The VRC’s Derby Day is one of the truly great racing cards on the world calendar. Nine black type races, including four super Group 1s, kick off what is a magnificent week out at fabulous Flemington. The action on the track is hot but is equally supported by the strong 100,000-plus that descend on the spiritual home of horse racing in Australia.
Derby Day is probably the pre-eminent social event of the year in Melbourne as celebrities sip champagne and hob in the Birdcage, adoring racing fans line the mounting yard and fun-seeking punters pack the front lawn from the early hours of the morning.
2014 has bought together nine stellar races with interesting clashes and talent-packed fields right across the day. The Trial Files have taken a forensic look at the four major Group 1 races.
RACE 4 – G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes – 1200M
RICH ENUFF was backed off the map in the Caulfield Guineas. On the day alone he was $2.40 into as short as $1.85 and the valuable son of Written Tycoon very nearly pulled off the plunge. Trained by the unheralded Ken Keys it would have been a victory for the battlers, but that dream was quashed as SHOOTING TO WIN loomed up at the 200M mark and claimed the feature Caulfield Mile. RICH ENUFF returns to the scene of his emphatic second-up win where he recorded a blistering 1.08.13 down the straight, a repeat of which will see him the horse to beat.
RUBICK was enormous first-up when leading throughout to claim the Schillaci Stakes at Caulfield. Interestingly, he is a son of Encosta De Lago who won this race in 1996. He is also out of a half-sister to Redoute’s Choice who was beaten as 4/6 favourite in a field of five in this race in 1999. His trial leading into that first-up run was OK but he certainly had plenty of improvement to come and we suspect he will derive great benefit from the run. He is a leading contender.
BRAZEN BEAU was no match for RICH ENUFF two starts back when potentially in a slightly slower part of the track down the straight. He went back to Randwick and was electric in defeating NOSTRADAMUS. He draws barrier 15 here which might be advantageous down the straight and leading international hoop Joao Moreira takes the ride for Chris Waller.
The race doesn’t end there. SCISSOR KICK has taken all before him this campaign and was super in a jump out last Friday. EARTHQUAKE was devastating as a 2YO and showed she was back to her best when winning the Thoroughbred Club at Group 3 level during the Caulfield Carnival. KURO has won four on the trot this campaign and, although facing his stiffest test here, he is deserving of a place in this field and isn’t without a chance.
Unbelievably good 3YO race over the Straight Six at Flemingon and one of the highlights on the nine-race card.
1st RICH ENUFF
2nd SCISSOR KICK
RACE 6 – G1 Longines Mackinnon Stakes – 2000M
English horse SIDE GLANCE had been bidding to become the first back-to-back winner since Belmura Lad in 1980/1981, but was scratched on Thursday morning.
The last mare to win was La Bella Dama 13 years ago at 30-1. Two New Zealand mares line up here in COSTUME and RISING ROMANCE. COSTUME is coming off a Group 1 win in New Zealand over 2040M last start but probably needs to reach another level to win the Mackinnon. RISING ROMANCE shot up the Dulux on the turn in the Caulfield Cup and looked all over a winner at the 200M mark before the mighty Japanese runner ADMIRE RAKTI went past her like she was nailed to the turf. She has had a solid preparation but we feel back to 2000M coupled with the WFA classification of the race make this a very tough task for the Donna Logan-trained mare.
AMRALAH would get into the Melbourne Cup field if he runs into the placings. He is having his first start for Lloyd Williams but does boast an impressive UK record with four wins from 11 outings. Undoubtedly he would have had plenty of work pumped into his legs up at Macedon Lodge in preparation for this run and a win wouldn’t surprise.
One could argue that FORETELLER, HAPPY TRAILS and CRITERION all had their share of hard luck in the Cox Plate and the trio ran extremely well. Of the Australian-trained runners these are the three proven WFA runners and provided they back up from the Cox Plate then they will feature in the finish again.
