The first Saturday of Spring. I always loved Craiglee Stakes day when, for many, interest in the upcoming Carnival kicks in. Sure, the real silk department’s probably from our next visit to HQ for the Turnbull, but this is a meeting where the horses’ coats are coming through and the punters’ overcoats are being discarded. Traditionally, Home and Away footy season habits were redundant and suburban and country leagues were finished. There are no big hats and marquees yet at Flemington, but usually a scattering of end-of-season footy and netball teams flirting on the lawns and some good horseflesh also hoping to score.
Like much of the racing calendar there has been some tinkering with this meeting in recent times. The Ascot Vale Stakes, alas, has moved from this slot to be buried in the G1 avalanche of Derby Day, but the G2 Danehill, whilst not a straight replacement, nevertheless showcases a good standard of the new 3yr olds. The Craiglee, of course, remains the 1600m WFA but has now been rebadged the Makybe Diva and hoiked up to G1 –no news on whether they’ll doctor the track in memoriam to the triple Cup conqueror!
As is the case for the next couple of months, there are good horses and quality races dotted across the formguide and, pleasingly, an 8 race card with a 12.20 start and a 4.50 conclusion at Flemington.
Puissance de Lune will be odds on to win the feature (MR6, G1, WFA, 1600m). His Liston win was outstanding and it is fair to assume he has trained on for this. The mile at Flemington should be just right. It is great for racing to have 2 drawcards plotting alternate paths – exchanging serve if you like. PDL’s position at the head of Cox Plate markets was quickly usurped by Atlantic Jewel last week – now it is his turn to reclaim the hype. Not a lot of his opponents look up to this WFA class though it is worth remembering that we do tend to get some “track specialists” upsetting the applecart here – remember Littorio? As is now customary, we’ll be watching replays to line up the “imports”….they are so far superior to local stayers but some thrive here more so than others. Puissance de Lune is a classic example. On European ratings, Sea Moon could tow him up the straight, but we must wait and see. Sea Moon has had some gallops in recent weeks – he holds his head up and looked a little lost at Caulfield, but that’s not unusual. Again, he should relish the expanses of Flemington. He has serious credentials so must be carefully considered – it is hard not to think back to the Queen Elizabeth in April….It’s a Dundeel had just won both Guineas’ and the Derby by a furlong yet Reliable Man came out and flogged him. Admittedly it was 2nd up and 2000m, which might be a better scenario, but the message is clear that we watch the European form, especially class like his. December Draw burst on to the scene a couple of years ago with a PDL-like impact and it is great to see him back this week. Presumably they are just hoping that he pulls up OK. 8 and 6 in the Quaddy.
Those numbers might, however, be academic if we can’t stab the first leg (MR5, 3yo, G2, 1200m). Arguably the McNeil was a stronger field and Guelph has stayed in Sydney, but this might still become a strong form race. Safeguard (2) keeps finding a way…a real pro. Gregers (17) will also be in the market though she might be starting to look for more ground. Vasil’s The Bowler (7) @33/1 might be one to stand up. Very hard to align the formlines here. Watch betting! 2, maybe 14, 16…throw a dart.
The 3rd Leg is the Bobbie Lewis Quality, a genuinely time-honoured event as detailed last year (MR7, G3, 1200m). This is a very open, old fashioned straight six. I will definitely include Fontelina (5) 1st up @10/1. Any thoughts on British General (12) fresh?
The meeting closes with the Let’s Elope (MR8, Mares, G2, 1400m). Commanding Jewel (4) needed the run at Moonee Valley and will improve. Oasis Bloom (5) has some hope with a soft trail. Too hard basket for me.
Good luck if you are hoping to use the earlier races to build a Quaddy bank!
The opener is a very good 3yo fillies scamper (MR1, 1100m). Several promising types here. The obvious are 2 and 4, the query 1.
A Listed 1400m follows (MR2, 3yo). You had to be impressed by Cauthen (2) at the Valley and he’ll be improved by the run and will love Flemington. He can do things wrong and I wonder where he’ll lob if he stumbles the start from a wide gate confronting the endless turn? There’s plenty of depth in this really interesting field, but I am reluctant to pick against him. If forced, perhaps E/W Lady Lakshmi (6) @33/1.
A modest mile and a quarter (MR3, 2000m) then precedes a really tricky 1400m (MR4, Listed). Dany The Fox (7) was scratched last week for this. My pick. The top two will be well in the market. Garud (16) has been relentlessly unlucky recently, but that might be a trait. Ranked (11) was backed off the map at the city Bendigo meeting in March and failed badly – where there’s smoke? Speed map required.
There’s also a big meeting at Randwick, with feature races across the day. Look at this listing:
SR2- The Edgar Britt!!!!
SR3- Concorde Stakes (G3, 1000m, SW+P)
Hay List returns with 60.5kg. Snowden’s Session (8) is fav. 9 and 10 chances.
SR4- Furious Stakes (G2, 1200m, 3yo fillies)
SR5- Ming Dynasty Quality (G3, 1400m, 3yo)
Now, I certainly believe old Ming Dynasty deserves a good race named for him, but who came up with the idea of a 1400m 3yo at Randwick? Go figure! Maybe Hooked (6).
SR6- Tramway (G3, 1400m, SW+P)
Shoot Out (1), Sincero (2), Sacred Falls (3)….and so it goes. Good race. Lloyd’s sent Nick Hall up with Fawkner (8).
SR7- Chelmsford (G2, 1600m, WFA)
2nd rate…Craiglee and next week’s Feehan have skimmed the cream. Maybe Hawkspur (11).
The first and last are nondescript.
As usual, it is not all just about the Stakes races – in fact arguably Australia’s most celebrated meeting is on this weekend miles from the city centres. Birdsville has their legendary 2-Day Carnival starting Friday with the Cup on Saturday. Jock gave us a lead last week with Joe Blow which duly saluted at Betoota. He’s the one to beat giving trainer/jockey David Rewald a prized picture for the poolroom.
Hopeful I can get to study the form later and contradict or confirm this missive!
Any tips/anecdotes etc always welcomed.