by Mitchell Lamb

Final day of the Autumn Carnival in Sydney on Friday night for TwinSpires players at Royal Randwick, and it’s highlighted by two time-honored Group 1 events in the Champagne, the final leg of the Australian Triple Crown for juveniles over the mile, and the All-Aged, an open weight-for-age event over the 7 furlongs – both races more than 150 years old.

The meeting is listed as Australia “B”, we’ll be looking at a drying track which might get into the “Good” range by raceday, and the first is set down for 9:55 p.m. EDT – let’s find some winners!

RACE 1 – HIGHWAY HANDICAP – 9:55PM ET

3YO+ CLASS 3 HANDICAP, 6 FURLONGS

Highway Handicaps are races restricted to country-trained horses, this one specifically a Class 3, which means no horse entered can have won more than 3 races. It gives their connections a chance to race in town, on a Saturday, for prize money they’d rarely see in their own regions.

They are usually a bit of a lottery, often with a large number of different formlines coming together, but there’s a mare engaged here who I’ve been waiting to see return from a break for some time because, firstly, I think she’s got above-average ability, and secondly she’s won me a fair bit of cash already in her short career, so I have a soft spot for her…Hellenism is her name.

She’s won 3 from 5, including her past two. The second one of those was a Highway Handicap at this venue back in January. She’s had a break since then and they’ve given her a very quiet barrier trial to get her ready for this first-up assignment. I expect her to be winning and I think there’s better races ahead for this girl.

Suggested Bets:

  • Win – #10 Hellenism (Best Bet)

RACE 2 – 10:35PM ET

3YO+ HANDICAP, 6 FURLONGS

One of three non-stakes races on the card and not a race I’m overly keen on.

Groundswell, one of two 3-year-olds lining up here against the older horses, looked superb winning a recent barrier trial and there’s little doubt that, when right, he’s a genuine classy animal, as evidence by the fact of his Caulfield Guineas (G1) placing last October.

Just going to have to forget about his two runs back this prep in Melbourne. Clearly something wasn’t right, but going off the barrier trial, he has hopefully turned the corner. Prefers a dry surface and gets the in-form Tom Marquand on board – he really should be going close.

Suggested Bets:

  • Win – #12 Groundswell

RACE 3 – J.H.B. CARR STAKES – 11:10PM ET

3YO FILLIES, SET WEIGHTS & PENALTIES, 7 FURLONGS

The odds-on favorite here will be Rubisaki, and I’m not here to knock her. She’s a filly with a fantastic record thus far and she was pretty dominant in the P.J. Bell (G3) here two weeks ago, but at that price I can’t be with her, especially now that we look set to be on a firmer surface.

The Chris Waller-trained Subpoenaed has got plenty of ability herself and unfortunately things just haven’t panned out for her at her past two starts. Two back in the Kembla Grange Classic (G3) she had to circle the entire field from last and only went down half a length, then last start in the Vinery (G1), like a few others in that race, she was the victim of a farcical speed, plus I’m not sure she is really a mile-and-a-quarter filly.

Now comes back to the 7 furlongs, gets back on to better footing, and that might be help her display what is a quality turn of foot. At a likely double-figure quote she’s the one for me.

Suggested Bets

  • Win – #6 Subpoenaed
  • Exacta – 5,6,8 with 2,5,6,8

RACE 4 – FRANK PACKER PLATE, G3 – 11:45PM ET

3YO SET WEIGHTS, 1 1/4 MILES

Very good edition of the Frank Packer with the Australian Derby (G1) hero Quick Thinker lining up, as well as a few quite promising staying types.

Quick Thinker is going to be extremely tough to beat under the set weights conditions of the race, but I do think we will see vast improvement by one here that is currently around 20-1 in markets, and that is the Gerald Ryan-trained Fortress Command.

This colt simply cannot show his best under soft footing, but I didn’t think his run in the Tulloch (G2), when beaten five lengths by Quick Thinker, was all that bad. He was stuck in the worst part of the track on a surface too wet for him, but I thought he battled on well in the straight and was still strong through the line.

He’s rock-hard fit now, he should get that good surface that he’s been crying out for, he draws to get a perfect run, and I will be including him in everything I do as well as having something on him to cause the upset.

Suggested Bets

  • Win/Place/Show – #8 Fortress Command
  • Box Exacta – 1,8

RACE 5 – CHAMPAGNE STAKES, G1 – 12:20AM ET

2YO SET WEIGHTS, 1 MILE

Like a few races today, I think you have to be somewhat wary of the recent form leading into them because we’ve been racing on rain-affected tracks in Sydney for a few weeks and some horses simply haven’t dealt with that and can potentially turn around their form quickly.

