There's 10 races on today's card, headlined by the Group 3 Aurie's Star Handicap (Race 8). The track is currently rated a Soft 7 but there's more rain predicted during the day so we may eventually end up in the Heavy range. The rail is out 10m.
Best Bet: Race 7 - (7) My Pendant
Best Value Bet: Race 8 - (13) You Make Me Smile
Just a small field going around for the first, which is over 2500m. That makes it tough to assess how this race will play out because weird things happen in these types of races. Nonetheless, (6) Not A Single Cent goes on top. He won over this track and distance two starts back and put in another brave effort last start when he chased home the in-form Tavirun with 60kg on his back. His two career wins have both come at Flemington and the soft ground shouldn't worry him. He gets 4kg on stablemate (2) Sopressa, which could prove the difference. Both of them ran over 2400m at Caulfield on the same day at their last starts. Sopressa won her race in 2.32.26, while Tavirun (who beat Not A Single Cent) ran 2.31.55. (1) Hush Writer looks to lead for fun and isn't hopeless by any means. (3) Sasko probably needs Heavy ground to be a serious winning chance, while (4) Mazaz probably needs the opposite.
Really only interested in (2) Maozi and (3) Heirborn here and I'll be taking on any horse with Synthetic form in this race. Maozi produced a big performance when storming home from the back of the field on the Lakeside course at Sandown two starts back, which isn't easy to do. He backed that up with a luckless run behind (1) Sansom last start, when held up for about 300m at a crucial stage of the race. He gets a 2kg weight swing on that horse so I'm confident he can turn the tables. Damian Lane takes the ride today and he gets the winkers on for the first time too, so expecting a big run from him here. Heirborn was a dominant winner at Bendigo on debut. It was only a maiden but he bolted in and can certainly measure up in this grade. The draw might actually help him. He will settle back in the field and there are suggestions that it may pay to be out wider in the straight so he should find the right lane. His debut win came on a Soft 7 so the ground will pose no problem. Maozi is $4.40 while Heirborn is $3.50. I'm happy to back Maozi and save on Heirborn, or you could just back both in a dutch bet to win the same amount.
Tough race as we've got two potential Spring horses resuming from spells, and it's always a bit hard to know how fit they are and how good they've come back. It looks a battle between the three-year-old (16) Talented and the four-year-old (12) Jumbo Ozaki. Talented won on debut at Geelong before bumping into some very smart types such as Microphone and Flit. Microphone obviously went on to run 2nd in the Slipper before winning the Sires' Produce, while Flit could be one of the best fillies to emerge from that crop and heading into the Spring. Talented at least has two runs down the Flemington straight which is a big positive and the wide draw will be a benefit. Jumbo Ozaki is a year older, which I think is always a good thing when competing against a horse that is making his first start out of his juvenile season. It should be a fascinating race but I'll side with Talented. Don't be surprised to see a blowout though. (15) Zuberina and (18) Ruben Bleu can be included at big odds.
Going to take a little throw at the stumps here and back (4) Kemono. This horse came to Australia from Japan with fairly big wraps but has so far failed to put it all together on race day. Darren Weir formerly trained him and always rated him highly, so I think the ability is there, we just haven't seen it thus far. However, he resumes as a gelding today and judging by his recent trial at Cranbourne, that might just be what he needed. His trial was terrific - he sat off the pace and went to the line under a stranglehold, but he looked really stylish. He also resumes over 1400m which is a move that catches the eye. Damian Lane rode him in the trial and he sticks with him for race day so the only little query that remains is whether he gets through the testing ground. (2) Tshahitsi is the horse to beat after he bounced back to form emphatically at Caulfield second up. He's won over this track and distance in the past and he has a good third up record, so he should run well again, but this is a different race set up to the one he won last start. He won't be able to lead this with (1) Jungle Edge in the race, so he'll need to sit off the leader and run him down rather than leading all the way himself. (6) Vinland has a terrific record at this distance and had no luck in Brisbane when we last saw him. He's the value at $8.00.
Wide-open race and plenty in with each way chances. (2) Royal Order was unsuited at Caulfield last start but his run two starts back at this track was good. The step up to 2000m is key today and Damien Oliver jumps aboard. He won his only prior start at this track and distance. (8) Heir To The Throne returns to Melbourne after a trip to Sydney. He went close over the mile at Caulfield two starts back. If the track is downgraded to Heavy then he becomes more of a chance. (9) Twilight Run was unsuited in a leader-dominated race at Moonee Valley last weekend. Comes back to the scene of an impressive win two starts ago and is on the seven-day back up. He's much better suited in this and can bounce back. (12) Dabiyr won his first race in Australia last time out at Sandown. He's still only third up and has plenty of room for improvement, so he's a chance once again today. (14) Creedence is ready to run a bold race third up from a spell at big odds. Drawn very wide in 19 but gets up to a suitable trip.
(10) Assertive Approach looks the one to beat but he's been absolutely hammered in betting. He's been $2.75 into $1.80 since markets opened. The son of Akeed Mofeed is undefeated from three career starts and defied a big betting drift to win the Listed Lightning Stakes in Adelaide at his most recent start. Prior to that he cruised home by 3.75L at Sandown on Heavy ground. He'll handle the conditions today and the wide draw is a good thing. He looks pretty tough to beat.
I might end up with egg on my face but how does (7) My Pendant get beaten here? I think the $1.95 is a decent price because she's a mare that's been impressive in what she's done so far in her seven-start career and still looks to have plenty of upside. She's finished top two in six of her seven starts, with her final start last prep behind Amphitrite and Verry Elleegant the only time she's failed. Her first up run was terrific, beaten 1.25L by a decent horse in Sylvia's Mother and that was over an unsuitable trip of 1200m. She's much better suited over 1400m today and she's proven herself on wet ground so conditions shouldn't be an issue. Drawn perfectly, Oliver on and she looks to find a very, very winnable race. I'd be surprised if she was to get beat here.
The feature race of the day is the G3 Aurie's Star Handicap and it's not an easy race. I have to back (13) You Make Me Smile here, regardless of the competitiveness of the race. He was absolutely backed off the map first up at Rosehill but he could only manage 4th, beaten 2L by Bon Amis. I said on the day that you had to stick with him second up because he's undefeated from three starts when second up, and the weight of money for him first up suggests to me he's returned in good order. He's got four wins on wet ground so he'll handle conditions and I'm confident we'll see him ridden aggressively out in front today. There's a couple of queries about him: this is his first start in Melbourne and his first time racing down the straight so that's a bit of an unknown, but at $10 he's a good price. (3) Iconoclasm could reach new heights this prep and he won first up last prep so has to be included. (4) Sesar will probably appreciate the wet conditions today. If you backed him last start you probably need to have something on again at the better odds today. (7) Milwaukee has a terrific record at this track and distance. He's never finished out of the top two here from five starts. He looks a decent each way option at $6.50.(8) Reykjavik is 1600m back to 1200m which is a query but the stable is flying and they are capable of pulling this kind of thing off. (12) Antah faces a stiff test today but he's been ultra-impressive since joining the stable.
(1) Dr Drill has ben $2.80 out to $3.70 in early betting, which is never encouraging, but I'll stick with him here. He's finished in the top two at five of his six starts so far this prep and comes into this off a win in Sydney when carrying 60kg. The glue on shoes go on for the first time which is a query - you never like to see problems with feet - but if he produces the same level of performance as he has recently then he'll be right in the finish again. (5) Mister Shuhood and (13) Humbolt Current are Waller's two horses in the race and both will take plenty of benefit from their first up runs. Plenty of chances to close out the day but those are the three I'll be playing on.
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