It was an easy gig writing up last year’s 2yo’s as they entered their 3yo season and it’s fair to say they exceeded even my lofty expectations of them. Now, just twelve months later, a quick look down the list of what’s left of the rising 4yo’s, and the job suddenly seems a hell of lot harder.
Such is the nature of the Oz racing beast in the modern age. Castelvecchio was just starting to warm up when he was whisked off to every young stallion’s dream of a forever home in the Arrowfield breeding barn. A similar feat is in store at the respective farms of Microphone, Alabama Express and Everest winner Yes Yes Yes. Whilst the likes of Shadow Hero right through to Eric the Eel have been snavelled up by Hong Kong buyers.
But just as one door closes, another opens and there’s more than a few late season arrivals that look well worth a few early dollars in the vast array of Spring features.
Colette: Had plenty on her same sex rivals out to a trip and that form was franked through Toffee Tongue winning the SA Oaks. After an extended lull and with some shifting in breeding patterns, Verry Elleegant showed an ATC Oaks winner can mix it with the best of them at four albeit taking until the Autumn of that year to hit her peak, whilst Vow and Declare bucked the adage that four year olds are poorly weighted come Cups time by claiming the big one off the back of a third place in a QLD Derby. Imagine she heads straight to Melbourne under current circumstances and is in the patient hands of James Cummings who is proving to be more than a chip off the old block. Still in double figure odds for the Caulfield Cup and at a scary good price for the first Tuesday race given there’s a big query on international travellers.
Rubisaki: Ticks a lot of boxes in my Everest profile. Including the price! Handles all going which is a big plus when you’re backing anything in a pre-post market. She’s a black type winner over 1400m at both Flemington and Randwick which comes in handy in a strongly run six furlong race when they’re pushing up the rise, and is suited by a strong tempo. When you look down the list and see a couple of unreliable conveyances at the top of the market, a horse whose best win to date is a Bm78, a European who couldn’t win over an Ascot carnival which had no internationals compete in it and a rising 8yo all in front of her in the market, she looks an each way bet to nothing for mine… provided she gets a slot. But if that’s the case, she will be bloody hard to beat and no doubt her price will be halved where she’ll be primed for a Golden Eagle three weeks later.
Russian Camelot: Broke all the rules by becoming the first Northern Hemisphere bred horse to win a Derby down under and I think the form reference is a pretty good one. Made the quantum leap from a Bm64 under lights at Pakenham to a G1 winner at this next start. Runner-up Dalasan was primed for the SA Derby tilt by master handler of stayers Leon MacDonald and he has strong form lines through Scales of Justice, Alligator Blood and Brandenburg. Russian Camelot was far too good for him on the day, with the VRC Derby winner plugging away in third place. Being a northern hemisphere breed he’s only going to be further improved by the break and given a locally bred 4yo won last year’s Cup, it’s easy to see why he’s favourite for the big race. That’s still skinny enough for mine but with a chance of reduced international participation, it’s hard to imagine he’s not going to be part of discussions at the pointy end of Spring.
Brandenburg: Certainly one we didn’t feature when reporting on last season’s two year olds where he was without a maiden victory. A win which still eluded him well into his 3yo season until finally cracking it midweek at a Kenso meet. It’s been all upwards from there for this sternly bred Kiwi who has run exclusively in Group 3 or better races since and has missed running top four just once, an open company G1 at the end of his prep. Doesn’t know how to run a bad race these days, and his pedigree suggests he’ll furnish even further at four. His third in this year’s Doncaster suggests an Epsom is well within reach and could well follow the Kolding path of a Golden Eagle victory to boot. I think he’s the most solid prospect on exposed form of any of these.
Masked Crusader: Much hyped sprinter from a yard who do know how to pump up their tyres but I’d suggest anything that is in the top half a dozen lines for The Everest should certainly have beaten Segalas and Misteed by 3L pulling up in a Bm78. And the fact they dodged a red hot Dawn Passage by scratching from the Hawkesbury Guineas suggests he’s probably unders against his own age in a Golden Eagle. That said, you can’t do anymore than win, and that’s exactly what he did at his three before the break. He’s a talent no doubt, but has a bit of ground to make up on the likes of Bivouac, Gaby and Brandenburg who all have exceptional open company records whilst Rubisaki has won multiple stakes races across two states in impressive style. He’s a genuine roughie but he’s priced closer to a favourite.
Dawn Passage: Was certainly a couple of lengths below them this time last year but could well be one of the most improved horses in the country in the past six months. Prepared to forgive his run in The Stradbroke on a surface not fit for Group 1 racing and he was simply dominant in his three runs prior to that. I doubt the sun on his back has hurt him over the winter and being an entire, the residual fitness can only be a plus. Might be better than we think.
