James Cummings was more than happy to change his plans for sprinter Viridine when he saw the strength of the Australia Stakes field.
Initially, the Godolphin trainer had entered only Isaurian and opted not to put Viridine in Friday night’s event.
But when the Moonee Valley Racing Club only received five entries for the feature and extended their nomination deadline on Monday, Godolphin did an about-face, adding Viridine to the mix.
Cummings said they decided not to accept with Isaurian when he didn’t scope well earlier in the week and they would save him for the Rubiton Stakes at Caulfield on February 6.
The Group Two Australia Stakes (1200m) has attracted a final field of six with Viridine a short-priced favourite with TAB fixed odds at $1.85.
Cummings explained he was aware there wasn’t going to be huge nominations and knew there was still a chance Viridine could run in the race as a late entry.
The stable tried to win the Magic Millions exemption race at the Gold Coast on January 9 with both Isaurian and Viridine, the pair running third and fourth respectively.
Godolphin then made plans to run Isaurian in the Australia Stakes and Viridine in the Expressway Stakes the following Saturday at Rosehill before the landscape changed.
Like punters, Cummings believes Viridine is well placed in Friday night’s race.
“He’s well suited in these weight-for-age races and he looks like getting a nice run in transit,” Cummings said on Melbourne radio station RSN on Thursday.
“He will bring residual fitness to this race. He’s well suited and he’s an extremely competent sprinter.”
Cummings also said that Bivouac was on track for his return in the Black Caviar Lightning at Flemington on February 13.
The lure of next month’s $2 million Inglis Millennium has convinced trainer Annabel Neasham to roll the dice and run juvenile Ashema at Randwick despite an outside draw.
The filly will jump from barrier 13 in Saturday’s The Paul Hoffman Handicap (1000m) and while it isn’t ideal, Neasham believes it is preferable to waiting a week and facing a seven-day back-up into the Millennium.
“It’s a terrible barrier but you can wait a week and still draw badly,” Neasham said.
“If she wasn’t an Inglis horse I probably would wait a week but she’s going to be right up there in the market for the Inglis Millennium and I certainly wouldn’t back her up in a race like that.”
Owned by a partnership that includes the powerful Aquis operation which has entrusted Neasham with many of its horses, Ashema finished second to Acrobat at her only start in the Inglis Nursery in December.
It is strong form with Acrobat currently sitting on the second line of Golden Slipper betting.
Ashema has likewise been kept safe in markets for Saturday’s race for which she is a $3 TAB fixed odds favourite.
She has posted a barrier trial win since her debut and Neasham says the filly has continued to improve at home.
“She went quite soft into the Inglis Nursery. I didn’t have time to trial her twice so she just had the one trial and Rachel (King) thought she held her breath a bit the first 600 before she relaxed into it,” Neasham said.
“She ran super and still did a couple of little things wrong. I think she’s learned a lot from that.”
Ashema will be one of several youngsters vying to win on Saturday to secure their place in the field for the Inglis Millennium (1100m) at Randwick on February 6.
Second favourite Arthur Francis, who is unbeaten in two trials, will make his debut for John O’Shea and is among those eligible for the sales-restricted race having been purchased at the Melbourne Premier sale for $60,000.
Matthew Smith will saddle up two Inglis buys headed by Chamelon Choice, who is a $9 chance after showing speed to finish third on debut at Flemington earlier this month.
He will be joined in the race by stablemate Mistaken Identity.
Bought for just $9000 at the Classic sale’s Highway session, Mistaken Identity showed ability at her only start when she made ground to finish fifth to Slipper favourite Enthaar in the Gimcrack Stakes.
The Group One Galaxy will be the autumn goal for talented sprinter Splintex, who was among the standouts when a host of stars stepped out at the Randwick barrier trials.
The Mark Newnham-trained entire comfortably took out the opening 900m heat, defeating Group One Empire Rose Stakes winner Shout The Bar by almost three lengths.
“Hopefully we might get him through to the Galaxy because he’s got good 1100 metre form at Rosehill, he handles soft ground which is generally what we get on Golden Slipper day, and he’d get a fairly light weight,” Newnham said.
The four-year-old has won five of his 13 starts and returns after a mixed spring in which he finished just behind Sydney’s best sprinters in the Concorde Stakes and The Shorts before two unplaced runs in Melbourne.
