Australia Day Weekend Races Preview & Tips

We are set for a big day of racing at Caulfield on Saturday, highlighted by three black type features. This is the first opportunity that we’ll get to see several juveniles set for the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) in February, while the Listed John Dillon Stakes (1400m) will also be run and won. The rail will be out 6 metres around the entire course on Saturday and at the time of publication, Caulfield is showing a ‘Good 3’ rating.

Cape Grim Beef Plate (2000m)
No. 4 Sayed (Each Way)

An open field of eleven will contest the first race at Caulfield on Saturday and we are set for a thrilling contest. Darren Weir will saddle three runners in the Cape Grim Beef Plate (2000m), but the consistent Night’s Watch looms as his best chance of winning the race. The Redwood gelding son two of his five starts during a spring and summer preparation and has received a freshen-up since his last-start fourth in the Werribee Cup (2000m) on December 10th. With only 54kgs in tow, Night’s Watch can finish over the top of his rivals. Sayed is sure to have taken plenty of benefit from his first-up run for third in the Seascay Handicap (1700m) on January 13th and will enjoy a step up in trip. The Stormy Atlantic gelding has been a strong and consistent performer throughout much of his fifteen-start career and will roll forward from gate 7.

Listed Blue Diamond Preview C&G (1000m)
No. 1 Run Naan

Eight colts and geldings will step out in the first of two Blue Diamond Preview races and there appears to be several winning chances. Run Naan is one of several exciting juvenile prospects for Tony McEvoy this season and the colt will make his third career appearance in the Blue Diamond Preview. Flying home to win the Race Services Maiden (1000m) at Bendigo on October 21st, the Makfi colt was only considered an outside chance upon stepping into black type company on Stakes Day, but produced another big turn of foot to win the Group 3 Maribyrnong Plate (1000m). The horse has reportedly taken plenty of benefit from his time away from racing and will have plenty of options on Saturday from the rails draw. Long Leaf is another horse seeking a third-consecutive win in the Blue Diamond Preview and he will jump from barrier 6 with champion hoop Damien Oliver in the saddle. The Fastnet Rock colt ha taken up the running in each of his two career starts so far and dug deep to win on both occasions, including the Listed Merson Cooper Stakes (1000m) on November 18th. As is the case with all two-year-old races, this is a difficult race to analyse from a betting perspective but I am happy to back Run Naan once more.

Group 3 Blue Diamond Preview F (1000m)
No Bet

Ten fillies will contest the second Blue Diamond Preview race following the early scratching of Secret Lady. Of the ten fillies, only three have exposed form and this is subsequently an even tougher race to analyse effectively. Oohood is another exciting prospect for Tony McEvoy and at the time of publication, she remains the $3.30 favourite. Oohood debuted for a close second behind Long Leaf in the Merson Cooper Stakes and will have taken benefit from the experience. Trainer Aaron Purcell elected to scratch Inindeed from an easier race earlier in the week and that could suggest that he is confident in her chances here. The Choisir filly has attracted some interest in early betting, but is still available at long odds. There’s plenty of value for every runner, but I’d prefer to watch on this occasion.

Blue Diamond Gala Dinner Plate (1100m)
No. 3 Smart Coupe

Smart Coupe been a strong performer through her short but impressive racing career so far and with even luck in running, will be difficult to beat in the fourth at Caulfield. The Smart Missile filly won each of her first two career starts with complete ease and has finished third in each of her two most-recent starts, including the Group 3 Kennedy Plate (1100m) on November 9th. She has reportedly taken benefit from her time away from racing and this is a genuine drop in class from her last run. Holy Seal has been racing well this time and looms as a live chance. The I Am Invincible filly won over 1000m at Sandown first-up before finishing second, albeit nearly six lengths off the pace of Nature Strip in the United Petroleum BM70 (1000m) last time out.

