse that we know will appreciate the step up to 2400m.

It’s more than reasonable to expect some further rating improvement in this race. I’m not too concerned about the barrier. In 2018 this horse worked forward from barrier 15 in the 3200m Melbourne Cup and fought on particularly well to run 3rd at just his 10th race start. There’s nothing like the same straight run to find a position in this race, but it’s also only 2400m and he’s a genuine stayer!

What I am concerned about is that a 2400m last start lead up run has been an advantage in this race. Since 2005 just 6 from 166 runners have won with a lead up run at less than 2400m, for a -43% betting return. In contrast, 8 of 80 have won with a 2400m or further lead up and +103% betting return. It’s small sample stuff, but hard to ignore.

In the case of Finche, his last start 2000m was a slowly run Turnbull Stakes, hardly ideal for a genuinely run 2400m. The stats are one thing, but I am then left wondering how many of those 166 without a 2400m lead up came into the Caulfield Cup with the form & rating credentials of Finche, with absolutely no doubt that they prefer the 2400m trip?

That leaves me torn a little between his obvious form & talent merit for this race and a questionable lead up platform? I’m erring on the side of respecting his talent, so there’s no doubt he’s a top chance.

7. Gold Mount 102.5-106. Assessed $8.50.

He looks massive value in the race to me at better than $20 in the market. Since transferring back from Hong Kong to the UK under the care of Ian Williams he’s run two strong ratings – a 106.6 first up when he easily won a Listed race at York over 2787m by 2.3L with big margins back through the field and then a 103.6 second up when just beaten by Red Verdon at G3 level over the same 2787m trip.

That 106.6 first up is capable of winning this race so there’s no query about him off a short break here and anything in the 103.6 to 106.6 range is very competitive. The other thing I like is that from barrier 4 he has enough tactical speed to hold a reasonable position and not get too far back in the field.

That combined with his strong proven staying talent looks the profile of a genuine chance in the race, not a longshot. It’s always speculative forecasting how the internationals will go at their first run in Australia, but on the evidence available he’s right in this race and big value in the market.

14. Vow And Declare 103-106. Assessed $9.00.

He brings some genuine X-Factor to this race. He comes into this race 2nd up after just one 2000m start in a slowly run Turnbull stakes, which on the surface is a horrible platform for the Caulfield Cup. However, he did run a 103.8 rating which is not far off the minimum 105.5 winning standard and was very strong through the line.

He can only improve with fitness from that run and we know that he’ll be so much better suited up to a genuine run 2400m trip. It’s not hard at all to make a case that he could improve enough to win this race. He’s another where I’m torn between respecting form and talent versus what seems a poor set up. Perhaps he’s so talented that he can break the rules and win? We’ll see.

16. The Chosen One 102-106. Assessed $9.00.

He profiles particularly well here as another longshot that looks among the better chances. With 52kg in this race he ran to a 105.7 last week to win a strongly run 2400m G2 Herbert Power Stakes, which looks the ideal lead up for this race both from a form quality and seasoning perspective.

On the quick back up here, for an elite trainer in Murray Baker who has won this race before, it’s not impossible for The Chosen One to go ahead to another new peak. The tough draw stands out as a negative, but the market typically over-reacts to such factors, so while it’s a risk, the price is more than compensating. He’s a proven stayer with the perfect platform and ratings to be right in the finish. I want him on my side.

3. Mer De Glace 102-105. Assessed $14.00.

Japanese galloper comes off five straight wins with ratings that look up to the standard of this race. He only brings 2000m lead up runs though, which I have to mark a slight negative and has never raced over 2400m in his career so far.

More importantly from my perspective is that he’s almost certain to get a mile back in the field here and will need luck. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he won this race, but there are enough queries there for me to happily say that $8.00 is far too short to get my interest.

11. Constantinople 102-105. Assessed $14.00.

He’s a very talented, lightly raced Northern Hemisphere 3YO that definitely has the talent to win this race. I get the impression though this is very much a tune up for the Melbourne Cup and while he might still be good enough to win this, he’ll probably need the experience and is a horse likely better suited to Flemington.

12. Mr Quickie 102-104. Assessed $15.00.

His first up 1600m run was outstanding but he was $31 that day and ran more like that price when 2nd up as a favourite in the G1 Turnbull Stakes. The pace didn’t suit, but he was entitled to do more. I like the horse as a talent and there’s enough in his ratings to say he could win this race.

However, I’ve pushed him as much as I can reasonably can to get him to $15 and that’s almost 2 x his current market price. He lacks a 2400m lead up and comes off a poor last start run. Fair play if he can win with that profile, but he’s definitely not one for me.

