I’m looking forward to returning to the wide open spaces of Flemington this coming Saturday for a super Derby Day featuring four Group 1 races and several other choice Group 2 and Group 3 events.
The weather is forecast to be warm and sunny with a light wind, so it will be in stark contrast to the Cox Plate meeting last weekend. And no doubt the crowds will be out in force as well for this first day of Flemington’s Spring Racing Carnival, which runs over four days with the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, the Oaks on Thursday and culminating with the Emirates Stakes on the following Saturday.
The first of the Group 1 races is the Coolmore Stud Stakes for three year olds run over 1200 metres. A very classy field will contest it, with the likes of Golden Slipper winner Capitalist, up against Blue Diamond Stakes and Moir Stakes winner Extreme Choice, Golden Rose winner Astern, and Russian Revolution who beat both Astern and Capitalist in the Group 2 Roman Consul Stakes and is so far unbeaten in four starts. Throw in Star Turn as well who beat the older sprinters recently in the Group 2 Schillachi Stakes.
First Seal, who proved she was well and truly back in contention when she won the Group 3 Tristarc Stakes on Caulfield Cup day, will be aiming to add a second Group 1 to her CV in the Myer Classic, a race for mares and fillies over 1600 metres.
Her main opposition comes from fellow mares Don’t Doubt Mama, Dixie Blossoms, Pearls and Rising Romance and fillies Whispering Brook and I Am A Star.
The Victoria Derby often throws up long shot winners, and favourites rarely win, though Tarzino was the favourite last year and won.
The current favourite for this year’s edition is Sacred Elixir who won the AAMI Vase last Saturday at Moonee Valley, which race has yielded quite a few Derby winners among its contestants. Last year it was won by Jameka who went on to win the 2015 Victorian Oaks and this year’s Caulfield Cup.
Sacred Elixir has good staying blood, his great grandam being Horlicks who famously won the Japan Cup in 1989 and was also the dam of 2000 Melbourne Cup winner Brew.
Another beautifully bred contender is So Si Bon who is a son of So You Think and Lonhro mare Black Minx. He is highly favoured by some pundits, though he has only one win from six starts. He does have the qualification of finishing third in the Vase, the same position Tarzino ran last year.
Although none of the big field of the Derby has won over 2500 metres, several have scored over 2000 metres and have the breeding to run the distance. High Chaparral has sired quite few Derby winners and runners up, and there are four of his sons in the race – Silvera, Wine Bush, Highlad and Shine Tak Star.
Or will perpetual bridesmaid Rocketeer, who always runs an honest race, finally have his moment of glory?
The final Group 1 is the Cantala Stakes run over 1600 metres.
Originally this race was known as the Mackinnon Stakes and run over 2000 metres. It has been renamed the Emirates Stakes and will be run on Emirates Stakes day the last meeting of the Flemington carnival of racing.
A field of fine milers will be contesting the Cantala Stakes and include Palentino, The United States, He’s Our Rokkii, Bon Aurum, Thunder Fantasy and Voodoo Lad. What a field! And hard to pick the winner.