“He didn’t really adapt to Melbourne in a couple of runs there in the spring but there are some nice races here for him,” Newnham said.
“He’s coming up well.”
Mizzy took out the other Group and Listed heat in good style, defeating Prague who made late ground to edge out Dreamforce for second.
New trainer Annabel Neasham will meet with owners Aquis to formulate a plan for Prague, who could return in the Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on February 6.
“He was a little slow away which is how he was trialling last prep as well, so we will work on that,” Neasham said.
“But I loved the way he closed off.”
There were six two-year-old heats on Thursday with the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Kalashnikov among those to impress when he burst through the pack to take out his trial.
Glen Boss will base himself in Victoria for the start of their carnival to ensure he can ride Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet and star sprinter Bivouac when they kick off their autumn campaigns.
The top jockey said he made the decision to head south to safeguard against any interstate travel restrictions that might be imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boss usually rides in Sydney but has been in Queensland in the lead up to last Saturday’s Magic Millions carnival at the Gold Coast.
“I’m going to make the move and go down to Melbourne and stay there for at least a month or so,” Boss told Melbourne’s RSN Racing Pulse on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to get caught anywhere and miss out on rides.”
Boss will hit the ground running and kick off his stint with rides at Caulfield on Australia Day.
He confirmed he would be taking no short cuts and planned to be in action at Melbourne’s midweek metropolitan meetings and riding in barrier trials.
“I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to it,” Boss said.
“I’m going down there to go full tilt.”
The three-time Melbourne Cup winner is keen to renew his association with the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Sir Dragonet, who delivered him a Cox Plate victory in the spring.
He believes the best is still to come from the import, who he regards as an ideal type for the Group One Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney.
“He improved week by week under Ciaron Maher….there’s no reason he won’t continue to do that now,” Boss said.
He also declared Godolphin’s Bivouac would be hard to beat in any race he contested and said the four-year-old was “underfurnished” in the spring when he finished runner-up in The Everest and demolished a strong field to win the Group One Darley Classic.
“You’d say there wouldn’t be a horse on the planet that could beat him when he’s on his game,” Boss said.
Bivouac is expected to step out in a barrier trial in the next two weeks before resuming in the Lightning Stakes.
A rise to a more suitable distance has Quackerjack poised to rediscover his best form when he tackles the Listed Carrington Stakes at Randwick.
The baldy-faced gelding turned in a creditable first-up performance when finishing just over 2-1/2 lengths behind subsequent Magic Millions Cup winner Eleven Eleven in the Christmas Classic on January 1.
It was the first time the five-year-old had contested a 1200 metre race since his juvenile season and trainer Mark Newnham admitted the horse was out of his comfort zone.
“The other day he was just in a race that was too quick for him,” Newnham said.
“He hadn’t run in a 1200 metre race since the Magic Millions two-year-old race three years ago.
“He was pretty much at his top the whole race and that makes it hard to finish off but he got beaten 2.6 lengths and the form out of the race is good through Eleven Eleven and Discharged. It was a good blow-out for him.”
Quackerjack is among 10 acceptors for Saturday’s 1400 metre feature, which also includes defending titleholder Cradle Mountain and impressive first-up winner Order Again.
Regular rider Josh Parr will again be aboard Quackerjack, who is chasing his first win since taking out the Group Two Liverpool City Cup in February last year.
Five of the gelding’s eight successes have been on the Randwick course proper and Newnham believes the Carrington Stakes is the right race at the right time.
“It’s a good race to give him a chance to get back to some form,” he said.
“He’s a length or two off those Group One horses so these sort of races are good for him.”
Newnham will also saddle up Scarzel, who makes his debut in the Paul Hoffman Handicap (1000m).
A $220,000 yearling purchase for syndicators Darby Racing, Scarzel is by Snitzel out of 2016 Sweet Embrace Stakes winner Scarlet Rain and will sport blinkers on Saturday.
“He will run well but this time of year, the two-year-old races are very strong because there are generally horses there that are aiming towards the good races,” Newnham said.
“He is having his first start, he has trialled well with blinkers on and he’s fit and ready to go around.”
Filly Ashema has opened favourite for the juvenile race after finishing second to boom youngster Acrobat at her only start.
Te Akau Racing will bid to continue its indomitable run in the Karaka Million 2YO at Ellerslie with five runners, led by undefeated youngster On The Bubbles.
