Check out our analysis of every race below and be sure to tune into the return of the Before You Bet Podcast!
Best Bet: Race 8 Avilius
Best Value: Race 9 Think Bleue
Not an easy race to kick things off! I could make a genuien case for about seven runners here. There's three or four horses I'll be backing here. Going to take a stab at this Irish import King Of Yulong, who makes his Australian debut for the Snowden stable. He's a Listed winner in Ireland over the 1000m and a Group 2 winner in England over 1200m. He's had two jumpouts at Flemington leading into this and both were good. In his latest 800m jumpout he coasted to the line in 2nd in what was the fastest heat of the day. It's always a little query backing these horses at their first Australian start and he does find a very competitive race, but at $6.00 he's worth having something on. Malahat comes off a tough win in Sydney over 1100m. The Godolphin stable are flying at the moment so you'd expect him to keep his form here. Barrier 1 with Hugh Bowman on board down the straight is a little concern but I'll be saving on him at around the $4.50 quote. Two at a bit of value are Belwazi ($13) and Municipality ($81). Belwazi won in Listed company over this track and distance two starts ago and defeated Champagne Cuddles in the process. SHe carries 5.5kg more today but she's got an outstanding record at the distance. Municipality is the complete blowout at 80/1. The horse is first up from 19 months off the track and makes its debut for new trainer Glenn Thornton (previously with Tony McEvoy). That doesn't sound particularly promising but the horse has a terrific fresh record with two wins and a 3rd from three starts when first up. He charged home first up last preparation to win and that was over this distance. He could run last by 10L but at the price I'll have a nickel on. Mystyko is flying and continues to step up to the mark when rising in grade. He hasn't finished outside the top two in his last seven starts and Craig Williams goes on board today so it's hard to tip against him. Crown Witness an obvious chance. Currently favourite but I'd be surprised if it stayed that way come jump time.
What a terrific race this is. The speedmap and tactics is probably going to determine the winner here. Greyworm has been backed into a short-priced favourite which is hardly surprising. He's won three of his five starts and didn't get a lot of luck at the Valley last start when beaten a nose by Rox The Castle. With even luck he'd be able to turn the tables here and that's not even taking into account the 2kg weight swing he gets in his favour. He is drawn slightly awkwardly in barrier 11 though, meaning he's likely going to have to sit outside Rox The Castle in the run. If those two are able to control the race from the front without too much pressure, it will be hard for those behind them to run them down. But if the likes of Lucky Fish or Simply Invincible decide to go forward and create some pressure, we might see the race set up for those coming from off the speed, such as Bravo Tango and Antah. Bravo Tango has won two on the bounce and looks to have rediscovered his best form. He should have won the Listed Poseidon Stakes as a three-year-old over this track and distance and from barrier 2, he has the option of sitting right behind the leaders. Whereas he's typically been a backmarker, last start showed he does possess some tactical speed. Antah has six wins and four placings from 13 career starts. He's had four starts for trainer Jason Warren this preparation, resulting in three wins and a nose defeat last start. He goes up in weight and comes down in trip, which is some query, but the horse is flying. Battlecamp is going well and can fill a place if he gets some luck. Likely to be backing Bravo Tango at $5.00 and saving on Greyworm at $2.45.
Another tricky little race but there's three main chances I'm keen on here. Thunder Cloud has to go on top after a solid win over the mile at this track last start, where he ran down the in-form Antah. We'll get a good guide to the strength of that form when Antah steps out in Race 2. Third up and up to 2000m should suit Thunder Cloud today and provided Williams gives him a good ride from barrier 8, he looks the one to beat again. $3.00 looks a fair price. Prince Ziggy just continues to turn up and run well. He's finished in the money in his past 10 starts, five of which were wins. In his two starts over this track and distance, he has been beaten 0.2L and 0.3L by Schabau, who came out and belted his opposition last weekend. With the light weight he should be running well again. I was on Valac at huge odds last start but he didn't do much. I'm not going to jump off just yet. He's third up now, steps up in trip again and gets Damian Lane taking over from apprentice Jack Martin. I didn't expect him to be as short as $10 but I won't be losing on him. I think the jury is out on Hang Man after his disappointing effort last start. He obviously has the talent to win this but he'd want to improve pretty sigificantly on what he put up three weeks ago. Instigator not hopeless.
