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Racing Victoria Limited told us, officially, today that the spring racing carnival is upon us when it launched a ”spectacular 50 days of racing, fashion, fun and excitement across the state”.
The launch was made for television and pointed squarely at the huge and growing party part of the racing carnival. And it was well done.
Incongruously, the racing opener today was a nondescript midweek Moonee Valley meeting of seven $30,000 restricted races bolstered significantly by a late addition, a $100,000 handicap over 2500 metres that featured the bulk of the field from the R.M. Ansett Classic, a race lost with the abandonment of Mornington’s meeting last (wet) Saturday. It was won by recent Ellerslie (NZ) winner Sand Hawk.
The classy contests at Flemington, Caulfield and Moonee Valley, including last Friday’s Group 1 Manikato Stakes night meeting, have been pigeon-holed in the pre-party category.
A low-key start such as today’s would be better ignored – not too hard a task – with Day 1 saved for the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes meeting at Flemington on Saturday, a curtain-raiser for Melbourne Cup week, a $40 million extravaganza put on by the Victoria Racing Club early in November.
Industry spruikers Rob Hulls (racing minister) and Rob Hines (RVL chief executive) talked up their patch, Hines saying: “As our marketing catchcry says, ‘it’s BIGGER than you think’, and that’s certainly the case with this year’s carnival, which incorporates 89 race meetings and offers $41million in prize money.
“With over 20 country cups to be run across Victoria during the carnival, everyone in the state can share in the excitement, as too can the thousands of interstate and international visitors who descend on Victoria each year for the carnival.
“Over 750,000 people attended last year’s spring racing carnival and collectively they provided more than $548million in economic benefit to the state of Victoria which further emphasises the size of this event.”
Ironically, the man named as the new carnival spruiker is Tommy Little. A comedian-MC, Little won the job and a $10,000 prize from a field of wannabes, and he promised heaps of funs and excitement, including him sky diving into Flemington on Melbourne Cup day dressed as a horse with his tandem instructor, dressed as a jockey, on his back.
The carnival’s marquee races are the $5.65million Melbourne Cup (3 November, Flemington), the $2.5million Caulfield Cup (17 October, Caulfield) and $3million Cox Plate (24 October, Moonee Valley).
In the arbitrary September 30-November 18 (Ballarat Cup) period there are 13 metropolitan and 76 country race meetings, with 18 Group 1 races on the big days.
And government and the racing industry will be looking to improve on these figures quoted from last year:
attendance of 758,000, including 93,847 from interstate;
more than $549million gross economic benefit;
and more than $40million spent on fashion items (54,694 hats, 51.969 pairs of shoes, 46,357 dresses and 39,205 suits and ties).
In the long run, however, the figures that count for regular racegoers are the numbers and prices of race winners.
One who will play a role in boosting or reducing punters’ fortunes is Craig Williams, champion jockey for the past four seasons. At the launch he listed his rides in the first few big races – Trusting in the Caulfield Guineas (October 10), My Emotion in the Thousand Guineas (October 14) and Vigor in the Caulfield Cup (October 17). All are high up in the markets and, he said, are good rides.
One to watch before then could be Ortensia, in the Baguette Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday – Williams regards the mare highly, and has four wins from six rides on her.
An early win might help pay for that suit or shoes or fascinator, or simply give you a spring punting bank.
Anthony Cummings’ back-to-back Group 1 wins over the past week have taken his career tally to 11, an impressive record but nothing like that of his father. The great Bart Cummings is still winning regularly at 81, has 253 Group 1 winners and has won more Melbourne Cups – 12 – than the bulk of his fellow trainers, including Anthony, have had Group 1 wins.
Anthony is 52 and his own man, but his website www.anthonycummings.com.au acknowledges his father’s influence, when it says that the son’s stable is “built on history – and a pedigree that is one of the best in the book”.
Road To Rock’s surprise win at $41 in the George Main Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on Saturday was hot on the heels of Turffontein’s win in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield the previous Saturday.
