Welcome to our preview and horse racing betting tips for racing at Flemington on Saturday, November 2nd.
It's Derby Day at headquarters, one of the biggest days on the Australian racing calendar! There's FOUR huge Group 1s on the card, including the Empire Rose Stakes, Coolmore Stud Stakes, Victoria Derby and the Cantala Stakes. There's not a single race run below Group 3 level on the nine-race card.
The track is rated a Good 4 with the rail True, but the weather could play an important part, with 5-20mm of rain predicted on Saturday.
We've previewed every race on the card below!
Best Bet: Race 7 - (1) Shadow Hero
Next Best Bet: Race 5 - (7) Princess Jenni E/W
Best Value Bet: Race 8 - (13) Rock / (14) Star Of The Seas
Nothing like opening the card on Derby Day with a short-priced favourite! (4) Zoutori heads the market at $2.30, but I suspect we might get a little bit better than that at the jump. If he brings his best form, this could be all over. First up he was dominant in the G2 Bobby Lewis over this track and distance. Four horses have come out of that race and won. Last start he proved he was a future Group 1 contender with an admirable 3rd placing behind Sunlight and Santa Ana Lane, which we know is elite Group 1 sprinting form. Santa came out of that race and ran 2nd in The Everest, while 4th placegetter Vital Silver ran enormous when 2nd in the G1 Manikato Stakes last week. Surely a repeat of that form has him clearly on top here. (3) Viridine was solid in the Schillachi Stakes, which proved to be a decent form reference with Trekking running 3rd in The Everest. He's never placed in his three starts when third up, but in two of those he's failed to get clear running for most of the straight, so there's legitimate excuses. (6) Order Of Command has been a touch disappointing in his two runs back from a spell in my opinion but I'd be monitoring the market pretty closely with him. He goes well over this track and distance and is third up today, perhaps they've set him to be spot on for this race. If he's firm, expect him to go well. (8) Kemalpasa has won five of his six starts this preparation. I'm respecting him here and he's potentially the value in the race at double figure odds.
Interesting race this with Group 1 Thousand Guineas winner (1) Flit lining up here. She's going to be a banker for a lot of people but I'm going to take her on. I love her as a filly but I'm not a massive fan of the set up. As a Group 1 winner and rated 34 points higher than any other filly in the race, she carries 58kg, with every other filly carrying 55kg. She steps up to 2000m for the first time in her career and the Thousand Guineas looked to be her grand final. The three week break between runs, extra weight and relative unkown at the distance has me thinking the $2.40 isn't worth taking. With that said, this stable can keep horses peaking for a long time and she's got the obvious class in the field, so she may well come out and blow them away, but the last horse to win this race carrying 58kg was Atlantic Jewel, and as good as Flit is, I don't think she's Atlantic Jewel. Three of the last four winners of the Wakeful Stakes have placed in the Ethereal Stakes and that's exactly what (5) Vegas Jewel did. She was terrific in defeat, having to make a long, sustained looping run around the field after drawing barrier 13. She came about six-wide on the turn and ran home very strongly to be beaten 0.2L. Prior to that she had won both starts. She's drawn much kinder in barrier 5 today and she's also had that really solid hitout over 2000m leading into this, which I think gives her a better platform. I think she profiles really well for this and will look to continue the trend that Aristia, Tiamo Grace and Ambience have set in recent years. (7) Tisane can be included at big odds.
