This is our first real look at Australian Racing for the year 2020.
We are now getting to the pointy end of the Spring carnival, with prestigious races happening in both Sydney and Melbourne this weekend.
In what has been a very weird year for horse racing (actually, for all sport), this strangeness will continue right up until Melbourne Cup day.
By this, I am referring to the restriction of numbers in regards to public gatherings and obviously this means racecourses will be empty on the busiest race days of the year.
That is absolutely new territory for Melbourne racegoers during this traditionally busy time of the racing season.
One can only wonder how long racing clubs can continue if patronage is reduced to zero, with no tickets being sold, no food and beverage sales and potentially a reduction in club membership if there are no benefits to be had.
The well has to run dry at some stage, but it depends on how long the COVID lockdown remains in place for Melbourne.
This weekend sees two of the country’s biggest races going up for grabs in Sydney and in Melbourne.
The Everest sprint takes place at Royal Randwick while the premier mile and a half staying race the Caulfield Cup takes place at Caulfield. The country’s top jockeys are split between the two venues, and because of the COVID lockdown, the ability to travel between Sydney and Melbourne is restricted.
Those Sydney based Jockeys intending to ride in Melbourne are given a 3-day self-isolation/stand-down period which means once their Sydney commitments are completed this weekend they can make their way down to Melbourne in time for next weekends 100th Cox Plate meeting and onward to the 4-day VRC Carnival.
So let’s have a look at the line-ups for each race.
11X24 1. Nature Strip (5), 58.5kg, J: J McDonald, T: C J Waller, 4.40, 1.85
219X2 2. Trekking (4), 58.5kg, J: J Parr, T: J Cummings, 12.00, 3.70
X1X12 3. Classique Legend (6), 58.5kg, J: K McEvoy, T: L J Bridge, 4.60, 1.90
266X6 4. Santa Ana Lane (8), 58.5kg, J: S Clipperton, T: A & S Freedman, 26.00, 6.00
4X111 5. Behemoth (2), 58.5kg, J: N Rawiller, T: D R Jolly, 9.00, 2.90
365X3 6. Bivouac (10), 58.5kg, J: G Boss, T: J Cummings, 16.00, 4.40
212X1 7. Gytrash (7), 58.5kg, J: J Collett, T: G V Richards, 6.00, 2.25
07112 8. Eduardo (9), 58.5kg, J: Ms R King, T: J Pride, 26.00, 6.00
X8522 9. Dollar For Dollar (1), 58.5kg, J: T Clark, T: T & C McEvoy, 61.00, 12.00
51X35 10. Tofane (11), 56.5kg, J: T Berry, T: M D Moroney, 21.00, 5.50
X49X1 11. Libertini (12), 56.5kg, J: R Bayliss, T: A J Cummings, 9.00, 2.90
21X17 12. Haut Brion Her (3), 56.5kg, J: B Avdulla, T: C J Waller, 26.00, 6.00
465X3 13. Deprive (13), 58.5kg, T: J Cummings, 126, 26.00
1X345 14. Special Reward (14), 58.5kg, T: K A Lees, 301, 61.00
60X55 15. Standout (15), 58.5kg, T: G Ryan & S Alexiou, 301, 61.00
70X85 16. Tactical Advantage (16), 58.5kg, T: K A Lees, 301, 61.00
There are a few things to consider for Saturday’s big race.
The first is the weather.
In past years the weather has been very wet on the day, this Saturday however it looks like there’s only a possible chance of showers (80%) but the temperature is going to be in the mid-20s while the track looks like it could be between a good 4 and a medium 5.
There’s no returning in defending champions in this year’s race, Redzel is not there nor is Yes Yes Yes.
The two favourites appear to be Nature Strip and Classique Legend.
However, there are three South Australian horses in the race and two of them are definite chances. They are the impressive Behemoth and consistent Gytrash.
Both are Group 1 winners and worth a shot on the TAB.
Dollar For Dollar is the third SA runner and was only accepted into the field at late notice this week.
He’s a front running type and could set a merry chase, much like Redzel used to do.
I can’t see Santa Ana Lane repeating his past glories in a race like this.
He just seems to have dropped off his form. Libertini was a last start winner and also had good credentials in her earlier career but this is far tougher.