2nd HAPPY TRAILS
RACE 7 – G1 AAMI Victoria Derby – 2500M
The Victoria Derby is a blue riband staying test for 3YOs first run way back in 1955. The honour roll is littered with Australian racing royalty; Mahogany, Dulcify, Tulloch and Phar Lap are just a few famous winners of the race.
Gai Waterhouse saddles up the favourite HAMPTON COURT and in typical Gai fashion she was not backward in coming forward when asked about her colt’s chances in the races. She declared “having Hampton Court in the Derby is like having Fiorente in the Cup last year … I knew I had the best horse”.
It is hard to argue with Gai at the best of times and when it comes to HAMPTON COURT she might just be right. This bloke settled at the tail of the field in the Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick before coming with a booming run in the straight to beat the much hyped FIRST SEAL and SWAYNESSE with ease. He was flattered by a strong tempo in the race but there is no doubting his ability and he is the one they have to beat.
PREFERMENT comes into the Derby as a maiden, rarely a recipe for success in this race, but this Chris Waller-trained colt looks every bit a stayer and the only concern is whether the 2400M might be a bit short! He was very good in the Geelong Classic and there is no doubt he will be better suited at Flemington.
The Vase at Moonee Valley is often the best form guide for the Derby and that race last week saw MOONOVERMANHATTAN enjoy a nice run in transit and claim victory over ATMOSPHERE. There were a couple of nice runs in behind them with BONDEIGER closing very well and running some very good late splits. He looks like he will relish the distance and he comes into this race as some chance. Respect must go to ATMOSPHERE and MOONOVERMANHATTAN also.
Another at odds that we can envisage running well is the O’Shea-trained GOULDIAN. His last-start win was very good and he should have beaten Duccio prior when having no luck. That form ties in with Duccio running a strong second behind race favourite HAMPTON COURT on October 4. No shock to see this son of Street Cry measure up and run a ripping race at value.
A very tricky race and if the favourite doesn’t win, the race is wide open.
1st HAMPTON COURT
RACE 8 – G1 Myer Classic – 1600M
The Myer Classic is seen as the pre-eminent mares race on the Australian racing calendar and it seems to go from strength to strength each year.
This year has brought together an outstanding field of the fairer sex with the Gai Waterhouse-trained SWEET IDEA carrying the coveted No.1 saddlecloth. She was rated perfectly by Tommy Berry in the Tristarc at Caulfield last time out when leading all the way. She has been a brilliant mare for connections and has been able to produce outstanding performances at two, three and now four years old – proving her ability and toughness. She is the horse they have to beat again with the only question mark being her first outing at the mile.
NEENA ROCK is the X-Factor. She got back at Randwick last start and circled the field before the home turn before producing a devastating turn of foot in an explosive win over the talented ESTONIAN PRINCESS. John Sargent puts the polish on this 6YO mare who has done the lion’s share of her racing in New Zealand. She has drawn a lovely barrier and should be able to settle in the first half of the field and be hard to hold out late.
The Tristarc Stakes does look the key form reference for this event and MAY’S DREAM and POLITENESS were both very good in running on from the tail of the field in an on pace dominate race. These two mares are crying out for the wide expanses of Flemington and with a solid speed likely up front they will get their chance to rattle home late.
1st POLITENESS (Each Way)
2nd SWEET IDEA
3rd NEENA ROCK
4th MAY’S DREAM
Derby Day 2014 will conclude with the appearance of boom horse DEEP FIELD. This son of ill-fated sire Northern Meteor has produced four breathtaking wins and two starts back he broke a long-standing Canterbury course record over the 1100M. John Hawkes and his sons prepare this exciting galloper and whilst he is only in the infancy of his career we expect him to put on a brilliant display down the straight and he will be a horse to follow in the autumn.
The marquees are built, the track has been prepared to perfection and the roses are starting to bloom. The Spring Carnival reaches its crescendo over the coming week and Derby Day 2014 promises to kick off Australia biggest week of racing in style.