The races at Moonee Valley can be hard to assess, and this is true both pre-race and post. It can play with various biases depending on track conditions and rail position, and the short straight can lead to early jockey moves and blanket finishes, which skew results.
But the Feehan Stakes day card produced a few results that we should be able to trust going forward, with a number of horses looking well placed to be competitive for higher honours.
EVEREST CALLING FOR KIWI STAR?
While the Feehan Stakes was ostensibly the marquee race of the day, most racing fans were looking forward to the return of Giga Kick and Imperatriz the most. The McEwen Stakes was giving us an early spring clash between arguably Australia’s best horse and certainly New Zealand’s.
Imperatriz ran twice in Australia in the autumn, both Group 1s, for a brave second in the Canterbury Stakes and an easy win in the William Reid, establishing herself as more than up to our best sprinters. Giga Kick, of course, already has an Everest and two further Group 1s to his name.
There was drama once the horses were loaded in the McEwen, with a manual start required, and then Giga Kick missed the start by 2-3 lengths once the gates opened. Zoustyle and Acromantula were going like cut cats up front, as is their way, but Craig Williams on Giga Kick obviously misjudged the pace and made an early move to bring his mount into the race. It was a poor error for a jockey of his experience, as he admitted later, to his credit.
Not only did the mid-race move count against Giga Kick’s chances, it gave his main rival Imperatriz the perfect cart into the race, delivered on a platter. Mick Dee couldn’t believe his eyes, followed him into the race on his star mare, and she did the rest in track record time. It was a sizzling performance, in a race set up to be so, but you still have to be good enough to run the time.
The connections of Imperatriz have been planning to avoid the real heavy hitters on an Everest trail, and pick off easier races for big prizemoney down in Melbourne, but it will be hard to deny those phone calls from slot-holders now. We have seen what she can do off a fast speed at 1000m, and being proven out to 1400m-1600m, should have no problem being able to do so over the Randwick 1200m.
MR BRIGHTSIDE FORM STACKS UP
Sometimes racing is an easy game, and so it should have been for punters in the Feehan Stakes.
Mr Brightside is the hottest horse in the country at the moment, having won both his starts this preparation, including the Group 1 Memsie Stakes, following on from an autumn campaign where he took out both the All Star Mile and his second Doncaster.
Looking at the Feehan Stakes at the Valley on Saturday, there were four horses from the Lawrence Stakes running in it, that had finished second, fourth, fifth and sixth to Mr Brightside on that day.
Albeit the favourite Globe pulled up with cardiac arrhythmia, and we hope for racing and connections that he recovers from it with no ill effect, the first four horses across the line were all from the Lawrence.
Pinstriped, who beat the others home there, did so again, and paid a handsome $8.50. Attrition looks a class horse in the making and ran second, the ever-honest Tuvalu was third, and Pounding, a five-year-old that is still improving, finished fourth. The first four returned a healthy $826 dividend, and it was a reminder to punters to not overlook the obvious – weight-for-age form provides weight-for-age winners.
If nothing else, it further confirms the fact that Mr Brightside has now become one of our biggest stars, and form around him is to be followed.
Races 4, 5 and 6 at the Valley, all over 1200m, each contained a short-priced favourite that went on to win their respective race. All of them are still untapped, and won in a style that suggests there is plenty more to come.
Recommendation was the shortest priced runner of the day at Moonee Valley, jumping at the prohibitive odds of $1.50 in a small six horse field, but made light work of his rivals after sitting on-speed for Carleen Hefel and never looking in danger. It was a field of sold Group 3 / Listed type horses, and he had something on them.
The Maher/Eustace galloper has now won five of eight career starts, which should have been six after how unlucky he was at his prior Valley start, and one of the losses was by a length and a half to Think About It, which is one of the favourites for The Everest.
The unbeaten Steparty was the next short favourite to carry the weight of expectation, in the McKenzie Stakes. He had looked good in three soft wins across May and June, but there was a question mark from some over the depth of opposition and whether there had been enough substance on the clock.
Winners win however, and the Paul Preusker colt showed some smart three-year-old’s no mercy. He is such a professional already, despite only four career starts, jumping cleanly from the barriers and putting himself into his races. This was a stylish win over 1200m for a young horse with a Cox Plate nomination, and the way he lengthened suggests more ground will be even better for him.
Charm Stone was the next punters-elect to load into the barriers, in the Atlantic Jewel Stakes. There was always an opinion of her as a two-year-old, but she has come back at three a very classy filly. It’s underrated how difficult it is to carry big penalties as an early season three-year-old, yet she has now done it for two wins at Stakes level.
While Recommendation and Steparty had their races pan out beautifully, Charm Stone was forced to race three wide with no cover after an awkward draw left her posted. She still had the temerity to put the race away in a couple of strides, beating some nice fillies that were coming in with winning form of their own.
It’s great for racing, when untapped horses with a bit of a boom on them justify their favouritism, and we saw three great examples of it on Saturday.