Friday, October 28, 2011

Spring Racing Carnival 2011 – Derby Day

Manawanui – can he win the Derby?

It’s Derby Day again! One of the most interesting race meetings of the Melbourne Spring racing carnival, it is always run the Saturday before Melbourne Cup Day.  Four Group One races are featured along with some pretty interesting group two and three competitions.

The feature race is of course the Victoria Derby for three year olds over 2500 metres. It’s a gruelling race for such youngsters, and many of its winners fall by the wayside, never to be heard of again. However, some do go on to greater glory, Elvstroem for instance, and Efficient as well, and I’m sure there are more.

This years edition has Manawanui starting as favourite. He won the Mitchelton Wines Vase at Moonee Valley last Saturday, which was over 2040 metres, so he has to run a further 460 metres to win this, fighting off a much larger field than he faced in the Mitchelton Wines Vase. I must admit I’ve developed a fondness for this horse – like his Maori name, he is brave and courageous and also a bit of a sweetheart according to this report on ABC news earlier this week. Love the trust his strapper has in him.

Anyway, though Manawanui is the class act in the Derby, he may be challenged by the likes of Induna, who recently won a 2200 metre race at Geelong by 3.8 lengths. Others worthy of consideration are Sabrage, who won the Norman Robinson Stakes at Caulfield two weeks ago, and  Sangster and Niagara who were runners up in that race. Collar who ran second to Manawanui in the Mitchelton Wines Vase may be able to turn the tables on him this time. The mystery horse is the Bart Cummings trained Rapidus, who because of his trainer cannot be overlooked.

Sepoy returns this week in the Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes and of course will start raging favourite. Can he keep his winning streak intact?  His main opposition comes from Foxwedge, a consistent competitor who has had the misfortune to run against the likes of Helmet and Smart Missile and Manawanui throughout the Spring, and will have to be lucky to beat Sepoy.  Likewise with Masthead and Adamantium. Hong Kong colt Bear Hero is the intriguing runner. His form in Hong Kong is excellent, so he might be able to give Sepoy a run for his money.

The Mackinnon Stakes is one of the two races on the cards, where hopeful Melbourne Cup contenders can qualify for the big one if they are fortunate enough to win. Last year So You Think won this race and Maluckyday won the Lexus Stakes (the other qualifying race) and we all know where they finished in the 2010 Cup. This year a big field has accepted. Top weight is Efficient , backing up after running 6th in the Cox Plate. Flemington is where his best wins have come from, so wouldn’t be surprised to see him run a place if not win.  Midas Touch impressed with his third placing in the Underwood Stakes, so expect to see him competitive, also Glass Harmonium who missed the start of the Cox Plate (by rearing as the gates opened), is worth another chance. The other hard luck story from the Cox Plate was Rekindled Interest, who was badly blocked for a run, but managed to storm home for third place, so can redeem himself in this. Mares Lights of Heaven and Caulfield Cup heroine Southern Speed cannot be overlooked either.

One for the mares, The Myer Classic, a Group One race over 1600 metres, sees More Joyous pitted against a talented field that includes New Zealand mare Banchee, Sacred Choice who one the race last year on a bog track, Mosheen always consistent, and the well regarded Goon Serpent. There are those that say More Joyous is not firing this year as well as she has in the past, but she is obviously the class runner in the field, and should win. 

As well as the above Group One races, the whole card is worth watching to see such class acts as unbeaten filly, Atlantic Jewel in the Group Two Wakeful Stakes, and study the performance of a number of imported stayers in the Lexus Stakes, Green Moon for instance.

That takes care of my Saturday afternoon, not at the track, but at home in front of the TV.

It has just rained heavily here in Melbourne with further rain expected tonight, however the Flemington track should be no worse than dead. It’s supposed to fine up tomorrow afternoon.

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