EPSOM HANDICAP - 1600m, Randwick R8
In Australian racing, we love our big Group 1 handicaps. The Melbourne Cup is the pinnacle of them all of course, followed by the Caulfield Cup, but we also have three big mile handicaps – the Doncaster, the Toorak and the Epsom. And this year’s Epsom field is exactly what we imagine – 20 gallopers thundering around one of our most famous tracks, $7 the field in the betting, and every horse a chance.
Chris Waller is a master at targeting these Randwick handicaps, having won four Doncaster’s and six Epsom’s, and he presents seven runners here, which will be eight if the remaining emergency Political Debate gets a run.
2022 Thousand Guineas winner Madame Pommery has had an unusual preparation for this 1600m target, kicking off at 1400m before dropping back to 1300m in the Theo Marks. Most horses using that latter race have either had a 1200m run or are hitting the Epsom second-up after resuming there.
Madame Pommery was superb when resuming with 58.5kg’s, hitting the line with gusto behind Pericles, getting as close as anyone has to that in-form horse this prep. She wasn’t suited dropping back in distance second-up, and is sure to relish a mile now. The wide draw is no concern in these big Randwick handicaps, but the only niggle is she is yet to win on better than heavy ground.
There were several horses that beat Madame Pommery home in the Theo Marks, and all deserve some respect.
Golden Mile bounced back to form with a solid win there. The Inevitable was superb in second given his 59kg’s, and the last time we saw him at this distance he ran within a length of Mr Brightside at WFA. Nugget wasn’t far away in fourth and also has Mr Brightside form, from the All Star Mile and Doncaster in the autumn.
From the same lead-up race, Kovalica is giving the impression he should have been set on at least a 2000m path instead of a mile, Waterford can be in the mix somewhere (which ties in Williamsburg down the bottom), and Kirwin’s Lane is too old to beat the handicapper like you need to here.
The Tramway is a another key lead-up race along the way, also won by the scratched Pericles. Hope In Your Heart attacked the line in her usual style, and will be an honest winning chance as always. Others from that race, like My Oberon and Going Global, have since run in the 7 Stakes and are ticking over okay, but have a bit of weight here.
Communist isn’t going well enough, and the bubble has burst on Olentia since her first-up win – still, we’ve seen this situation plenty of times under Chris Waller, where a horse appears to have tailed off after showing exceptional talent, only to turn it around for a big race.
The four-year-olds are so well suited in these spring handicaps, and Rediener is the one arriving on the scene with a sense of timing. His win in the Bill Ritchie was soft with the promise of more to come, and he’s now won four of his past five. It’s hard to see the likes of Converge and Barbie’s Fox turning the tables on him from that lead-up at least.
Pounding and Duke De Sessa offer a different perspective, coming up from Melbourne. The latter has been 3-4 lengths off Mr Brightside in his two Australian runs, and could be a surprise packet if he’s taken improvement. The former has been racing at WFA level, also behind Mr Brightside and company, and drops 5kg’s from his last four runs.
Democracy Manifest beat the C-graders in the Cameron Handicap, but has to step up a level to be competitive here, in a race that must have at least 10-12 good chances in it.
There isn’t much speed in the race on paper, with Going Global and Rediener the most likely horses to take up the running. But a $1.5M Group 1 with 20 horses in it all but ensures that they will go at a decent tempo, and there may well be some surprises lurking within the speed map.
Selections: 1.Madame Pommery 2.Rediener 3.Nugget 4.Hope In Your Heart
* Odds Correct At Time Of Posting. Check Playup Website For Latest Odds