The dream for country- trained mare Super Girl to gain a start in the Melbourne Cup has moved a step closer with her first-up victory at Sandown.
After watching Super Girl’s win in Wednesday’s benchmark 70 race over 1500 metres, her Bendigo-based trainer Josh Julius said the focus of her spring campaign was to gain a start in the Melbourne Cup.
He added that he knew how difficult it would be to achieve this.
“We’ll have a lot of fun trying to get there. I’m prepared to duck and weave our way into it,” Julius said.
The next big target for the daughter of So You Think is The Bart Cummings (2500 metres) at Flemington on October 3 which carries a golden ticket into the Melbourne Cup for the winner.
Last campaign, the lightly-raced six-year-old mare finished fourth in the Warrnambool Cup and then third in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes at Flemington behind Oceanex before being spelled.
“It’s the perfect start. I probably didn’t really expect her to pick them up like that as she was giving weight to a few of them,” Julius said.
Julius pointed out that Super Girl would have to keep winning races to even gain a start in the The Bart Cummings as she needed to lift her ratings.
Her midweek success was a stepping stone, gaining her a few extra ratings points.
“We’ve made no secret that we’re heading towards The Bart Cummings with the idea of picking a few races along the way, like these (benchmark) 70s, to try and get her in races she can win just to really get her rating up,” Julius said.
“In a perfect world, we’d get the job done there but it’s certainly not that easy.”
Super Girl was ridden by the trainer’s sister Melissa Julius who used her three kilo claim.
Julius said Super Girl could possibly return to Sandown Hillside on September 9 for an 1800m race.
Improving mare Dancing Gidget has relished a return to a dry track to take out the opening race at Rosehill and remain in the running for the $7.5 million Golden Eagle.
Trainer Chris Waller confirmed Dancing Gidget was among a group of horses the stable had entered for the rich race and she would be given a short break with the October 31 target in mind.
“We did all our noms on Friday and she was one of about 20 horses we put in,” Waller said.
“It’s not just about winning a $7.5 million race, it’s actually being in the field and getting second, third, fourth prize money.”
James McDonald had the choice of five Waller runners in Saturday’s Everest Carnival On Sale Handicap (1500m) and pulled the right rein in opting for Dancing Gidget ($5).
He found her cover behind the speed and angled off the fence in the straight to surge between runners and score by a long neck over Nimalee ($5.50).
The winner’s stablemate Vegas Jewel ($12), making her debut for Waller, was another short half-head away.
Vegas Jewel finished second in the Group Two Wakeful Stakes last spring and Waller said she sweated up before the race and would improve significantly.
“Vegas Jewel was the one with the big, flashing light on,” Waller said.
“She has raced in better races, she was first up today and pretty fresh.”
Staying mare She’s Ideel started favourite and was doing her best work late for fifth.
A week after snow and bitter winds lashed parts of the central tablelands, astute Mudgee trainer Mark Milton will make the trip over the mountains for a two-pronged attack on the Tab Highway Handicap at Rosehill.
Milton, who recently moved his stables from Gulgong onto the track at Mudgee, brings the lightly-raced Harley Fat Boy and consistent mare Polished Penny to town for Saturday’s 1400 metre race, with both horses coming off strong runs at Forbes earlier this month.
The part-time electrician has been training horses for around 30 years and is delighted by the way both his charges have been performing.
Harley Fat Boy is out of the Milton-owned and trained mare Jali, who gave him his first city winner in 2011.
He will be piloted by the mercurial and highly-talented Jake Pracey-Holmes, who has had a long and successful association with the Milton stable.
Pracey-Holmes’ first city winner as an apprentice came aboard the Milton-trained Raised A Legend when he scored at Canterbury as a $71 chance five years ago.
“I expect ‘Harley’ will go back from the wide gate (14) but he has a really good turn of foot and we’ll hope there’s plenty of speed, as there quite often is in these TAB Highways,” Milton said.
The Gulgong-based Pracey-Holmes has ridden Harley Fat Boy in six of his seven starts, which included his maiden win over 1310m at Dubbo in June.
