By Ray Hickson
A new year brings new possibilities and the chance for those horses who might have been just off the top in the spring to step up and be counted come autumn.
All the horses on this list, in alphabetical order, have yet to win at Group 1 level but shown more than enough talent to say there’s another rung or two or three they could climb and they just might during the Sydney Autumn and The Star Championships.
Andermatt (James Cummings) – (3yo colt: 2 starts, 1 win, 1 second): Obviously Godolphin has Bivouac and Colette as headliners but a number of the blue army's mainstays have reached their level. So a big space is opening for something to emerge from the wealth of well bred horses and this youngster created a big impression in his two starts back in May last year. He won easily on debut at Kembla Grange then took significant ground off Anders, with Sweet Reply third, at Rosehill. We didn’t see him in the spring but for a quiet barrier trial in November so he’s probably had a minor issue. Could easily be a horse aimed at the Group 2 $1m Arrowfield Sprint (1200m).
Brandenburg (John Sargent) – (4yo gelding: 17 starts, 2 wins, 5 seconds, 4 thirds): Since he won his first race in October 2019 this fellow has been more than competitive at the top level, with placings in the Randwick Guineas and Doncaster Mile last season, but he just seemed to be missing something. He didn’t have the best of luck in the spring but performed admirably in the Golden Eagle and The Gong before a spell. Significantly, he'll start this autumn as a gelding (he'll only have a light autumn) and that just might be the turning point because we know the ability is there to win a Group 1.
Captivant (Peter & Paul Snowden) – (2yo colt: 2 starts, 1 win): Aside from Enthaar the two-year-old that has really thrown its hand up to say ‘I’m well above average’ is this colt by Slipper winner Capitalist. He smashed his opposition on debut in the Victory Vein, including She’s All Class, before running a creditable fourth in the $1m Golden Gift. That was run on a soft 7 and while he certainly didn’t give up the chase it seems a wet track might be an Achilles heel but that’s something that remains to be confirmed.
Dawn Passage (Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott) – (4yo horse: 14 starts, 5 wins, 2 seconds, 3 thirds): It wasn’t until after the autumn carnival of 2020 that this entire started to hit his straps with a winning streak taking in the Hawkesbury Guineas, Inglis Guineas and Fred Best Classic. After a gallant effort in the Stradbroke he raced three times in the spring for thirds in the Silver Eagle and Golden Eagle (on an unsuitably heavy track) and a narrow defeat in The Gong. There’d be no doubt a Doncaster Mile would be on his radar but a race like the All Aged might be right up his alley.
Haut Brion Her (Chris Waller) – (5yo mare: 12 starts, 6 wins, 4 seconds): More than a few would have chuckled at this mare’s leftfield inclusion in the TAB Everest but, boy, did she swim when thrown in the deep end. She resumed from an injury enforced break of almost a year with a Group 2 win then it seemed the wheels fell off as she could only finish midfield in the Golden Pendant. Who would have thought her next run would be in an Everest and she’d perform so gallantly finishing fifth after chasing the hot speed. And she backed it up with a similarly brave second behind Gytrash in the Yes Yes Yes Stakes, proving the Everest was no fluke and that Chris Waller has a top class sprinting mare on his hands. Could she be the Nature Strip of 2021? That is, a huge run in the Everest in spring then return for Group 1 glory in the TJ Smith.
Hungry Heart (Chris Waller) – (3yo filly: 7 starts, 1 win, 4 seconds): It might have been because she’s a daughter of Frankel that was able to win at 1200m as a two-year-old that this flashy filly had so much expected of her in the spring. While she was winless in that campaign she didn’t miss by far, including a narrow defeat in the Group 1 Flight Stakes, and everything pointed to 2021 being when she’ll come of age. Waller generally works out these talented fillies (remember Winx didn’t really hit her straps until she was a late three-year-old) and you’d back him to get the best out of this one.
