In startling contrast to the last race meeting at Caulfield, last Saturday was cool and overcast as opposed to searingly hot and sunny, which was a welcome respite and made it much more pleasant to spend an afternoon at the races.
I arrived at Caulfield fairly early in the afternoon in time to watch the third race on the program. This was the Group 3 Bellmaine Stakes, a race for mares over 1200 metres. The favourite was Princess of Queens and she didn’t disappoint, winning by a narrow margin from Fuhryk and I Am A Star.
In Race 4, the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes, there was great interest in seeing how Nature Strip would fare in the 1100 metre race. He was one of the former Darren Weir horses racing on Saturday. He is now with Chris Waller, whom I’m sure would have been pleased with the speedster’s performance in the Rubiton Stakes. Nature Strip blitzed the field, leading from start to finish and winning by 3½ lengths from Jungle Edge, with Thermal Current running third a further 2 lengths behind.
The colts and geldings Blue Diamond Prelude was the first to run and was up next. Blue Diamond Preview winner I Am Immortal started as favourite and prevailed, again leading from go to whoa to narrowly defeat Shotmaker and Hawker Hurricane. He is the first colt to accomplish the Preview/Prelude double since Sepoy in 2011. Whether he can go on to emulate Sepoy and take out the Blue Diamond Stakes is yet to be seen.
In the fillies Blue Diamond Prelude, it was expected that previously impressive fillies Catch Me and Brooklyn Hustle would be prominent and fight out the finish, but neither featured and ended up out of the places.
Godolphin filly Lyre won the bickies at big odds from Vinicunca (also at big odds) and Athiri.
As far as the actual Blue Diamond Stakes goes the picture is somewhat unclear after the fillies Prelude. The great white hope for a filly to win is now Loving Gaby – a big strong girl who could well take the prize.
Regarding Brooklyn Hustle, the early favourite for the Blue Diamond, she could still be in the picture. She’s a lovely looking filly, quite the head turner, being a bright chestnut with blonde mane and tail, rather reminiscent of Miracles of Life, the 2013 Blue Diamond Stakes winner. I managed to get a lovely photo of her as she was being walked in the stalls area.
There was only one more race to run before the feature Group 1 event, and that was the Group 2 Autumn Stakes, a race for three year olds over 1400 metres. Hawkshot, a handsome son of 2013 Melbourne Cup winner, Fiorente, ran a similar race to former stablemate Nature Strip, leading from the start to win by 3½ lengths from Dealmaker with Ringerdingding running third,
Another who ran and won setting the pace was the long odds surprise winner of the feature Group 1 Orr Stakes – Manuel trained by Tony McEvoy. Kementari was the hot favourite for the race, but as seems to always be the case, he was relegated to second place, dead heating with Land of Plenty.
Much as I would have liked to, I didn’t stay for the Group 3 Carlyon Stakes as it was getting late. It was won by Avilius, who is now favourite for the Australian Cup.
It remained overcast most of the afternoon, challenging for properly exposed photos, but it only rained briefly shortly before the Orr Stakes. I had dressed for wet weather, and expected to be overly warm. A brisk breeze kept it cool, so I was never uncomfortable.
The absence of Darren Weir was noticeable, but his former horses performed very well for their new stables.
Next weekend the Melbourne racing moves to Flemington which features the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning, wherein super filly Sunlight will hopefully shine. In Sydney at Randwick, the mighty Winx will be kicking off her final campaign in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes – a must watch race. Go Winx!