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Group 1 previews and tips

Arguably Victoria’s best raceday of the summer/autumn is upon us this week, with Blue Diamond Stakes day at Caulfield.

The feature for two-year-olds is the highlight, but it is complemented by two more Group 1s and a series of other black type races.

Blue Diamond

It’s been well documented that there appears to be no standout two-year-old this season, perhaps allowing for Coolongatta up in Sydney, but particularly so in Melbourne. An even Blue Diamond presents this year.

A good colt will always beat a good filly, so the saying goes, and the market has given an edge to the boys at this stage.

The first five across the line in the colts Prelude square off again on Saturday, but it was the fifth of those home in Jacquinot who heads up the first line of betting after he blundered the start and was disappointed for a run at the 200m in that event.

Connections were happy for Jacquinot to draw 10 here, meaning he won’t be cluttered up in traffic again, but not many win a Diamond from the very tail, so his barrier manners would want to be tidy.

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Lofty Strike was the winner of the Prelude, and can’t have done any more than be two from two in his career to date. He moved into the race with style there, but jumping from 13 may find himself behind Jacquinot in the run.

Semillion, Daumier and Counttheheadlights were all good while having their chance, and each of them is from an astute stable when it comes to preparing juveniles so may have something up their sleeve.

Sebonack won the Chairman’s Stakes on debut at Caulfield three weeks ago, and strikes the Blue Diamond at his second career start. While the second horse there was also on debut, Kiko in third has had enough exposure to suggest it is the B form.

The rest of the boys don’t have a lot to recommend them. Hafey won his debut at Bendigo by four lengths, and should have improvement to come, but the horse he beat there had been lapped by the likes of Daumier and Rampant Lion, who are expected to run well here but not quite measure up.

Revolutionary Miss is the most seasoned horse in the race, having had three starts across two states this year and appeals as that bomb-proof two-year-old the Snowdens have such a habit of producing. Her win after settling in the second half of the field in the Fillies Prelude was full of merit when considering second and third there were sitting one-two in the run.

She’s improved a few lengths with each outing this campaign, and we can expect her to be trained to the minute.

Miss Roseiano and English Riviera did run second and third in that Prelude; the former had also won the Preview, while the latter wasn’t far off Lofty Strike back in January.

Tying all the formlines together, it does suggest that Jacquinot is probably the best of these, but he’s hard to launch into as favourite given what he did at the barriers last start.

The best roughie might be a Godolophin filly down the bottom called Seven Sisters. She was left a bit flat-footed when Revolutionary Miss pinned the ears back in the Prelude, but got going again late. She might be one to watch in the VRC Sires in a couple of weeks.

Selections: 1.Revolutionary Miss 2.Jacquinot 3.Lofty Strike 4.Seven Sisters

Oakleigh Plate

Of all the big handicaps in Australian racing, none throw up a blanket finish quite like the Oakleigh Plate. You can often have a couple of lengths covering 6-10 horses as they cross the line, which means luck in running is key and the result is often at big odds.

Rising star Marabi is six wins from six starts in her career, after only debuting when she was in the latter half of year four-year-old year. Her first four starts saw her progress through the grades with a combined winning margin of 23 lengths, and she has since won at Listed and Group 2 level on her way to earning a crack at Group 1 company.

She can either set a hot speed and keep running, or absorb high pressure and outlast her rivals, and it’s fascinating to see what she can do in this type of race. Can anyone beat her?

Wild Ruler, Zoutori and Jonker represent the class of the field as previous Group 1 winners and are all carrying 57.5-58 kgs accordingly. The Group 1 races they won all lacked the top end class that we are accustomed to in our sprint races, so it’s hard for them to carry a big weight in this field. Wild Ruler has the most upside of these.

Bella Nipotina was an unlucky second to Jonker in October’s Manikato, and she then ran third in the VRC Classic behind Nature Strip and Swat’s That – we saw how well they ran in the Lightning last week. She’s got to be in the game somewhere if she can find the right run, and the booking of Jamie Kah tells us she’s primed to hit a career peak first-up.

With Marabi and Bella Nipotina sure to be somewhere in the finish, it could well be a mares race this year. If so, Away Game and Minhaaj will be in that conversation.

Away Game was beaten less than a length behind Marabi two months ago, and meets her 6.5 kgs better for it. She’s been an incredibly consistent mare all the way through and would deserve a Group 1, but usually finds one or two better.

Minhaaj has also always shown talent, and has put it together since joining John O’Shea for the spring. She was two from two at Group 3 level last campaign, and has been targeted at this race from a long way out. Barrier 1 may prove to be a little sticky for her though.

Malkovich will be part of the early speed battle, and will appreciate 52 kgs on his back given he’s usually carrying big weights. Oxley Road will also be up front, and drops from 59 kgs to 52.5 after running second in the Rubiton. His third to Masked Crusader at this track and distance in the spring says he can be in the game.

The three-year-olds add intrigue as always. We might have expected more from Ingratiating first-up, but he can be an improver and he has raced well against the older horses when third in the Manikato behind Jonker and Bella Nipotina. General Beau it talented and could figure.

Selections: 1.Bella Nipotina 2.Minhaaj 3.Marabi 4.Wild Ruler

Futurity Stakes

The Futurity has brought together a small but select field for this year’s edition.

Orr Stakes winner Tofane heads up the betting, coming back to the track and distance of her triumph two weeks ago. Talk about a specialist over seven furlongs – she’s only had five starts at 1400m, for four Group 1 wins and a Memsie Stakes placing beaten just over half a length.

Tofane before the Darley Spring Classic

(George Salpigtidis/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

Tofane led all the way in the Orr, but has proven she can sit handy or even in the back half of the field and still win so Mark Zahra has plenty of options with more speed engaged in this race.

Streets of Avalon is one of those that might look for the lead, having won the 2020 Futurity from the front. He meets a classier field here than he did in either of his previous Caulfield Group 1 wins though.

Turaath will also be on the speed back up to 1400m, a distance she made her own in the early part of the spring last year. She’s facing her toughest test, but will handle herself with aplomb.

If there is too much pressure up front, the swoopers will come to the fore, and there’s some mighty good ones.

I’m Thunderstruck won the Toorak Handicap at Caulfield in the spring after being unlucky in the Rupert Clarke the start previous. His return in the Orr was pleasing given it was dominated by Tofane up front, but he still has a few lengths to make up on that mare. There’s no doubt he’s a genuine WFA talent though.

Sierra Sue beat I’m Thunderstruck in that Rupert Clarke, and now meets him 2.5kg’s better for it. She also beat him home in the Orr, although she did have every chance to get past Tofane there. She’s in the game with a quieter ride.

Mo’unga established himself as a top class WFA competitor in the spring, and a repeat of his first-up performance then, when beating Verry Elleegant to win the Winx Stakes, would surely see him right in the finish here.

Extreme Flight and Mr Mozart are three-year-old’s having a ping at the WFA stumps, despite nothing in their spring form against their own age recommending them for such an assignment. They look to have their work cut out.

This will be a fascinating tactical battle, and there does look enough speed to ensure every horse gets their chance. May the best one win.

Selections: 1.Mo’unga 2.I’m Thunderstruck 3.Tofane 4.Sierra Sue



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