Anthony Freedman looks to hold a terrific hand here but it's the second stringer of his according to the market that I've got on top in (5) Heirborn. Unlike a few of these that come through the Caulfield Guineas, this horse is only second up into his preparation. He resumed in the Listed Gothic Stakes at Caulfield two weeks ago, and that race has proven a reliable reference for this race in recent years, with the likes of Ranier and Mahuta coming through that race on their way to winning this. Heirborn was taken back from his wide gate and finished off in the fastest 600m, 400m and 200m of the race, beaten 1.7L into 3rd. Drawn to sit closer today from barrier 6, he's second up at the mile and should be ready to win. I think he can quite easily turn the tables on (7) Hilo who ran 2nd in the Gothic Stakes, which was his fourth run of the preparation. (1) Dalasan and (2) Groundswell both come through the G1 Caulfield Guineas, where they finished 5th and 3rd respectively. Dalasan worked early from the wide barrier, while Groundswell managed to settle 4th in the run from barrier 10. In the Caulfield Guineas Prelude prior to that, these two went to the line locked together, with Dalasan picking up late to finish about a nose ahead of Groundswell. Both are drawn really well here and can be ridden wherever they like, so it's very hard to split the two. Waller brings (11) Kavalmo to the race, in the same colours as Kermadec who won this race in 2014. He comes off a Wyong maiden victory but I wouldn't be discounting him. In fact, he's probably the value at $12. Waller has won two of the past five runnings of this race and knows which horses to target for it. The horse Kavalmo beat at Wyong then came out and won its next start by 3L.
One of the least inspiring races on the card. Notably, the past seven winners of this race have all placed at their last start coming into this. You have to go back to Niwot in 2011 to buck that trend; he ran 2nd in The Bart Cummings before finishing 12th in the Caulfield Cup prior to winning this race. The horses in this field to have placed at their last start are (1) Downdraft, (3) Haky, (4) Hush Writer, (7) Sir Charles Road and (13) Carif. Downdraft comes out of the Moonee Valley Gold Cup, which was his first run in Australia. He should be fitter for that given he was first up from a 10-week spell and he's won up to 2800m so the distance is no issue. Cismontaine ran 3rd in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup two years ago before winning this race so he's definitely a chance, though he did carry 5kg less (Downdraft carries top weight here). Haky has had two runs in Australia and comes into this off a 3rd placing behind Prince Of Arran and True Self in the Geelong Cup. That's arguably the strongest formline in this race but the big query is the fact Hush Writer is in the field, and they both like to lead on their own terms. Hush Writer is flying but he really needs the rain not to come. He's no good in the wet. He led all the way to win the St Leger Stakes at Randwick last start and on current form, he'd run a really bold race here but only on Good ground. Notably, he's drawn outside Haky so he might have to settle outside him today. (7) Sir Charles Road at $13 is a definite bet for me in the race and is the clear value. He ran 3rd in The Metropolitan two starts back, beaten 0.6L and then didn't get much luck when finishing 3rd in the St Leger behind Hush Writer last start. He only got out late in the race. Dwayne Dunn takes over from Andrew Adkins today and I think that's a very positive jockey change. He fits the profile nicely, he's placed in his past couple of starts leading into this, we've seen horses come through the Metrop and win this race previously (Kelinni) and he goes well on both Good and Soft ground, so the rain is no drama. Pretty keen to back him each way. Carif ran a huge race in defeat in the St Leger behind Hush Writer, battling on for 2nd after being caught three-wide the trip over 2600m. He covered 12m more than the winner. He can run well again. Two horses I'd include who didn't place at their last start are (6) Patrick Erin and (8) The Chosen One. Patrick Erin needs to win to earn entry into the final field for the Melbourne Cup, while The Chosen One is currently 24th in order and would need the result to go his way. Patrick Erin ran the best final 800m of the race in The Metropolitan and backed that up with the best final 600m last start in the St Leger. He's ready to win and he just needs to be put into the race earlier, which he can be from the good draw. He's another that's suited to Good or Soft ground. The Chosen One won the Herbert Power Stakes two starts back before a midfield finish in the Caulfield Cup, where he had to come from last after drawing the widest barrier. Three of the past five winners of this race have come through the Herbert Power so that's a very solid form reference. The good draw should see him sit closer and Zahra takes over in a positive jockey change. He's a bit chance. My top four chances here would be Downdraft, Sir Charles Road, Patrick Erin and The Chosen One.
