Multiple Group 1 winner Black Heart Bart returns to the scene of his Memsie triumph with a point to prove in Saturday’s Underwood Stakes (Race 8) as the spring carnival really steps it up a notch at Caulfield.
Sent out a short-priced favourite, Darren Weir’s star gelding was overwhelmed by stablemate Palentino in the Makybe Diva Stakes to continue a worrying streak that has seen him winless at 10 attempts beyond seven furlongs.
Rather than focus on the negatives though, Weir was keen to laud the quality of the winner and the fact that pair had two lengths on the rest of the field as evidence that Black Heart Bart will run out a strong 1800m on the weekend.
Regular jockey Brad Rawiller is back aboard the horse having missed his Flemington run owing to suspension and he was said to be extremely pleased with the horse’s conditioning following a jumpout at Casterton earlier in the week.
Despite the perception of his vulnerability over the longer trips, Bart has been easily the best backed runner since our market opened on Wednesday and we expect punters to continue to steam into him, particularly with the tighter Caulfield track likely to prove an asset to his chances.
With Melbournians sweating over the prospect of an all-Sydney AFL Grand Final, Novocastrian trainer Kris Lees will be looking to start the invasion a week early with classy mare Lucia Valentina, who presents the logical danger to the favourite.
Indeed, it will be fascinating to see how the Sydney form stacks up following Lucia Valentina’s first-up run behind Winx and Hartnell in the Warwick Stakes last month.
Both horses asserted their superiority in subsequent performances to arguably rate as the two best gallopers in the country at present.
Lees has been happy with the way Lucia Valentina has settled into her work since travelling down south as she continues to progress towards the Cox Plate.
Her outstanding win in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes providing ample evidence of her ability to run a big race here.
However, while we have plenty of respect for the form line and weight-for-age pedigree, we think she might be slightly under the odds and are willing to accommodate punters wanting to back her on the weekend.
Similarly, Awesome Rock scored the biggest win of his career in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes and should get a lovely passage from the two alley.
But trainer Troy Corstens has admitted that connections have one eye on the Cox Plate and we’re happy to lay him at the prices.
The Cleaner finished 3rd behind Mourinho in this race last year but doesn’t quite look the same horse and a win would be surprising.
Nick Hall produced a peach of a ride on Jameka in the Naturalism here last Saturday and will hop aboardTavago, who copped a solid dose of interference last start and should be finishing off strongly.
Prince of Penzance and Howard Be Thy Name round out the Weir challenge and are probably a run or two short of producing their best.
Underwood Stakes tips:
1. Black Heart Bart
3. Lucia Valentina
4. He or She