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INDEPENDENT HORSE RACING NEWS
Bren O'Brien runs the rule over Saturday's Epsom Handicap day card at Royal Randwick, with trainer Chris Waller deploying a typically strong Group 1 hand.
Rail: Plus 3m
Track: Soft 7 (Thursday)
Weather: (Raceday) Possible rainfall: 5 to 10 mm, 95% chance of rain, Max Temperature: 18
Chris Waller’s dominance of the Sydney training scene in the past decade has been built off his love of a big race day, and few have been as good to the ex-pat Kiwi than Epsom Handicap day.
Waller has trained the winner of the Epsom in four of the past nine editions of the famous Randwick mile, while he has also trained the winner of The Metropolitan four times since 2011. In 2019, he swept the three Randwick Group 1 features when he also claimed his first Flight Stakes with Funstar.
On Saturday Waller is represented by a trio of quality mares in Kiku, Hinged and Fangirl in the Epsom, no less than seven of the 15 runners in The Metropolitan, including the favourite Durston, and has two live chances in the Flight Stakes. They are the major players in a 19-strong Waller Army but interestingly, he has no runners in either of the two-year-old races that kick off the 10-race program.
The last meeting at Randwick on September 17 saw seven of the 10 winners inside the top four at the top of the straight. That was actually an improvement on the bias evident on September 3 when all 10 winners came from on pace. The last time the Randwick rail was in this 3m position was August 20 and the track played very fairly on that occasion.
It’s not a vintage Epsom – in fact it’s the smallest field in the race in five years – but the feature Randwick mile looks a very competitive race, with three contenders expected to fight for favouritism. Icebath has had eight attempts at Group 1 level, placing on five occasions, but will never get a better opportunity to break her elite duck. The prediction of wet weather will play into her favour.
That is also the case with Hinged, who does have a Group 1 victory under her belt and was beaten just half a length by Icebath last time out. She gets a 2.5kg weight swing on her key rival under the handicap conditions.
Import Top Ranked carries top weight, albeit only 56.5kg, and comes off his first win since arriving in Australia in the G3 Bill Ritchie. Annabel Neasham has the seven-year-old in very good form and he could be a major player in both this race and othes later in the spring.
Icebath has shown a liking for rain-affected going. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
Bloodstock agents, studs and breeders
The first Sydney two-year-old races, the Breeders’ Plate and the Gimcrack Stakes, are always keenly watched, especially by those who have large, vested interests on display.
There are four colts in the Breeders’ Plate who cost more than $500,000 as yearlings, headlined by Mach Ten, a $1.2 million buy for James Harron, who will be looking to ink the first line of a possible stallion resume. That race also features the first two runners for highly rated Widden stallion Trapeze Artist.
Coolmore’s US Triple Crown winner Justify has his first runner in the Gimcrack, the trial winner Just Gisella, and the progress of the Michael Freedman filly will be closely followed as will that of Satin And Silk, whose half-sister Satin Slipper won this race in 2017.
One from 75
2021 victrix Montefilia is the only winner of the Metropolitan Handicap in the past eight editions to subsequently win another race. The combined record of the winners across that era after their respective Metrop victories is grim reading, with just one win from 75 starts combined.
Race 10. No.4 – Soldier Of Love
The Bjorn-Baker-trained seven-year-old may not have raced at Randwick in nearly 12 months but his record at the track is very strong with four wins from eight starts. He won at Randwick twice last spring, once over the 1500 metres and then over the 1600 metres, and while he may find the 1200 metres first-up a bit sharp, he will relish the likely soft conditions.
Race 1 No.9 Tarabeau – Was a late entry to the Randwick two-year-old trials but showed he was ready for it with a powerful finish to win his trial comfortably.
Race 2 No.7 Perfect Proposal – Looked thoroughly professional winning her trial in what was easily the fastest time of the session.
Race 7 No.4 Apache Chase – Steps up against some very good sprinters in this race, but did everything asked of him when a trial winner at Deagon earlier this month.
Race 6 No.1 Fireburn – The Slipper winner has been very good from back in the field in her two runs this spring but this shapes as a crucial race for her. She is expected to win back to her own sex.
Race 7 No.3 Mazu – Big things expected of him this campaign with an Everest slot already secured but was plain first-up against the top-line sprinters in The Shorts.
Race 8 No.2 Converge – Poor first-up and no better second-up, connections will be hoping for a much improved performance here in the Epsom.
Maurice four-year-old Mazu has already landed an Everest slot. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)
Race 6. No.7 Pavitra – Blinkers First Time, Cross-Over Nose Band First Time, Ear Muffs (Pre-Race Only) First Time, Synthetic Hoof Filler First Time
Race 7 No.3 Mazu – Pacifiers Again
Race 7 No.11 Brutality – Blinkers Off
Race 9 No.5 Mankayan – Tongue Tie First Time
Race 9 No.13 – Francesco Guardi – Cross-Over Nose Band Off First Time, Lugging Bit Off First Time, Norton Bit First Time
Race 9 No.14 Chalk Stream (GB) – Bubble Cheeker (Off Side) Off First Time, Cross-Over Nose Band Off First Time, Ear Muffs Off Again, Ear Muffs (Pre-Race Only) Again, Lugging Bit Off First Time, Norton Bit First Time
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