Welcome back to Off And Racing – our weekly column where I look at the feature racing for the weekend ahead and do my best to find a few winners with Five To Follow.
It proved a tough week for the Five To Follow last week with two of our runners in Hellbent and Jestajingle scratched and no joy for It’s Somewhat, Mulwee Grand and West On Delly. Fortunately our on topper in the Caulfield Cup Jameka eased the pain.
The Gate, The Brook and The Ashby have you covered this weekend if you are looking to have a punt with first class facilities, friendly staff and action galore in the Sports Bars – drop in and have a flutter for Cox Plate Day.
Moonee Vallley takes centre stage on Friday night and Saturday where the Manikato Stakes for the sprinters holds court on Friday night and the much anticipated Cox Plate features on Saturday.
We also see racing at Ascot locally where the Listed Belgravia Stakes for the Three Year Olds is the main event on the card.
Let’s head under lights to Moonee Valley on Friday night and take a look at the Group 1 Manikato Stakes for the Sprinters over 1200 metres.
This time last year I was fortunate enough to be at Moonee Valley to witness the Manikato Stakes and it remains one of the most exciting performances on a racetrack I have ever seen.
The flashy grey Chautauqua was able to come from a mile back turning for home and steam home for a memorable victory.
Heading into the Manikato last time around Chautauqua had the benefit of a win in the McEwen and the Gilgai Stakes prior to the event while this time around he has had just the one run, a 4th in the Moir Stakes where while making ground late he didn’t quite display the devastating turn of foot we know he is capable of.
In betting to date Chautauqua has drifted from his opening quote of $2.25 out to $2.50.
I am one of Chautauqua’s biggest fans and I am prepared to forgive him his first up failure but that said I will not be investing with the same confidence I did in this race last year.
On the second line of betting is the 3 year old Capitalist who receives a 5.5 kilogram weight advantage on all bar English and is rated a $6.50 chance.
The team Snowden trained galloper is coming off a placing in the Group 3 Roman Consul at his most recent outing and heads into this event with undeniable claims.
The Gai Waterhouse trained English is a $9 chance and while she has been unplaced in both runs back from a break she has not been far from the action at the finish.
Others to consider include the old marvel Buffering at $11, Lucky Hussler at $11 who should be fitter for his first run back from a spell, The Quarterback ($14) who was a slashing winner up the straight at his first run back from a spell in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes, Fell Swoop ($10) who returned with a placing behind Star Turn in the Group 2 Schillaci and the Godolphin galloper Holler at $11.
I keep coming back to the point that at his best Chautauqua would simply take care of business over 1200 metres against a field of this quality. I am not 100% sure that he is going up to some of his peak career performances but he should have derived great benefit out of his first up run and should be primed to fire up here. The Quarterback will also get me for a little each way play at his value quote of $14.
This year’s Cox Plate has been billed as a match race between Winx and Hartnell and to my eye I think the two should be battling it out over the concluding stages.
Winx is aiming up for her 13th straight win in this and is looking to defend her crown after a slashing effort in winning this race last year.
Her last 12 victories have all been at Group level with 8 of them being at Group 1 level and she showed in her most recent performance in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes that she is right on track. She receives a 2 kilogram advantage over her main rival in Hartnell and that could prove telling over the final stages of this race.
Winx has been clearly the best backed horse in the race with TABtouch with a bet of $50,000 at $1.80 and $25,000 at $1.75. She has now firmed from $1.95 into $1.75 and is the popular favourite.
Hartnell looms as the logical threat. He was beaten by Winx first up this campaign in the Warwick Stakes but has since recorded three dominant victories and he is racing in career peak form. At his most recent win in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes he beat Jameka home by 3 lengths who has since franked the form with a tremendous win in last weekend’s Caulfield Cup.
All of the Hartnell and Winx form this Spring looks super strong and the duo to my eye are simply racing better than the rest at the minute.
Hartnell has eased from $3 out to $3.60 but I have been most impressed by his efforts so far this Spring and if Winx puts a hoof out of place he is likely to be right there and ready to pounce.
Outside of the big two there is interest in the lightly weighted 3 year old Filly Yankee Rose who gets in with just 47.5 kilos, the international runner Vadamos, WA’s own Black Heart Bart who has finished in the first 2 at his last 10 starts, Hauraki who is in the form of his life and the Queen Elizabeth Winner Lucia Valentina. While all of these horses are capable types I can’t get away from the big 2.
I think Winx is a very special mare and on the three occasions she has met with Hartnell she has walked away with the prize in all three.
My play on the race will be to back Winx and take the novelties for units around the Winx and Hartnell quinella happening.
The Listed Belgravia Stakes for Three Year Olds has drawn together a very even field with nothing separating the first handful in betting with The Celt a $3.70 favourite in front of Caipirinha at $3.90, Get Over It at $4.60, Saul’s Special at $5, Royal Command at $8 and The River at $9.50 with all other runners at $17 and upwards.
I am going to look for value in this race and have a little something on the Justin Warwick trained Elegant Blast at the $17.
The lightly raced filly has had just the 5 career starts for 2 wins and 2 placings and I like the way she was finding the line in the 3 year old feature at Bunbury last start.
She does get back a bit in her races but if there is a genuine tempo and horses are running on she may well be right in the finish at double figure odds.
FIVE TO FOLLOW
WINX (Moonee Valley Saturday Race 9 Number 8) : Super mare who is aiming up at her 13th straight win in this year’s Cox Plate. She has had a faultless preparation and over the past couple of seasons she has shown that her best is purely electric. I concede Hartnell some sort of knockout hope and will be playing the Quinella with the pair but Winx has reigned supreme in recent times and I can’t see that changing on Saturday.
LADY LE FAY (Moonee Valley Saturday Race 5 Number 1) : The Sydney form has stacked up really well so far this spring and that may well continue on Saturday with this mare. She handed in an impressive run last start behind Dixie Blossoms at Randwick and if she can transfer that form to this race can be the one they all have to beat.
GALLANTE (Moonee Valley Saturday Race 8 Number 1) : Resumed from a break with a nice second behind the Caulfield Cup winner Jameka in the Group 3 Naturalism over 2000 metres. Steps up to the more suitable 2500 metre trip in this and from the nice draw should be able to sit handy and make his own luck. Looks a super each way chance.
DONALD TUX (Mandurah Friday Race 7 Number 1) : Handy sprinter who has come up with the perfect draw in this event. Had no luck last time out in a tougher race but had won 3 in a row prior to that and from this ideal alley he looks set to run another very big race. Should sit on speed and take some getting past.
PENNY MONELLI (Cannington Saturday Race 5 Number 2) : In-form canine who loves being drawn near the rails and while she meets some handy opposition in this event looks to have their measure. Is another greyhound that usually gets out of the boxes with purpose and with a safe getaway will be hard to catch.