by Mitchell Lamb
There is a Derby on this weekend for racing fans, in fact, it’s one steeped in history – the Australian Derby has been run since 1861, making it 14 years older than the Kentucky Derby. It’s maintained its status throughout that time as the premier classic for 3-year-olds from Australia and New Zealand.
It’s one of the headline events on the big Randwick card on Friday evening U.S. time, along with the world’s richest mile handicap race, the Doncaster Mile (G1); the T.J Smith Stakes (G1) over 6-furlongs, which has been the highest rated sprint event on the planet on numerous occasions; and the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes (G1), which is the second leg of Australia’s Triple Crown for juveniles.
The Randwick meeting will be Australia “A” for TwinSpires players. Here’s a look at all 10 races, the first jumping at 9:10 p.m. ET, and we’re likely to be dealing with a heavy surface with Sydney expected to have a fair bit of rain in the next couple of days.
- Race Schedule:
- Kindergarten Stakes – 9:10pm ET
- Carbine Club Stakes – 9:45pm ET
- Country Championships Final – 10:20pm ET
- Adrian Knox Stakes – 10:55pm ET
- Chairman’s Quality Stakes – 11:35pm ET
- Sires’ Produce Stakes – 12:15am ET
- Australian Derby – 12:55am ET
- T.J. Smith Stakes – 1:35am ET
- Doncaster Mile – 2:15am ET
- P.J. Bell Stakes – 2:50am ET
RACE 1 – KINDERGARTEN STAKES (G3) – 9:10 P.M. ET
2YO SET WEIGHTS, 6 FURLONGS
Juveniles kick off the day in the Kindergarten in what looks a tricky affair. #1 Rulership is probably the best horse in the race, but definitely question marks on a wet surface with him and at the odds he’s come up, I’d have to go against him at this stage.
#12 Harmonium, one of five fillies lining up against the colts here, was outstanding on debut at Wyong, on a rain affected track, in a race where the form has held up well, before she had nothing go her way in the Sweet Embrace. Looked very good in a recent trial, and she has the early speed to get across from gate 9 and possibly control this from the front. She appeals at a likely double figure quote.
- Win: #12 Harmonium
- Exacta Part-Wheel: 4,12 with 1,4,12
RACE 2 – CARBINE CLUB STAKES (G3) – 9:45 P.M. ET
3YO SET WEIGHTS & PENALTIES, 1 MILE
Not a race I’m overly keen on from a betting perspective. All being even, #3 Reloaded, the odds-on favorite, should be winning – he drops dramatically in grade for this after quality efforts against the nation’s best 3yo’s in the Randwick and Rosehill Guineas, and his best trip is probably a mile.
I think #6 Bottega has ability and he strips fitter after two runs back, and up in trip and from a better draw, I could see him settling closer in the run now and being the favorite’s biggest threat at a nice price.
- Exacta Box: 3-6
RACE 3 – COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS FINAL – 10:20 P.M. ET
3YO+ SET WEIGHTS, 7 FURLONGS
This race is quite a unique event – it’s restricted to horses trained in country regions of New South Wales and each horse has got to this rich final by finishing in the top two of their regional qualifier. It usually makes for a very even betting affair, given the numerous formlines to contend with, and this year is no different.
So with plenty of winning chances, I’ll take a flyer on one at 40-1 in #12 Magnalane, a horse who won his local qualifier at Taree on a wet surface. I think he’s still on up somewhat, gets the blinkers on first time, and if he can get some luck from that wide barrier in the first part of the race, he’s a chance at that enormous price.
- Win/Place/Show: #12 Magnalane
RACE 4 – ADRIAN KNOX STAKES (G3) – 10:55 P.M. ET
3YO FILLIES QLTY HCP, 1 ¼ MILES
The secondary lead up, after last Saturday’s Vinery Stud Stakes, to next weekend’s Australian Oaks, the Adrian Knox usually gets a big field and quite often a long shot gets the chocolates. The former is true for this edition, but I don’t believe the latter will be occurring, because the favorite, #3 Colette, appears to be a very smart staying filly in the making. I expect the Godolphin filly to win and stamp herself as a huge threat for the big one in seven days time.
Colette has been highly impressive her past two starts at the provincials, the very much in form James McDonald takes the ride, and she looks set to get a perfect run in transit. Plus she ticks the box of having won on a soft track.
She’s the best of the day, even though we won’t be getting too big of a spoil price wise.
- Win: #3 Colette
RACE 5 – CHAIRMAN’S QUALITY (G2) – 11:35 P.M. ET
3YO+ QLTY HCP, 1 5/8 MILES
Traditional lead up to next Saturday’s Sydney Cup for the staying types and quite frankly, it’s not a fantastic renewal quality wise.
#3 Gallic Chieftain won this race last year and I would not at all be surprised to see him quickly improve now out to this trip after two average runs back from a spell, and win this again. He carries just 2 1/2 kilograms more than when he prevailed 12 months ago, and that edition was a far deeper race than this.
That was also on a rain affected surface, so that won’t be an issue, and he seemingly likes the clockwise direction as he has raced well in Sydney on multiple occasions when vising from his Melbourne base – he looks the play at almost double figure odds.
- Win: #3 Gallic Chieftain
- Exacta Box: 3-4-5
RACE 6 – ATC SIRES’ PRODUCE STAKES (G1) – 12:15 A.M. ET
2YO SET WEIGHTS, 7 FURLONGS
We get a big field of 15 line up chasing Group 1 glory here, but unusually just three runners from the Golden Slipper, the first leg of Australia’s Triple Crown for juveniles, have accepted to start.
