Almanac Racing: Sal’s Derby Day Preview

Happy Carnival to all,


Goodbye to the Old Codgers


‘twas a sad email that informed me of the impending plight of the Old Codgers (aka Members) Stand at Flemington at the completion of this year’s carnival.  Since becoming a member it has been my haunt on race day – it is where the Old Codgers meet – it provides an almost perfect environment to easily move between the track, the mounting yard, the bar and the bookies ring.  About 8,000 seats in the stand that are vacant most of the year but will be full over the next week.  The replacement will have only 1500 grandstand seats but countless bars and restaurants behind glass – whoopee!  There are already numerous bars and restaurants behind glass at Flemington as well as The Forum with no natural light or view of the track providing all the experience of a day at the pub – while wearing a suit!  I cannot argue that the facility is not in need of upgrade but is should be upgraded or replaced with something that will maintain the experience for racegoer who actually wants to be part of the atmosphere.


I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Cox Plate meeting in a corporate facility and can’t say I did not enjoy the experience and hospitality behind glass – it was a great day.  However when it came to the main event we ventured outside to experience the spectacle and the atmosphere associated with it.  Sporting venues need to provide facilities for the corporates, the theatregoers and the sports lovers – sometimes the balance is not quite right and the sports lovers are the ones who miss out.  Must say what a thrill it was to see Winx win in that manner and the comparisons with Black Caviar have already started.  A shame that she won’t take to Flemington, but CJW has always been unapologetic about his priorities being for the horse first, second and third.  What it has done though is opened up a host of entries in the new McKinnon on Final Day which promises to be one of races the carnival.


Is there any Cricket?


Before the preview I’d like to say something about cricket – the test team will be announced which will be interesting given the dearth of talent any of the representative teams have shown this year.  Can’t read the Michael Clarke stuff going on, he will grace (or disgrace) the Channel Nine commentary box this season – those moving out are intriguing!  Interesting that Victoria fought so hard not to allow Glenn Maxwell to leave but he could not get in the shield team.  Not much else to say really.


Or Footy?


Maintaining an almost footy free edition, but can’t let the Whitfield saga go without comment.  No matter which way it goes the “Femme Fatale” defence is both typical and reprehensible.  Not to mention the trade fiasco with O’Meara.  The vagaries of the fixture will be forensically analysed over summer with a comprehensive coverage in edition one for 2017.


Horsing Around


Back to the neddies – we saw another tripod for the Quaddie.  A few scratchings made a bit of a mess of the selections but a few excuses too, other excuses due to the inside of the track being like quick sand and putting paid to Lady Le Fay and Exocet, both worth watching out for.  The United States and Winx won as top picks and the winner as covered in the top four of a couple of other races.  The MVRC really need to find the right formula as Friday Night has had too much of an impact on the track on the Saturday.


But it’s Christmas Day for punters this week and there is a cracking nine race card set for decision with all races at group level.  The annual debate on the derby distance surfaced late this year with Mick Price being the protagonist again.  There has been much discussion about the dearth of stayers and possibly not having a full field for the Melbourne Cup, not sure that bringing the Derby back to 2000m will alleviate that issue.  The Derby is a staying test and should remain as such.




Race 1 – Carbine Club Stakes (G3, 1600m, 3yo SWP)

Always a competitive start to the carnival and covering the mile a chance early to see how conditions might play out.  This field is a beauty with form coming from a range of races.  The Gothic stakes is often a good guide and Acatour (7) faced the breeze and stuck on well in that race for third, Violate (9) finished second but had a more favourable run.  The Caulfield Guineas though is a better race and Hey Doc (1) was less than a length from winning it, the outside barrier might be an issue but it should not be an issue with his racing style.  Bezel (5) lumped 61kgs to win his last start in Sydney and has JMac aboard while So You Too (11) also won coming from a long way back in Adelaide.

Selections – 1-7-5-11


Race 2 – Wakeful Stakes (G2, 2000m, 3yo Fillies SWP)

Sebring Dream (4), Tiamo Grace (6) and Bella Sorellastra (5) all ran well in the Ethereal and are hard to split, Waterloo Sunset (7) failed in the Norman but was huge at Flemington the start before.  Tiamo Grace (6) on top with the pick of the barriers, but not much in it.

Selections – 6-5-7-4


Race 3 – Sensis Stakes (G3, 1100m, Mares SWP)

A tough one to dissect here with plenty of factors to contend with, but ultimately going with the form of Shiedel (2) as the top pick.  Wild Rain (1) returns to mares grade after competing with the elite sprinters but has to contend with the extra weight.  SOB often produces a well-priced winner over the carnival and Rule the River (16) has Hugh Bowman engaged and might be drawn well on the outside.  Estaminet (17) has a win down the straight and is coming off a four week break.  Others I like are Almighty Girl (7), Super Cash (11)  and Chloe in Paris (12) still not sure I have the winner.

