Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival is coming to an end.
We’ve seen it all this year: superstar mare Winx, unruly crowds, Almandin’s Melbourne Cup glory, the rise of trainer Ciaron Maher, Usain Bolt, and a 138-1 (yes, that’s right) winner of the Crown Oaks.
But there’s still one big day left, as the $2 million Emirates Stakes gets its chance as the new showpiece race of the carnival’s final day.
The Emirates Stakes is essentially the old Mackinnon Stakes, the 2000m weight-for-age race that used to run on Derby Day.
It is an excellent race and with more money on offer this year, five of the beaten Cox Plate brigade feature as the Group 1 race’s revamp was designed to do.
Among the trainers to take on Winx and Chris Waller in the Cox Plate at the Valley was Darren Weir with Black Heart Bart, but his only horse on Saturday will be Palentino, who is looking to return to form.
The master trainer wasn’t exuding confidence with the Australian Guineas winner on Thursday, but said the horse had come through his last-start 11th in the Group 1 Cantala Stakes on Derby Day well enough.
“He’s come through [the Cantala Stakes run] well, but we’re just hoping,” Weir told The New Daily.
It is Waller who Weir should be most wary of, with Endless Drama – who has not ran in Australia before – looming as a major threat.
Endless Drama won a trial by eight lengths last month, while Tivaci, at big odds, The United States and Awesome Rock should all be in the mix.
Old warhorse, but best is behind him.
He won a 1600m Group 1 two starts back. Was only four-and-a-half lengths off Hartnell in Cox Plate.
Had Hauraki’s measure in a 2000m weight-for-age Group 1 in the autumn, and was a huge effort to run fourth in the Cantala Stakes.
Was only three lengths off Hartnell in the Cox Plate, and also ran well in the 2000m Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the autumn.
Led the Cox Plate field out, and was game to the line considering. Fitter for it.
Also battled on well in the Cox Plate, and returns to the same track/trip conditions of his infamous Australian Cup run.
Hyped import comes into a strong stable. He could be anything first-up in Australia.
The Australian Guineas winner has been out of luck at his past two, but can atone here.
A last-start winner over 2000m, but steps up in class here.
Weight-for-age conditions don’t suit, but Moroney seems to have figured him out. Blowout chance.
The Caulfield Classic winner bypassed VRC Derby for this.
Caulfield Guineas runner-up taking on the older horses again, after not much luck in the Cantala Stakes.
Luke Sheehan’s Emirates Stakes tips:
1. Endless Drama
3. The United States
4. Awesome Rock
Other Saturday selections:
Darley Classic: The Quarterback
Maribyrnong Plate: Aspect
Queen Elizabeth Stakes: De Little Engine
Matriarch Stakes: Amarela
Luke Sheehan is a journalist at racing.com