Sydney Preview: The 2023 Championships Day 2

April 7th, 2023

Sydney’s autumn carnival reaches its climax with day two of The Championships at Royal Randwick. The 10 races are worth a combined A$12.12 million (about $8.09 million), and features four Group 1 races, three Group 2s, two Listed stakes races and a A$500,000 contest for provincially-trained horses.

We will focus on suggested plays for the Group 1 races.

Race 6, 12:35 a.m. Saturday ET: Australian Oaks, 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles), 3yo fillies

Australian Oaks Selections

  • #1 Pennyweka
  • #2 Pavitra
  • #5 Arts
  • #11 Mountain Guest

Australian Oaks Wagers

  • $10 win/$20 show: #1 Pennyweka
  • $1 trifecta: 1, 2 with 1, 2, 5 with 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 11

Australian trainers will be happy they don’t have to deal with New Zealand’s Prowess, who was in a different class to the best local fillies in the 1 1/4-mile Vinery (G1) two weeks ago. But those that remain will have to deal with another good Kiwi filly.

#1 Pennyweka isn’t in the same class as Prowess, but she has two things to her advantage: she definitely stays 1 1/2 miles, as she proved when winning the New Zealand Oaks (G1) three weeks ago, and she loves wet footing, which she’s likely to get here. She’s still unproven against Australian company, but looks a very good chance with Damian Lane aboard.

The two best Australian fillies look to be #2 Pavitra, who headed the chase after Prowess in the Vinery, and easy Adrian Knox (G3) winner #5 Arts. Either could win without surprising. I’m also not going to rule out #11 Mountain Guest at big odds; she was second to Arts in the Adrian Knox and her breeding suggests she will enjoy the distance. Others to consider for exotics include #3 Fireburn and #6 Pierossa.

Race 7, 1:15 a.m. Saturday ET: Sydney Cup, 3,200 meters (about 2 miles), 3yos and up

Sydney Cup Selections

  • #12 High Emocean
  • #11 Cleveland
  • #1 Gold Trip
  • #3 Baron Samedi

Sydney Cup Wagers

  • $10 win/$30 show: #12 High Emocean
  • $1 trifecta: 11, 12 with 1, 11, 12 with 1, 3, 5, 11, 12, 14

Nine horses back up from the 1 1/2-mile Tancred (G1) two weeks back. The two which drop the most in weight are #11 Cleveland and #14 King Frankel, but while Cleveland has form in Ireland at two miles, King Frankel hasn’t raced past 1 1/2 miles and his sire hasn’t produced many two-milers, though his female family is a stout one.

Seventh-placed #1 Gold Trip is the worst-off at the weights among the Tancred runners. But the same applied when he won the Melbourne Cup (G1), and the step up to two miles gives him every chance.

Cleveland’s trainer Joseph O’Brien also has former Belmont Gold Cup (G2) winner #3 Baron Samedi in the field. He makes his Australian debut and should be respected.

Also worthy of note are the prominent runners backing up from the 1 5/8-mile Chairman’s Quality (G2) last week, namely the winner #7 Surefire, third-placed #15 Nerve Not Verve, and fourth #12 High Emocean. It will be the latter that I settle on; she finished very fast for third in the Melbourne Cup, and if she can get going a bit earlier, I think she can win.

Race 8, 1:55 a.m. Saturday ET: Queen Elizabeth Stakes, 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles), 3yos and up

Queen Elizabeth Stakes Selections

  • #2 Dubai Honour
  • #1 Anamoe
  • #4 Cascadian
  • #7 Unicorn Lion

Queen Elizabeth Stakes Wagers

  • $20 win: #2 Dubai Honour
  • $2 trifecta: 1, 2 with 1, 2 with 3, 4, 5, 7, 12
  • $1 trifecta: 1, 2 with 1, 2 with 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13

#1 Anamoe has clearly been the best horse in Australia between seven furlongs and 1 1/4 miles this season, winning seven starts of eight. He doesn’t often win by much, but is hard to roll.

However, English raider #2 Dubai Honour was outstanding when winning the Ranvet (G1) on his Australian debut by four lengths on a surface which had generally been too firm for him in Europe. The William Haggas trainee looks set to get much deeper footing in the A$5 million Queen Elizabeth and has every chance of emulating his stablemate Addeybb and winning this.

If he is at his best, don’t discount Dubai Honour’s former stable companion #3 Alenquer. He had a higher rating than Dubai Honour in England and won the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) in Ireland last year. He needs to overcome a slump in form, but his best would put him right in this.

The biggest question mark will be how Japan’s #7 Unicorn Lion fares. Trained by globetrotting icon Yoshito Yahagi, Unicorn Lion is a dual Group 3 winner at home and though he usually struggles above that, he was second in the Takarazuka Kinen (G1) in 2021. On form he looks to have a bit to find but Japanese horses have been so good overseas of late that he must be respected.

It’s not clear where this year’s potential upset might be, but the ever-consistent #4 Cascadian should be respected. However, if you like the top two, they could be good anchors in exotics.

Race 9, 2:35 a.m. Saturday ET: Queen of the Turf Stakes, 1,600 meters (about one mile), 3yo and up fillies and mares

Queen of the Turf Stakes Selections

  • #1 Alcohol Free
  • #3 Levante
  • #2 Fangirl
  • #8 Atishu

Queen of the Turf Stakes Wagers

  • $20 win: #1 Alcohol Free
  • $1 trifecta: 1, 3 with 1, 2, 3 with 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9

The big question here is how former English mare #1 Alcohol Free is going. Sold at the Tattersalls December sale for about $6.78 million to Australia’s Yulong Investments, she has been put in training with Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott and makes her Australian debut here.

If she’s at her best, she stands a very good chance. A three-time Group 1 winner in England, the only horses that got the better of her at her final European start were the outstanding males Baaeed and Modern Games. It’s a level of form well beyond her opponents here, and she handled wet ground when winning the Coronation (G1) and the Sussex (G1) in 2021.

She faces two notable Antipodean mares in #2 Fangirl, placed three times behind Anamoe this autumn, and New Zealand’s four-time Group 1 winner #3 Levante, who was less than half a length behind Fangirl in the George Ryder (G1). Levante could turn the tables as she’s a bit fresher, not having raced since the Ryder while Fangirl raced last week in the Doncaster (G1), finishing seventh.

Of the others, the Emancipation (G2) 1-2-3 #9 Roots, #8 Atishu, and #17 Finepoint all have chances, especially Atishu, who handles some rain and who is 2kg better off compared to her aforementioned Emancipation rivals here. Doncaster fourth #5 Hope In Your Heart also deserves attention.