What a terrific weekend for turf racing! It all begins Down Under this evening (Saturday there), with the G2 Caulfield Sprint, G2 Tristarc Stakes and the G1 Caulfield Cup. The weather in Melbourne has been horrific this week, and the track is rated Heavy, much to the joy of the mudlarks and wet-turf lovers like myself.
[Edited to add Eagle Falls and Arinos are now scratched from the Sprint]
Before any posted scratches, only 9 will contest the 5.5 furlong Sprint, with top-weight Eagle Falls second-up off a 4-month break. Before that, he had unsuccessfully contested the G1 Golden Shaheen in Dubai and the G1 International Sprint in Singapore. Last out he finished third behind the sensational Hay List in the G1 Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley. In two previous starts at Caulfield he’s never placed, finishing fourth in last year’s Sprint, and he appears to prefer firmer turf, so I’ll pass on him. The 3-year-old Darley runner Soul loves the wet going, with two wins in two attempts on the Heavy including a win in the G2 Danehill Stakes last out where he beat Buffering—who subsequently won the G2 Roman Consul Stakes. The only query about him is his youth and inexperience against wily older horses; this will be only his fifth lifetime start and all of them since June. As a bettor, you can never discount the trainer-jockey combo of Peter Moody-Luke Nolen, so the mare Set for Fame will be on my tickets first up off a break, an angle that’s worked well for her. A bit of a concern about the wet track for her too, though. The other mudlarks in here are Keano (who hasn’t won since last year’s listed Myer Q.T.C. Lightning Handicap) and General Truce (who I’m also considering for the exotics, off his third-place finish behind Soul in the Danehill and recent third behind Black Caviar). This race is a big jump in class for Dissolved off a listed race win, but this son of Lonhro is out of a half-sister to the great multi-G1 winner Grand Armee. Dubleanny is also worthy of a look, with five wins in seven starts, but only one in a listed race—although that was on Heavy. She’s beaten Doubtful Jack who’s a useful sprinter.
[DAMN! Hot Danish is scratched from the Tristarc, as is Palacio de Cristal]
The 7-furlong Tristarc is all about Hot Danish. Period. One of the best racing mares in the world. She finished second to Typhoon Tracey in this race last year, but there are no competitors of that caliber to challenge her today, and she relishes every type of racing surface so the Heavy isn’t a concern. The Shamardal filly No Evidence Needed is in good form, with recent runner-up performances behind Response in the G1 Sir Rupert Clarke and Palacio de Cristal (who also goes here) in the G2 Blazer Stakes. Gai Waterhouse’s Montana Flyer loves the wet going, but hasn’t been in best of form this preparation; her last win was in the G3 Millie Fox back in February. The only other one I might consider is the Moody-Nolen mare Live In Sin who likes the wet and appears to be rounding into form.
[Scratches from the Cup are Master O'Reilly, Zabrasive, Jessicabeel and Drunken Sailor]
The Caulfield Cup is shaping up as one helluva race. Shocking, Metal Bender and Alcopop all look fit and capable of winning on Heavy. However, I’m most drawn to Gai Waterhouse’s two chances. Herculian Prince just bowls out of the barriers and keeps on going; by the New Zealand staying sire Yamanin Vital, he is bred to run all day. However, I must confess my gut says it’s the High Chaparral colt Descarado who will pop a huge upset here. Turn in later tonight to see for yourself; you can watch the races live online (after free registration) here at Australianracing.com
On Saturday at Woodbine, it’s Pattison Canadian International Day! You can view my analysis of the International at ThoroFan. Beginning at 4:00 p.m., ESPN2 will also cover the G1 Nearctic for turf sprinters, and the G1 E.P. Taylor for filly and mare turfsters.
Ken McPeek sends out Bridgetown who won the G3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine last September before finishing runner-up behind Pounced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He’s posted two wins this year, including one of yielding turf at Saratoga. Local horse Field Commission won this race last year—and hasn’t won since in seven attempts. He’s strong coming off a break and the blinkers go back on. Grand Adventure should like soft going; he shortens up off an eighth-place finish in the G1 Woodbine Mile where he led before tiring late. Bogue Chitto ran second last year in this race, but has been struggling. Ditto for Signature Red (who looked quite a monster in the spring, but definitely not since returning for a short spell) and Fatal Bullet. A local who I do consider a potential threat is Woodbourne, off his third-place finish behind Court Vision in the G1 Woodbine Mile—but only with firm turf. The best Euro invader appears to be Balthazaar’s Gift, last out winner of the ENG-G1 Park Stakes; with recent form vs. the likes of Starspangledbanner, Equiano and Goldikova, his class looks far superior to the locals (but notice no Lasix for him). The 4-year-old filly Serious Attitude has raced in many of the same events as Balthazaar’s Gift, with less success, but will race with Lasix and gets the services of Garrett Gomez who has the ability to (almost literally) carry a horse over the line. I like her chances. Amico Fritz threw a real clunker last out in the FR-G1 Prix de l’Abbaye, but that was an extremely odd-run race over a very soft track, and he cleanly beat the winner of that race Gilt Edge Girl just prior in the GER-G2 Golden Peitsche. He’s won six races this year in 11 starts—with Mike Smith aboard, I’m not sure I’d back him, though. Like to see Chantal Sutherland on Woodbourne come out ahead.
The E.P. Taylor is nearly all Euros, topped by FR-G1 Prix Ganay runner-up Shalanaya who finished in that race over six lengths ahead of Chinchon who runs in the International. Two disappointing runs recently leave a chink in her armor, though. Lahaleeb won this race last year, but has run extremely poor in all five of her subsequent starts. Akarlina and Reggane have good form against one another and other top horses, but I’m inclined to favor the Luca Cumani filly Contredanse who has some local connections: she’s a full-sister to G2 Nassau winner Callwood Dancer who ran runner-up to Folk Opera in the 2008 E.P. Taylor. The local hopes rest on Roger Attfield’s Mekong Melody (who finished a well-beaten last of 10 in the G2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga recently) and especially Miss Keller, who was a late-closing third in the Ballston Spa and then won the G2 Canadian in preparation for this.