Cummings junior’s spring crop should continue to bloom, perhaps as early as Saturday when he will have runners in the four Group 1s at Randwick: Road To Rock, the Epsom Handicap (1600m); Sister Madly, the Flight Stakes (1600m); Lovemelikarock, the Spring Champion Stakes (2000m); and Zavite and Nothin’ Leica Cat, the Metropolitan Handicap (2400m).
And, at Flemington, he will saddle up last-start Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) winner Red Lord in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m).
By the way, training’s next generation Cummings, Anthony’s son James, recently moved from his father’s Randwick stable to become Bart’s Sydney foreman at the same track. And who stepped into the job James vacated? His brother, Edward.
WE SAW IT
It was a big step down from the Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield to Sunday’s Zambari Handicap (1440m) at the same track, but it was sweet consolation for Gold Salute. Heavily backed in the Group 1 on September 19, he reared in the gates as the starter let the field go, threw jockey Mark Pegus out the back and was declared a non-runner. Yesterday, with Pegus in the saddle, he started at the amazingly good odds of $6 after opening at $3.80 and won like a good thing.
“I couldn’t believe the price this horse was in a race like this,” said trainer Mark Riley, suggesting a Group 1 win was still on the cards for Gold Salute (b/br g 6, Testa Rossa-Gold Sarah, by Catrail (USA)), who has won eight of 22 starts and just on $400,000. Targets are the Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield on October 10 and the Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on November 7.
Another impressive winner at Caulfield was the filly Jolie Brise (b f 3, Fastnet Rock-Vestey (by Last Tycoon (IRE)) in the Arborea Handicap (1440m). She has won her past three, each time going up a rung, and trainer Pat Hyland has the Group 1 Thousand Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield on October 14 as her next goal. He said she would run in “everything”.
The first protest over use of the whip under the new rules that restrict its use came at Belmont in Perth on Saturday: Duncan Miller claimed after he finished third on Brave Knight in the Support Your Local Tab Handicap (1600m) that another apprentice, Jarrad Noske, on second-placed Battle Emblem, had used the whip more times than is permitted before the 100m mark. Stewards said Noske had breached the rules by hitting Battle Emblem in a forehand manner nine times in consecutive strides before the 100m mark. They fined him $1500, but dismissed Miller’s protest.
Noske has struggled since returning from a stint at Caulfield with Peter Moody – and a broken wrist from a track accident – but he had his first win of the season at Belmont on Xaaravid in the Westspeed 3YO Handicap (1300m). Paul Harvey leads the premiership race with 17.5 wins from Jason Brown (15.5).
Whipp was good news at Newcastle on Saturday, and at Hawkesbury on Thursday – Jessie Whipp, that is. The 3kg apprentice had wins at both meetings. She has two rides at Kembla Grange tomorrow – Tempo Rouge (R1) and Elusive Song (R5) – so it might pay to follow her.
WE’LL WATCH IT
Before racing’s focus turns totally to Melbourne, Flemington will be the second-ranked meeting on Saturday with the $500,000 Group 1 Turnbull Stakes, three Group 2s (Edward Manifold, Baguette and Blazer) and four Listed races rounding out the card. A super program! And as an extra, Sydney’s super mare Hot Danish will run in either the 1200m Baguette (ex-Gilgai) or the 1400m Blazer.
Randwick, of course has four Group 1s – although, at $350,000 each for the Epsom and the Metropolitan and $300,000 each for the Flight and Spring Champion, they are poor relations to the Turnbull – and two Group 2s and a Group 3 and three Listed races on its huge 10-race card.
And it has Darren Beadman, Sydney’s former champion and, probably, still favourite jockey. He will fly in from Hong Kong for the one meeting after riding at Happy Valley on Thursday night and before backing up at Sha Tin on Sunday.
He is coming to check out Much Much More in the first 2YO race of the season, the Breeders’ Plate (1000m) for colts and geldings – clients of Hong Kong trainer John Moore, for whom Beadman rides, have asked him to determine whether buying him would be money well spent.