15. Brimham Rocks 100-106. Assessed $15.00.

He’s another longshot that isn’t hopeless in this race. He was plain in the G1 Metropolitan in Sydney last start, but a soft track didn’t suit and he did start equal favourite. The reason he did is that his prior win in the Foundation Cup over 200m at this track was a particularly strong rating performance.

Adjusted to the 52kg he has here, it was a 107 figure that is up to winning this race. That run was no fluke either, we saw last Spring that he ran 107.2 and 106.7 in consecutive runs at 2400m and 2500m when second to Prince of Aran and Yucatan.

That’s strong form that measures right up to this race and with a 107 at just his second last start, I’m giving him plenty of respect. He has plenty of other poor runs that suggest he could also fail, but it equally wouldn’t surprise me if he ran a huge race.

4. Mustajeer 100-104.5. Assessed $17.00.

Now with Kris Lees, he comes off a 104.8 last start win at York, which is just below the winning standard but very competitive. That was over 2787m so he has the right lead up platform and gets Damien Oliver riding. The question is whether he can old or improve off that run or whether he’ll regress more to his previous form, which isn’t good enough. He’s certainly not the worst though.

2. Mirage Dancer 100-104.5. Assessed $23.00.

Former UK galloper now with the Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young stable. He has a good solid grounding for this race from recent overseas runs but his best 104.4 is just below the level needed and most runs are comfortably below. That European staying talent has to be respected so I’m not totally ruling him out, but $23 is as short as I can possibly get him.

18. Wolfe 102-104. Assessed $34.00.

Made his way into the field by winning the Coongy on Wednesday. His last two 102.8 and 103.7 are safely short of the standard needed to win this, so he’ll need a big new peak.

1. Hartnell 100-103.5. Assessed $51.00.

Racing in the 102.3 to 103.3 range this preparation and this race looks more an afterthought than target, give he’s consistently been just off the mark in WFA races.

8. Red Verdon 98-104. Assessed $61.00.

He ran a competitive 104.6 two starts ago, but was poor last start and most of his runs suggest he may be outclassed here.

5. Rostropovich 100-103.5. Assessed $67.00.

He’s a 105 horse on his overseas form so he has the talent to be competitive, but just two fair 1600m and 2000m runs as a lead up is not the platform that looks likely to see him explode in this race to a new peak. Further to that, the Hayes stable typically gets less successful as they get deeper into a preparation, not more.

10. Big Duke 99-103. Assessed $67.00.

Would need a wet track to have any chance of being competitive.

9. Angel Of Truth 96-102. Assessed $126.00.

He ran 105.1 to win the ATC Derby in the Autumn which tagged him as an strong prospect for the Spring, but he’s hasn’t looked the same horse this preparation. He’d also likely need a wet track to do anything here.

17. Qafila 96-101. Assessed $151.00.

With 51.5kg here, her impressive SA Oaks win carries a 106 rating, but that’s a huge spike and the rest of her form is well and truly below the level needed to be competitive here.

13. Crown Prosecutor 97-101.5. Assessed $301.00.

Yet to come close to what’s needed to be competitive. Outclassed.

19. Sound (1st Emergency) 99-102. Assessed $301.00.

1st emergency. Outclassed on Australian form last 12 months.

20. Neufbosc (2nd Emergency) 95-101.5. Assessed $201.00.

2nd emergency. Outclassed.

21. True Self (3rd Emergency) 99-104. Assessed $61.00.

3rd emergency. 6th to Mustajeer last start beaten 3 lengths.

22. Prince Of Arran (4th Emergency) 104-106.5. Assessed $6.00.

It’s a shame he’s 4th emergency and almost certain to miss a run. His narrow 2nd to The Chosen One last Saturday with a nice weight drop for this gives him a 106.5 rating that can win this race. We also saw in three Australian runs last Spring that he was very consistent in the 106 to 107 range.

Betting Strategy

A big open race like this with a stack of chances and plenty of queries is normally not the profile of race I tackle. But there does seem to be a couple of great value chances in the race so I’m happy to invest something small for a potential big collect and no real damage if they don’t win.

 BACK – Gold Mount – Bet to WIN (stake 0.4% of your total bank.)

 BACK – The Chosen One – Bet to WIN (stake 0.4% of your total bank.)

 BACK – Brimham Rocks – Bet to WIN (stake 0.2% of your total bank.)

Go where the value is on Horse Racing with the Betfair Exchange

Current Results

Total Units Staked: 33.30

Total Units Returned: 35.50

ROI: 6.62%

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