RACE OF THE DAY
While the Victory Stakes at Eagle Farm didn’t have Group 1 status like the Australasian Stakes at Morphettville, it certainly had the best calibre of horse among the races contested around Australia on Saturday. There was some serious sprinting talent on show.
Private Eye is an Epsom Handicap winner that has also placed in races like the Everest and Stradbroke. Paulele won the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes this season. Rothfire is another Group 1 winner, that has also been running well at the highest level in the last 12 months.
Baller was less than half a length off winning the VRC Classic in November. King of Sparta won the Magic Millions and was a length away in the Oakleigh Plate this year. And Prince of Boom was coming off a three length win over Rothfire last start, announcing himself as a contender in all the serious sprints that Queensland has to offer over the next couple of months.
The race certainly lived up to the billing.
Prince of Boom kicked clear at the top of the straight after leading the race along. Rothfire appeared to be his main challenger most of the way towards the line, with King of Sparta and Paulele loading their cannons further out.
Prince of Boom was up for the fight, and continued to lift himself when challenged by Rothfire, who eventually gained the upper hand with 50m to go. And by that stage, Paulele and King of Sparta had arrived on the scene to provide a driving finish.
Rothfire was a deserved winner, but the other three showed they will all be a factor in the coming weeks.
The disappointment of the race was warm favourite Private Eye. He made his run at the same time as Paulele and King of Sparta, and had every possible chance, but only whacked away fairly compared to what was expected.
WIN OF THE DAY
The Anniversary Vase might only have been a Listed race at Sandown, but it had some pretty handy horses in it. Almost the entire field have been proven at Group level at various stages, and are all very competitive around 1400m in this grade.
Cardinal Gem appeared to be the most progressive horse in the field, perhaps only with competition from Lady of Honour. Graham Begg has handled the four-year-old gelding with plenty of patience, and has mostly picked his way through his career.
Lumped with 60kg’s and coming off a last start win in the Victoria Handicap, Cardinal Gem was going to need to be good to overcome the quality horses he was up against. He had drawn barrier one, and jumping as favourite meant all jockeys were going to try and keep him in a pocket.
Buffalo River kicked clear at the top of the straight, and he’s not easy to run down on his day. Remember, he has won or run top three half a dozen times in Group company at 1400-1600m, including second in a Toorak Handicap, and looked every inch the winner at the 100m.
At the 300m, you wouldn’t have had a dollar on Cardinal Gem. At the 200m, perhaps even less so. But boy did he knuckle down under his big weight once in the clear, and attacked the line like the really good horse he is.
Cardinal Gem was only fourth-up on Saturday, and a tilt at the Stradbroke Handicap beckons. Look for him in the spring as an even more mature five-year-old.
RIDE OF THE DAY
Jockey John Allen has seen it all during a long career that has taken him from jumps racing in Ireland to a Cox Plate victory in Australia, along with several other Group 1 wins.
He was tasked with riding Affaire A Suivre for Ciaron Maher and David Eustace in the Australasian Oaks at Morphettville, jumping from the widest possible barrier, 16 of 16.
Starting on the second favourite, despite the horror draw, in a wide open betting market, Allen never panicked throughout the entire 2000m race. He jumped well, and looked like he fancied taking a forward position in the early stages, but quickly assessed that the front end of the race was taking a messy shape.
He took a position in the ruck, never closer than four wide but with cover, knowing that the middle of the track was going to be the best part of the straight if he had enough horse under him at the business end.
Most jockeys were happy to steer clear of the fence at Morphettville on Saturday, but he still had full confidence that he could take Affaire A Suivre seven wide around the home turn, and take off for home earlier than others might have done.
No doubt knowing that Maher and Eustace had the Astern filly fit enough for the 2000m test, Allen then lifted her in the final stages when the challengers were coming.
There were a few horses that left punters burnt on Saturday.
Sydney horses get a pass given the quick downgrade of Rosehill from a soft 5 to heavy 8, in less than an hour just before the day kicked off.
Private Eye was the biggest name to flop, delivering a particularly flat performance in the Victory Stakes as $2.40 favourite. He had every chance in the run, but failed to let down as we know he can, one-batting away for fifth as the likes of King of Sparta and Paulele surged past him. Perhaps we will see a quieter ride next time.
In the VRC St Leger at Sandown, Midnight Glow started a rock solid $2.80 favourite, had the cosiest possible run in transit, and moved into the race like he was going to win by five lengths. Perhaps the switch from Flemington 2800m to Sandown 3000m told, because he stopped like he’d hit a brick wall at the 200m. Meanwhile the two rank outsiders of the field ran the quinella at $61 and $51 respectively.
In Adelaide, Loco was an even money chance in the Chairman’s Stakes but the Price/Kent youngster is starting to develop a reputation. At his last three starts, he’s started $2.05, $2.90, $2.15 yet been rolled after having every chance each time.