Much Much More (br c 2, More Than Ready (USA)-Marmoso, by Marscay) won an 800m barrier trial at Randwick’s Kensington track on September 21. Beadman told the South China Morning Post: “It’s been a late decision, but a youngster that John Moore bought for a Hong Kong owner at the Magic Millions is running in the first two-year-old race, so I’m going down to ride it.” Should get more offers, too.
Beadman rode one winner at Sha Tin at the weekend and after five meetings of the new season sits second on the jockeys’ ladder behind much-hyped apprentice Matthew Chadwick (6). Chadwick’s master, Tony Cruz, also has six wins and he leads the trainers’ list from Moore and Almond Lee, who have five. Last year’s champion Caspar Fownes broke through with a double on Saturday, but John Size, third last year and winner of five crowns in seven seasons, is winless.
Lee Freedman has booked Corey Brown, sacked just over 18 months ago as his stable rider, for Speed Gifted (b g 6, Montjeu (IRE)-Good Standing (USA), by Distant View (USA)) in the Metropolitan as he seeks to qualify the impressive import for the Caulfield Cup, in which he has been weighted at 51kg. A win would likely bring a penalty and lift his chances of getting a start in the $2.5 million cup.
New Zealand, too, has a big meeting on Saturday, with the $NZ1.2million Group 1 Kelt Capital Stakes (WFA, 2040m) at the headline act at Hastings in Hawke’s Bay. Caulfield trainer Mick Price had Group 3 Easter Cup (2000m) winner Miss Maren (ch m 5, Stravinsky (USA)-Deebee Lady (NZ), by Brilliant Invader) booked to go over on a plane today.
And on Sunday, Australia’s Horse of the Year Scenic Blast (B/br g 5, Scenic (IRE)-Daughter’s Charm, by Delgado (USA)) will race in the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) in Japan as part of the Global Challenge Sprint Series. Mark Zahra will replace Steven Arnold as rider because Arnold has commitments as retained jockey for big owner Lloyd Williams at Flemington on Saturday – Williams’ trainer John Sadler will run one or more of C’Est La Guerre, Efficient, Renewable and Zipping in the Turnbull.
Meanwhile, champion Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien said Rip Van Winkle, (B c 2006, Galileo (IRE)-Looking Back (IRE), by Stravinsky (USA)), winner of the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in England on Saturday, could go on to the $US5million Breeders’ Cup Classic (2000m) at Santa Anita in the US on November 7 and a possible clash with superstar Sea The Stars (B c 2006, Cape Cross (IRE)-Urban Sea (USA), by Miswaki (USA).
O’Brien could take stablemate Mastercraftsman (B c 2006, Danehill Dancer (IRE)-Starlight Dreams (USA), by Black Tie Affair (GB)), also a Group 1 winner, with Rip Van Winkle whom he called a “very special colt”. Septimus (b h 2003, Sadler’s Wells (USA)-Caladira (IRE), by Darshaan (GB)), who has not run since his flop in the 2008 Melbourne Cup, could also be on the plane from Ireland to the US for the $US500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon (2400m) on November 6.
The first of the European visitors for this year’s Melbourne carnival arrived on Saturday and have settled in at the Sandown quarantine barns. Racing Victoria reported that Luca Cumani’s pair Cima De Triomphe (g h 2005, Galileo (IRE)-Sopran Londa (IRE), by Danehill (USA)) and Basaltico (b h 2004, Shantou (USA)-Sfilza (GB), by Indian Ridge (GB)) and Godolphin’s Kirklees (b h 2004, Jade Robbery (USA)-Moyesii (USA), by Diesis (GB)) and Crime Scene (b g 2003, Royal Applause (GB)-Crime (USA), by Gulch (USA)) would work on the track tomorrow.
