The international focus on this weekend remains on England, where the historic Epsom Derby and Epsom Oaks will be run at Epsom Downs racetrack on Sunday morning (Australian time). This will be the 241st running of the world’s most famous Classic horse race.
The following day, the Sandown Park meeting features the Group 1 Coral Eclipse Stakes and the return to racing of the champion mare Enable – as of Thursday, her odds were set at $2.00 favouritism in early Coral Eclipse betting.
There’s excitement in New Zealand with racing returning, and there is a good meeting at Te Rapa (Hamilton) on the north island. Most of the major stables will have runners.
Back in Australia, Flemington racecourse hosts what is promoted as “Finals Day” on Saturday, where horses that have been competing in a series of heats across all ages and over all distances meet for the final in each class. The meeting features a horse that many are predicting to be a star of the future, Cherry Tortoni.
In other Victorian news, Racing Victoria has announced that prize money for all the majors, including the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup will remain unchanged from last year – the Melbourne Cup is worth $8 million, and the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup will carry purses of $5 million each. Sportsbet is offering futures markets on these three famous races.
There is still Stakes racing in Queensland through July. On Saturday at Eagle Farm racecourse, the Listed Tattersall’s Club Stakes (1400m) and the Listed Bright Shadow Stakes (1200m) are the feature races.
In the west, the winter carnival continues at Belmont racecourse with the Listed Aquanita Stakes (2000m), for three-year-old colts and geldings, and the Listed Belmont Oaks (2000m) for the three-year-old fillies.
Racing in Melbourne focuses its attention on Flemington racecourse, which was rated a soft 5 on Thursday. With some rain predicted on Friday and Saturday, do your form on a track in the soft 6 or soft 7 range.
Racing in Sydney will be at Randwick racecourse, which was a heavy 9 on Thursday. Although only light showers are expected, the tracks in Sydney are waterlogged and will remain a haven for wet trackers.
Eagle Farm racecourse is a good 4; with the weather fine and warm, expect it to improve to a good 3 by the first race on Saturday.
South Australia runs at Morphettville Parks racecourse. It’s a soft 7 on Thursday, but not much rain is expected. It might get to a soft 5.
In Perth, Belmont racecourse was rated soft on Wednesday morning, but no rain is predicted for the rest of the week. It should firm to a soft 5 or even a good 4.
TAJ ROSSI SERIES FINAL PREVIEW: CHERRY CHERRY BABY
It is a quality meeting at Flemington on Saturday, highlighted by nine “finals” races, whose heats have been run through the past six weeks.
While the feature races at the meeting are the Listed Winter Championship Final (race 8) and the All Victorian Sprint Series Final (race 5), most of the attention will be on race 3, where the exciting two-year-old gelding Cherry Tortoni steps out in the Listed Taj Rossi Series Final.
Cherry Tortoni, trained by Patrick Payne, is unbeaten in two starts – at Sale (27 May) and Flemington (20 June). Jockey Billy Egan, who has ridden 100 winners this season, claims Cherry Tortoni is a next-level Group-class horse. If so, the big chestnut, who is related to former champion Tie The Knot and races in the same colours of the Tait family – red with white cap – will be too good for the Taj Rossi Series Final field.
Cherry Tortoni has a brilliant turn of foot and the 1600m is perfect for him.
Taj Rossi Series Final tips: Cherry Tortoni is a stand-out bet for the day at Flemington. Look for him in better races next season. If you need to have a saver, plonk a bit on Insaaf, who was a solid third behind Cherry Tortoni at Flemington.
WINTER CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL PREVIEW: A NEED FOR SPEED
The Winter Championship Final at Flemington has attracted a big field of 16 starters with three emergencies – and there are good horses from top to bottom.
Importantly, there is a lot of speed in the Winter Championship Final field, which should see the best horses fight it out.
This looks a nice race for A Shin Rook, a former Japanese galloper, who steps to a suitable 1600m after two handy efforts at 1400m at Flemington. He’s been primed for this and has drawn perfectly in barrier 2. He should be able to settle midfield on the fence and only needs a clear run at them. The good news is that he’s hovering around $16 in Sportsbet’s betting market as of Thursday, so there is tremendous value.
