It’s been a huge seven days of racing and the 2018 Flemington Carnival will draw to a close at HQ on Saturday for 2018 Stakes Day.
The final two Group 1 races of the Melbourne Spring headline the nine-race card, but the depth of talent confirmed in all nine races on Stakes Day has seen huge value being available in all betting markets.
We’ve experienced almost every season at Flemington this week, but the track appears as though it will be rated in the good to soft range for 2018 Stakes Day.
Only eight milers have accepted into the field for the first and the Ken Keys-trained Al Passem has opened the $3.60 favourite in betting. Al Passem has been a strong and consistent performer this time and was last seen finishing third after a tough run on pace in the Listed Sale Cup, also at this trip.
Manuel ($3.70) ran second behind Fifty Stars on Cup Day and is primed for another big performance here. The Commands gelding was a smart winner at Caulfield at his run prior to Tuesday and a repeat of either performance would see him right in the finish of this.
This race has drawn a decent field of stayers and there is a case to be made for several in the market.
Lucky For All has opened the $3.20 favourite and is ready to peak in form fourth-up. Each of his three runs have been terrific this time and has taken good improvement from each, resulting in a smart win over this trip at Caulfield last time.
Lycurgus ($34) didn’t fire a shot in the Group 2 Crystal Mile first-up, but he’s a horse that tends to improve sharply second-up and I’m expecting a far better performance at 2000m. The Star Witness gelding a strong and consistent performer last time in and is up to winning a race of this calibre, under the right conditions. He could prove to be huge overs at his current price.
A capacity field has been taken for the third, but it really does look like Yulong January’s race to lose. Yulong January ($4.60) has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence this time and won each of his first three starts before finishing a close second behind Ranier in the Listed Gothic Stakes (1400m) last time out. There is no Ranier in this field and he does look to have a class edge over most of his rivals. 1400m looks to be his ideal trip and he’s drawn perfectly in barrier 3.
The field confirmed for the fourth is outstanding and it looms as one of the better contests on the 2018 Stakes Day card.
There really is a case to be made for nearly every horse in this field but two have caught my eye at their current prices; Widgee Turf ($5.75) and Spectroscope ($21).
Widgee Turf has been the stable star for Patrick Payne for several seasons now and has returned to the track in typically strong form this time. He finished off well to run third amongst strong company in the Group 2 PB Lawrence Stakes (1400m) three stars back, before running second in the Listed Penny Edition Stakes (1400m) at Morphettville. He was strong to the line again when second in the Vobis Gold Star (1500m) last time out and will enjoy a slight step back in trip to 1400m.
Spectroscope ran on well on soft going to finish third at Randwick first-up and he’ll take plenty of benefit into this race. He’s drawn ideally in barrier 4 and has been charged with carrying only 55.5kgs.
I’ll be happy to have something on both horses, but Widgee Turf on top.
A decent field of stayers will contest this year’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes and many have recorded great results amongst strong, black type fields this season.
Libran has been building to something all spring and he will be extremely difficult to beat under the conditions of this race. He worked home well to finish third in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m) two weeks ago and he is rock-hard fit for his fifth campaign assignment. He also has the notable advantage of Ryan Moore in the saddle on Saturday and is drawn ideally in barrier 4.
Another black type feature and another wide-open race from a betting perspective, with some of the country’s best fillies and mares confirmed in the Matriarch Stakes field.
Sheezdashing is a multiple Group 1 placegetter and at her best, is up to winning a race of this quality. The Myboycharlie mare is yet to show her best this time but could be ready to do something fourth-up and is $10 into $7.50 at the time of publish.
Aloisia ($10) was caught at the tail of the field in the Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) last time, but she appeared to be building towards something prior and should relish the 2000m at this point of her preparation. The daughter of Azamour hit the line well for third in the Group 2 Tristarc Stakes (1400m) two runs back and I am happy to give her another chance here at double-figure odds.
This is always one of the best Group 1 races of the year and no surprises to see Redzel as the $4.80 favourite after defending his crown in The Everest, from impressive last-start winner Pierata ($5) and consistent Godolphin sprinter Kementari ($7).
There is no denying Redkirk Warrior’s ability down the straight and he looks huge overs to win the VRC Sprint Classic at $12. The Notnowcato gelding has won the two most-recent editions of the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) here and he stormed home to beat Redzel on the line in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes first-up in autumn this year. He’s been kept fresh specifically for this race and looks a great each-way bet.
The final Group 1 race of the Melbourne Spring Carnival has attracted only ten runners have been confirmed for a start. British raider Blair House has opened a firm $2.25 favourite from fellow Brit Latrobe ($5) and last weekend’s Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes winner Shillelagh ($7).
Blair House ran Benbatl to a short nose in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes at this trip last time out, and that horse has since come out and finished second behind Winx in the Cox Plate. That form is obviously extremely difficult to argue with and I think that the market has this one just about right.
This is an extremely difficult way to end the Flemington Carnival and Stakes Day from a betting perspective and at the time of publish, we’re looking at $5 the field for this absolute dartboard.
In recent form and given the conditions he’ll be facing on Saturday, I’ll be happy to have something small each-way on Lagerfeld at his current price ($11 at publish). Lagerfeld hasn’t finished worse that second through his five starts this time and has dominated a couple of easier races at Kyneton and Echuca most-recently. This is obviously a noticeable step up in class, but he’s got the runs on the board and is drawn beautifully in gate 4.