The weekend just gone was the first day of the 2019 Championships, featuring four Group 1’s at Royal Randwick.
It was mostly focused on the feature race, the Doncaster Mile plus the sprint classic: the T.J Smith Stakes.
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) April 6, 2019
However, the two races of note (in terms of our focus on staying races) were the ATC Australian Derby (2400m) and the Chairmans Quality Handicap (2600m).
The former is a crystal ball gaze into the future considering it was a line-up of three-year-olds, the latter a more immediate look toward this weekends Sydney Cup.
Much like our analysis of the galloper Avilius in our past Melbourne Cup Watch reports, there were more questions raised in these two races rather than answered.
Defining a heavy track
Before we look at those two races, let’s take a quick look at the track conditions that have plagued Sydney’s Autumn Carnival for years.
Though Rosehill and Royal Randwick have their ideosynchrocies, it bemused me to see horses who have a reputation for running well on wet tracks seemingly struggle from one week to the next, and from one course to the other.
Two in particular stood out for me on the weekend: Arrogant in the Derby and Shoals in the T.J Smith.
When you read the jockeys feedback and they say things like ‘didn’t handle the ground’ or ‘struggled in the conditions’, from a betting perspective you wonder how much reliability there is with wet track form.
Connections are praying for decent track conditions on ‘Winx Day’ this Saturday, and hopefully Royal Randwick, can deliver a track similar to last year’s equivalent race day which ended up being a Good 4.
ATC Australian Derby
Two thing’s stood out for me in this year’s edition of the Derby.
First, the relevance of the prelude Tulloch Stakes, with the winner (in the last few years) all having won the race before going on to win the Derby (Jon Snow in 2017 and Levendi in 2018).
Saturday’s winner Angel Of Truth, from the Kembla Grange stable of Gwenda Markwell who was backed on the TAB at 18’s, followed in their footsteps, winning comfortably by three lengths.
The second factor, was horses racing up on the speed ahead of the pack, as was the case in this race.
Angel Of Truth was racing well up front, the others never really looked likely on the Soft 7 track.
Typically, Derby winners will push on to a Cups spring campaign, so it remains to be seen whether Angel Of Truth will persist with lead up races in NSW, or whether Markwell brings the Animal Kingdom gelding down to Victoria in pursuit of the big cups races.
Winning jockey Corey Brown was asked about the state of track, he commented that it worse than the declared Soft 7, but that it played fair throughout the day.
Not sure what that meant.
Whether the softness was even across the track, or that it didn’t improve or deteoriate during the day.
Of the reminder of the field, the Kiwi contingent were solid with Madison County, Surely Sacred and The Chosen One coming in second, third and fourth.
With a year under their belt, expect to see an improvement when these gallopers turn four and strike better tracks in the Spring.
Chairmans Quality Handicap
This race is used as a guide for the Sydney Cup raced one week later.
It’s a Group 2 event with a fair whack of money up for grabs, but the result was a bit of a minor upset, with journeyman stayer Gallic Chieftain picking up the prize.
He wasn’t considered in the prelim betting, with other gallopers such as Supernova, Sir Charles Road, but he did emerge from the pack and came home the strongest.
Based on that run, he looms as a likely contender for this Saturday’s Sydney Cup, and has come into form at the right time.
Both those two horses mentioned just before (Sir Charles Road and Supernova) came home reasonably well, but would’ve liked a better track to show their potential.
Horses that bombed out were Muntahaa, The Taj Mahal and Zacada; all finding the track unfavourable.
This Weekend, ‘Winx Day’
As mentioned, everyone is hoping for better conditions for this Saturday’s swan-song for the world’s best race horse on turf.
It will be the highlight of the day, but I’m thinking the result will be much the same in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, bringing down the curtain of a stellar racing career.
This will be a last shy at the stumps for all of Winx’s competitors, and you’d be feeling pretty awful if your horse got up to topple the great mare on what is her finale.
Perish the thought!
Of interest to this report, will be the running of the Sydney Cup, featuring British stayer Dubhe, local hopes Midterm and Big Duke, plus the New Zealand visitor – mare Glory Days.
Then there’s the ATC Australian Oaks, where Verry Elleegant is the raging $2 favourite. It should be a great days racing.
Let’s hope the sun is shining.
That’s all for this weeks Melbourne Cup Watch Report.
Keep checking in with KRUZEY for more, as we count down to the first Tuesday in November 2019.