A capacity field of sixteen fillies will line up...
The richest race at Flemington’s opening spring meet this Saturday, the 2011 Makybe Diva Stakes, has attracted 19 nominations including six horses that are also entered for the feature race in Sydney on the same day, the Chelmsford Stakes at Royal Randwick.
Robert Hickmott’s trio At First Sight, Base and Midas Touch; along with the John Thompson-trained Trusting, Nigel Blackiston’s former The BMW winner Littorio and the Hawkes-trained Melbourne Cup runner-up Maluckyday, are all top-line gallopers that have been nominated for both the $300,000 Group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) and the $175,000 Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m).
Both races provide a nice stepping stone towards the spring majors, including the 2011 Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and of course the showcase race held in Australia each year, the Melbourne Cup 2011.
Early favourite in the Luxbet markets for the $6 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), to run as Flemington Race 7 on Tuesday November 1, the Peter Moody-trained Lights Of Heaven makes her Flemington debut in the Makybe Diva Stakes on Saturday.
The addition of the mare sitting at the top of the Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup 2011 odds in the Makybe Diva Stakes field may work as a deterrent for a number of the nominees, Oaks winner Lights Of Heaven having run a luckless first-up second to Cox Plate favourite Whobegotyou in the Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) on August 13.
It is the weather and track condition, however, that will have the highest influence over which race these dual nominees will contest come Saturday.
Zabeel gelding Maluckyday, last seen running an unimpressive seventh to the since-passed Cedarberg in The BMW at Rosehill on April 2, has already had the start of their spring campaign twice delayed.
The five-year-old was scratched from both the Warwick Stakes and Memsie Stakes earlier this month, and with Flemington shaping up to be the firmer of the two metropolitan tracks this weekend, the Makybe Diva Stakes will likely be Maluckyday’s first-up race.
Meanwhile, another notable dual-state nominee for this weekend’s majors is Littorio.
The Bellotto seven-year-old resumes after a lengthy 16 month stint on the sidelines having torn a ligament when running ninth to Jessicabeel in the 2010 Sydney Cup, one run after their victory in the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) last year.
A dual Group 1 winner having also taken out the 2008 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington, Littorio will go where the track conditions best suit for their very important first-up run.
“I’m a bit concerned it might be a bit firm for him here (at Flemington) on Saturday,” the locally-based Blackiston said.
“If we don’t get rain and the track dries out too much I might take him up to Sydney for the Chelmsford where it might be a bit softer for him.
“He’s had lots of long slow work for a while and he’s in good order.
“I gave him a jumpout at Flemington and I don’t think he’s ever trialled so well.”
While the two-miles of the 2011 Melbourne Cup looks to be a little out of Littorio’s reach, Blackiston said he was considering both the $2.5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15 and the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 22 as spring aims for the stayer.
“He’s tried two miles twice and hasn’t been very successful,” Blackiston said.
“Depending on how he comes up and how he’s feeling we might just stay around the 2000 metres or the 2400 metres.
“Maybe the Caulfield Cup might be his go or the Cox Plate, who knows?”
Littorio ran a well-beaten 13th to Viewed in the 2008 Melbourne Cup, his first attempt at the 3200 metres, and is a $101 roughie in the Luxbet odds for this year’s edition of Flemington’s famous handicap showdown.
The galloper is at a shorter price in the 2011 Cox Plate betting at Luxbet paying $51.
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