You can certainly tell that the Spring Racing Carnival is heading towards the peak of the season with what is on offer this weekend at Caulfield Racecourse.
There are four Group 1 races on the program and an equally exciting support card of black type races. There are ten races to be run and it looks like it will be a long day with the feature race, the Caulfield Guineas, scheduled at 5.40pm as the second last race on the program.
The weather is forecast to be warm and humid, with the possibility of thunderstorms later in the afternoon. Let’s hope that these do not occur until after the Guineas has been run, as I’m sure all hell would break loose if a thunderstorm hit during a race.
As I’m keen to arrive at Caulfield to see Lankan Rupee in the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes, which is the second race of the day, it will certainly be a drawn out afternoon. However, the interval between races is only 35 minutes, so no doubt the time will flash by in a trice.
Lankan Rupee will face only five rivals in the Schillaci Stakes, run over 1100 metres, and will most likely prevail. The best of the competition is Sydney sprinter Shiraz who has 10 wins from 16 starts and won the Aurie’s Star at Flemington in August. Alpha Miss will quite likely be in the finish somewhere having good form against the likes of Winx and First Seal. She has not raced for over a year though, but has performed well first up.
The first of the Group 1 races is the Caulfield Stakes, run over 2000 metres. It has only 8 acceptances, six of whom are multiple Group 1 winners – Fawkner, Happy Trails, Contributer, Mongolian Khan , Kermadec and Criterion.
It will be the first time this Spring that we have seen Kermadec and Criterion in Melbourne. Kermadec won the Group 1 George Main Stakes at his last start and also won the Doncaster Mile in the autumn. He’s current favourite for the Cox Plate, and also favoured to win the Caulfield Stakes. He’ll have to beat the aforementioned regulars, Fawkner and Happy Trails in particular.
Criterion has just returned from an overseas jaunt where he raced competitively in Hong Kong and the UK without winning. He won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the autumn before he left for England. A class horse, if he has recovered from his trip back to Australia, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he featured in the finish.
The Toorak Handicap is the second of the Group 1 races and is run over 1600 metres. A full field of eighteen horses will contest it. Disposition, Stratum Star, Lucky Hussler and Noble Protector are the main chances.
Fillies feature first in the 1000 Guineas (1600 metres) and the top picks are Pasadena Girl, Miss Gunpowder , Stay with Me, Jameka, Payroll and Badawiya.
The second top Sydney colt, Press Statement, is the hot favourite for the Caulfield Guineas. He’s never raced in Melbourne before but he is with top trainer Chris Waller whose two Sydney runners ran first and second in the Turnbull Stakes last week.
However, favourites have a shocking record in the Caulfield Guineas, so others with a chance are Ready For Victory,wearing blinkers for the first time, which may sharpen him up, New Zealand colt Dal Cielo, last start winners Sovereign Nation and Bon Aurum, and the well regarded Tulsa who was runner up to Bon Aurum in the Guineas Prelude.
At Randwick in Sydney the last Group 1 race of their spring carnival is the Spring Champion Stakes for three year olds, run over 2000 metres. The top chances are Vanbrugh, Devil Hawk (Hawkspur’s brother), Tatoosh and Queensland colt Too Good To Refuse.