Until recently, Polished Penny had the unwanted tag of being one of the best maiden gallopers in the Central districts but that was finally shaken off at her 22nd start with a well-deserved win under Pracey-Holmes at Mudgee last month.
“She’s no champion but she’s super honest, always picking up a cheque,” Milton said.
Kathy O’Hara replaces Irish-born apprentice Ellen Hennessy, who rode the daughter of stakes-placed mare Paulini to an eye-catching third on the spacious Forbes circuit on August 3.
“I expect Polished Penny to be closer, about midfield or better. I don’t want to waste the nice barrier,” Milton said.
Harley Fat Boy was at $15 with Tab fixed odds on Friday while Polished Penny was a $26 chance.
Chris Munce is banking on the stellar form of Skate To Paris to offset a drop back in distance at Eagle Farm.
Skate To Paris has won her past two starts at the track, the latest at the mile circuit on August 15, but has to contend with dropping back to 1400 metres in the TAB Long May We Play Quality on Saturday.
“Obviously coming back to the 1400 metres is the only negative from a professional punter’s point of view but I can assure the punters out there this mare is in very good order,” Munce said.
“I couldn’t be happier with her. I’ve never seen a mare of her age that’s been around for such a long time still look so well.
“She’s got dapples on her coat, she’s dark, she’s healthy, she’s very, very well.
“Larry (Cassidy) galloped her on Tuesday morning as well as last Saturday (and) he’s bullish about her chances.”
Munce’s long-term aim with Skate To Paris is the Magic Millions carnival in January but he is loath to spell her while she is in winning form.
“While she’s racing as well as she is, I just think we keep her going and race her in the races that are available to her,” he said.
“I’m sure she’ll tell us when she’s had enough. She’ll put the hand up and say, ‘I’m ready for.a bit of a break’ and when that time happens we’ll look after her.”
One of Skate To Paris’ rivals on Saturday, The Candy Man, will be transferred to Team Hawkes for the spring carnival.
After consulting with trainer Barry Baldwin, The Candy Man’s owners have made the decision to send the gelding to the Hawkes stable in Sydney to be prepared for the Group One Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick in October.
Co-trainer Ciaron Maher is keen to see how Holyfield fares in the Group Three Ming Dynasty Quality (1400m) at Rosehill on Saturday before locking in further plans.
“The race I have always been planning for him is the Guineas. The Rose is an option depending on how he goes,” Maher said.
A stakes-winning juvenile, Holyfield lumped a hefty weight on a waterlogged track first-up in the Up And Coming Stakes and warmed up late for sixth behind runaway winner North Pacific.
His performance pleased Maher, who said the colt had taken vast improvement from the outing.
“He did have a big weight, the track was very testing and we said before the race we were going to ride him a bit conservatively for that reason,” Maher said.
“I was very happy with the way he finished off. He has improved in all ways from the race and he will be thereabouts on Saturday.”
The Chris Waller-trained Overlord is a dominant TAB fixed odds favourite for the Ming Dynasty at $2.50 with Kumasi next pick at $5.
Holyfield is among four horses sharing the third line of betting as a $7.50 chance.
The husband and wife training partners prepare the quality string raced by prominent Perth owner-breeder Bob Peters, who sent his best horses to eastern state trainers last spring but made the decision to keep them under the care of Team Williams this year.
All-Star Mile winner Regal Power and brilliant mare Arcadia Queen will take the next step in their respective spring campaigns in Saturday’s Memsie Stakes (1400m).
Both resumed in the P B Lawrence Stakes with Arcadia Queen a good fifth and Regal Power ninth after racing wide.
Arcadia Queen is on the third line of Memsie betting as a $7 chance but Grant Williams expects both horses to continue to improve deeper into their campaigns.
“You can make a case for both of them that they will run better, and definitely on what they’ve done over the last couple of weeks, I’m expecting them to run better,” Williams said.
“But they’ve got to be at their peak for mid to late October so anything they’re doing now they will definitely improve on.”
Williams said he had a slight leaning to Arcadia Queen as his top Memsie contender but was concerned about her awkward draw in 13 while Regal Power fared better with gate nine.
