Having captured Australia’s most famous race with Almandin on Tuesday, the triumvirate of trainer Robert Hickmott, owner Lloyd Williams and jockey Kerrin McEvoy will be in search of further riches when The United States contests the reconfigured Emirates Stakes (Race 7) on the final day of the Flemington carnival on Saturday.
Formerly the Mackinnon, this race has switched to the final day of the Cup week program but retains its status as a 2000m weight-for-age event, which will now serve as a natural progression from the Cox Plate with its increased prizemoney and two week break from the Moonee Valley showpiece.
Despite the absence of both Winx and Hartnell, who lost no admirers after finishing a gallant third in the Cup, the race has attracted a very capable field containing no less than five Cox Plate runners plus four horses who contested last weekend’s Cantala Stakes won by Le Romain.
Having been tightened for room around the 400m mark, The United States hit the line strongly in the Cantala and on the strength of that run, coupled with his previous effort in winning the Crystal Mile at the Valley, he has been installed a narrow favourite for this.
At the Unibet headquarters, despite taking a hammering from that combination in the Melbourne Cup (a result also forecast by Adam Campton in his race-eve preview) we’re not entirely convinced that history will repeat itself and are thus keen to oppose The United States in this.
Though the extra quarter-mile should suit and the horse has already proven his durability in racing thrice within the space of a month over the autumn carnival, we have some serious question marks about the decision to back him up over three consecutive weekends and feel that may take some of the edge of his performance.
It’s been a fairly tit-for-tat battle between our traders and the public throughout the spring carnival but we’re committed to laying the chestnut and this could give punters an opportunity to land a decisive blow.
Godolphin runner Scottish could well have been in action on Tuesday but the stable elected to take a different path with him and that decision may well bear fruit come the weekend.
Having covered extra ground through the first half of the race, the bay worked to the front in the Caulfield Cup and we felt that he really stuck at the task strongly in the concluding stages despite being overwhelmed by Jameka.
Already a winner over 2000m three times in his career, trainer Charlie Appleby felt that the drop back in distance would be ideal for his charge and off the mid-alley draw we are expecting him to work forward again and grind them into the ground in a manner synonymous with the stable.
The Emirates also presents an opportunity for Andre Fabre’s Vadamos to end his days on the racetrack on a winning note after confirmation that the six year-old is off to a lucrative stud career at the cessation of the carnival.
With Damien Oliver handed the reins having had to forego the Cox Plate ride owing to suspension, we’re intrigued to see how he’ll measure up on the weekend as the margin of Winx’s victory left us somewhat non-committal as to the credentials of the beaten brigade.
Like Scottish, the French-bred horse also worked to the lead in the Cox Plate and battled on gamely to finish fourth after it appeared he may drop right out of the picture nearing the home turn.
At the prices, we’re happy enough to accommodate punters wanting to back him but will be on the lookout for any solid market leads closer to the race.
James Cummings had a Derby Day to remember after Prized Icon’s upset triumph and he’ll be represented by Good Standing, one of only two three-year-olds in the race along with Seaburge.
A last start winner of the Caulfield Classic over the same trip, Good Standing comes into this as a lightweight hope with only 51kgs on his back.
Although it must be noted that Blake Shinn was able to get a pretty soft time of it in front for the first two-thirds of that race and the horse tired notably nearing the wire.
While Seaburge ran an honest race in the Cantala, he’d have to find a couple of lengths to be considered a winning proposition here.
The query runner in the field is surely Chris Waller’s Endless Drama, who has been saved for this race having arrived in Australia a number of weeks ago.
The Irish-bred galloper created an immediate impression by winning his only trial by nearly eight lengths and has been kept in cotton wool ever since.
His trainer has been described by his trainer as the “kind of European import who will handle our conditions” and we’re taking no real chances with him at this stage.
1 – Scottish
2 – Good Standing
3 – Vadamos
4 – The United States