INDEPENDENT HORSE RACING NEWS

Flemington match race a perfect spring audition

Costa's Racing Odyssey

The onset of winter often drives previously single and fancy free humans to seek the warmth, comfort and shelter of a committed relationship.

This late-autumn phenomenon is known in some circles as ‘cuffing season’, whereby a number of candidates are swiftly auditioned for the role of winter partner.

No use being on your own when daylight hours are scarce, temperatures single digits and rooftop bar meetings abandoned, so may as well shackle yourself to a semi-respectable prospect and ride things out. Or so the logic goes. 

That is of course until the tracks dry out, winter becomes spring, and the ‘field’ box is hastily marked once more.

With the Queensland carnival almost concluded, we are indeed entering that traditionally quiet period of hibernation for racing. Our best equine athletes are either at Royal Ascot or spelling (or about to be), the mudders are preparing to stake their claims in the Winter Championship Series, and everything just feels a little slow.

But in Saturday’s Listed Creswick Stakes at Flemington, punters are being treated to a welcome distraction from the travails of winter malaise in the form of what looms as a good old-fashioned match race, with two quality conveyances both likely to measure-up this spring going head-to-head.  

Beautifully-bred Fastnet Rock filly Passive Aggressive is unbeaten in three starts for Grahame Begg, winning with authority on each occasion, including at Flemington last time out. And then there’s Star Patrol, who has grown a leg since joining the Clinton McDonald stable, winning three on the bounce. He won by seven lengths at Flemington on Anzac Day and by a comfortable two last time out. Star Patrol is currently just favoured by the bookmakers but it will be interesting to see which way the market swings closer to the jump.

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Passive Aggressive, beware red flags. (Photo by Reg Ryan/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

Both look exceptional talents but if I had to cuff myself to one for the duration of the winter, with one eye on a longer term spring relationship, it would probably be Star Patrol (he partially got the nod because the prospect of bunkering down with someone with ‘pass-ag’ tendencies for three months holds only moderate appeal). That speed and acceleration will take him a long way. 

Whilst not a match race, there are also some talented prospects contesting the 1600m David Bourke Memorial. Sir Davy, Tuvalu and Visinari are all horses with more than their share of ability, but Patrick Payne’s impressive first-up winner D’Aguilar, a son of the great High Chaparral, with five wins to his name from seven starts, could be the one with the most upside.

Others of interest on Saturday include Osipenko in the first at Rosehill, a Pierro colt who won like a star on debut for Chris Waller, despite jumping double-figures (there was some money for him) and Joyrider, a $800,000 Snitzel colt who debuts at Murray Bridge for Anthony and Sam Freedman in the James Harron colours. Dam Sewreel is a stakes-winning Savabeel mare and he did jump out nicely at Flemington recently.

Then there is one time $600,000 yearling and Group Three Black Opal Stakes winner Kalashnikov, returning in the sixth at Ipswich. Sold to Lee Freedman for $180,000 in February, he is having his first start for his new stable, having performed well at a couple of recent trials.

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