Windstorm will chase his fourth win in succession in Saturday’s Evergreen Turf Handicap (1100m) after missing a run last week when several races at Moonee Valley were washed out.
Australian Guineas and All-Star Mile runner-up Superstorm tackles The Heath 1100 Stakes (1100m) and Williams reports he has been working well ahead of his return.
Williams says Windstorm and Superstorm remain in contention for the $7.5 million Golden Eagle in Sydney in October, pending the further easing of travel restrictions.
“I think that’s still the plan but I still think things have to change before we go,” Williams said.
Perfect Jewel rounds out the Williams team in the Cockram Stakes and is also expected to run boldly despite the 1200 metre journey being short of her best distance.
Adam Trinder knew he would be kept well informed on the progress of Mystic Journey by his stable foreman Steff Waugh but he didn’t expect their host Peter Moody to also be giving him regular updates.
Trinder stayed at his Tasmanian stables to supervise the rest of his team and sent Waugh across with Mystic Journey, who is being trained out of Moody’s Pakenham base during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Moody is hands-on with her and he’s been above and beyond with his assistance and help. We’re getting help from a man who knows what it takes to put Group One polish on his horses,” Trinder said.
“He’s calling me four times a day, telling me what he thinks. I’m really appreciative of it.
“It’s so thoughtful of him. He’s really taking an interest in her.
“Last time when she raced at Caulfield, he stayed around and saddled her up and helped walk her around, even though he had finished with runners four races before that.”
Moody will also have two runners in the Group One Memsie Stakes over 1400m at Caulfield on Saturday as he will be represented by Gatting and Glenfiddich.
Trinder said he was expecting a better performance from Mystic Journey after her first-up eighth in the P B Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield on August 15 but added she needed to show something if she was going to progress to another Cox Plate.
“There were mitigating circumstances but we’re dealing with Mystic Journey so I was disappointed,” Trinder said.
“She was a bit slowly away then had to work up the hill and was also trapped wide. Bottom line also was that she wasn’t comfortable in the going.”
Trinder said a year ago he scratched Mystic Journey from the Bletchingly Stakes because he didn’t think she would handle the soft ground but this time around she had to start her campaign.
He reported the mare had trained on well and was ready to run a big race second up.
“She’ll present a bit better. It’s getting closer to D-day. I want to see her hit the line and I think she can finish in the top four from her nice draw,” he said.
“She’s going to have a firm track and she’ll be suited by the speed.”
Trinder feels some people have judged Mystic Journey harshly as there were expectations from some circles that she was the next Winx.
“She’s had to carry massive expectations but I told everyone a year ago she wasn’t the next Winx,” Trinder said.
The form around unbeaten colt Peltzer has been standing up and Kerrin McEvoy says that is an encouraging signal that the three-year-old can be a spring force.
Peltzer will bid to deliver the newly minted training partnership of Gerald Ryan and Sterling Alexiou its first black-type success when he contests the Group Three San Domenico Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
The colt had an unblemished record as a juvenile with a debut win at Kembla Grange and two impressive performances at Randwick.
While it was off-season form, Peltzer claimed a couple of high-profile scalps, including that of Anders, a dynamic first-up winner of The Rosebud and the early San Domenico favourite.
He also twice beat Overlord, who went on to finish fourth to star Queenslander Rothfire in the Group One J J Atkins Stakes.
“There have been plenty of horses come out and win who have finished behind him,” McEvoy said.
“They weren’t any top-line races he was winning last campaign but it was just the style he did it in and he feels as though he has done well since his spell.
“He put together some nice work on Tuesday since his most recent trial win. I’m really excited to see him back at the track.”
McEvoy has a busy afternoon at Rosehill with a full book of nine rides.
He will partner Aim for Peter and Paul Snowden in the Group Three Ming Dynasty Quality (1400m) and reunites with the Kris Lees-trained Mugatoo in the day’s other feature, the Group Three Premier’s Cup (1900m).
McEvoy rode the import in three of his autumn runs, which included a Canberra Cup win and Manion Cup placing, but Hugh Bowman was aboard for Mugatoo’s first-up Winter Challenge victory.