Trainer Jamie Richards has nominated On The Bubbles as the stable’s leading chance to claim a fifth successive win in New Zealand’s rich two-year-old race.
Te Akau has claimed the feature for the past four years with Melody Belle (2017), Avantage (2018), Probabeel (2019) and Cool Aza Beel 12 months ago.
Two years ago, Probabeel overcame a wide gate to win and Richards is hoping On The Bubbles can do likewise on Saturday after coming up with the outside barrier.
“We have won it from out there before, so why can’t we do it again?” Richards told the NZ Racing Desk.
“He is going to need a bit of luck, that is all.”
On The Bubbles’ two wins include a three-length victory at Ellerslie earlier this month and Richards says the horse has continued to do well.
“I like the fact that he is a winner and he has come through the right race and he couldn’t have been more impressive last start. He is going the right way,” Richards said.
The leading trainer will also saddle up Sophisticardo, Sneaky Shark, Millefiori and Avonallo in Saturday’s 1200 metre showpiece.
Trainer Anthony Cummings is preparing two of his brightest talents for early autumn starts with Prince Fawaz and Mizzy poised to step out at a bumper barrier trial session at Randwick.
The pair have been plagued by niggling issues which have restricted their racetrack appearances this season, Mizzy having competed just once in the past 14 months while Prince Fawaz missed the spring.
A Group One-winning two-year-old, Prince Fawaz showed a return to his best when runner-up to Castelvecchio in last year’s Rosehill Guineas before injuring his leg in the Doncaster Mile.
Cummings had his sights on a Golden Eagle campaign but ran out of time to get Prince Fawaz ready.
“We were tight for time and there were a couple of little hold ups on the way through so we elected to put him back out again,” Cummings said.
“He comes back now for his second trial and he’s in good shape and rearing to go.
“He has certainly furnished and is looking more a man than a boy.”
The four-year-old will line up in the first of 20 heats at Randwick on Thursday when he takes on several high-profile rivals including Flit and Shout The Bar.
He is scheduled to resume in the Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on February 13 ahead of the Group One Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) a fortnight later.
Stablemate Mizzy has also had her share of problems.
A muscle injury ruled her out of last year’s Sydney autumn carnival then she was tipped out after finishing down the track at her only spring start.
Cummings has been working on restoring the mare’s confidence and there were positive signs when she won her first trial comfortably earlier this month.
Mizzy is slated to return in the Expressway Stakes at Rosehill on Saturday week with the Group One Coolmore Classic among her goals.
She will have nine rivals in her 900m heat headed by George Ryder Stakes winner Dreamforce, Spring Champion Stakes runner-up Lion’s Roar and Prague, who has joined the Annabel Neasham stable.
Neasham has also taken over the training of promising Aquis colt Mo’unga, who will make his first public appearance for her at Thursday’s trial session.
Trainer Shane Nichols will be taking his brother and sister combination to The Valley on Friday night of Streets Of Avalon and Orlando Grove chasing the feature races.
Nichols’s stable star six-year-old gelding Streets Of Avalon will run in the Group 2 $200,000 Australia Stakes and his younger three-year-old sister Orlando Grove will run in the $150,000 VOBIS Gold Carat (3YO), both over 1200 metres .
Both horses are by under-rated Victorian stallion Magnus out of the mare Kamuniak.
Nichols said Kamuniak was a small broodmare and wasn’t particularly athletic but knew how to throw a good foal.
Last February, Streets Of Avalon gave the Mornington trainer the highlight of his training career when he led throughout to win the Futurity Stakes.
In nine starts since he failed to win again in 2020 but Nichols knew that was a possibility when he won the Futurity Stakes.
“We got a race where we could dominate from the front which is what he wants and needs and everything went his way. Also no horse which ran in the Orr Stakes ran in the Futurity,” he said.
Nichols said Streets Of Avalon would run in one of the Orr Stakes or the Futurity Stakes next month at Caulfield.
“He’s the same product as last year but a little more inferior,” he said.
Nichols said Streets of Avalon would derive improvement from Friday nights race but expected him to run a big race.
He said he felt he was similar condition as to when he finished second first-up last July to Viridine in the Bletchingly Stakes which was his best effort for the spring.
Nichols said Viridine, who was a late nomination for the Australia Stakes, would be the main danger. Only six horses will run in the Australia Stakes.
