It’s the first weekend of February and the quality of racing increases at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday for 2019 Expressway Stakes Day.
Three races will be contested under black type conditions but all nine on Expressway Stakes Day have drawn quality fields and there is plenty of value to be found in betting for each.
The Group 3 Canonbury Stakes will officially open the card at 12:50pm AEDT, while the feature race will be run and won at 3:50pm.
Eight two-year-old colts and geldings have been confirmed in this year’s Canonbury Stakes field and of those horses, three are on debut.
The Peter & Paul Snowden-trained McLaren will be stepping out for the first time but has shown great ability at the trials and has opened the clear $1.75 favourite. On what he has mustered in those performances he is certainly the one to beat, but he is too short for me at that price and I am happy to watch with a view towards bigger targets.
The Widden Stakes always attracts a good field and typically produces a few live Golden Slipper chances. Four of the ten fillies confirmed this year are on debut including the Chris Waller-trained Licicello ($4.40), who has opened race favourite.
I’m happy to have something each-way on the John O’Shea-trained Intrepidacious ($5.50) at her current price, who is resuming after a short spell. The daughter of Shooting To Win has only had one career start so far, but she was a dominant winner at Canterbury on that occasion and has trialled well in the lead-up to this race. Tom Marquand can take her forward and she’ll give them something to chase.
This week’s Highway race will be contested over 1500m and twelve country horses remain in contention following a couple of early scratchings. It does look a pretty open field and at publish, we’re looking at $5 the field.
The John Bateman-trained Nicconita ($6) has already received notable interest in betting and with early luck from a wide draw, could be tough to beat. The son of Nicconi clearly needed the run when he tailed off to finish sixth in an 1100m sprint at Randwick first-up, but his two runs for third at Canterbury and Rosehill since have been good and he’s rock-hard fit for this assignment.
This looks like being one of the better contests on Expressway Stakes Day and there is a case to be made for more than half the field finding their way into the winner’s stall.
Ljungberg ($3.40) has been racing in terrific form this time and with improvement, can justify his favouritism in betting here. The I Am Invincible gelding was a smart first-up winner at Canterbury last month and repeated the result with a dominant, four-length victory at Randwick a fortnight later. His performance for second at Rosehill last time out was tough and he’ll enjoy the small step up in trip on Saturday.
Bucephalus ($8.50) will be having only his second career start in this race, but he was an impressive winner on debut and can continue his rise through the grades successfully on Saturday. The three-year-old mustered a smart turn of foot to win by a length two weeks ago and the rise in trip should also suit.
Plenty of value to be found in the fifth and two runners have could my eye at their current prices in the market.
Mapmaker ($10) is forever forgotten in betting and he looms as a live chance at each-way odds again this weekend. The Henrythenavigator gelding worked home well to finish third at long odds here last time out and he is rock-hard fit. He’ll make all his own luck on the pace and has the benefit of claiming apprentice Brock Ryan in the saddle.
The Team Snowden-trained Poetic Charmer ($7) is yet to finish worse than second through five starts this time and can fight out the finish again on Saturday. The Your Song gelding ran into the smart All Too Royal last time out, but ran him to a short head and can go one better here.
A small but excellent field of six has been confirmed for this year’s Expressway and there is a case to be made for each.
Reigning champion and three-time Group 1 winner Trapeze Artist ($4.20) has trialled in the lead-up to this race and should be tough to beat first-up again. The Snitzel entire progressed to wins in the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) and Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) after launching in this race last year and finished second in The Everest (1200m) most notably in spring.
Alizee ($1.85) is a Group 1 winner as well and resumed this time for an easy win in the Listed Christmas Classic (1200m) in late December and has had the benefit of a trial in the lead-up to tis. This race is a notable step up in class but she’ll carry only 56.5kgs.
Hartnell ($11), Le Romain ($4.20), Dothraki ($26) and Lanicato ($51) are all proven performers at the distance and class.
A few early scratchings in this race has left twelve horses in the field and I’m happy to be with the resuming race favourite Girl Tuesday ($3.60). Girl Tuesday has had four starts for as many wins and showed her best speed during the early stages of her debut preparation. She’s had the benefit of a couple of trials in the lead-up to this race and with luck from a potentially awkward barrier, she looks the one to beat again.
An open and capacity field for this Benchmark 78 handicap and a reasonably tough one to decipher from a betting perspective.
There has been money for a few horses already, but Island Missile ($6.50) looks like he’ll have conditions to suit and has been racing well this time in. The Smart Missile gelding has finished second at each of his three most-recent starts, including a race at this track and distance, but at a higher grade last time out. He is drawn to get a gun run from barrier 1 and can fight out the finish again at an each-way price.
A great has been taken for the last and subsequently, it’s a pretty tough slog for punters. Paret ($4), All Over Bosanova ($19), Maximus ($9.50), Jorda ($8), All Too Royal ($6.50), Aylmerton ($12), Performer ($7) and Ghostly ($11) are but a few of the horses with claims in this race, at great prices.
Chris Waller has always had an opinion of Performer and he has always looked like a horse that would improve with time. He hasn’t been seen at the races since finishing fourth in the Blue Sapphire in October but has trialled well and has the advantage of James McDonald in the saddle here. I’m happy to give him a chance first-up on Saturday, at his current price.