Alligator Blood: Probably best to park the banned substance positive to one side for now, given the length of time Racing QLD take to deal with such matters. Either way, there can be little doubt he’s one tough bugger. For a time there in the Autumn his form line was one of the best in the country, but has raised a few questions since. Super Seth was plagued by injury when he arrived in Sydney and was quickly whisked off to stud. Catalyst failed to repeat his brave C.S. Hayes performance and flopped in the Australian Guineas. Superstorm was good in the All Star Mile but that’s a highly questionable form reference. Exhilarates was honest without winning over the winter, and Eleven Eleven has been disappointing. For a young horse he’s had his share of racing with a few gut busters among them. Second favourite for The Everest, and favourite for the Golden Eagle, he’s got to prove he’s come back plus there is always the query of the positive loitering in the back of our minds. Far too much water to flow under the bridge for mine to be jumping in at those quotes.
Kinane: To sell, or not to sell, that is the question that was probably keeping Mick Kent and Co. up at night through the chilly month of May. Whilst the offers where attractive no doubt, I’m of the belief they pulled the right rein and will recoup that money and then some however there would be plenty who disagree. Particularly after his ‘failure’ in The Gunsynd. A few points to consider in his favour here though. He was having just his second start out of maiden grade when entered for the Group 3 where he drew poorly and the decision to scout wide before the corner when there were runs presenting themselves between tired horses along the inside was an absolute shocker (sadly just one of many Maloney made over the winter). He still ran a clear 3rd in a stakes race and was strong through the line behind two that went on to quinella The Rough Habit and most likely The Derby if it was run. And his win over Bottega in The Frank Packer, a subsequent winner against older horses, was a beauty. Looks up to open black type company at a mile and a half and he stays under the guidance of Waller. Whether that black type race is one as prestigious as the Caulfield Cup is probably a bit of stretch at this point, but I could certainly entertain him in a Metropolitan which is a race he’s more than likely going to have to come through. So why not chance him in the double at decent value.
Not much point going into depth about Loving Gaby. Wet tracks are out. Everything else is in. And hard to detract from Golden Rose winner Bivouac who also added an open G1 win to his name last prep and connections obviously still feel they have a point to prove before he goes to stud, although can be a little hard to catch at times. Whilst they’ll still win a race here and there, I expect at least a couple will have leapfrogged old sparring partners Funstar and Probabeel by now. The form page of Dalasan is littered with quality, is a genuine stayer and shouldn’t have too much trouble qualifying given his black type C.V. I’ll be watching him closely throughout the Spring.
Bit of a tricky job trying to line all these up. Of the eight we’ve highlighted here, four (Masked Crusader, Kinane, Russian Camelot and Colette) have just 21 starts between them whilst the other four have over double that amount of runs on the board. Certainly plenty of quality cattle to pick from as is evident by the fact we have skipped really highlighting the likes of multiple Group 1 winners Bivouac and Loving Gaby.
Of the two age brackets we’ve highlighted so far, I’m more confident we’ll find a real superstar out of the 3yo’s going forward than we will the 2yo’s. Whilst the opposite was the case last year, we still found Vow and Declare in this column out of what looked a stronger than usual QLD Derby which was won by one time cups favourite Mr Quickie. This year I think it’s the Crow Eater’s turn though. The progression of Russian Camelot is too good to overlook and I’m certain he’s one out of the box. The only trouble is, so are most other punters around the country. So let’s look for some value. Colette has certainly thrown to the Dam’s side, an unraced Singspiel mare, and has yet to win a race under a mile. There’s no doubting she’s a stayer and one with a genuine turn of foot. She’s about the right price in the Caulfield Cup where I have her a huge hope. If that’s the case she’s huge overs in current Melbourne Cup markets where there seems no reason why she wouldn’t back up. I think Kinane was a victim of a bit of afterthought mentality given the chaotic climate the world plunged into at the outbreak of COVID 19, along with being the victim of a poor ride. Forgive him that and he certainly looks your 3rd of three quality staying prospects going forward. Rubisaki is a little ripper with one of the best kit bags in the business. She is the right price for some serious specking in both The Everest and The Eagle. Likewise Brandenburg who only needs to pick up where he left off. Prepared to take on Alligator Blood now there’s a bit more exposed form on the board and I think there’s a few better in this bunch than Masked Crusader whilst Dawn Passage could well be one of the more improved horses in the country.