SPRING MARKETS – TAB Sportsbet offers these odds (all in):
Caulfield Cup (2400m) October 17
$9 Predatory Pricer, Daffodil
$13 Cima De Triomphe, Shocking, Red Ruler, Kirklees
$16 Master O’Reilly, Maldivian
$18 Whobegotyou, Speed Gifted, Roman Emperor
$26 Red Lord, Harris Tweed, C’Est La Guerre
$31 Mr Clangtastic, Viewed, Road To Rock, Zagreb,
$35 Hissing Sid, Light Vision
Cox Plate (2040m) October 24
$8 Heart Of Dreams
$9 Predatory Pricer, El Segundo
$14 So You Think, Black Piranha
$21 Vigor, Manhattan Rain, Daffodil, Red Ruler
$31 Kirklees, Jolie’s Shinju, Road To Rock, Zipping, Efficient, Zarita, Raffaello
Melbourne Cup (3200m) November 3
$12 Master O’Reilly, Efficient
$14 Viewed, Profound Beauty
$16 Daffodil, C’Est La Guerre, Roman Emperor
$21 Speed Gifted, Cima De Triomphe, Shocking
$26 Changingoftheguard, Precedence, Alcopop
$31 Capecover, Dandaad, Red Ruler, Mourilyan, Zagreb, Zipping, Kirklees
$41 Maldivian, Ista Kareem, Munsef, Whobegotyou, Hissing Sid
The weather affected the Moonee Valley Racing Club’s bold gamble to host an elite night meeting on Grand Final eve, but it didn’t spoil it: it was cold, but rain held off until after the last; the track was slow (rated 7), but it provided competitive racing; and the performers stood up, but importantly promised more.
Moonee Valley will be a beneficiary, too, with Group 1 Manikato Stakes winner Danleigh and several of those who chased him home over the 1200 metres – without luck in some cases – to have another crack in the Group 2 Schweppes Stakes (1200m) on Cox Plate day, October 24.
As a contest, the $500,000 Manikato, named for one of Australia’s great sprinters, delivered. Danleigh ($17) was beautifully ridden by Kerrin McEvoy and well prepared by Chris Waller, two of Sydney’s brightest young talents, albeit usually in different camps with McEvoy Darley’s No. 1 rider. Waller had Damien Oliver work Danleigh (b g 6, Mujahid (USA)-Graceful Lily, by Dr. Grace (NZ)) at Moonee Valley on Monday, and last night McEvoy used his local knowledge to position the gelding to take full use of a narrow gap when it came in the surge to the line.
Danleigh was already a Group 1 winner, taking out the $400,000 All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Randwick in April. Second placegetter Phelan Ready ($17) was unlucky, finishing powerfully after not handling the turn. His run backed trainer Jason McLachlan’s claim that there was nothing wrong with the Group 1 Golden Slipper winner when he was scratched on veterinary advice from the Caulfield Guineas Prelude (1400m) at Caulfield last week.
Phelan Ready (br g 3, More Than Ready (USA)-Nancy Eleanor, by Blevic) has won only two of nine starts, but with the Slipper and the Magic Millions 2YO on the Gold Coast in his bag, has won more than $3.3 million.
McLachlan will decide this week if he will track on to the $1 million Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) on October 10. “I’m probably obliged to go to the Guineas, although it’s an unorthodox preparation – through no fault of mine,” he said, as a parting shot. The trainer was happy with fellow Queenslander Stathi Katsidis’ ride, saying, ‘He said if he gets around the corner he would have won’.”
But it was third placegetter Nicconi ($4.60 fav) who should have won, not been beaten ¾-length and a long head. Trainer David Hayes could not hide his disappointment about jockey Craig Williams’ decision to snag back to last and then coming from impossibly far back right around the field to look like he would still win before dying on his run.
Nicconi (b h 4, Bianconi (USA)-Nicola Lass, by Scenic), who is shaping as the best sprinter in Australia, remains on track for the $500,000 Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic (1200m) at Flemington on November 7, the last day of the Melbourne Cup carnival, before Hayes looks to Dubai and England next year with him. The Classic is Danleigh’s ultimate spring target, too.
