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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Examining the Cox Plate Card

Australia’s Spring Carnival action moves to Moonee Valley this weekend with seven group races, including the prestigious G1 Cox Plate. An oddly-designed sharp-turn anti-clockwise track, Moonee Valley usually requires some previous success over it so take that into consideration when handicapping. My thoughts on Saturday’s (late Friday night here in the U.S.) races, considering the projected “Dead” track condition (but I reserve the right to change my mind too, so follow along on Twitter!):

In race 1, a maiden special weight sprint for juveniles, first-time starter Balmodena (Good Journey) looks promising; her half-brother Masthead finished third behind the excellent colt Sepoy and filly Hallowell Belle in the AUS-G1 Blue Diamond as a 2-year-old—and actually finished second in this very race last year. Balmodena has trialed twice in preparation for this. Go The Cats (Purrealist) should be of interest to Americans—her second dam is fantastic multiple-G1 winner Frans Valentine, making her dam is a full-sister to FR-G1 placed With Fascination and half-sister to multiple-G1 winner With Anticipation.
UPDATE: Go The Cats was a pre-race scratch, while Balmodena a gate scratch. Not a good start.

Listed Essendon Jeep Stakes (1600m) Race 2
Bliss Street (Flying Spur) is the most accomplished filly in the race, winner of the G3 1000 Guineas Prelude little over a month ago, then runner-up to Mosheen in the G2 Edward Manifold. Last out, however, she underwent a vet exam after finishing ninth of 11 in the G1 Thousand Guineas. This being her sixth start this campaign, and off that questionable effort, it’s hard to back her here, especially as topweight and a previous poor effort over this track. Maiden Torah (Spinning World) just missed last out over this track, and is already a listed race runner-up. The trainer-jockey combination of Peter Moody-Luke Nolen gives her a big shot to break through with a win, even from far outside post position.
UPDATE: Torah wins at 6-1. Bliss Street game to stay on for second.

G3 Red Anchor Stakes/1300 Australia Stakes (1200m) Race 3
While Karuta Queen (Not a Single Doubt) was no match for Black Caviar two weeks ago, she should be more than enough against these. The Moody-Nolen colt Beckon (Charge Forward) steps up in class; out of the G2-placed mare Chatelaine, this boy is a full-brother to G1 winning mare Headway. Miss Stellabelle (Dehere) won the G3 Champagne Stakes over this track most recently, meriting a solid chance as well.
UPDATE: No problem for Karuta Queen at 8-5; Miss Stellabelle second. Beckon out of top fours.

G2 AAMI Vase (2040m) Race 4
The small field of six features a hot favorite, Manawanui (Oratorio) who was narrowly beaten by the terrific Helmet last out in the G1 Caulfield Guineas. However, he’s never traveled this far, which is why I’ll be looking closely at the New Zealand-bred Collar (O’reilly) who won the listed Doncaster Stakes second-up this campaign, but as topweight finished third last out and underwent a vet exam. His half-brother Larry’s Never Late (Pentire) won at 2400m, even finishing a narrow third in the G1 Queensland Derby in 2009; his dam Laebeel finished second to Sky Heights in the 1999 G1 Caulfield Cup.
UPDATE: 1-5 Manawanui proved he could get the distance; 3-1 Collar runner-up.

G2 Schweppes Stakes (1200m) Race 5
Only four geldings are willing to take on undefeated Black Caviar (Bel Esprit), the best of which is 3-time G1 winner Scenic Blast (Scenic), back on Aussie soil after campaigning last year in the United States for John Shirreffs. He hasn’t raced for nearly 11 months so defeating Black Caviar would be an extraordinary achievement. Betting the super mare makes it 15 straight victories.
UPDATE: No contest. The Queen won with such amazing ease. Scenic Blast in an impossible spot first back, finished last of four that ran.

G2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) Race 6
A prep for the G1 Melbourne Cup, some quality horses go in this race including last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Americain (Dynaformer). Sorry, but there’s no way I’m backing him. Gai Waterhouse-trained Tullamore (Savabeel) quickly backs up off an impressive third-place finish in last weekend’s G1 Caulfield Cup, and I really like the trajectory of Shewan (Blevic) who posted an impressive win in the G2 Herbert Powers last out. The master Bart Cummings trains the German invader Illo (Tertullian) who makes his first start since July; a listed winner last out, he finished second to Elle Shadow in the G3 Grosser Preis der Wirtschaft—and that G1 placed mare subsequently finished third in the G1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis. Last year’s Caulfield Cup runner-up Harris Tweed (Montjeu) just hasn’t been the same horse this year, so it’s hard to back him. However, longshot chance Anudjawun (Yamanin Vital) put in a nice fifth-place effort in the G2 Herbert Powers; his dam Perceptible was a G2 runner-up in the 2000m Awapuni Gold Cup. Finally, gallant 7-year-old mare Swooper (Black Hawk) attempts group company for the first time, but she loves this track, having won 4 of 7 efforts.
UPDATE: Warning to other bettors: don't let emotions get in the way of betting. I'm not entirely sure why, but I've always had a hatred for Americain. So, he wins. Followed in order by Tullamore, Illo, Anudjawun and Shewan, which ultimately formed my superfecta. Don't you hate when that happens? Blah!

