After Scales of Justice landed the first blow for locally-trained gallopers in the Railway, a selection of top interstate sprinters will be out to square the ledger in this Saturday’s Winterbottom Stakes (Race 8) over 1200m at Ascot.
The contemporary history of this race has thrown up some intriguing results and does little to clear the waters, with superstars such as Buffering and Takeover Target able to capture the event after fruitful campaigns in Melbourne and the UK respectively.
While the likes of Barakey and Magnifisio have flown the flag for the Western Australian brigade in recent years.
Darley Classic winner Malaguerra heads the betting in our early fixed odds market and his chances were only improved after he landed the rails at Tuesday afternoon’s draw.
Trainer Peter Gelagotis only assumed responsibility for the gelding in June after owner Bruno Micalizzi made the surprise decision to remove him from the stables of Lee and Anthony Freedman.
Gelagotis is said to be extremely happy heading into the race and queried whether Malaguerra deserved to be ranked as the nation’s top sprinter should he win in decisive fashion on the weekend.
Joe Pride’s Terravista is no stranger to Group 1 success and comes into this race after an eye-catching first-up run on Oaks Day, where he really hit the line hard in the final furlong to almost overwhelm Redzel in the Mumm Stakes.
Having had this race mapped out for his charge all along, and dropping 2kgs off that run under weight-for-age conditions, Pride declared Terravista will be ready to ‘press the button’ once jockey Hugh Bowman lets go.
It will be fascinating to see if he can deliver one of his trademark bursts to score at this level again.
At the Unibet headquarters, despite laying a couple of sizeable four-figure bets against both runners midweek, we’re not convinced it will develop into the kind of head-to-head duel the market implies and we’re encouraging the punters to come after us with support for the leading pair on Saturday.
Indeed, we’ve landed squarely in the corner of a couple of horses with plenty of knowledge of these conditions and our traders are expecting Colonel Reeves Stakes winner Vega Magic to prove highly competitive on home soil.
This highly rated four-year-old boasts a perfect three-from-three record over the 1200m at Ascot and on a surface that may favour on-pace runners, he’s likely to prove hard to get past.
Apprentice jockey Jake Casey, who has ridden the horse in all but two of his career starts to date is hoping to notch a maiden Group 1 win in combination with training father Sean.
We’re also keen on the chances of the tenacious Sheidel, who returns to the far west after a successful 12 months of racing for the Hayes/Dabernig team that includes a couple of victories during the recent spring carnival.
Having been previously prepared by David Harrison out at Lark Hill, the mare built up a phenomenal record at Ascot of nine wins from just 10 attempts, including an all-the-way effort in the Jungle Mist Classic on Winterbottom day last year.
Coming off a fair performance in the Darley, where she stuck to the task gamely after being headed around the 300m mark, we’re anticipating her to relish being back in familiar territory and with Damien Oliver likely to hustle her out of the gates, we felt she represented terrific each-way value at double-figure odds.
Of the others, a trip to Hong Kong could be on the cards should Gary Moore’s Takedown breakthrough at this level but we’re not entirely convinced he’ll measure up and are keen to oppose him at the prices.
Rock Magic and State Solicitor should also enjoy a rare opportunity to test themselves in this company, the former a genuine knockout hope after he rattled home into second place in the Colonel Reeves.
While State Solicitor has racked up a sequence of six straight wins in lesser company and the credentials of the Williams/Pike/Peters triumvirate are firmly established in these parts.
3. Vega Magic