The countdown to the Sydney Spring Racing...
Race 1: Big Swing Golf Handicap (1600m) – Lopartega
The weight of money is with the $2.50 Naantali after her runner-up effort at Caulfield three week’s ago, but as we saw back then, sometimes the favourites aren’t always a sure-thing. Lopartega ran third in that same race and is down in trip from the 1700m. The six-year old mare was two-wide off the fence last time out but showed a strong turn of foot to move from fourth behind Tagreeda to feature in the placings. Naantali’s tactic was to lead early, which cost her in the end, so this race should be interesting from a strategy standpoint for jockey Mark Zahra. Lopartega’s ran second on this track over 1500m last year, making her an equally intriguing play.
Bet Now: Moonee Valley Race 1
Race 2: Horse Gym Australia (1600m) – The Avenger
If Strike Force received an inside draw I’d be backing it to notch back-to-back wins in this race, but The Avenger’s last start was an encouraging sign that Chris Waller’s five-year old is close to a win. The gelding of Smart Missile was the widest horse on the track over the same distance and swooped around the final turn to run third in an impressive gallop home. He’s been up for a while, but it helps that Waller has chosen to feature him again at The Valley, and jockey Ben Melham should be able to place himself in a nice position from the inside draw.
Bet Now: Moonee Valley Race 2
Race 3: 1Print Handicap (1500m) – Muswellbrook (each Way)
Muswellbrook likes to give punters a real scare late, but look out when he gets going inside the final furlong. He’s had nearly a month off since running third at Flemington over 1400m, but that was still a big run that caught my eye after a tardy jump from the wide gate. The son of Denman has drawn barrier 4 this time around and should challenge favourites Approach Discreet and Kinky Boom late. The 60kg weight makes him an each-way chance, but the Lindsay Park three-year old won at this same distance second-up in his last prep, so it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see him win this with such terrific breakaway speed down the straight.
Bet Now: Moonee Valley Race 3
Race 4: Harrolds Handicap (2040m) – Yogi
There’s perhaps no better horse in this race, let alone on this card, better suited to the rail being in the true position than Yogi. It should play into swoopers’ hands nicely, which is exactly what we saw from the three-year old during his last start. He dropped back very quickly over 1600m at Caulfield and looked out of the running with 300m to go, but stuck three-wide and ran down the outside to finish second behind Plein Ciel. It’s crazy to think Darren Weir purchased this gelding for as little as $1,000, and if Craig Williams can find that outside part of the track again Yogi should be good enough to win second-up.
Bet Now: Moonee Valley Race 4
Race 5: McEwen Stakes (1000m) – Nature Strip
Nature Strip looks well on her way to Group 1 glory after successfully defeating Sunlight by nearly six lengths in the $100,000 Lightning Stakes (1050m) earlier in July. She’s the one to watch on Saturday but Shoals’ impressive trial running down Santa Ana Lane and Angelic Spirit back in August was extremely impressive. Anthony Freedman’s four-year old mare shifted through her gears nicely in the final 200m, and although I think she has the speed to run down Nature Strip, I don’t think it happens this early in her prep.
Bet Now: Moonee Valley Race 5
Race 6: Ladbrokes Atlantic Jewel Stakes (1200m) – Anjana
Darren Weir’s three-year old filly is yet to lose in her three career starts, one of which was over 1000m back in May. Anjana has drawn barrier 11 ahead of her first-up run in the Atlantic Jewel Stakes and will likely challenge fellow $5.50 favourite Spanish Whisper down the straight. I expect Anjana to drift back early and run on late from the wide draw, but she’s certainly got the kick to hit the line strong. Spanish Whisper is also first-up from a lengthy break, but if nothing else, this race should give us a good indication as to how each runner will prepare for a possible run in the Thousand Guineas later in October.
Bet Now: Moonee Valley Race 6
Race 7: Strathmore Community Bendigo Bank Stakes (1200m) – Tulip
Very gutsy performance on this same track earlier in August over the same distance to run second behind Merriest. The takeaway from that race not only was Tulip’s closing speed after receiving a kick from jockey Damien Oliver, but also the fact she beat Iconoclasm home late. Darren Weir’s four-year old ran some speedy sectionals in that race, and she’s likely going to be tough to beat on Saturday, but Tulip showed a willingness to give her all from the final turn during her last start which has earned my trust.
Bet Now: Moonee Valley Race 7
Race 8: Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) – Bonneval
The five-year old dual New Zealand champion horse raced from a three-wide position this time last year to win the race by a head, and jumping from barrier 9, it’s likely we see the three-time Group 1 winner do just that once again. By all reports Bonneval has returned in exceptional condition and looks very forward, while the lengthy break has likely done the five-year old some good. She’s the freshest horse in this race and holds a perfect two-from-two record first-up.
Bet Now: Moonee Valley Race 8
Race 9: Craig Opie Cup (1600m) – Moss ‘N’ Dale
Has raced a couple ‘good’ races recently, but is due for something great sometime very soon. Sat off the leader last start at Moonee Valley over 1519m and came home very strong to run third with 60kg on his back. Really handy barrier draw jumping from gate 3 in this one and should give favourite Divine Unicorn a good run in the late stages.
Bet Now: Moonee Valley Race 9
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