It’s the final Group 1 feature of the Sydney Spring and the Spring Champion Stakes headlines a strong card at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
The Spring Champion Stakes has drawn a talent-rich field, including some of the country’s best three-year-olds and there is a case to be made for more than half of the confirmed starters in betting.
There’s been plenty of major race cards held at the major metropolitan track recently and the rail will be set out nine metres around the entire Randwick course on Spring Champion Stakes Day.
The Spring Champion Stakes Day card opens with a pretty open BM74 race for three-year-olds and only seven horses will take their position at the barriers.
Royal Celebration and Yulong January currently share $3.70 favouritism to win this race, but I’m leaning towards the Peter & Paul Snowden-trained Nicco Lad at $9. The son of Nicconi was unwanted in the market in a mid-week sprint at Canterbury first-up but flew home to finish second. He again jumped at double-figures last time out and proved too good for a decent field, and he’ll be ready to peak third-up on Saturday. This is another step up in class, but he certainly looks up to a race of this quality.
This week’s Highway race has drawn a decent field of country milers and there’s a case to be made for several runners.
Velaro ($6) returned to the races for a close-up second at Scone and will strip fitter into this race. The Bullet Train gelding is beginning to string together a nice record and won three of his four starts through autumn this year, and placed on the only other occasion. He will need to show some speed from a wide draw, but he does look to have a class edge over plenty of his rivals and should be fighting out the finish.
An interesting field has been taken for the third and it is a decent mix of locally-trained horses and interstate raiders.
Excelsior will carry winning form into the race and has already received plenty of attention in betting; firming into $8 from double-figure. The Poet’s Voice entire never appeared in doubt at Warwick Farm last time out and savaged the line for the comfortable victory.
Raeeq ($6) does look to have a class edge over his rivals here and with James McDonald in the saddle, will be hard to beat. The Champs Elysees gelding enjoyed a flying start to his campaign and while he did return a couple of flat efforts, appeared to have returned to competitive form last time out. In this company, I’m happy to back him – even with topweight.
Only nine horses remain in the field for the fourth and it is shaping as one of the most open on Spring Champion Stakes Day, from a betting perspective.
Just Dreaming has received plenty of attention in betting and is the $5.25 favourite at the time of publish. The Snitzel mare has not been seen at the races since June but is stepping back from Group 1 company into this race and will take benefit from a couple of trials. Given that most of this field is first-up, I’m happy to have something small on Just Dreaming but without a whole lot of confidence.
There’s plenty of talent confirmed in the field for the fifth but I think that Japanese import Fierce Impact ($4.70) is beautifully placed and ready to win. The son of Deep Impact stamped himself as a horse to follow through autumn and resumed this time for a close-up second over 1400m and will relish a step-up to a mile. With only 55kgs, he will prove extremely difficult to hold out.
This is set to be an outstanding edition of the Roman Consul and we should get a pretty good bearing on leading contenders for races like the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes, from the northern states.
Queensland raider Ef Troop will find ideal conditions in this race and looks over the odds at $12, while there’s a case to be made for the Newcastle-trained colt Jonker ($5) and obviously, race favourite Sandbar ($4.40).
Group 2 winner Aylmerton will strip fitter from his first-up run and with even luck in running, can be fighting out the finish of this race. The Siyouni colt enjoyed a competitive two-year-old season and has been transferred to the care of the Lindsay Park team for his Spring Carnival preparation. He was held up when turning for home in the Group 3 McNeil Stakes (1200m) first-up before finishing sixth and he’ll appreciate a return to the Sydney way of going.
This looks to be a pretty open and progressive field of three-year-olds and we should get a good indication on which runners to follow into the Derby next month. Thinkin’ Big is the $3.50 favourite at the time of publish, from Dealmaker and Aramayo, who share the second line at $7.50 quotes.
Thinkin’ Big delivered a similar field to this a resounding defeat in the Group 3 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) a fortnight ago and should only improve from the run and under the conditions of this race. Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott’s horses are absolutely flying this time and Thinkin’ Big looks ready to return the team another Group 1 triumph.
Nine mares remain in the field for the Angst Stakes and it is rich with previous black type winners, including Dixie Blossoms. Dixie Blossoms ($3.70) has been charged with carrying topweight on Saturday, but she has proven to be one of the toughest mares in the country time and time again, and she can be fighting out the finish of a race like this one again.
Shumookh ($4.20) will be tested for a mile at the first time, but she’s returned to the track in terrific form again this season and was last seen hitting the line well to win the Group 2 Golden Pendant (1400m) a fortnight ago.
A pretty tough end to the day for punters and at the time of publish, we’re looking down the barrel of $6 the field.
Za Zi Ba ($7.50) has been racing well this time and I am happy to follow the sprinter once again, at each-way odds. A black type performer last time in, the All Too Hard mare required the run when she tailed off at Canterbury first-up but responded with an impressive win in Saturday company second-up, before a decent second behind Coruscate last time out. She is rock-hard fit and with luck, can be fighting out the finish again.