By Brad Gray & Ray Hickson
Brad Gray and Ray Hickson try their hand at finding the five Group One winners as well as The Everest winner over the Sydney spring carnival.
GEORGE MAIN STAKES Brad Gray: Winx. No explanation needed really. For second, want to be with Red Excitement again. It’s hard to believe that at the ripe old age of eight, he has returned in career best form. He’ll have Ecuador for company out in front but doubt that will disrupt his free-rolling rhythm too much. Josh Parr will be full of confidence having nearly pulled up the unthinkable in the Chelmsford Stakes.
Ray Hickson: Winx with Happy Clapper to run second. Probably being a bit obvious but he’s clearly come back in fantastic order and if the race pans out as it looks on paper, with Red Excitement and Ecuador up front, he’s going to be somewhere near Winx in the run and trying to make his run at the same time. If that’s the case he can chase her home.
GOLDEN ROSE Brad Gray: Menari. This Snitzel colt has been the dominant three-year-old in Sydney to this point, taking out the Rosebud and then the obvious key lead up in the Run To The Rose. He is untried over 1400m but gives the impression that it won’t be a problem. Suspect in time he’ll be an out and out sprinter but his class should see him get home. Races on speed, settles and tipping the scales at 570kg, he is much more developed at this stage than many of his rivals.
Ray Hickson: Menari. So long as it remains dry in Sydney, and at this stage it’s likely, it’s very hard to tip against him based on what we’ve seen in his two runs back. He can race forward or back and he was strong at the finish of the Run To The Rose so you’d be backing him to run out the 1400m without a worry.
THE METROPOLITAN Brad Gray: Life Less Ordinary. Have loved the two runs this time in from this import. He has his final tune up ahead of The Metrop in Saturday’s Kingston Town which should have him cherry ripe fourth up over 2400m. He is a two mile winner in the UK and does give the impression he’ll only keep getting better as he gets out in trip. He’ll get in well at the weights and should give it a shake.
Ray Hickson: Life Less Ordinary. Hopefully he runs well on Saturday as I expect to have him on track for The Metrop. His run second up behind Winx was a cracker from a staying point of view and he’s only going to get better as the races get longer. Another who I’d like a bit of moisture around to take the jar out of the track for but either way happy to be with him.
EPSOM HANDICAP Brad Gray: Egg Tart. It was an outstanding return from this mare behind Deploy first up, who broke the track record motoring along in front. Had my doubts as to whether the hype around her ahead of the spring was warranted but it only took her a run to dispel that. Chris Waller has owned Randwick mile features recently and the Epsom hasn’t escaped him, winning three of the past four after Hauraki broke the sequence last year. The $6 with TAB is acceptable.
Ray Hickson: Egg Tart. I know she’s favourite but her run first-up behind Deploy in track record time was superb and I like that she’s deliberately going into the race second up. Would love a bit of the sting out of the ground for her to be more bullish at this stage. You need a 2000m horse to run the strong Randwick mile and she fits that bill.
FLIGHT STAKES Brad Gray: Tulip. Convinced this is a top class filly and David Hayes has said all along that the Flight Stakes was her target. She was beaten first up in Melbourne as favourite but she lost no admirers being snagged back from the awkward draw before commencing to over race. She is better than that as her dominant Magic Night victory over Alizee in the spring and subsequent brave third in the Golden Slipper proves. Expect her to win the Tea Rose and start the race as favourite.
Ray Hickson: Champagne Cuddles. The cards might fall Tulip’s way in the Tea Rose but she’s had the flashing light on in both runs this time in. With an awkward alley we might see more of the same from Champagne Cuddles on Saturday – drift back and run home powerfully – but if she can finally have some luck with the barrier in the Flight she’s tracking nicely towards winning it.
SPRING CHAMPION STAKES Brad Gray: Sanctioned. With Godolphin likely to be represented by Kementari in the Caulfield Guineas that leaves Sanctioned as a likely candidate for the Spring Champion. Gives the impression that the further he goes the more he’ll come into his own so given that he has proved competitive below a mile against the likes of Dracarys, Gold Standard and Addictive Nature. We’ll see Sanctioned next in the Gloaming Stakes.
Ray Hickson: Sanctioned. There was so much to like about his closing second in the Stan Fox behind Gold Standard I’d be surprised if he doesn’t claim a decent race this spring. He ran the fastest last 600m in that 1500m race and shapes as though he’ll excel as the distances increase.
THE EVEREST Brad Gray: Menari. This is risky given that he hasn’t locked down a slot yet but he’s the horse I’d want to be with come October 14 if he lined up. We’ll see him next in the Golden Rose and if he wins that race as he is widely expected too, it gives him three weeks to freshen up back to 1200m. He is a monster of a three-year-old and will carry just 53kg. He also makes his own luck and runs time. Three-year-olds are so well treated against older horses at this time of year.
Ray Hickson: Menari. Not in the race as yet of course but assuming he’s snapped up and comes through the Rose in good order it’s hard to see him not running well. He has the tactical speed to put himself in a good spot without having to worry about leading, he’ll only have 53kg and, again, so long as it’s dry he has the turn of foot that will make those chasing him have to pull out something special.