Benchmark 70 Handicap (1400m)
Notio (Each Way)

There’s several winning chances in the BM70 set to run at Caulfield on Saturday, but I’m leaning towards the Team Hawkes-trained Notio. Notio missed a place only once through his six winter and spring starts in 2017 and resumed for a pleasing third in the Le Pine Funerals BM70 (1300m) at Sandown on January 10th. With the natural improvement from that run, the Duporth should be able to slot in just behind the pace from gate 6 and will be tough to hold out. You can take $6 for the horse at the time of publish, but it would not surprise to see the quote firm in. Epic Moment ($3.30) tired late to finish sixth over 1200m at Caulfield last time and there is therefore a concern at the distance, but he has plenty of class and that could count for a lot here. Top Of The Range ($5.50) has not been seen at the races since June, but he performed well at a higher grade last time and was last seen running fourth in the Group 2 Queensland Guineas (1600m).

Michael McMahon Plate (1400m)
No. 4 Sharing

Nine fillies and mares will step out in Race 6 and it is looming as one of the more exciting contests at Caulfield on Saturday. Sharing has built to the task in impressive fashion this time and will be extremely difficult to beat in this race. The Henny Hughes mare resumed for fifth amongst classy company at Moonee Valley on December 8th and has since finished third in the Nouvelle Star Handicap (1400m) And won the Tauto Handicap (1400m) at Flemington. Enver Jusufovic’s horses are absolutely flying and I am happy to ride the wave again with Sharing here. Diapason turned in a smart performance to finish fourth behind Sharing in the Tauto Handicap and with improvement, can be right in the finish again.

Benchmark 78 Handicap (1400m)
No. 4 Cao Cao

A field of eight has been taken for the seventh and it looms as another very open betting race. Godolphin gelding Barbeque has returned to racing in smart form this time and should be ready to peak third-up here. The son of Helmet was an easy winner at Wyong first-up on December 21st, before a credible performance for third at Randwick on January 6th. This race a slight step up in class, but the three-year-old is as good as anything here and can go on with the job. Cao Cao is an interesting runner and is worth consideration ahead of what is also his third-up target. The Fastnet Rock gelding was impressive at the beginning of his career and while he hasn’t really gone on with the job, he finds himself in a very winnable race here. The step up to 1400m is ideal and he should be able to find a far better position in transit in this small field, having been caught wide last time out.

Listed John Dillon Stakes (1400m)
No. 7 Chamois Road (Each Way)

The John Dillon Stakes has drawn a typically talented field and there is winning potential across the board. Dollar For Dollar was a little flat when he failed to justify favouritism and finished third behind Burning Front and fellow John Dillon Stakes acceptor Chamois Road in the Listed Chester Manifold Stakes (1400m) a fortnight ago, but his form was faultless prior and won four-consecutive races, including the Group 3 Chandler Macleod Stakes (1500m). Chamois Road has found career-best form this time and can claim a maiden black type win in the John Dillon Stakes. The Choisir gelding flew home to finish third in the Group 3 Standish Handicap (1200m) on New Year’s Day and emulated that performance for second in the Chester Manifold last time out. There is no Burning Front in this field and Chamois Road is over the odds at his current quote.

Open Handicap (1700m)
No. 6 Widgee Turf

The final race at Caulfield on Saturday will be contested by only nine horses, following the early scratching of Liapari. Widgee Turf ($2.70) has also accepted into the field for the Vobis Gold Star (1500m) at Moonee Valley on Friday, but if trainer Patrick Payne elects to saddle the horse in this race, he should simply prove too good. The Turffontein gelding has posted three wins from as many starts this time and is drawn ideally on the rails here. A horse that is over the odds here is Berisha, who is currently available at a long $26 quote, or $5 to place. Berisha is a horse that will be better over further, but I like that Robert Hickmott is electing to kick off his campaign at 1700m and he’ll enjoy a good run in transit from barrier 5. I’ll be backing Widgee Turf if he is a starter in this race, but likely staying out if he is not.