Another big day of racing is coming up this Saturday with the second race meeting of the The Championships at Randwick. That is of course if they’re not cancelled by the atrocious Sydney weather.
There are another four Group 1 races on the program, and exceptionally good fields contesting them.
First to kick off is the Australian Oaks, for staying fillies, run over 2400 metres. Top pick is Fenway, who won the Vinery Stud Stakes at her last start, beating First Seal and Thunder Lady. First Seal will be contesting the Queen of the Turf Stakes, but Thunder Lady is a contestant in the Oaks and a viable chance. New Zealand Oaks winner Savaria is also worth consideration as she won that race on soft going at the distance. along with Candelara who won the Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000 metres) on Monday.
The splendid Catkins will be having another bash at winning her first Group 1 – which she surely deserves - in the Group 1 Queen of the Turf Stakes (1600 metres). Heavy tracks don’t worry this girl, so it might be her best chance yet for Group 1 glory. Her competition is formidable with Group 1 winning mares Cosmic Endeavour, Diamond Drille, Bonaria, Amicus, Diademe (NZ Group 1) and filly First Seal in the field. But my heart will be with the game little grey mare.
Run over the same distance (3200 metres) as the Melbourne Cup, the Sydney Cup offers $1 million to the winner, so is worthwhile for International racehorses to contest. Can Protectionist win the Melbourne/Sydney Cups double? His build up form has been indifferent, but his form over the distance is unquestionable and could well be his forte. English import Hartnell is the top pick. His current form is excellent with two consecutive wins, the last being the Group 1 BMW and he also has won a race over 3200 metres. He has a 6kg weight advantage over Protectionist.
Who Shot Thebarman ran third in last year’s Melbourne Cup and is the great white hope for locally(Australia/NZ) bred horses in this race – there are only two - the other one being NZ bred Don Doremo. Others with a chance are Renew who won the Sandown Cup over the distance, and Hong Kong stayer Dominant who has Joao Moreira in the saddle.
As racing fields go, the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000 metres) is quality with a capital Q.
Sydney’s answer to the Cox Plate, it is the richest 2000 metre race in Australia – the Cox Plate winner gets $1,800,000, but the QE Stakes winner earns a handsome purse of $2,400.000.
It will be a fascinating race to watch, and the most exciting horse in the field is last year’s Cox Plate winner Adelaide. Who could forget his stunning long run down the outside in the Plate to grab the prize on the line. He hasn’t raced since then, so he faces a field of fitness hardened veterans, most notably Contributer who has won his last three starts, including the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes and Ranvet Stakes.
Also in the field are Japanese stars To The World and Tosen Stardom who are surely not to be dismissed out of hand, and popular old stayer Red Cadeaux who could easily run a place.
Of the locally bred runners, Criterion has a good chance as he was only beaten by a nose in the George Ryder Stakes by Japanese horse Real Impact who was beaten by Kermadec last Monday in the Doncaster.
I’d like to think that the only two mares in the race – Royal Descent and Lucia Valentina – could feature in the finish, but would be surprised if either won. Like wise with other locals Happy Trails and Fiveandhalfstar – they’re probably outclassed by the Internationals and the Imports, though NZ stallion It’s A Dundeel won this race last year, beating Sacred Falls and the Queen’s horse Carlton House, so anything could happen.
In Melbourne, Flemington has a low key meeting that I am not tempted to attend, so I’ll be staying home watching the Sydney action on my computer or the TV.
Update: Sunday afternoon
The track at Randwick was heavy and the results of the Group 1 races threw up long shots in most cases.
Who could have picked Gust of Wind winning the Australian Oaks? she paid over $20.00 for the win. Winx finished second and Candelara ran third. Early favourite Fenway was scratched from the race early on Saturday morning.
Another 20/1 shot Amanpour won the Queen of the Turf Stakes, and denied Catkins, who ran her usual honest race, group 1 glory. Noble Protector finished third.
The Sydney Cup result was also taken out by 40/1 shot Grand Marshall pipping Who Shot Thebarman on the line. Hartnell led for most of the race, but was unable to keep up with the swoopers and finished fourth, and Protectionist failed to feature at all. Like A Carousel finished third.
Locally bred Criterion beat a crack field in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, winning by 2½ lengths from old trooper Red Cadeaux with the ever reliable Royal Descent taking third place. Contributor was scratched early Saturday, so who knows what would have resulted had he run. The Japanese horses failed to handle the heavy track, as did Adelaide who finished in eighth place.