Hayes has the Schweppes option if he wants to run Nicconi before then. Trainer Greg Eurell said he would start his two sprinters, Apache Cat ($5.50) and Mic Mac ($5), next in the Schweppes – Mic Mac (b g 4, Statue Of Liberty (USA)-Amandine, by Tertian (USA)) was fifth in the Manikato, Apache Cat (Ch g 7, Lion Cavern (USA)-Tennessee Blaze, by Whiskey Road (USA)), who was back with Nicconi as they straightened, sixth.
Wanted (b c 3, Fastnet Rock-Fragmentation, by Snippets) was fourth at $26 after showing up strongly, and leading clearly into the straight, and trainer Peter Moody had some consolation when promising Avenue (br f 3, Anabaa (USA)-Virage, by Kenmare (Fr)) was a decisive winner of the Group 3 Champagne Stakes (1200m).
Carrara (b c 3, Elvstroem-Crystal Sprite, by Hurricane Sky), the winner of the Group 2 Stutt Stakes (1600m) at $1.75 fav, is entered in the Guineas but trainer Tony Vasil was of the view the colt looks to be a rung below the Sydney stars, Denman (Br c 3, Lonhro-Peach, by Vain) and Trusting (b c 3, Tale Of The Cat (USA)-Legible (NZ), by Zabeel (NZ)).
Patinack Farm colt Trusting’s run was huge when second in the Prelude a week ago and Darley’s Denman had another impressive win today, ridden “upside down” in easily handling a small field in the Group 2 Stan Fox Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.
McEvoy said he positioned the $1.35 favourite Denman further forward than usual to suit the race. Trainer Peter Snowden said McEvoy had no option but to be positive. “When he’s ridden the right way you’ll see a special Denman,” he said.
Bookies agree. TAB Sportsbet has this all-in Guineas market:
$6.50 So You Think
$7.50 Manhattan Rain
$14 Phelan Ready
$16 Carrara, Starspangledbanner
Denman’s sire Lonhro won the Stan Fox in 2001; Lonhro’s sire Octagonal won it in 1995.
Outsider Road To Rock ($41) won Saturday’s Randwick feature, the $300,000 Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m), from Black Piranha ($7) and Onemorenomore ($5). The $1.90 favourite Racing To Win was a disappointing second last.
Anthony Cummings, who trains Road To Rock (b h 5, Encosta De Lago-Trewornan (GB), by Midyan (USA)), had his second Group 1 win in a week – Turffontein (ch h 5, Johannesburg (USA)-Spirit Of Grace, by Dr Grace (NZ)) won the Rupert Clarke (1400m) at Caulfield last Saturday. He backed up in the Manikato last night, finishing a solid eighth.
Singapore’s sweetheart Jolie’s Shinju (b or br m 5, Jolie’s Halo (USA)-Endearing Quality (USA), by Danzig (USA)) was a big drifter ($3.50 to $4.80 fav) and a big disappointment in finishing second last after leading for the first 1600m of the JRA Cup (2040m) at the Valley. On that run it is a waste of time going on to her target race, the Cox Plate (2040m) – a mares’ race looks her level.
Alcopop ($15) gave drinkers a winning finish to the night when he was impressive in running down Field Hunter ($11) in the JRA Cup. It was the third win on end this time in for Alcopop (b g 5, Jeune (GB)-Iota Of Luck, by Blevic). Adelaide jockey Dom Tourneur described Alcopop as a serious horse and said: “We’ve got to press on here.”
Trainer Jake Stephens, who missed second declarations for the Caulfield Cup with Alcopop, said: “It was a brilliant ride, too. When he squeezed through that gap I was so excited.”
Next start will be determined when the excitement eases. Alcopop has won six of nine, the best before last night the Listed Balaklava Cup (1600m).
When Lee Freedman signed for the Stratum-Red Labelle (by Blevic) colt at the 2009 Inglis Easter Sales on a $425,000 bid, the Hall of Fame trainer declared the colt, Pellizotti, the best yearling he has bought since Encosta De Lago.