What an open race this is. Some history that I think is pretty key to this race: only three of the past 12 winners of this race have started from a single digit barrier (9, 10, 10, 10, 13, 10, 13, 13, 6, 12, 5, 11). So wide draws can be very beneficial in this race. I've narrowed this down to about 10 chances, but (7) Princess Jenni is the each way bet in the race for me at $8.50. She produced a breathtaking win at Moonee Valley two starts ago in the G2 Stocks Stakes before finishing 12th in the G1 Toorak Handicap last start. That was a fast-run race and she got a long way back from barrier 13, which isn't an advantage at Caulfield. She drops back to her own sex for this race, she's won three of her four starts at this distance and she's drawn the plum barrier 10. Four of the past six winners of this race have started from barrier 10 and last year's winner drew 9! She's failed in both starts at Flemington to date, but she was first up on both occasions so I can forgive her for those. (2) Melody Belle is the star Kiwi mare coming across to have her first start in Australia since March last year. She's a nine-time Group 1 winner and comes into this having won three straight G1s in New Zealand. She's won three from four at this distance and drops back from 2040m which she raced over last start. That's a slight query for me. If any rain comes, she will relish it and she's just as good on Good ground so she's suited either way. Similar to Princess Jenni, she's drawn exceptionally well in barrier 13, which accounted for three of the four winners of this race between 2011-2014. I think (15) Fidelia really gets her chance today, even though she's drawn barrier 16. The wide draw is a positive and she's undefeated at this track and distance. She's been running very well in defeat all prep and gets the blinkers on for the first time today. No surprise to see her sweep home over the top of them at $15. (6) Spanish Reef bounced back to form last start with a nice victory in the Ladies Day Vase at Caulfield. She needed her first two runs back from a spell but now she's fit she is a definite contender. She's undefeated at the track and distance from three starts and shouldn't be underestimated. The Godolphin pair (4) Savatiano and (9) Pohutukawa both go in, though Pohutukawa probably needs the rain to come. (13) Angelic Ruler and (10) Nettoyer next best. Princess Jenni on top for me, will be saving on Melody Belle and something on Fidelia.
This is without doubt the race of the day! I'm keen to back the boys against the girls here. Golden Rose winner (2) Bivouac lines up here after his luckless run in last Friday night's Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley. He was caught in a horrible spot from barrier 1 and it was all over after the first 100m. He was climbing all over their backs in the straight and it was nothing more than a barrier trial, so they've elected to enter him here. It was only two starts ago that he beat The Everest winner Yes Yes Yes on his merits and he's arguably a better horse over 1200m. It's his first time down the straight but he had a little jumpout here to familiarise himself with things and Bowman is back aboard for today. He's quite obviously the horse to beat. Stablemate (1) Microphone might be the forgotten horse in the field but he's got a few questions to answer. His first up run in the Roman Consul Stakes was fair. He trialled only average leading into that and from all reports he paraded quite poorly first up. He was fresh from 27 weeks off so there's no surprises there. I thought he'd be much better suited here second up in a race they've obviously set him for, but his jumpout here was again only average, and I find it very interesting that they've not put the blinkers back on today. His Sires' Produce Stakes victory came with blinkers on yet they've continued to leave them off despite his sub-par prep to date. ALso, why would they throw Bivouac into the race if they already had Microphone set for it? It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to him on race day. (6) Exceedence jumped out in the same heat as Microphone and he looked incredible, coasting to the line under a strangehold. He wore blinkers on that occasion and will have them on for the first time on race day here. I'm still not sure what his best distance is but I think the straight track probably suits him as he can just go through his gears. Any rain that falls isn't a problem, in fact it might help him based on what we saw him do to Bivouac first up. I think we'll see him firm in betting so long as they're making ground throughout the day. (5) Cosmic Force won the Roman Consul Stakes last start in Sydney and we've seen two of the last five winners of this race come through that race. He's taking on the top-liners today so it will be interesting to see how he measures up. I doubt he'll get the soft lead we saw him get last start. I'll be playing this pretty basic. Backing Exceedence and saving on Bivouac.