Winter Championship Final tips: A Shin Rook looks great value for a Winter Championships Final bet each way. Plein Ciel also will be suited by a slick pace and looks the danger from Heptagon and Reykjavik.
TATTERSALL’S CLUB STAKES PREVIEW: AMICITIA FOR THE WIN AT EAGLE FARM
A step up in distance around the spacious Eagle Farm racecourse will suit Amicitia, who looks a stand-out bet in the Listed Tattersall’s Club Stakes (1400m) field.
The mare was luckless when second behind Solar Star at Doomben on 13 June (1300m), when she charged home from eighth on the turn to be beaten by a bit more than a length. While she hasn’t won at Eagle Farm in three starts, she has raced well at the track.
Jockey Jim Byrne should be able to smother her away from barrier 1, especially with Certain Doubt in the race. He’s a long shot but will guarantee a good tempo.
Tattersall’s Club Stakes tips: Amicitia is each-way Tattersall’s Club Stakes odds but happy to take her straight out as this looks to be her race.
EPSOM DERBY PREVIEW: THE SEARCH FOR RACING ROYALTY
There’s a lot of Australian interest in this year’s Epsom Derby (2400m), which will be run at 1.55am (Australian EST) on Sunday 5 July. One of the favourites is Russian Emperor, who is a son of super-stallion Galileo and the star Australian mare Atlantic Jewel. As of Thursday, he’s a solid third favourite in Epsom Derby betting to win the race for trainer Aidan O’Brien.
There has been no Epsom Derby like this before. For the first time, the Irish Derby was run before the Epsom Derby – last week, when won by Santiago – and for the first time the Derby and the Epsom Oaks will be run on the same day.
The aptly named English King is the favourite, and with Frankie Dettori (chasing his third Derby) in the saddle he looks the perfect horse to win the Derby, just like his sire Camelot did. English King looked very good winning the Lingfield Derby Trial and the distance will hold no fears for him. It’s hard to gauge his talent so far, but he just might be very good.
Happy to believe Russian Emperor will run well, and there are some experts from Europe who think that Max Vega is the horse that is over the odds. Max Vega won the Zetland Stakes at Newmarket, which is a sound form race.
There is a massive question over the 2000 Guineas winner Kameko’s ability to run a strong 2400m. He might be the best horse in the Epsom Derby field, but not the best stayer.
Epsom Derby tips: English King to beat Max Vega and Russian Emperor. Back them all if you can, as there’s enough value in the market.
FLEMINGTON TIPS AND SCHEDULE
Rich Charm (trainer Udyta Clarke)
Resumed with a cracking second behind Great Again in the Listed Straight Six (1200m) at Flemington on 23 May, then ran into more behinds than a cyclist at the back of the peloton when ninth behind I Am Someone over 1100m at Flemington on 20 June. He’s primed for this.
RANDWICK TIPS AND SCHEDULE
Faretti (trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott)
The Waterhouse-Bott team had a big opinion of this high-priced horse, but he’s yet to show that talent. However, this looks a good race for him as he tries heavy ground for the first time. He’s bred to handle it and he only needs to run to his fourth in the Listed Brian Crowley Stakes back in October to test this field.
Jay Jay D’Ar (trainer Chris Waller)
A very interesting race. Top jockey James McDonald copped a suspension for his ride on Threeood at Randwick on 20 June – the $2.90 favourite finished ninth. Blinkers go on that horse, but not surprisingly McDonald jumps off to ride Jay Jay D’Ar, trained by Chris Waller. McDonald has ridden more than 100 winners in Sydney this season, and half of them have been for Waller. The wet ground is a worry but she’s done well on the soft. Happy to follow McDonald’s lead.
BELMONT TIPS AND SCHEDULE
No Apology (trainer Stephen Miller)
His trainer has always held a high opinion of this Declaration Of War gelding and he is starting to live up to that faith. Impressive leading throughout at Belmont (1600m) on 27 June, and it’s a style of racing that suits him. This is not a strong edition of this race.