10 of the 14 runners were decided by the votes of Australian racing fans, while the final four entrants were given wildcard slots by Racing Victoria.
Find our detailed preview of the race below, including the speed map, tempo and chances of every runner in the race!
A fascinating 24 hours or so ahead as the speed map and tempo of the race really depends on which horses line up, or more importantly, which emergencies do or don't get a run. With Foundry scratched already, Le Romain gains a run from barrier 1, so he's likely going to use that to sit prominently. The complexion of the race changes completely if Trap For Fools gains a start, and the same can be said about Hellova Street. WIthout those two in the race, the tempo looks fairly slow. But if one or both of those two were to run, the tempo suddenly looks pretty hot. Assuming they don't gain a start, Hawkshot looks to get the lead on his terms. As opposed to the Guineas, where he drew wide, he draws ideally in barrier 4 here and should be able to cruise to the front without anything pestering him. Expect Material Man to roll forward from barrier 10. He might sit outside the leader. Mr Money Bags and Moss 'N' Dale look likely to position up behind the leaders, with Le Romain holding his spot on the rail ahead of midfield. Hartnell will probably grab the back of Le Romain from barrier 2 and sit midfield and Happy Clapper will be looking to slot in to their outside. Alizee was forced to sit three-wide the trip last start but they'll be hoping she can blend in in the running line this time. I suspect they'll ride Amphitrite a bit colder than last start. Perhaps riding her close to the speed inhibited her fantastic turn of foot, so from barrier 14 they'll grab hold of her and let her wind up in the big straight. Mystic Journey is the interesting one with regards to the map. I thought if the emergencies didn't run, they'd take her forward to sit up on speed, but the trainer said they'd go back and try to find cover. With Grunt and Amphitrite drawn immediately to her inside, she risks being caught wide. Urban Ruler, Balf's Choice and Man Of His Word will be toward the back of the field.
Happy Clapper: Three-time Group 1 winner, with a further four runner-up finishes to Winx at Group 1 level. He's returned in great form this prep, with a 2.3L defeat first up followed by a very brave 1.8L defeat to the champion mare last start. His third up record stands at eight starts for four wins and two 2nds. Of those two times he missed a place when third up, one was in his debut preparation, and the other he ran 4th beaten 0.6L in a Group 1. The other six starts when third up have produced a BM80 win, a Group 2 win, two Group 1 seconds and two Group 1 wins. He's got a phenomenal record at the mile and he's proven he can go well at Flemington with a Group 1 placing behind Tosen Stardom over 2000m in the Spring of 2017. That was the only time he's placed in six starts going the Melbourne way of running, which is some concern. No doubt he's a huge chance in this if he can once again produce his best form.
Hartnell: Somewhat the forgotten horse in the race, perhaps. Four-time Group 1 winner with a further 11 placings at the top level. He made very good improvement from his first up run to his second up run and third up is normally when he peaks. He won the G1 Epsom Handicap as top weight third up last preparation and although Alizee beat him a length last time out after covering ground throughout the race, he was only second up as opposed to the mare who had had an extra run. He'll get a great run from barrier 2 here and Godolphin's number one international jockey William Buick is flying in to ride him, which tells me he's not just going around to make up numbers here. Definite chance.
Material Man: Didn't get much luck in his first two Melbourne starts this time around and then went terribly last time out when favourite for the Group 2 Blamey Stakes. He had a few excuses for that though, pulling up with heat stress, the thumps and a slow recovery. He's had more dramas this week leading into the race, however, with a lameness issue resulting in multiple vet inspections. He's been passed fit to race but will be wearing a bar plate on one of his front feet. He's probably going to have to sit in the breeze, so with everything considered, it would be a pretty amazing effort if he were to run a place in this, let alone win.
Grunt: If he brought his best form to this race, he'd give it an amighty shake. He's a dual Group 1 winner, both over this track and distance. In fact, those two wins have been his only two starts at the Flemington mile. He was a touch disappointing first up but if you were to make a case to forgive him, you'd point to the fact he carried 61kg over 1400m first up from a spell. I would have preferred if he came into this with one more run under his belt but I'm sure they'll have him up to the mark fitness-wise. Last prep he ran over 1400m at Caulfield and was only fair but when he got to the mile at Flemington, he was a different horse. I think we'll see the real Grunt turn up today and $18 looks a healthy price if you like him.
Moss 'N' Dale: Beaten 8L first up at Caulfield in the G1 Memsie Stakes but don't look into that too much. He never goes well first up and he was a long way back in a race won by the leader. He really improves out of sight second up though - he's undefeated from four starts. He's got a decent record at this distance and looks to get a sweet run from barrier 6, so really he has everything needed to run well today. But the fact remains he's a Group 3 level horse taking on some of the country's best weight-for-age milers.