Quite a decent field assembled for this year's VRC Derby. I'm sticking with (1) Shadow Hero who has been in impeccable form this preparation. His first up run over 1500m put the writing on the wall, when he recorded the fastest final 800m of the race despite only getting clear running at about the 150m mark. He then came out and exploded away to a 3.3L victory in the Gloaming Stakes, before justifying favouritism in the G1 Spring Champion Stakes last start. He beat a handy horse called Castelvecchio on that occasion, who has since come out of that race and run 2nd in the Cox Plate. He's clearly the horse to beat. (4) Warning might be the value in the race at $9.50. He was an impressive winner two starts back in the Super Impose Stakes (1800m) here at Flemington. He was set a fair old task last start in the Caulfield Classic and the ride from Martin Harley was a bit questionable. Damien Oliver is booked to ride in today's grand final and Anthony Freedman is a grand final trainer. Last year's Derby winner Extra Brut followed basically an identical path to what Warning does here. He won the Super Impose, then failed in the Caulfield Classic but bounced back in the Derby. (3) Thought Of That won by a furlong at Donald two starts ago and rocketed into Derby contention with another dominant display from the front last start, beating Warning by 3.75L. In all likelihood he finds the front again here and will take plenty of running down. (2) Soul Patch ran some very good sectionals in the Caulfield Guineas two starts ago and took that form into the Moonee Valley Vase last start, where he swept home from the back of the field to win by 2.5L. Tarzino and Prized Icon are both recent Derby winners to come through that race so he's certainly not without a chance here. Backing both Shadow Hero and Warning.
Another bit of key history which I think is important for this race. Five of the past six winners of this race have been 4YO males, witht he outlier being Shillelagh two years ago as a 6YO mare. I really like the profile of (13) Rock here, who profiles similarly to Le Romain when he won this race in 2016. He's one of just two four-year-olds in this race and he ran 5th in the G1 Epsom Handicap in Sydney last start. Coincidentally, Le Romain also ran 5th in the Epsom before winning this race. Rock won his first three races this prep in terrific style and was admirable in defeat in the Epsom, where not everything went his way. We've seen that form stack up through Te Akau Shark in the Cox Plate last weekend and it's likely to stack up again through Kolding in the Golden Eagle. Drawn a bit awkward but he'll go back and he'll be given plenty of time to wind up. He's a great each way chance. (14) Star Of The Seas is also a big hope. He's only a 5YO and he ran 3rd in The Epsom. As mentioned, that form is strong and I reckon he'll get a great run here from barrier 5. Should find himself up on speed, he's down in the weights again and represents good each way value at $9.50. (5) Royal Meeting is the other 4YO in the race and he was fair in his Australian debut two weeks ago at Caulfield. He was first up from a year off the track on that occasion and carried top weight so I think the run was acceptable. He should be much better suited down in weight with that run under the belt and he won a G1 at just his second start so the talent is obviously there. Definitely including him. (6) Fierce Impact and (8) Night's Watch ran the quinella in the G1 Toorak Handicap last start and both look suited to run well again, while (2) Land Of Plenty should improve plenty on his first up run. He's drawn well and has three wins and three placings from six starts when second up so he goes in at big odds. Rock and Star Of The Seas my main two bets here. Wary of Royal Meeting and $35 for Land Of Plenty is silly.
A typically tough mares race to finish off with. (4) Pippie started odds on when failing badly last start in the How Now Stakes. It was too bad to be true. She's been given a six-week freshen up and if she can reproduce the form she was in prior to last start she'll take some catching here. I expect the wide barriers to be a plus here so look for her to burn alone out in front and be hard to run down. (2) Tofane is another that draws well in barrier 10. She steamed home between runners to win the Northwood Plume Stakes at Caulfield last start and she was huge when winning at Moonee Valley three starts back, where she beat subsequent G2 winner Haut Brion Her. Those two wins were split by a terrible performance in the How Now Stakes, where she tailed off to finish last, but if you take that out, her form is very good. The drop back to 1100m is the query for her but she'll be motoring late. (10) Miss Iano is flying and was chopped out of the race at a crucial stage last start. She arguably would have gone close to winning that yet she's more than double the price of the horse which did win, (5) Humma Humma. Humma Humma has returned with two wins from as many starts this time in. Her form is god enough to win this but barrier 2 might be challenging this late in the day. (10 Manicure is an each way chance again and (7) Gift Of Power has a great third up record so shouldn't be discounted. Backing Pippie, Tofane and Miss Iano at big odds.
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