One race before today’s marquee race, the Victoria Derby, a field of stayers including a number of potential Melbourne Cup starters will face off in the 2014 Mackinnon Stakes.
Due to jump at 3:00pm (AEDT) as Flemington Race 6, this year’s $1 million Group 1 Longines Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) originally drew a final field of 15 including the defending champ Side Glance.
Andrew Balding’s UK raider has been back down under since the start of last month running well in both the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) when third to Fawkner and fourth last weekend at Moonee Valley beaten just half a length by fellow international Adelaide in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m).
After that slashing finishing the Passing Glance eight-year-old looked on track for a title defense in today’s Mackinnon Stakes.
Side Glance however was withdrawn from the race earlier in the week after being found to be lame on Thursday morning.
“Sadly Side Glance won’t be running in the Mackinnon on Saturday. He’s lame this morning, happily nothing on x-rays so hopeful it’s not too serious,” Balding’s wife Anna-Lisa wrote on Twitter that day.
If he does improve there’s a chance the veteran will have one more run down under in the $350,000 Group 2 Zipping Classic (2400m) at Sandown on November 15 before heading to Hong Kong in December for a run in either the Vase or Cup on the international race day.
With Side Glance out there are still five single figure hopes with the narrow favourite being the rails-drawn Criterion into $5.50 from $6.
The David Payne-trained Sebring four-year-old was runner-up to Fawkner in the Caulfield Stakes two back before his Cox Plate seventh when still only 1.45 lengths off the winner.
Following closely are then the Chris Waller-trained He’s Your Man ($5.50 out to $6) and Rising Romance ($6 out to $6.50) drawn in barriers five and now 11 respectively.
French import He’s Your Man has won three of his past four starts this time in including the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) in Sydney four weeks back when ridden by ace Brazilian hoop Joao Moreira.
The Magic Man Moreira is back in the saddle again today with the Cape Cross six-year-old going up from 52.5kg in the Epsom to 59kg under the weight-for-age conditions of the Mackinnon which will be his fourth look at the distance.
Donna Logan’s ATC Oaks winning Ekraar mare Rising Romance meanwhile is also in top form this season coming off a brilliant second to Japanese-trained stayer and now Melbourne Cup favourite Admire Rakti in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) from October 18.
She had 53kg and James McDonald on from barrier 14 (of 18) in the Cup and is out wide again today with McDonald retaining the ride.
The other two single figure hopes are then both market movers with seven-year-old Happy Trails in from $49 to $7 coming off a Cox Plate sixth when under a length off the winner, and the Robert Hickmott-trained raider Amralah smashed in from $13 to $8.50 for his Australian race debut.
Teofilo stallion Amralah is currently sitting 36th on the Melbourne Cup ballot following the notification that stable mate Green Moon (2nd), 2012 winner of the ‘race that stops a nation’, would miss the race with a cracked hoof.
He needs to win today’s Mackinnon then for the ballot exemption into the $6.2 million Group 1 two mile classic next Tuesday and is well backed to do just that.
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