Man Of His Word: Listed winner in Brisbane back in December 2016 and hasn't won since. He's had four starts at Flemington for zero placings and was beaten 7.5L in Group 3 company last start. His price should have an extra zero on the end of it.
Balf's Choice: Two-time Listed winner, with the most recent one being the Seymour Cup in October 2017. He's won one race since then, which was a four-horse BM90 in Adelaide. Ran third last over 2000m in Adelaide last start. Has a decent record at this distance and gets blinkers on for the first time in his career but he's another that should probably be closer to 1000/1.
Mr Money Bags: Decent little benchmark horse but way outclassed here. He will get a nice run up on speed but hopefully he doesn't fall straight back through the field and impede the better runners in the race.
Urban Ruler: Beaten 17L in two starts back from a spell in Brisbane leading into this and on top of that has had lameness issues this week. Might give the ambulance a run for its money.
Alizee: Three-time Group 1 winner and probably going better than ever this preparation. She had no right to win last start with the run she had throughout the race, sitting three-wide the trip. She's had three starts over 1600m in her career. Two of them were Group 1 victories (2.3L and 2L margins) and the other she started the $2.15 favourite and pulled up with a throat issue. She should be able to slot into the running line here and get some cover, which would make her terribly hard to hold out. I suppose if there's one slight query it's the fact this is her first start at Flemington, but from what we've seen in Sydney, she's only going to relish getting to a big track with plenty of space. Looks the one to beat.
Hawkshot: Last-start runner-up in the G1 Australian Guineas behind Mystic Journey. He started from a wide gate on that occasion and worked over to the lead, but he draws a much better gate today in 4. His chances probably depend purely on whether Trap For Fools and/or Hellova Street run. If they don't - which at this stage is the case - then he should get an unconested lead, which gives him every hope of running a cheeky race. He's probably better suited to the likes of Caulfield where he can kick off the bend and really use his speed to his advantage. It's a bit harder at Flemington where the straight is significantly longer.
Mystic Journey: Three-year-old filly who was simply dominant in the G1 Australian Guineas last start, where she stamped herself as the newest star on the Australian racing scene. That took her record to nine wins from 12 starts. I think today's race is a whole different test for a couple of reasons. Firstly, she got the absolute perfect run in the Guineas. She started from barrier 1, stuck to the inside, barely went around a runner, got all the breaks in the straight and that allowed for her powerful turn of foot to assert her dominance. This time, she starts from barrier 16 (13 at best), which means she'll have to go back and try to slot in. She's at risk of being caught wide here, and if she is, I think they'll drop her out to the very back. If she's giving the likes of Alizee a head start, I don't think she'll catch her. I have to take her on at $4.20.
Amphitrite: Group 1 winner last Spring in the Thousand Guineas at Caulfield and prior to that was a dominant winner of the Edward Manifold Stakes at this track and distance. She was impressive winning her stable debut first up this prep over 1400m, which made me pretty keen on her in the Australian Guineas last start. She was beaten fair and square on that occasion but perhaps third up today she will be at her absolute peak. I think they may have ridden her a touch too close last start but that won't be the case today from the wide draw. They'll take her back and hope to use her turn of foot. Winkers on for the first time today, I struggle to see her winning but expect her to run well as she usually does.
Le Romain: I think this is probably the biggest smokey in the race. Le Romain is a three-time Group 1 winner and placed at the top level on another seven occasions. He comes into this third up from a spell after being beaten 1.9L by Alizee last time out. He started from a wide gate on that occasion and worked hard to sit outside the leader, but that won't be the case here from barrier 1. He maps to get a lovely run behind the pace-setters. He's had seven starts when third up from a spell and has run 2nd in six of those! Three starts at this track and distance, which include a Group 1 win and a Group 1 2nd. Guaranteed a start now with the scratching of Foundry - he certainly comes right into calculations at $15.
I'll be taking on the three-year-old's here and structuring my bets mainly around Alizee, Grunt, Le Romain and even Hartnell. Alizee has come back in tremendous order and defied a torrid trip when beating a few of these last time out. Grunt saves his best for the Flemington mile and if he were to bring his best, he'd go very close. Le Romain is flying under the radar but always goes close in races like this, while Hartnell should be peaking third up after a good effort last start. Happy Clapper is probably the best horse in the race and he terrifies me but I'm probably going to lose if he wins.
1st ALIZEE $4.50
2nd GRUNT $18
3rd LE ROMAIN $15
4th HARTNELL $11
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