The runner I’m looking at in the Champagne to do exactly that is Aim – he’s always been a very talented colt and the last time we saw him on a firm surface was three starts ago in the Skyline (G2) where he ended up in a horrible spot in the run, couldn’t get clear room in the straight until the race was all over and I have little doubt he should have won the race.

Since then he’s dealt with two soft tracks, firstly in the Pago Pago (G3) where he was under pressure a fair way out but battled on stoutly behind Prague, then last start on that very heavy surface in the Sires’ Produce Stakes (G1) two weeks ago, he again floundered when asked for an effort, but again he never shirked his task.

I’m now expecting to see him thrive up to a mile and on the good track – he’ll get a perfect run from the draw behind what should be a solid speed, and at close to double-figure odds I feel very confident he goes close here.

Suggested Bets

  • Win – #3 Aim
  • Box Exacta – 3,4,6
  • Trifecta – 3,6 with 3,4,5,6,7 with 1,3,4,5,6,7,8

RACE 6 – JRA PLATE, G3 – 1AM ET

3YO+ HANDICAP, 1 1/4 MILES

I was surprised we saw Chris Waller drop Shared Ambition back in trip for a crack at the Doncaster Mile (G1) last start, and I was even more surprised he started single figures, but back out to the mile and a quarter of this, and obviously a huge drop in class, he really does look the one to beat and if that current price of around 7-4 holds up, I’d be more than happy to jump in at that, even from that wide gate.

The one that is insane odds back on to a firmer track, if he gets a run, is the second emergency Purple Sector – he hates the wet and has enough ability to run well here on a drier surface.

Suggested Bets:

  • Win – #5 Shared Ambition
  • Box Trifecta – 5,9,11,14

RACE 7 – ALL AGED STAKES, G1 – 1:40AM ET

3YO+ WFA, 7 FURLONGS

The second of the features on the card and, all being equal, I find it difficult not to be in the corner of Pierata.

I have always thought his best trip is the 7 furlongs. He of course won this race last year, the lone Group 1 on his resume, which in itself doesn’t seem right, and this will be his swansong before heading off to stud in the Hunter Valley.

There’ll be plenty of speed on here with the likes of White Moss and Dreamforce engaged, and if he can just find a midfield spot one off the fence, he’ll be ready to let rip down the center of the Randwick straight and go out on top.

I expect Bivouac to perform better here on a firmer surface and ridden closer to the speed after missing the jump in the T.J Smith (G1), and the one that seems massive odds is Mister Sea Wolf, who again hasn’t liked the soft tracks and 80-1 about him is silly.

Suggested Bets

  • Win – #1 Pierata
  • Box Exacta – 1,4,5,11

RACE 8 – HALL MARK STAKES, G3 – 2:20AM ET

3YO+ SET WEIGHTS & PENALTIES, 6 FURLONGS

Deep edition of the Hall Mark with several genuine Group 1 performers lining up here.

Le Romain has raced in top company for the vast majority of his career and he looks extremely well in at the weights for this first up assignment. He’s had the two barrier trials to get him ready for this, the first of those was just ok, but the second was a big improvement, and we know he’s a horse that always races in good order fresh off a break. He’s got the early speed to be prominent here from a good draw and at around 20-1, he’s my best value play of the day for Randwick.

Dangers, and there’s a few of them, include the Godolphin trio of Trekking, Kementari and Deprive, while Signore Fox at a huge price, could run a race too.

Suggested Bets:

  • Win – #6 Le Romain (Best Value of the day)
  • Box Trifecta – 1,2,5,6,14,17

RACE 9 – 2:55AM ET

3YO+ HANDICAP, 7 FURLONGS

Tough race to finish the card on with a big, even field.

Desert Lord, while having been somewhat a slightly disappointing horse, has been dying to get on to a firmer surface, in a race where he can settle near the speed, without having to make the running himself, and he finally gets that here over what is his ideal trip. Now the horse can be a bit of a headcase – he often races fiercely and it has proven his undoing at times, but he’s got genuine stakes class ability and this really does seem like a suitable race for him to grab what has been an elusive win for him of late, at around 10-1.

Heaps of dangers, headed by Military Zone, Sambro and Phaistos, but they will all be behind Desert Lord in the run and hopefully they won’t catch him.

Suggested Bets

  • Win – #11 Desert Lord