Jet Propulsion (Ciaron Maher & David Eustace) – (3yo colt: 4 starts 1 win, 2 thirds): Pierata’s younger half-brother put the writing on the wall in his first preparation that said when the autumn rolls around he could explode – though on the evidence of one run he may not love a wet track. In his two attempts at stakes level in the spring he looked under a lot of pressure early in the straight before rallying and it’ll be interesting to see if the powerful Maher/Eustace team can harness his obvious ability. Perhaps a Randwick Guineas contender?
Joviality (Chris Waller) – (3yo filly: 10 starts, 3 wins, 1 second, 3 thirds): A late bloomer in the spring, this filly was thrown in, possibly as an afterthought, to the Flight Stakes where she ran fifth but it was seemingly the making of her. She was then touched out by Forbidden Love, subsequently Group 1 placed, in the Listed Reginald Allen before her, shall we say luckless, tenth of 12 at Flemington. Don’t know if she has the raw talent of Hungry Heart but there are plenty of good fillies and mares races around for her and it wouldn't shock if she turned up in a Coolmore Classic.
Mo'unga (Annabel Neasham) - (3yo colt: 4 starts, 3 wins): Few horses with the talent Mo'unga has shown leave the Chris Waller yard so he's a huge pick up for Annabel Neasham in the early stages of her training career. He easily accounted for Lion's Roar, subsequently Group 1 placed, at his second start and made light work of the Dulcify after which he looked to have the Spring Champion Stakes at his mercy but a late switch saw him head south. It wasn't a bad run in the Caulfield Guineas and you'd imagine races like the Randwick and Rosehill Guineas will be on his radar. If he takes the steps most expect he'll be a real force.
Mugatoo (Kris Lees) – (6yo gelding: 16 starts, 8 wins, 2 seconds, 1 third): Since his winning debut for Kris Lees back in January he’s done nothing but charge up the ladder with six wins from 10 starts, he was enormous in defeat in the Group 1 Metropolitan then again huge in the Cox Plate. He wasn’t quite ready for 2400m at WFA last autumn when thrown into the Tancred but you’d be confident he'd handle it this time around even though he’ll probably be most dynamic at 2000m and it'll be interesting to see what sort of competition he provides for the likes of Addeybb and Verry Elleegant.
North Pacific (Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes) – (3yo colt: 5 starts, 2 wins, 1 second, 2 thirds): Is there a horse that more is expected of heading into 2021 than this exceptionally talented colt? It was a somewhat unusual preparation for a Golden Rose in the spring, with runs on wet tracks in July and August, before he finished third in the Run To The Rose then a close second to stablemate Ole Kirk in the Group 1. This time around the only box that needs to be ticked is the Group 1 win and where he gets it is the big question. Will a Randwick Guineas be a bit far? Does he take on older horses in a Canterbury Stakes or an All Aged at the end of the carnival? Wherever the Hawkes stable points him it’ll be deliberate so take note.
Sixgun (Mark Newnham) – (3yo gelding: 4 starts, 1 win, 1 second): A full brother to Splintex who took out the 2020 Group 2 Arrowfield Sprint during The Star Championships. Fair to say he’s shown plenty of talent but is yet to really work it all out, if that happens he could take some giant steps. His run behind Anders and Ole Kirk in the Rosebud was smart given he completely blew the start and he wasn’t disgraced behind Joviality and Wild Ruler in two subsequent runs. There’s upside with him.
Torun (Joe Pride) – (3yo colt: 2 starts, 1 win, 1 second): When Joe Pride nominates a lightly raced three-year-old for a Golden Rose and calls him “super promising” it’s worth taking plenty of notice. That’s exactly what he did with this colt after a dominant debut win at Hawkesbury but he was spelled after being beaten at his second start at Randwick. We haven’t seen him on a good track yet but we know he handles the wet. There’s a chance he could be another preparation away but there’s also a chance he could be just as Pride describes.