No Group 1 racing this weekend but we still have some great racing with Chelmsford Stakes Day from Randwick and Feehan Stakes Day from The Valley.
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Keen to stick with BALLER ($2.25 TopBetta) in this BM78 as he drops back from a 1.9-length 8th placing in the Group 3 Show County (1200m) when first-up. Baller trialled extremely well and recorded time, and at his first run this preparation he loomed to win but just ran out of condition in the final 100m. He’s drawn awkwardly in gate 10 but has the in-form Nash Rawiller in the saddle, and I’m expecting him to improve here, although he probably doesn’t need to to be winning.
What a cracking race this will be. The unbeaten Zoustyle takes on top four-year-olds Sunlight and Graff as well as sprinting giants Redzel, Nature Strip and Pierata. I think we’ll see a much-improved NATURE STRIP ($2.30 TopBetta) this campaign, and that’s a scary thought. His first trial with his customary earmuffs was good, but his most recent trial without them was simply outstanding. He settled beautifully behind Redzel and was absolutely climbing over his back in the straight and would have given him windburn if asked to. Their trial was run in 0:58.10 on a Good 4 at Rosehill while Sunlight beat Classique Legend on a Soft 5 at Rosehill in 0:59.23. Sunlight and Nature Strip ran similar final 600ms but Nature Strip clearly did it easier.
I didn’t have a big opinion of the Scott Brunton-trained THE INEVITABLE ($3.80 TopBetta) but his first-up victory at Flemington seriously impressed me. I didn’t think he was a 1000m horse at all and he was able to sit on an early speed that was 5.9 lengths above benchmark to the 600m and exploded off that, running the fastest last 200m and 400m of the meeting, beating Assertive Approach who has won since and they gapped the others, with three-lengths back to third. The Inevitable has had S.Carr and M.Poy on his back for almost the duration of his career and now gets Craig Williams, who although he had a poor day last Saturday at Caulfield, is a major upgrade. I love the map from barrier eight, as he can sit outside Tshahitsi or even find the one-out and one-back spot if Runson sits outside lead from the wide gate. Looking at the opposition, this really looks like a three horse race. Fell Swoop is in the wheelchair, I doubt there will be much intent with Widgee Turf (blinkers off first time), Bandipur is gone and Oak Door got his win first-up. Looking at the two other horses in the market, Tavisun has ability but got the pattern to suit and Ben Melham jumps off to ride Fell Swoop? The switch to D.Dunn on a leader is a big negative jockey change for mine. Deprive is the main danger, he goes from R.King to D.Oliver which is a big positive jockey change and If he can hold a position early from barrier three, he should be in the finish.
The feature race on the meeting is the Group 2 Feehan Stakes, won by Magic Consul last year. Homesman went within a nose of winning this race last year and is favourite here but the stable isn’t going anywhere near as well this and although they might be turning things around, I’m happy to oppose him. The lead-up race I want to be with is the P.B Lawrence Stakes and the horse I want to be with is SIKANDARABAD ($6.00 TopBetta). He was coming off a very good trial victory at Cranbourne and there was support for him first-up in the Lawrence ($34 into $21). He got all the favours along the fence but was really strong through the line, running the second-fastest last 200m of the race and was taking ground off the likes of Hartnell and Cliff’s Edge late. Second-up, up to 1600m is the logical progression and second-up over the mile last preparation he split Avilius and Night’s Watch in a Group 3 race at Caulfield. He maps well from barrier eight and although I’m not super keen on the race, I thought he represented some value at around $6.00. Best Of Days can win but he has map issues from barrier 12, Fifty Stars should improve but looks a 2000m and beyond horse these days. The horse I will likely end up saving on is Kenedna. I thought she was good through the line off that slow tempo first-up and gets the blinkers back on here.