Agent Damon Gabbedy bid $140,000 for Encosta De Lago on behalf of Freedman at the 1995 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale. The colt went on to win the 1997 Group 1 VicHealth Cup (1400m) at Caulfield and retired to be a champion sire.
Freedman’s Stratum colt stepped out at the Cranbourne trials last Monday and cruised home for the easiest of wins. The powerful colt looks like being an early spring contender – and a tremendous boost for his first-season sire Stratum (by Redoute’s Choice), who stands at Widden Stud.
Kempinsky’s stud career has been slow off the mark but, as expected, his stock is starting to come to the fore as 3YOs.
Kempinsky (b h 2000, Danehill (USA)-Tristalove (NZ), by Sir Tristram (IRE)) sired only one juvenile winner – the promising No Vacancy who won at Ballarat in April – but on Wednesday another son Zidansky (b c 2006, ex-Volkster, by Volksraad (USA)), appreciating the distance rise to 1650m, looked most impressive winning at Belmont. Trainer Phil Humann believes the gelding is a WA Derby contender.
Two days earlier, No Vacancy (b c 2006, ex-Lucid Dream (NZ), by Bassenthwaite (GB)), was an effortless five-lengths trial winner at Cranbourne for trainer Mick Price.
Kempinsky stands at Independent Stallions, Nagambie, for a fee of $8800 (inc. GST). He has some big crops still to run for him – books of 129 (2006) and 126 (207) – so the future looks bright.
There is hardly a day goes by that we are not reminded of what a great sire was Rubiton.On Wednesday, Rubiton’s daughter Rue Maple, from his last crop conceived just before his death, aged 22, in 2005, was most impressive winning at Sandown.
The filly, one of 28 live foals from that crop that are now aged three, is from the Canadian Silver mare Maple Rose, the last of her three foals before her death in 2006.
Rubiton (b h 1983, Century–Ruby, by Seventh Hussar (FR)) has sired 38 Stakes winners, and on Friday night, his brilliant son Lucky Secret (b g 2003, ex-Won’t Tell, by Rory’s Jester) will be attempting to win his first Group 1 in the Manikato Stakes (WFA 1200m) at Moonee Valley, a race Rubiton won in 1987 on his way to winning the Group 1 Cox Plate that year.
Later on Wednesday afternoon, Rubiton’s 6YO son Ruined Castle, a lightly-raced entire of only 12 starts, blitzed his rivals by 4.5 lengths in the 1200m 0-62 handicap.
Ruined Castle (b h 2003, ex-My Diamond Hope, by Karioi Star), who was bought by Aquanita Racing for only $12,000 at the 2005 Inglis Autumn Yearling Sale at Oaklands Junction, is now trained by Stuart Padman, and judging by that win, the wait has been worth it.
Lonhro and Grand Armee fought many a good battle on the track – they were the weight-for-age stars of their time, and it was Grand Armee who rained on Lonhro’s send-off parade when the big gelding beat the black flash in the 2004 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (WFA 2000m) at Randwick.
Lonhro (br h 1998, Octagonal (NZ)–Shadea, by Straight Strike (USA)) retired to stud at Woodlands (now Darley), from where he has fashioned a new career as one of our most exciting young stallions. Grand Armee (b g 1998, Hennessy (USA)–Tambour, by Marauding (NZ)) retired because of injury in the early spring of 2005, and is now a promising three-day event horse for his handler Tim Boland.
It was probably fitting that breeder Michael Sissian, who bred Grand Armee, should send the big horse’s half-sister, Yarralumla (by Grand Lodge (USA)), to Lonhro. The result is a 3YO colt named Dissolved, who made his debut at Sale on Thursday and scored an easy win in the 1200m 3YO maiden. Co-trainer John Hawkes bought the colt at the 2008 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale for $300,000.
Dissolved, like most of this family, is a big, immature horse. He also is closely related to Group 1 winners Dealer Principal (by Danzero) and Absolute Champion (by Marauding), whose dams come from the famed Belle family from New Zealand.
