G3 Red Anchor (Australia) Stakes (3A) 10:20 p.m. EDT
Peter Moody-trained filly Avenue looks impossible to beat here, coming in off two impressive G3 wins and being undefeated over this track in two attempts. For the rest, it’s a battle for second, and it’s likely to get personal. Craig Williams was dumped as stable jockey by David Hayes recently, thus Damien Oliver takes the ride on La Bella Encosta while Williams replaces Oliver on Darren Weir-trained Broken.
[UPDATE: Even without her best effort, 2-5 favorite Avenue was much the best; Darley's 25-1 Goverance (which I made a late impulse place bet on) rushed up from the rear to get second, followed by 25-1 Broken. Chalk one up for Craig Williams!]
G2 Crystal Mile (4A) 10:55 p.m. EDT
Top-weight Rangirangdoo has been flying of late, with 10 placings in 10 races, including 6 wins. He was a close second last out to Cox Plate contender Rock Kingdom, in the G1 Epsom over this distance. Although he has yet to attempt this unique Moonee Valley course in race conditions (according to reports, he did not work well over the course in trackwork earlier this week), he looks a good bet here. Lucky Thunder has yet to win in 6 attempts at 1 mile, but with 4 placings, including a third-place finish behind Heart of Dreams and Von Costa de Hero in the G1 Cadbury Guineas back in March, a win last out going 7-3/4 furlongs, a dry track, and dropping 11 pounds, he’s a real place money threat. Can Maxisun stretch out? For a price, The Fonz gets a thumbs-up if Craig Williams has a chip on his shoulder, or how about lightly-raced American-bred Sound of Nature, son of G1 Flower Bowl victress Yashmak—you can never count out the Lee Freedman-Dwayne Dunn combo.
[UPDATE: 9-5 favorite Rangirangdoo was always going to win; with blinkers on first-time today, he just missed setting a course record. My 20-1 Sound of Nature got place, and 8-1 All American was third]
G2 AAMI Vase (5A) 11:30 p.m. EDT
Carrara won the G2 Stutt here a month back and followed that with a second-place finish behind Starspangledbanner in the G1 Caulfield Guineas two weeks ago. Extra Zero comes out of the same two races—second behind Carrara and fourth in the Guineas; not certain he can reverse form against Carrara. The sole filly in the field, Miss With Attitude, finished third in the Stutt after being interfered with, and then last out finished sixth, two lengths behind Irish Lights in the G1 Thousand Guineas under Kerrin McEvoy; reunited with Clare Lindop, she’s a real threat here. Gai Waterhouse-trained Viking Legend may be the best fit horse, got the distance a G1-placing over a heavy turf last out. He broke his maiden here at Moonee Valley, and will love the drier surface. LATE ADD: Maybe some money on Hanks whose dam Sister Fromseattle is by Seattle Slew, out of the Secretariat mare Sister Dot, which makes her a half-sister to Dehere.
[UPDATE: Bred for distance, 9-1 Hanks (by Encosta de Lago out of the Seattle Slew mare Sister FromSeattle) wins! 11-1 Spacecraft got second, with Gai Waterhouse-trained Viking Legend third, and Carrara fourth. The filly Miss with Attitude never looked comfortable.]
G2 Schweppes Stakes (6A) 12:05 a.m. EDT
Tough, tough field, starting with last year’s Schweppes winner Lucky Secret who won the G2 Schillaci last out, and loves Moonee Valley. Danleigh won the G1 Manikato over this course and distance last out, but may prefer more sting out of the ground—his far outside barrier isn’t a bonus with MV’s tight turns. Greg Eurell-trained stablemates Apache Cat and Mic Mac are both threats, but also have niggling reasons to doubt them—Apache Cat did win the G1 Australia Stakes here in February, but his recent form hasn’t been dominating like the Cat of old; Mic Mac does much better with some sting out of the track, which he likely won’t get today. Light Fantastic was once hailed the Next Big Thing, but hasn’t won since August 2008’s G2 Liston. Even first up, Bank Robber could steal this race, but I’m rooting hard to the only mare in the race, Ortensia who didn’t like the Flemington straight last out, and has twice placed here at MV.
[UPDATE: The legendary Apache Cat beats Mic Mac, with Bank Robber third and Ortensia unable to find room late, settling for fourth. Nice exacta for trainer Greg Eurell!]
G2 Moonee Valley (Cathay Pacific Airways) Cup (7A) 12:40 a.m. EDT
Top-weight Ista Kareem boasts 3 wins in 3 attempts at Moonee Valley, but gives 13 pounds to Miss Darcey who outfinished him last out—she failed to draw into last weekend’s Caulfield Cup thus lands here for Tony Cummings. Lodge the Deeds finished second behind Speed Gifted over a heavy track in the G1 Metro last out; his fitness level puts him in strong contention here. Ready to Lift is sitting on a huge race—don’t be surprised if it is this.
[Update: 7-year-old 30-1 The Sportsman upsets, with 25-1 Irazu second and 16-1 Think Money third and 40-1 Kibbutz fourth. Damn, that’s gonna be a massive tri and super!]
G1 Cox Plate (8A) 1:30 a.m. EDT
With likely pace-setter Sir Slick a vet scratch, Gai Waterhouse’s Manhattan Rain may be hustled out of his outside barrier to the early lead. He and Bart Cummings-trained So You Think are the only 3-year-olds entered, giving them each a huge weight advantage (18-21 pounds) over the rest of the field—is that enough to conquer some pretty salty runners? If Manhattan Rain can’t get it done for Gai, how about Rock Kingdom? The lady trainer has won just about every big group race—isn’t it time to add a Cox Plate to her collection? Whobegotyou is unbeaten in four attempts at Moonee Valley and will love the dry track. Heart of Dreams likewise has nothing but upside. Don’t forget G1 Metro victor Speed Gifted who goes way up in weights, but has fitness on his side (as well as Freedman-Dunn). For “longshots”, consider wily veterans Scenic Shot (third in the G1 Turnbull last out), and Vision and Power, third last out to Whobegotyou and Heart of Dreams in the G1 Yalumba.
[UPDATE: Holy cow!! Bart Cummings’ 3-year-old So You Think won wire-to-wire, with the other 3-year-old Manhattan Rain getting second, and last year’s second-place finisher Zipping in third. Truly, an amazing training feat! Kudos to Bart :) The quinella paid $162.20, the $1 tri paid $6,747.40; the $1 super paid $22,744.35. Wish I had some of that...could have remodelled my bathroom. Instead, settled for $20.10 place and $11.10 show on Manhattan Rain.]
G3 Inglis Mile (9A) 2:20 a.m. EDT
Sparkling Satine loves this track, but hasn’t done well in group racing—time for that to change? With a dry track, don’t discount Beaucoup—terrible barrier, but quality mare. Ditto Estee who won the Adelaide Guineas with Kerrin McEvoy aboard; he returns to ride her here. Also, if Lucky Thunder wins or places in the Crystal Mile (4A), wager on Silent Sophia—or bet on her regardless. Good barrier, good move getting red-hot Michelle Payne aboard.
[UPDATE: In the finale, 6-1 Lady Lynette jumped up for the win, with 12-1 Moment in Time in second, followed by 40-1 Pink Shimmer.]