G2 Crystal Mile (1600m) Race 7
Luen Yat Forever (Honours List) totally flopped in last year’s Cox Plate, but enters this race off a nice third-place finish in the G1 Toorak last out. G1-placed Triple Elegance (Mossman) faced much tougher last out—but has never run counter-clock wise; this could be an interesting outing. Ginga Dude (Istidaad) shorts up after finishing third last out in the listed Cranbourne Cup, and he won a race at this distance over this course recently. Lightly-raced Silver Grecian finished sixth (but only 3.5 lengths back) in his last effort, the G1 Rupert Clarke. Last year, He’s Remarkable (Pentire) narrowly lost to Cox Plate favorite Jimmy Choux in the NZ-G1 2000 Guineas; after a 5-month break, he’s come back this campaign with two straight wins in New Zealand—not certain he’s up to this class. Wily veteran Danleigh (Mujahid) won the G1 Chipping Norton back in March, but hasn’t had much success since and carrying topweight might be too much.
UPDATE: Bit of a shocker with 4-1 Testa My Patience winning over game 40-1 Hawks Bay. Post-time favorite He's Remarkable (3-1) finished third, and 11-1 Happy Trails was fourth. Very disappointing race by some of the more seasoned horses.

G1 Cox Plate (2040m) Race 8
Disappointed to hear that Descarado (High Chaparral) is out of Saturday’s Cox Plate, I’m even more conflicted about whom to root for here. Darley’s 3-year-old Helmet (Exceed and Excel) with his huge weight allowance will take lots of money, although he’s never run beyond one mile (Uncle Mo comparisons abound); by a champion sprinter, stamina is found in his damline, through Singspiel and Mill Reef. If Manawanui performs well in the AAMI Vase, I’ll take him seriously. On his achievements already, New Zealand invader Jimmy Choux (Thorn Park) certainly rates consideration regardless of track condition. He has form against Lion Tamer (Storming Home), but that one threw a clunker last out. Rekindled Interest (Redoute’s Choice) boasts two victories in three starts over this track, including the G2 Dato'tan Chin Nam Stakes in September. All that said, it’s the mares to which I’m looking for value: King’s Rose (Redoute’s Choice), Avienus (Reset), Pinker Pinker (Reset) and Secret Admirer (Dubawi). All four come in off G1 tries: Secret Admirer and Pinker Pinker finished 1-2 in the G1 Epsom, King’s Rose ran a narrow second in the G1 Toorak, and Avienus just missed against Descarado in the G1 Caulfield Stakes. Avienus is actually the only horse to return from last year’s Cox Plate, where she finished sixth of 10 with Craig Williams aboard—I much prefer her recent efforts with Brad Rawiller aboard. If pressed, I’d probably have to say Secret Admirer appeals to me most (even though she’s never run counter-clockwise); her unraced dam is a half-sister to 2600m G1 winner Donegal Mist, who also won the G2 Moonee Valley Cup here over 2600m. Interestingly for Americans too, Secret Admirer is cross-bred 3 x 3 to Seeking the Gold.
UPDATE: So much for taking my own address about not playing based on emotion. I've always had tremendous success betting Pinker Pinker so I bet her across the board just in case...and she won, at 25-1! Wow! Helmet's distance limitations kicked in as he faded, and Jimmy Choux finished second, with Rekindled Interest third and 35-1 longshot Wall Street in fourth.

G3 Inglis Mile (1600m) Race 9
Finally, if you make it this far, More Strawberries (More Than Ready) returns off a disappointing effort in the G1 Epsom, as does Raspberries (Lonhro)—talk about a fruity hunch quinella! For my money, So Pristine (Zabeel) looks to be rounding into form at exactly the right time, although topweight—and last year’s winner—Lady Lynette (Ladoni) can’t be ignored.


Anne S said...

Good analysis Valerie, agree to most of it. I'm still mulling over my choice for the Cox Plate; am leaning towards Lion Tamer (if he behaves) and Rekindled Interest, though I'd love one of the mares to win. King's Rose looks the most likely. Anyway, I'll be there in person, soaking up the atmosphere - rain or (hopefully) shine. It's currently damp and drizzly in Melbourne (21 Oct 3.00pm) after a hot windy day yesterday, so the track shouldn't be worse than dead.

Anne S said...

Had a great day at the track despite the crowds of drunken revellers. Hightlight was seeing Black Caviar in the flesh. Actually managed to get some good photos of her. Thrilled Pinker Pinker won the Cox Plate, though didn't have any money on her. Very sad to hear (after I got home) that Lion Tamer was put down. And even if you don't like Americain, he's a beautiful looking horse and I was pleased to see him win. Will write a blog post about my day tomorrow.