Group 1 Epsom Handicap Preview

A MASSIVE weekend of Group 1 racing awaits punters, with Royal Randwick’s highlight being the Epsom Handicap (1600m).

Our mates at 12Follow, Jake Henson and Matt Taylor, have combed through the form to break down this year’s instalment of the time-honoured event.

Jake Henson: For the Victorians it’s a sacred day of AFL football but for you New South Welshmen it’s Epsom Day! What are your thoughts on how the track will play and the conditions punters can expect for the two feature races on Saturday?

Matt Taylor: It certainly is Jake and while us Sydneysiders will have one eye on the Swans’ Premiership tilt, there’s a sensational day of racing ahead at Royal Randwick. The highlights of course are the Epsom and Metrop where we have two fields of 13, neither being the strongest we’ve ever seen for these affairs. Should be a thrilling day nonetheless.

Randwick was upgraded to a Good 4 on Wednesday with only a light shower on Thursday predicted before race day. With the rail out three metres, we’re looking for those coming down the centre to be most advantaged but that bias will be somewhat negated by the drier surface. The other factor is the 30+ km/h winds coming from the West which will have the biggest impact on leaders and those racing along the rail down the side, bringing the swoopers somewhat into play.

JH: Wonderful to see a feature Sydney race-day on a dry track! Okay moving onto the famous Randwick mile. There’s five horses in single figures. Let’s start with Hauraki and McCreery who are both early ‘favourites’ at $5.50.

MT: There has certainly been a deserved amount of respect around the place for these two runners. As much as $7 was available with the corporates for McCreery yesterday and the early support for me is telling. Fabrizio is going to run this along at a solid tempo with Mackintosh and Sons Of John towing the rest of the field up behind him. I have McCreery sitting just behind them, getting the perfect track into the race. He has the 2000m win behind him and this is a path Chris Waller has followed before. He was a $6 chance for me and unsurprisingly has been well found.

Hauraki is going very well and while I couldn’t knock him for either of his runs, the 1.3L margin behind Winx may have been flattering. The star mare jogged past him and was hardly asked to extend. That race was run quite slowly, not more than a barrier trial with a 400m sprint, and I wonder if that is the best lead up for a strongly run mile here.

JH: Chris Waller does know how to target these ‘grand final’ days as well as anyone that’s for sure. What about Happy Clapper, he’s drawn barrier one which may be trick and has just done enough at his two runs this preparation, his best likely finds him in the finish though?

MT: His best certainly does put him into calculations, but I wonder if he has returned at his best this preparation. As you say the inside gate is a concern and there’s others in single figures I’m looking towards. One I don’t mind is Palentino. We’ve had some concerns over last year’s three-year-olds but off his Makybe Diva win I’m willing to reconsider my position. How do you rate his chances?

JH: He’s one of the best milers Victoria has there is no doubt about that, as you said this isn’t perhaps the deepest Epsom so he should measure up. He looks to have drawn ideally. He appreciates Flemington so you’d imagine he appreciates the space of Randwick if he handles the Sydney way of going.

Are there any roughies in the field worth considering?

MT: There’s a couple in this field I think deserve consideration. Firstly there’s Mackintosh who proved himself to be a tough frontrunner during the Brisbane winter. He won well over the unsuitable 1300m first up and looks to have returned well. He’ll make his own luck and is a genuine 1×3 each-way contender.

The two at odds I could also spec are Mighty Lucky, which ran a great race first up when held up at a vital stage, and Dibayani. He’s not one of mine and he is a non-winner but he continues to run well in similar or superior company. In an even race and at $34, he scares me. Are there any you’d be willing to back here?

JH: I don’t know enough on these Sydney siders to stick my neck out and push a bet to the punters other than perhaps a small spec on Dibayani at $11 the place. Although I’d be more confident on that if the track was in the soft range.

MT: In a fairly even race, I’ll be placing my faith primarily in the Waller pair McCreery and Mackintosh. I’ll also be paying close attention to the betting on Palentino – he’s a saver for me at this stage but if the money comes it must be respected. Mighty Lucky and Dibayani look the best outsiders to me and should go in all your exotics if you like to play that way.