Selections – 2-16-1-17


Race 4 – Lexus Stakes (G3, 2500m, Qty HCP)

A free ticket to Tuesday is on offer for the winner, but plenty of these are not chasing that dream.  Oceanographer (8) from the Charlie Appleby yard is looking for the ticket and pretty hard not to select him after the 3rd in the Geelong Cup and the stable taking out the Bendigo Cup also – they are having a blast.  Tom Melbourne (5) has G Boss aboard trying to book the ticket – he will set a genuine tempo but can he hold on?  5th in a Caulfield Cup is great form for this on level weights Real Love (2) would probably start favourite and Tally (3) also up in the weights but 3rd to Hartnell and Jameka in the Turnbull is pretty good form.  Pentathlon (4), De Little Engine (7) Rose of Virginia (10) and The Bandit (11) need the win to guarantee a start in the cup – although Pentathlon (4) should be OK through attrition.

Selections – 8-5-2-3


Race 5 – Coolmore Stud Stakes (G1, 1200m, 3yo SW)

The previous might be a ticket to the cup, this race has become a ticket to retirement – or at least a significant change in work environment.  Other G1s are worth more than $500K but the best colts all run here because the value in the race is at stud – wonder if we might get geldings and fillies running if they bumped it to $1M.  Oh but now the race, the easy part is discounting the bottom four as winning chances.  The value might be with the Snowden trained and undefeated Russian Revolution (6) a last start winner over Astern (3) and Capitalist (1), it’s only value if they win.  Aside from that narrow miss Astern (3) is giving JMac goose bumps and has been outstanding, had 4 weeks off, a great fresh record and is my top pick.  Maybe Christie Allen for the national anthem! Extreme Choice (2) and Star Turn (5) have both won sprints against their older rivals – whilst the Schilacci was G2 compared to the Moir G1 I think it might be better form.  Capitalist (1) will appreciate the good surface predicted and could win, while Flying Artie (7) seems to be second banana in the Mick Price stable.

Selections – 3-6-5-2


Race 6 – Myer Classic (G1, 1600m, Fillies & Mares WFA)

What price would Winx be in this?  Even without her this race is a beauty and generally always is, added to the spice are a couple of fillies taking on the mares.  The Fillies are evenly matched and putting I Am A Star (15) to finish ahead of Whispering Brook (14) noting that no filly has ever won this race – by the same token not many contest it either.  Dixie Blossoms (10) did blossom in winning the Angst in Sydney and looks well set here.  First Seal (2) got back on the winners list in the Tristarc and might just be the second best mare in the country and challenging that is Don’t Doubt Mama (7) who just loves hitting the line hard.  Pearls (9) rarely puts in a bad one and Danish Twist (5) might have caught First Seal (2) with a better run.

Selections – 10-7-2-15


Race 7 – Victoria Derby (G1, 2500m, 3yo SW)

The Blue Riband classic can throw up the odd long shot, but there is one stat that has not changed for 30 years.  The winner has never finished worse than fourth at its previous start in all that time.  This knocks out a few runners from the big stables Prized Icon (2) – GSOB, Silvera (8) – McEvoy, Wine Bush (9) – CJW, Kent (11) – Godolphin, Highlad (12) – Baker/Forsman, All Out of Love (16) – Hayes and one of the emergencies.  Of those I still rate Prized Icon (2) who crabbed around the corner last week but finished as well as the four ahead of him.  So Si Bon (10) and Sacred Elixir (1) were two of those ahead of him and are my top selections with Sacred Elixir (1) preferred from barrier one.  Swear (3) beat all the boys in the Spring Champion – if he wins Yankee Rose will be in the red figures for the Oaks.  Would have a place for Rocketeer (4) but is poorly drawn.

Selections – 1-10-3-2


Race 8 – Cantala Stakes (G1, 1600m, Qty HCP)

The move of this race from final day to Derby Day has not detracted from the field.  The challenge being whether or not this is the grand final or is it a lead up for the McKinnon.  No matter what Palentino (1) is 3 from 4 at headquarters and the other was a second – he is topweight but the scale is somewhat condensed.  Big threat at the other end of the scale with the 3yo Seaburge (16) and Tivaci (15) who runs well here.  Hopfgarten (10) gets some weight relief after a good performance here on Turnbull Stakes Day.  He’s Our Rokki (4) is in great form and is up to this as is The United States (2) and Good Project (9).

Selections – 1-10-16-4


Race 9 – Linlithgow Stakes (G2, 1200m, HCP)

Will be at the car or bar by this stage and probably in need of a couple of Sacred Elixirs.  Have followed Counterattack (6) without success – CJW has flipped him back to sprints will it be the answer?  If it is he can win in this company.  Ultimate selections will come down to the favoured barriers on the day.  If the outside is favoured then I will be with Dothraki (3) has won here and should be reaching full fitness – on the other side I will be with Keen Array (5)Durendal (7) also has a fair record down the straight and Ball of Muscle (2) can improve.

Selections – 3-5-6-7


Quaddie Time


Always tough at such high quality meetings with large fields.  Will be going wide-ish in the first three legs hoping to stay alive for the final leg which will be skinnied down to a couple of selections.  Could be worth having another quaddie with Sacred Elixir one out in the Derby.


Leg 1 – 2,5,7,10,15

Leg 2 – 1,2,3,4,10

Leg 3 – 1,2,4,10,16

Leg 4 – 3,5


300 Combinations for $30 will present 10% of the dividend


Hope everyone has a great weekend, enjoy your Sacred Elixir in moderation,


Cheers, Sal




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