The Stradbroke, a race full of character
Costa's Racing Odyssey
In a week where the Golden Eagle was thrown a few more million and the Cantala Stakes was once again ‘reimagined’ as the weight-for-age Champions Mile (what will they do to it next year?!), it’s reassuring to have a race the ilk of the Stradbroke Handicap taking centre stage on Saturday.
Since it became seven furlongs in 1953, the Stradbroke has found its niche amongst Australia’s celebrated major handicaps (although the competition is dwindling, with only 13 of Australia’s 74 Group One races now run under handicap conditions). Randwick of course boasts the Epsom and Doncaster, the premier mile events on the eastern seaboard. For Melbourne, it’s the Newmarket down the Flemington Straight Six.
But Brisbane has the undisputed premier 1400m handicap, and isn’t it an absolute beauty?
Like all the great handicaps, the race has always been a punter’s dream: you’re virtually guaranteed a good run for your money when you settle on the horse exhibiting the best ‘Straddie’ profile.
Big fields, long straight, converging formlines and a (shrinking, again) generous spread in the weights. It’s been won by some fantastic horses over the years, too. Good milers, some stayers too – it normally takes a more robust kind of animal to win over the Eagle Farm 1400m.
Rough Habit, John Wheeler’s sensation who was famous for many things, but perhaps most of all for his habitual plundering of the Queensland winter. Then there was All Our Mob and the filly Dane Ripper. A personal favourite was St Basil, who as a ghostly seven-year-old, was always winning that day back in 2005.
In 1958, it was the great Wiggle, who won the race carrying 46.5kg as a two-year-old filly. It was her sixth-straight win in a brilliant seven start juvenile campaign.
There’s been a couple of big plonks land over the years too, none more celebrated than 1970 winner Divide And Rule, a three-year-old whose not-so-hidden association with the ‘Filipino Fireball’ Filipe Ysmael likely raised eyebrows in the stewards room and in the bookies’ ring.
Both Wiggle and Divide And Rule, coincidentally, finished their careers racing in the United States, with mixed success.
Unusually for a Stradbroke there doesn’t look to be a lot of speed in this year’s contest, but it still shapes as an intriguing race.
EAGLE FARM R8 No. 4 Eleven Eleven
It feels wrong to tip a ruling favourite in the Straddie but this guy has been showcasing his ability for a long time now, and is good enough to break through at Group One level. He’s drawn nicely to hopefully settle just a touch ahead of midfield, watch for Hughie Bowman to produce him for that trademark booming finish. If the roughies Ranch Hand (20) or Flying Crazy (21) were to sneak into the field they would both be good inclusions for the multiples.
MORPHETTVILLE RACE 7 No. 13 Hateech
This mare is beyond flying right now. An unfashionable type down in the weights that will probably get overlooked again in the market here, think she’s a good bet stepping out to 1400m for the first time. Throw in Cashin’ Chex (4) for the quinella.
MORPHETTVILLE RACE 5 No. 6 King Of Pharoahs
Tragedy beaten last time (when I was on at the $18) and am ready to be hurt again at the much more frugal quote.