“He won well there a few weeks ago with Hughie on his back. He’s another horse I have ridden a bit and I’m looking forward to riding him again,” McEvoy said.
“It’s up in the air as to what races he is going to target but he is the sort of horse that could even freshen up for an Epsom and he might get into an Epsom with a likeable weight.”
With the scratching of Aliferous, Mugatoo will be among three Premier’s Cup runners for Lees along with Tancred Stakes runner-up Mustajeer and Frankely Awesome.
Shea Eden can’t seen any reason why his in-form mare Bless Her can’t stretch her winning sequence to six in the Cockram Stakes at Caulfield.
Eden said Bless Her was again being underestimated but that was something he had become accustomed to during her winning streak.
“She’s flown under the radar. After her last win a commentator said maybe she could pinch one more race this campaign,” Eden said.
“On that occasion she ran the equal fastest last 400 metres and 200 metres for the meeting.”
Her five wins have all come on wet tracks but Eden thinks she will be even better suited by the prospect of a firmer track in the Group Three event over 1200m on Saturday.
“I honestly believe she’s better on top of the ground,” Eden said.
Four years ago, Eden achieved the biggest win of his career when Ocean Embers claimed the Cockram Stakes and the Cranbourne trainer sees a lot of similarities between the mares.
“They’re so similar as they are both pocket-sized dynamos with a great will to win,” he said.
He pointed out that Ocean Embers won the same race as Bless Her did over 1100m at Caulfield before she captured the Cockram Stakes.
“Every time she goes to the races she meets the challenge and I couldn’t be happier with her,” Eden said.
“Her blood picture is perfect and Jye McNeil stays on her.
“She’s well drawn. Everything about her gives me a lot of confidence.”
Racing Victoria officials have been amazed with the quantity and quality of nominations for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups despite uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Entries for the features were announced on Thursday and the Caulfield Cup, which will be run on October 17, attracted 177 nominations, an increase of 29 from last year and its highest figure in five years.
The Melbourne Cup, which will be run on November 3, received 174 nominations which was up 22 on last year’s figure.
The Caulfield Cup received 34 international entries and the Melbourne Cup 30.
Greg Carpenter, Racing Victoria’s executive general manager, racing, said they were uncertain how the impact of the pandemic would affect the number of nominations and were delighted with the increase in entries for both races.
“It is pleasing that there is tremendous depth among the entries for both races with 29 Group One winners in the Caulfield Cup and 25 in the Melbourne Cup,” Carpenter said.
Legendary Irish father and son Aidan and Joseph O’Brien have entered 20 horses for the Caulfield Cup and 16 for the Melbourne Cup between them.
Carpenter pointed out that Aidan O’Brien had entered three of the best stayers in the world specifically for the Caulfield Cup in six-time Group One winner Magical, Magic Wand and Japan.
He has also entered 2019 English Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck for both Cups.
The winners of the past two Irish Derbies, Sovereign (2019) and Santiago (2020), are among nine horses he has entered for the Melbourne Cup.
Joseph O’Brien, the youngest person to train the winner of the Melbourne Cup when successful with Rekindling in 2017, has nominated seven horses for both races, five of them owned by Lloyd Williams.
Included among the O’Brien-Williams entries is Master Of Reality, who was second past the post in last year’s Melbourne Cup before being demoted to fourth on protest.
Carpenter said he was also pleased with the quality of Australian stayers.
Local maestro Danny O’Brien is to the fore entering last year’s Caulfield Cup runner-up and Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare for both races.
His powerful Cups contingent also includes South Australian Derby winner Russian Camelot, Adelaide Cup winner King Of Leogrance and VRC Oaks winner Miami Bound.
Chris Waller has a strong squad headed by star mare Verry Elleegant, Shared Ambition, Kinane, and Finche.
RV also announced it had received travel exemptions from the federal government for a limited number of staff from six international stables to enter Australia to look after their horses.
The approved staff members will have to quarantine for two weeks in either Sydney or Adelaide.
RV is planning for a flight from Europe to enter Australia on October 2 with 32 horses aboard consisting of 16 on a one-way ticket and another 16 on a return ticket.
Carpenter said a number of logistical challenges were still to be overcome before that could become a reality.