In three: Behemoth, Classique Legend, Gytrash
0X251 1. Anthony Van Dyck (21), 58.5kg, J: H Bowman, T: A O’Brien, 6.00, 2.25
3X462 2. Avilius (17), 57kg, J: J Allen, T: J Cummings, 26.00, 6.50
95X90 3. Vow And Declare (18), 57kg, J: D Oliver, T: D T O’Brien, 34.00, 8.00
X2165 4. Buckhurst (9), 55kg, J: B Meltham, T: J O’Brien, 11.00, 3.50
3X741 5. Mirage Dancer (6), 55kg, J: C. Newitt, T: T Busuttin & N Young, 17.00, 5.00
5X009 6. Mustajeer (15), 55kg, J: B Egan, T: K A Lees, 91.00, 21.00
2X141 7. Verry Elleegant (11), 55kg, J: M Zahra, T: C J Waller, 5.00, 2.00
9X114 8. Dashing Willoughby (2), 54.5kg, J: M Walker, T: A. Balding, 21.00, 6.00
57X33 9. Finche (12), 54.5kg, J: D Lane, T: C J Waller, 12.00, 3.80
3X363 10. Prince Of Arran (19), 54.5kg, J: Ms J Kah, T: C Fellowes, 18.00, 5.50
4X045 11. Master Of Wine (7), 53.5kg, J: C Williams, T: M, W & J Hawkes, 8.00, 2.80
2X187 12. The Chosen One (3), 53.5kg, J: D Stackhouse, T: M Baker & A Forsman, 81.00, 19.00
33X76 13. Warning (20), 53kg, J: L Currie, T: A & S Freedman, 26.00, 6.50
X2354 14. Dalasan (14), 52.5kg, J: W Pike, T: L MacDonald & A Gluyas, 14.00, 4.20
6X460 15. True Self (4), 52kg, J: D Bates, T: W P Mullins, 34.00, 8.00
16. Aktau (1) SCRATCHED
1X582 17. Toffee Tongue (5), 51kg, J: M Dee, T: C J Waller, 14.00, 4.20
12521 18. Chapada (16), 50.5kg, J: J Mcneil, T: M D Moroney, 21.00, 6.00
13X50 19. Raheen House (22), 53.5kg, J: D Moor, T: K A Lees, 201, 31.00
X5138 20. San Huberto (10), 53.5kg, J: F W Kersley, T: M Cumani, 71.00, 18.00
1X000 21. Oceanex (8), 51.5kg, J: Z Spain, T: M Price & M Kent Jnr, 126, 26.00
X4431 22. Le Don De Vie (13), 52.5kg, T: A & S Freedman, 67.00, 17.00
There is every chance that there will be rain in Melbourne on Saturday.
It’s one of many variables that occurs with every running of the Caulfield Cup.
The barrier draw is another one while the roughhouse nature of the running particularly over the last ten years is another feature.
A wet track – should it eventuate, won’t bother many of these horses, the European visitors in particular, while Verry Ellegant is a mudlark and former German stayer Master Of Wine will also appreciate a softer footing.
The last two editions of the cup have seen horses come from barrier draws quite a wideout.
As it is, horses will come in by three barriers as the emergencies will be excluded before race time.
So that shouldn’t be an excuse for the runners this Saturday because apart from a handful of horses, the quality of the field isn’t as strong as in previous years.
The star attraction is Irish stayer Anthony Van Dyck, who won the prestigious English Derby last year as a three-year-old and at his last start defeated champion stayer Stradavarius in France in the Qatar Prix Foy run over 2200m.
Never discount the quality horse of the field.
Verry Ellegant has now won 5 group ones in her career and she’s bred to stay and run in wet ground.
A last-start winner in the Turnbull Stakes in what was a close run affair with some of the other horses in that race also starting up in the cup this weekend, it’ll be round two.
Two of those horses will be her stablemates Finche and Toffee Tongue.
Can Chris Waller provide the trifecta? That’ll be asking a lot but he’s got a few horses in this race so I wouldn’t be surprised.
The other two European visitors in Chasing Willoughby and Prince Of Arran should also be competitive.
Jockey Michael Walker changes horses, this time he’s on Chasing Willoughby while Jamie Kah picks up the ride on Walker’s previous ride Prince Of Arran.
These two are good place money bets in my book.
I will also keep a sneaky eye on the Metropolitan winner Mirage Dancer, he ran a place in the Caulfield Cup last year so he shouldn’t be too far away if the form holds up.
For punters, this Saturday, don’t worry about the weather nor the barrier draw.
The two things to watch will be the tempo of the race and also who is ridden handy to the speed.
The Caulfield Cup is typically a niggly race so horses that are towards the lead typically steer clear of any backmarker problems. Good luck.