Stewart Brown is back with his preview of the meeting below.
Racing in Victoria is at Flemington on Saturday where the track is currently a Soft 5 but I would expect it to improve given the weather in the lead up to the meeting.
The rail is out 6 metres after being out 3 metres last meeting and should race well. If anything, I would expect them to get off the fence in the later part of the meeting.
Best Bet: Race 2 - (4) Kings Brook
Best Value Bet: Race 9 - (8) Vanuatu
The opening race on the card is for the 2yos and there are a number of unraced horses for punters to contend with. The early favourite is (4) Witchfulthinking from the Andrew Noblet stable and is coming off a very impressive debut win at Wangaratta. On that occasion she jumped well to sit outside the leader before taking over early in the straight and racing clear to win by over 3 lengths running good time. Whilst this is a step up in grade I thought she showed more than enough to be top pick here. The logical danger is the Lindsay Park trained (1) Champagne Boom who returns from a spell after contesting the Magic Millions. She showed through her first preparation that she isn't far off some of the better 2yos and that form should have her around the mark here. She comes into this off a recent jump out at Flemington where she wasn't asked to do much when winning. Of the unraced horses I thought (5) Annabeth had the best chance after showing ability in both her jump outs.
The mares line up here over 1400m in a race that could end up a tricky affair given it is a race that is lacking an obvious leader or even horses that like to race on speed. Having said all that I am quite keen on (4) Kings Brook who was a dominant winner of a similar race to this at Flemington three weeks ago. On that occasion she settled off the speed before gaining a split early in the straight and putting pay to the opposition quickly. She is now 2 from 2 since the blinkers have go on and they look to have really made a difference. The small query is she is drawn gate 2 and she may need luck getting a run at some stage.
Very tough race here for the sprinters with it hard to put the pen through many of these. I have settled on (3) Invincible Al who has turned into quite a costly conveyance mainly due to his get back racing style. He pulled up sore and was pretty much given no chance last start whilst his runs prior had all been well up this. The two factors that I like are that he has drawn out after having barriers 1 and 2 in his last two runs and he gets a senior jockey on in Jordan Childs after having a host of runs being ridden by apprentices. If he can stay in touch early then he can run over the top of them. The interesting runner in the race is the Matthew Smith trained (2) Tonsor who has won 5 from 9. He has done all his racing in New South Wales and Queensland to date and comes off an impressive trial win at Warwick Farm. He has never run at 1000m but has been kept fresh for this and is definitely one to be respected.
Yet another straight race here this time for the 3yos and it looks to be quite a competitive affair. I have leant to (7) Leiter from the Tommy Hughes stable who comes into this fresh with nearly 2 months between runs. He was a dominant winner on debut easily beating the impressive Bam's On Fire and his last start was a good 2nd at Caulfield after racing wide. The form out of that race has stood up since and he has been fitted for this with a recent jump out win in quick time. The query for this horse is barrier 1 and whether it is a disadvantage or not by this race. There are plenty of dangers but I thought (1) Gytrash seemed over the odds at his current price. He has to come back to 1000m after running in a couple of feature races in Adelaide but he has an excellent record at 1000m and is well up to winning a race of this nature.
Without doubt the most open race of the day here where it could easily be $7-$8 the field come jump time. I have settled on the Adelaide visitor in (10) Debt Collector who has raced without luck in recent runs and should appreciate getting to the big spaces of Flemington and away from barrier 1. Last start he was not able to get clear running when desired behind Bel Sonic which arguably cost him victory. Should horses be able to run on down the middle of the track then it's hard to see him not being in the finish. The main danger looks to be (3) Five Kingdom from the Hayes & Dabernig stable who looks an ever improving type and comes into this race first up. He has had a trial and a jump out to ready himself for this and has looked good in both hit outs. He has performed well fresh in the past and this is the sort of race that he is well up to. He should settle around midfield and can finish strongly given the right run. The chances don't end there.
The stayers lineup here over the 2500m and the early market indicates that it is a two horse race between Last Week and Arty Lucas. I tend to agree and have a slight leaning to (5) Last Week who has been building nicely in three runs back this preparation and comes into this off a last start 2nd here at Flemington behind the inform Mantastic over 2000m. He made good ground in the straight that day and it looks a good lead up for this and he is already a winner over the track and distance. (11) Arty Lucas is definitely the main danger and was an impressive last start winner at Ballarat over 2000m where he made a lightning move from the back of the field to hit the front on the home turn and win as he pleased. Brett Prebble stays in the saddle here and that was only his 9th race start so he is a horse on an upward curve. He still needs to tick the 2500m box, having not run at a distance further than 2000m but the stable have shown in the past they can bring their horses up in distance with success.
Another race here where there looks to be very little speed on paper which could turn this into a tactical affair. I have settled on the Matt Cumani trained (6) One More Try who comes off a decent first up run at Flemington in race that wasn't run to suit. On that occasion she settled back in the field and found trouble whilst making her run before picking herself up again and finishing off nicely. She should be able to settle closer from the low draw here and is a winner of her past two second up runs. Any juice in the ground will be to her advantage too. The current favourite at a short quote is (12) Dr Drill who ran 2nd over this track and distance last start. He received every possible chance that day but was run over the top of by one better. There is no doubt he is a great chance here but feel he is short enough in the current market.
Good race for the open class horses here and its hard to go past the Danny O'Brien trained (4) Iconoclasm. He was a good winner first up at Caulfield before heading over to South Australia for the The Goodwood at Group 1 level and never really getting into the race. On that occasion there was a delayed start and he didn't handle that very well before settling well back and never being a threat. The rise to 1400m looks ideal here and it is a distance that he is unbeaten at in three runs whilst also being a three time winner at Flemington. He goes into this race 3rd up, a situation where he is 2 from 2 lifetime and maps to get a lovely run just off the speed. Hard to see him not being in the finish. The main danger looks to be (6) Manolo Blahniq who gets back up to his favourite distance after a last start run over 1200m. He ran well enough that day indicating that he is going well and he is always a chance in a race of this nature. He is drawn wide so will likely settle midfield or worse but he can unleash a powerful sprint off the right run.
The last race on the card is for the 3yos over 1600m and it brings together a few different form lines from the past month. I'm happy to be with the Chris Waller trained (4) Sure Knee who is dying to win a race after being beaten in photo finishes in two of her last three runs. Last start over this track and distance she ran the in-form Fidelia to a short margin and it was arguably pilot error that cost her the win in not going for her soon enough. There looks to be enough speed here that should enable her to sit back and come with one run down the middle of the track. The main dangers look to be (8) Vanuatu who will appreciate the step up to a mile after not having the right setup last start where she drew the inside gate and got shuffled back on the fence. The same can be said for (13) Neighbourhood who got further back than expected on the inside in the same race and finished off well recording the 3rd fastest last 200m of the meeting. She to has form around Fidelia and is drawn out here so shouldn't have any traffic problems.
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