Sydney Preview: The 2023 Championships Day 1

March 31st, 2023

Sydney’s autumn carnival culminates with the Championships, held over successive weekends at Royal Randwick beginning Friday March 31 ET.

Day 1 features four Group 1 events, along with a Group 2, four Group 3s and a rich event for country-trained gallopers.

Let’s look at some potential plays for the Group 1 races.

Race 6, 12:15 a.m. Saturday ET: Sires’ Produce Stakes (G1), 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs), 2yos

Sires’ Produce Selections

  • #4 Veight
  • #1 Cylinder
  • #6 Brave Mead
  • #9 Bases Loaded

Sires’ Produce Wagers

  • $10 win/$20 show: #4 Veight
  • $1 trifecta: 1, 4 with 1, 4, 6 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9

#1 Cylinder is almost certain to be favorite after a string of good performances, capped off by a second-place finish in the six-furlong Golden Slipper (G1) two weeks ago. He’s clearly a leading chance, but I have my doubts about him at seven furlongs, and whether he might be ready for another big effort.

Instead, I’m going for the unbeaten visitor #4 Veight (pronounced V-8), from the Tony McEvoy stable. He looked an exceptional prospect when winning the Victoria Sires’ Produce (G2) over this same distance March 11 at what was just his second start. He’s clearly on the improve and looks extremely hard to beat.

Another Melbourne visitor with prospects is #6 Brave Mead, an easy winner at listed level March 24, but whether she handles seven furlongs as well as Veight is doubtful. There are plenty of other hopes, among them #2 Don Corleone, #3 Empire of Japan, #5 Maharba, and #9 Bases Loaded, but they look best for lower rungs of exotics.

Race 7, 12:55 a.m. Saturday ET: T J Smith Stakes (G1), 1,200 meters (about six furlongs), 3yos and up

T J Smith Stakes Selections

  • #15 In Secret
  • #10 Giga Kick
  • #1 Nature Strip
  • #6 I Wish I Win

T J Smith Stakes Wagers

  • $10 win/$30 show: #15 In Secret

A fascinating race. The big question coming into the race: is #1 Nature Strip finally, as an eight-year-old, past his best? It was only June last year that he flogged the best Northern Hemisphere turf sprinters in the King’s Stand (G1) at Royal Ascot, and that was two months after recording his third consecutive success in this race. If he can run to that form again, a fourth success is likely.

However, since that race he’s run four times for just one victory, back in September last year, and he had every chance when sixth to Coolangatta in the Lightning (G1) Feb. 18. He has reportedly improved since that run, but you’d be taking him on faith here.

It’s worth noting that this is a particularly good field. Everest winner #10 Giga Kick will be fancied by many after an unlucky third to #13 Passive Aggressive March 4. He’s clearly a big chance and though his racing style can cause traffic problems, he has the benefit of the outstanding Hong Kong-based Zac Purton in the saddle.

#6 I Wish I Win, #3 Private Eye, and #4 Mazu are clearly strong chances, but the one they all possibly have to beat is the outstanding filly #15 In Secret. She’s only been beaten once at this trip and should be close to the front in a race without clear early speed.

Race 8, 1:35 a.m. Saturday ET: Doncaster Mile (G1), 1,600 meters (about one mile), 3yos and up

Doncaster Mile Selections

  • #21 Osipenko
  • #17 Protagonist
  • #2 Mr Brightside
  • #5 Fangirl

Doncaster Mile Wagers

  • $10 win and show: #21 Osipenko

A superbly competitive mile handicap, with a myriad of angles. Not the least of them is a rare match on Australian soil of the one that graced Hong Kong for many years, between jockeys Zac Purton, who’s aboard last year’s winner #2 Mr Brightside, and Joao Moreira, aboard top mare #5 Fangirl. Both are clearly leading chances, but they may struggle against some lightly weighted horses.

Among them is #17 Protagonist, who won his Australian debut in the 1 1/4-mile Sky High (G3) March 11. He’s coming back to a mile but is well down the weights. This race often suits horses that stay 1 1/4 miles and his English trainer William Haggas has an excellent record at this carnival.

There’s also a collection of three-year-olds with very sound chances. My preference here is for #21 Osipenko, who sneaked into the field after a scratching. He ran nicely enough behind Anamoe in the George Ryder (G1) and with just 50kg for in-form rider Michael Dee and the ace barrier draw, he can take this at what might be good odds.

Race 9, 2:15 a.m. Saturday ET: Australian Derby (G1), 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles), 3yos

Australian Derby Selections

  • #1 Sharp ‘N’ Smart
  • #9 Mark Twain
  • #8 Japanese Emperor
  • #6 Andalus

Australian Derby Wagers

  • $10 win/$30 show: #1 Sharp ‘N’ Smart
  • $1 trifecta: 1 with 6, 8, 9 with 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11

The proverbial wild card was added to this when favorite #1 Sharp ‘N’ Smart drew barrier 17 of 18 runners here. Winning can be very difficult in Sydney for horses having to race three or four wide, which may happen here, and thus local markets have put Rosehill Guineas (G1) runner-up #4 Pericles closer in the market.

However, Sharp ‘N’ Smart has shown on several occasions that he can handle a wide journey. The New Zealander has proven he stays 1 1/2 miles, and drawing wide may help with his only fault: a tendency to switch off once hitting the front. It probably cost him the Victoria Derby (G1), when he may not have seen winner #2 Manzoice coming; here he may well be in the middle of the track in the stretch and thus able to see all his rivals.

Pericles is clearly a chance to get some of the money, as are the New Zealand visitors #6 Andalus, #7 Full of Sincerity, and #9 Mark Twain, along with horses like #3 Elliptical, #5 Williamsburg, #8 Japanese Emperor, and #11 Tapildoodledo. But I’m sticking with the favorite.