A three-year-old race down the Flemington straight with six runners first up means this isn't an easy race to assess, especially as three of the six that are first up are ex-Weir horses making their debut for new stables and one is on Australian debut having been imported from Ireland. I'm leaning the way of Sunset Watch for Team Hawkes. The stable is in great form at the moment, with seven winners from their past 20 runners, and it seeems their horses returning from spells are doing so with good effect. This horse has won three of his six career starts and he beat Ringerdingding first up last preparation, which looks good form for a race like this. Pretty confident he runs well here and $5.00 is a good enough price for me to find out. Marcel From Madrid gets the services of Craig Williams for the Ellerton/Zahra stable. He won his first two career starts before failing to go on with it in some strong races last preparation. He's trained at the track and looked sharp in a recent jumpout, even though he was given one with the whip in the concluding stages. He looks a value chance at $7.00. Anjana, Krone and Golden Halo are the three ex-Weir horses. Of the three, I'd actually be favourig Krone and Golden Halo to be most competitive. Yulong Yuheng is the Irish import for the Snowden stable and the money is likely to come if King Of Yulong runs well in the first race. He won the Listed Curragh Stakes back in August and was tested at Group 1 level so he's clearly got some ability.
Not keen to invest too much here but I've gone with Really Discreet on top after a sound win on debut at Sandown, where she came from last to win by 1.25L. She beat La Tene by 1.75L in that race and La Tene then came out and won her next start, beating Outlandos and Whykayoah. Notably, Luke Currie, who rode Whykayoh last start, sticks with She Shao Fly today. She gets the blinkers applied for the first time and comes up with barrier 1, so I'll be having a saver on her at $5.50. I'll be taking on Hawker Hurricane here. The form from his win in the Ballarat Magic Millions Clockwise race has hardly stood up and although he resumed with a nice effort behind I Am Immortal in the Blue Diamond Prelude, that form failed to stand up in the Blue Diamond. There's no doubting this is an easier race than what he's faced in his past two, but I think the jury is well and truly out. Dalasan is two from two and Craig Williams takes the ride today. The stable haven't had much success in Melbourne this season so I'll take him on too.
The Group 1 Newmarket Handicap. Where to start? 22 runners down the straight and in my mind, about 12 chances. In reality, just about anything could win this and you wouldn't be surprised. Straight racing is a lottery at the best of times, let alone when it's a 22-runner Group 1! Alas, we must try and find a winner. The boring selection is Osbourne Bulls, but it's hard to look past the Godolphin five-year-old after his flashing light run in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes. The step up to 1200m is undoubtedly going to suit him much better than the 1000m an he receives a 1.5kg weight swing in his favour on the Lightning winner In Her Time. His only previous start at this track and distance was a win with 59.5kg and he looks ready to assert himself as one of the country's best sprinters. James Cummings was very "bullish" during the week about his chances; we just need #GoodHughie. If Osbourne Bulls is a $4.00 chance then In Her Time looks a terrific $12 pop given she beat him in the Lightning. The points above make Osbourne Bulls a deserved favourite to turn the tables and In Her Time has a better first up record than second up, but she is still expected to go close here. It was only in th Spring that she ran 2nd to Santa Ana Lane over this track and distance in the VRC Classic. Speaking of Santa Ana Lane, he might be the best sprinter in the country so the $10 for him certainly appeals. Whether he's going to be sharp enough at the top of the weights first up remains to be seen, but he's been continually underrated in these races and proves us wrong time and time again. Anthony Freedman had 19 starters in Group 1s last season and won six of them, while he's taken out two Group 1s from six runners this season. Santa Ana Lane himself has won four Group 1s from six starts in the class. Expect him to be very, very hard to beat. Sunlight is one I expect to improve hugely out of the Lightning Stakes, which was her first run for the campaign. She's undefeated second up from a spell, her only start at this track and distance was a Group 1 win in the Spring and she gets a nice weight swing on both Osbourne Bulls and In Her Time today, having been beaten just 0.4L by them last start. Encryption ran 2nd in the Oakleigh Plate last start and comes into this third up from a spell. He's undefeated third up from two prior attempts so expect him to be peaking. Zousain will come on immensely from his first up defeat, while the complete blowout in the field is Usain Bowler at $81. His only start down the Flemington straight was an explosive win. Brave Smash, Booer, Eduardo, Graff and Lean Mean Machine all have claims. In summary, this is a complete lottery. I'm with the Bull on top. I'll definitely be having something on Santa Ana Lane and probably Sunlight at double figure odds.