Look for Dissolved to be a big player in 2010.
The Thoroughbred’s in-depth Perth preview reveals the chances in the Quaddie legs and all races at Belmont on Saturday.
The best bets are in races four and seven, and the each-way value is in race three.
To find out what our form analyst is tipping CLICK HERE
The Thoroughbred Club’s filly Belleluia is going through her paces at Cranbourne.
This week Belleluia worked twice over 600m in even time (15 secs per 200m), and next week that will be increased to 800m evens.
Trainer Robbie Griffiths reports that the filly is doing everything right and she is on track to have her first short gallop mid-October.
“She has a heavy winter coat which, hopefully, she will shed in the next month as the weather warms,” Griffiths said.
Australia’s Horse of the Year Scenic Blast has arrived in Japan from Newmarket, his UK base, to prepare for the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes (WFA 1200m) at Nakayama on October 4, perhaps the first of three Asian runs this campaign.
The Sprinters Stakes is a leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, and a win will give West Australian connections a $1million bonus for success in Group 1s in three of the member countries – their gelding won the Lightning Stakes (WFA 1000m) at Flemington and the King’s Stand Stakes (WFA 1000m) at Royal Ascot in England. Trainer Dan Morton is entitled to $250,000 of the bonus.
If Scenic Blast (b/br g 5, Scenic (IRE)-Daughter’s Charm, by Delgado (USA)) does not get the bonus in Japan he will get another chance in Hong Kong, in the Group 1 Cathay Pacific International Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on December 13.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club has made it easier for Scenic Blast to get fit for that race by opening up its International Sprint Trial (WFA 1200m) to visitors for the first time – the race is on November 22, three weeks before the Group 1 Sprint.
Hong Kong’s international racing manager Mark Player told the South China Morning Post that Scenic Blast, equal top of world sprint rankings with Hong Kong’s Sacred Kingdom, was the catalyst for the change announced this week.
“We were particularly keen to get Scenic Blast here for a showdown with Sacred Kingdom and our other top sprinters in December,” Player said. “But the problem for his trainer, Danny Morton, is that (the Japanese race) is more than two months before Hong Kong.
“Now he is required to leave Japan after that race, but returning to England, where he has been since the July Cup (his second, and failed start in the UK, in which he finished 10th), was going to be his only option. He could not return to Australia and then come back here. Not only is going back to England before he comes here a tough ask of a horse, but he would have been going there when the weather is starting to get cold.
“Seventy days between runs was not going to be an ideal preparation for a race like the Hong Kong Sprint. This way, Scenic Blast gets a suitable race, the fans get to see him run against most of his main opposition for the race in December, and everyone has a better idea of how he lines up on the big day.
“As awareness of our international races continues to rise, it’s important we make it as appealing as possible for people to bring horses here and know they are going to do themselves justice; if that means providing a lead-up opportunity then we believe we should do that.”
The Australian-bred Sacred Kingdom (B g 6, Encosta De Lago-Courtroom Sweetie, by Zeditave) will not go to Japan because of a hoof injury, but trainer Ricky Yiu hopes to have him fit for the Hong Kong races.
The International Racing Bureau reported that Scenic Blast left England, where he stayed after his June-July races, on Tuesday and arrived in Japan yesterday.
Melbourne jockey Mark Zahra will ride Scenic Blast in the Sprinters Stakes because Steven Arnold has commitments at Flemington’s Turnbull Stakes meeting.
Meanwhile, top Hong Kong-based jockeys Douglas Whyte, Brett Prebble, Olivier Doleuze and Howard Cheng will compete against Victoria’s best, Damien Oliver, Craig Williams, Dwayne Dunn and Craig Newitt, in the Cathay Pacific Superstar8 Jockeys’ Challenge at Moonee Valley tomorrow night. The series covers races 2-4, one over 1200m, the others 1600m.
*The Spring edition of The Thoroughbred magazine, out next week, has a special feature on Dan Morton and the Scenic route he and father Len, also a trainer, have taken with Scenic Blast.