For me, this isn’t a wonderful crop of juveniles, in fact I’d go as far to say they are well below average on the whole, but there’s still some promising types amongst this lot, perhaps none more so than #8 Ole Kirk.
The colt from the Team Hawkes stable really should be unbeaten – he was brilliant on debut in the Talindert, flashing through the middle late when coming from well back. Before he didn’t get the best of luck right when he needed it in the VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes.
They bring him to the Sydney yard for this and he was given a barrier trial last week at Randwick where he dropped quickly on his rivals to win under little pressure – he looks ready to run a huge race here at odds of around 8-1.
The dangers, and there’s a few of them, including Slipper placegetter #1 Mamaragan, #3 Prague, likely leader #6 Holyfield, and the talented #7 Aim.
- Win: #8 Ole Kirk
- Exacta Box: 1-7-8
RACE 7 – AUSTRALIAN DERBY (G1) – 12:55 A.M. ET
3YO SET WEIGHTS, 1 ½ MILES
Although it drops away a little after the main chances, I think this is a very good edition of the time honored classic, at the top end of the market anyway.
Going to stick with #3 Warning, the Victoria Derby hero from the Spring – he was the best genuine stayer then and I believe the best one among this lot still. He’s been ticking over nicely all prep, with this obviously the main aim, and, if anything, he’s looked a bit more dour this time in.
Rosehill Guineas winner #1 Castelvecchio is all class and that might be enough to carry him to victory even if there’s a little doubt about him getting the trip. #2 Shadow Hero got too far back in that race, and his Randwick record is impeccable. The best roughie is #7 Zebrowski, who looks like he’ll eat up the distance and handled the class rise in the Tulloch last week.
- Win: #3 Warning
- Trifecta Part-Wheel: 3,7 with 1,2,3,7 with 1,2,3,4,6,7
RACE 8 – T.J. SMITH STAKES (G1) – 1:35 A.M. ET
3YO+ WFA, 6 FURLONGS
As always, the “T.J.” has attracted most of the nation’s best sprinters and, as is usually the case in Australia, the best sprinters are amongst the best in the world.
#1 Nature Strip is probably the fastest horse in Australia, but he’s drawn the rail, so it will be essential for him to get away cleanly, and that hasn’t always been a fait accompli for him. If he is allowed to control proceedings and get a breather mid-race, he’s going to be awfully hard to beat.
I thought #2 Pierata’s first up run in the Galaxy was fantastic with a big weight and in the wrong part of the track – my gut feeling is that’s he’s flying and I definitely want to have something on him here. Pierata loves Randwick and is proven in the wet.
#7 Bivouac has to be there, he wasn’t comfortable leading last start but that won’t be happening here. I’m prepared to give #9 Exceedance one more chance, and he is juicy odds. The filly, #13 Loving Gaby, is just so consistent and she would definitely go in exotics. #10 Tofane the best roughie, and I’ll be against #3 Santa Ana Lane.
- Win: #2 Pierata
- Win: #9 Exceedance
- Exacta Part-Wheel: 2,7,9 with 1,2,7,9
- Trifecta Part-Wheel: 1,2 with 1,2,7,9 with 1,2,7,9,10,13
RACE 9 – DONCASTER MILE (G1) – 2:15 A.M. ET
3YO+ HANDICAP, 1 MILE
A marvelous betting race, which is the norm for a Doncaster, but this year’s edition is as wide open as I’ve seen for some time. In fairness, while it is an even race, I don’t think the genuine class of recent years is as prevalent throughout the field. Nonetheless, really looking forward to it.
Godolphin’s French import #10 Cascadian was superb winning the Doncaster Prelude last Saturday, getting a brilliant ride from James McDonald. He has proven himself up to Group 1 standard when he arguably should have won the Cantala in the spring, and looks well in. The wet won’t be an issue, and I reckon he is going as well as he can right now.
#19 Brandenburg fits the profile of a 3-year-old who runs well in a Doncaster – has form around the best of his generation, no weight, can race on speed, and Glen Boss is in the saddle, the winner of a record seven Doncaster Miles.
Next best for me after those two are the brilliant Kiwi mare #1 Melody Belle, who is being asked to carry a lot of weight; #5 Mister Sea Wolf; and #13 Quackerjack. Should be a fantastic race!
- Win: #10 Cascadian
- Win: #19 Brandenburg
- Trifecta Box: 1-5-10-13-19
RACE 10 – P.J. BELL STAKES (G3) – 2:50 A.M. ET
3YO FILLIES SET WEIGHTS & PENALTIES, 6 FURLONGS
Tough race to end the card and you wouldn’t want to be having to get out with it.
#2 Rubisaki will be a fairly short priced favorite, and while she is clearly a quality filly with a great winning record, she has been to Sydney once this prep already, been back to Melbourne, and is now asked to come back again and down in trip. She’s going to get back in the field here and need luck – happy to be against her.
Going a bit wide here with #7 Heart Of The Oak at around 20-1. She’s won 3-of-5, including a win two back over older mare Positive Peace, who’s since won five straight races including a Group 2. They tested Heart Of The Oak in Group 1 company in the Surround, and she was found wanting a little last start, but she’s had a freshen up since then, and I think this is a very winnable race for her back at the 6-furlongs. One question mark is the gate, but with the blinkers on they might push forward early and it is only the one turn at the Randwick circuit.
- Win: #7 Heart Of The Oak
- Exacta Box: 4-6-7