About four horses that I'm interested in here. Angelic Ruler was solid in her first Melbourne run last start when unable to reel in Qafila over 1400m at Caulfield. I completely agree with the stable that the big Flemington straight is going to suit her much better and the blinkers go on for the first time today, so she really gets her chance to win this. There looks to be a pretty decent tempo on up front which should suit her coming from back in the field. It's never encouraging to see bookies list this as their lay of the day and give boosted odds, but for once I'm going to take them on. Spanish Whisper was solid in the market first up after two good trials and she raced well, running 2nd in the Typhoon Tracy Stakes at the Valley. SHe should be improved with that run under the belt and she'll put herself up on speed here. Her second placing behind Mystic Journey last preparation looks pretty decent form now! Craig Williams sticks with the stablemate Victory Kingdom who is another that will position up on speed. She's very lightly raced and is probably still open to more improvement. The value in the race could be Princess Jenni, who returns from a spell having had just two career starts, the last of which was a 6L demolition job at Geelong. She's trialled well leading into this and Damien Oliver is a notable jockey booking for trainer David Brideoake. There's $10 available for her which looks a decent price. I'm likely to back Angelic Ruler and Princess Jenni and save on Spanish Whisper.
The Group 1 Australian Cup. This is an intriguing little race with a number of interesting runners returning from spells. With that said, I just don't see how they beat Avilius here. He's a star and has returned in terrific order with two fantastic wins leading into this, taking his record in Australia to six wins from eight starts. It was a fairly effortless win he recorded last start and with the same barrier today, Bowman will be looking to employ very similar tactics, I'd think. He's had a great grounding for the step up to 2000m today and I think he just wins this. We see two Melbourne Cup winners resume in the form of Almandin and Rekindling. Only the stable know how much work has been put into these horses and how fit they are, but I'd suggest Almandin might be able to run a bit of a race here. He's placed in five of his six first up runs and obviously goes well at the track. Rekindling hasn't been seen since winning his 2017 Melbourne Cup. He does have a good first up record and did win fresh over this distance in Group 3 company last campaign before coming to Australia, but it's a big ask to win first up from a 69-week break in a legitimate Group 1 race! Sikandarabad looks a touch over the odds. He ran 2nd to Avilius two starts ago and followed that up with a win over this distance last start. He's 1/1 at Flemington and despite the wide draw, has good claims to run a bold race here at $26. Shillelagh looks set for this third up from a spell and up to 2000m on a track she's won two Group 1s on. Sound (formerly Soundcheck) has his second Australian campaign now and it wouldn't shock to see him run a good race fresh.
Three main chances to close out the day for mine. Naantali is the favourite for the race, having finished in the top two at each of her past three starts. She didn't get any luck last time out, trapped three-wide without cover throughout, before fighting on the finish 2nd. It was a very brave effort and she shouldn't have that trouble today from barrier 4. Back up to the mile now, she'll be hard to beat. Spanish Reef looks ready to win. She's finished 4th in both starts this preparation and now tackles the 1600m third up. Her third up record is solid and her record at the mile is four wins from seven starts. She's won three from four at Flemington (ran 2nd on the other occasion) and is undefeated at the mile here. Looks ready to peak. I think the value will be Think Bleue at $10. She always needs her first up run so a 2L defeat behind Jamaican Rain and Naantali was a good effort. She's won her only previous second up run which indicates she should improve sharply here and she's never finished out of the top two over 1600m. Her only start at Flemington was a win so I'd be looking for her to run well today. I Am A Star really should be going close in a race like this but is she going well enough?
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