Saturday is Anzac Day and, as it has done for more than 100 years, racing plays an important role in commemorating our soldiers who fought so bravely to protect the freedoms we enjoy today.
Listening to the Melbourne Cup through a scratchy radio service was an annual highlight for the soldiers in both World Wars and in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea and Vietnam.
It will be a different celebration around the country under the protocols of the COVID-19 virus restrictions, but a celebration nonetheless – even without the annual two-up game that’s usually held at Flemington.
For 2020 punters, there’s plenty for us to bet on.
The restrictions on racing caused by the pandemic lockdown has resulted in Saturday’s important Hawkesbury Gold Cup meeting moving to Sydney to be run at Rosehill racecourse.
This is not the first time the Hawkesbury meeting has been switched to Rosehill. In 2015, Hawkesbury racecourse was hit with a deluge that washed out the meeting after one race, so it was held at Rosehill racecourse the following Saturday.
The $160,000 Group 3 Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m) features a quality field of gallopers dominated by leading trainer Chris Waller, who has six of the 15 runners.
The Hawkesbury Gold Cup is backed up by $160,000 Group 3 Hawkesbury Guineas (1400m) for three-year-olds, the $140,000 Group 3 Hawkesbury Crown (1300m) for fillies and mares, and the $112,000 Hawkesbury XXXX Gold Rush (1100m), which has attracted a big field of good-class sprinters.
In South Australia, the April–May carnival continues at Morphettville racecourse with five group and listed races, headed by the $120,000 Chairman’s Stakes (2035m, three-year-olds) and the $120,000 Breeders’ Stakes (1200m, two-year-olds).
The Chairman’s Stakes is an important lead-up to the Group 1 South Australian Derby (2500m) at Morphettville racecourse on 9 May.
The Adelaide carnival also features the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m, fillies and mares) and the Group 1 Schweppes Oaks (2000m, three-year-old fillies) on 2 May, and the Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) on 16 May – all run at Morphettville. There are Sportsbet futures betting markets currently available for those wanting to get on the Robert Sangster Stakes and Schweppes (Australasian) Oaks ahead of time.
In Melbourne, racing returns to Flemington racecourse, where the 2019 Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare will run in the William Newton VC Handicap (2600m).
The tracks at Rosehill, Flemington and Morphettville were all rated as a good 4 on Thursday.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) is predicting no rain for Sydney, so an upgrade to a good 3 at Rosehill for the big Hawkesbury Gold Cup meeting is possible.
Melbourne’s Flemington racecourse, which is one of the premier tracks in Australia, should stay in the good 4 range with a possible upgrade to good 3, as long as the Sunday forecast of rain doesn’t come a day early. Keep an eye on the BoM.
In Adelaide at Morphettville, the BoM predicts some rain on Saturday, with up to 8mm expected to fall – the wet weather that’s expected to hit Melbourne on Sunday. Expect the track to be in the good 4 range and maybe get to a soft 5 if the maximum rainfall is reached.
Hawkesbury Guineas: Class to prevail in quality field
As usual, the Hawkesbury Guineas has attracted an impressive field, and is probably the most interesting and best betting race on the card.
The Hawkesbury Guineas was first run in 2000 when Hire won for trainer John Hawkes. Past winners are highlighted by two outstanding racehorses – the star grey sprinter Chautauqua (2014) and the internationally high-performing filly Alverta (2007).
Last year, trainers Peter and Paul Snowden won the guineas with Military Zone, who was ridden by James McDonald. The gelding beat Trope and Quackerjack.
The Snowdens are represented this year by the promising Battleground, who will be ridden by Hugh Bowman.
The Listed South Pacific Stakes (1400m), at Randwick racecourse on 11 April, is the key lead-up race for the Hawkesbury Guineas as far as the betting market is concerned. Indy Car beat Icebath and they are vying for favouritism in Sportsbet’s Hawkesbury Guineas betting.
However, they will need to be at the top of their game to beat Dawn Passage, who has the talent to overcome a wide barrier draw. The colt, trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, drops back from Group 2 level, where he came eighth on an unsuitable heavy 8 track in the Arrowfield Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on 11 April. His record suggests he is better on a firm track and he’ll be fitter for two runs from a spell.
Expect improvement from Groundswell, a colt that was third behind Super Seth and Alligator Blood in the Caulfield Guineas in the spring. He needed the run when he came fourth behind Snitz at Randwick (1200m) last week, and he’ll be better suited by the 1400m from the perfect draw, barrier 1.
Hawkesbury Guineas tips: Dawn Passage looks a great each-way bet, and don’t forget to have a nibble at the good odds on offer for Groundswell.
Away Game: History awaits in the Robert Sangster Stakes
Few tougher two-year-old fillies have raced in Australia in recent years than Away Game, and it’s not over yet for the filly, who is trained in Victoria by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
While most of the best juveniles are already in the spelling paddocks after the Sydney carnival, Away Game is heading to Adelaide for the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m) at Morphettville.
In her short seven-start career, Away Game has already raced in three states, winning four times and banking $2.7 million for her owners.
Her two important wins have been the $2 million Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m) on the Gold Coast in January and the $614,000 Group 2 Percy Sykes Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on 11 April. She also finished second behind Farnan in the Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m, Rosehill) and fourth behind Tagaloa in the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield.
With these results behind her, Away Game would be entitled to a lie down in her stall with a ‘do not disturb’ sign at the door. But history awaits the iron-tough girl in Adelaide, where she is trying to become the first two-year-old to win against older fillies and mares on the Robert Sangster Stakes. At the time of writing, Away Game sits second on the Robert Sangster Stakes betting market behind the favourite Sunlight.
Robert Sangster Stakes tips: Although this race isn’t until the 2 May, get in early and place a bet on Away Game.
The best of the rest: Horses and tips across Australia
Race 9, number 2: Dalasan (trainer Leon Macdonald)
Dalasan finally found his mojo on his home track in Adelaide after some disappointing efforts in Melbourne, when he won the Listed Port Adelaide Guineas (1800m) at Morphettville on 4 April. It was his first try beyond 1600m and he relished the task. He’ll find the 2025m of the Chairman’s Stakes a perfect fit.
Race 1, numbers 1 and 5: Grandslam (trainer Ciaron Maher & David Eustace) and Flying Award (trainer Danny O’Brien)
These two promising colts have bright futures and they are building for a possible Group 1 assignment in Brisbane if they run well in the 1400m Listed Anzac Day Stakes. They have the talent to fight this race out, so back them both for a profit.
Race 5, number 4: Russian Camelot (trainer Danny O’Brien)
This colt is one of the most exciting horses in training, with trainer Danny O’Brien claiming he could be the best he’s ever trained. That’s a big statement considering O’Brien has won a Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate! Russian Camelot is using this race as a warm-up for the South Australian Derby. He should win.
Race 7, number 6: All Too Royal (trainer Ciaron Maher and David Eustace)
All Too Royal hasn’t raced since his very good fourth in the Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield in February. His trainers prefer to run in Sydney, so they have scratched him from Flemington, and employed Glen Boss to ride. All Too Royal was wickedly good when fresh and the money is coming for him to return to racing a winner.