He said he would give Streets Of Avalon a four or five run campaign as he had a busy time last spring.
Nichols said Orlando Grove was a nice filly who had a bright future.
At her second run she led throughout to win a maiden at Sandown Lakeside over 1200 metres but he felt she’s better off being ridden from off the speed.
He said if she ran well he would target stakes races later in the autumn.
One arguably goes best in the wet and the other is an unknown at the trip but Tracey Bartley remains optimistic about the chances of Moana Jewel and McCormack who head to Randwick.
Bartley acknowledged both horses would be facing individual tests but the astute Wyong trainer said he expected his stable stalwarts to perform well on Saturday.
Moana Jewel will tackle the Benchmark 72 over 1400 metres, while at his twenty-fifth appearance, McCormack will be stepping out to 1600 metres for the first time in a Benchmark 88.
Moana Jewel failed to worry the judge in three Spring assignments on dry tracks but the daughter of Ocean Park reinforced her credentials with a resounding win in the heavy going at Warwick Farm first-up.
“We hoped to have her right for the Tibbie Stakes at Newcastle last campaign but not much went right with her preparation and she never got there,” Bartley said.
“I was very happy with her win the other day and she was entitled to do that.”
Randwick is currently rated in the Good range but the Group-one winning trainer issued a warning that last year’s Provincial Championship runner-up could be just as effective on firmer tracks.
“She’s New Zealand bred and does like a bit of cushion but in saying that she’s also proven on top of the ground.”
“If she holds her form I think she’ll be terribly hard to beat,” he said.
McCormack will once again be pitted against exciting four-year-old All Time Legend and it will take a big performance to turn the tables but Bartley said it was the right time to test the horse out to a mile.
“We were hoping to get there last campaign but things didn’t work out and we gave him a break after the Cameron Handicap,” Bartley said.
McCormack ran fifth to All Time Legend when they last met on January 9th but Bartley indicated the son of Eurozone had come on well since that race.
“It wasn’t a bad run last start but he had the chance to lead that day and he probably should have,” Bartley said.
“He’s done really well since and I expect he’ll put in a good performance.”
McCormack is raced by the Phillips family who run Lee Carrow, a boutique pre-training and spelling farm near Inverell.
McCormack’s breeding suggests the five-year-old will have no issues stretching it out to 1600m.
His dam All Black Girl is an unraced sister to Gloaming Stakes winner All Black Gold, who is a half brother to Doomben Cup winner Mr Bureaucrat.
McCormack’s sire Eurozone celebrated his biggest winner last Saturday with Krone taking out the $1 million Gold Coast Magic Millions fillies and mares race.
Star Tasmanian mare Mystic Journey will begin her 2021 All-Star Mile campaign at Launceston tomorrow night and according to betting markets a win is close to a formality.
TAB fixed odds has Mystic Journey at $1.10 to win the 1200 metres, weight-for-age sprint.
Her trainer Adam Trinder is setting Mystic Journey for The All-Star Mile at The Valley on March 13.
Mystic Journey won the inaugural All-Star Mile in 2019 as a three-year-old filly.
Last year Trinder was also setting her for the race and he reflected it was a year ago when things started to go wrong for his star mare and they had to abandon that goal.
“She’s in great order. She’s fluent in her action and happy in herself,” Trinder said on Melbourne radio station RSN.
“I’m really pleased with her. She’s got a bit of nervous energy around the year and she’ll be happy to release that at the races,” he said.
“I just want her to have a run over 1200 metres, have a nice healthy blow, and continue to improve off it.”
Mystic Journey is a 111 rated mare with the second highest rater in the field Gee Gee Secondover at 95.
Top Victorian jockey Luke Currie will ride her and he is committed to her for the autumn campaign.
Trinder said he hoped to campaign Mystic Journey in Tasmania before heading to The Valley but her position in the All-Star Mile voting would determine what they do.
He said Mystic Journey would have her next run in the Thomas Lyons Stakes at Elwick on February 7 over 1400 metres.
After that if she wasn’t high up in the voting he said he would take her to the Futurity Stakes at Caulfield on February 24 but if she was she would run in the Vamos Stakes at Launceston on February 24.
Mystic Journey returned to form last spring with a win in the Stocks Stakes at The Valley and then an unlucky seventh in the Empire Rose Stakes.
Trinder is keen to get her to The All-Star Mile as she races well at The Valley circuit.