Oaks Smoken Derbies
True Harness fans will have been able to piece together my title for this column.
It's hardly a groundbreaking, game-changing headline but, hey, I had a go.
What matters is who does what when it comes to this weekend's bumper card at Lord's Raceway in Bendigo.
The major Victorian racing season begins with a bang as we get a look at the classic-aged stars in the heats of the Victorian Oaks and Derby. We also see a very even bunch of horses contest the Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint as well as a Group 3 trotters race for the open-class square-gaiters.
As discussed with Adam Hamilton on Episode 1 of Harnessed - the Derby and Oaks heats will be tactically intriguing with so many of the entrants foreign to the extended 2650m staying trip.
On the podcast, we also talk about an incredibly even Smoken Up Sprint, which has been known to throw up a rough result with Rishi saluting last year at any old price.
We track down a few best bets, value plays and even a futures bet for those who like to try and beat the bookmakers.
Here is a preview of the major races at Bendigo this weekend.
Race 3 - Victoria Derby (1st Heat) For mine, the market is plain wrong in this one. American Dealer has been there and done that across in New Zealand (which is important and I'll explain why) and up in Queensland where he claimed the QLD Derby in a brilliant front-running display. Bondi Lockdown is favourite, which has me baffled, as he does not have a barrier advantage nor the form on the board to suggest he's a better winning chance here. Of the rest, a bunch could slot into the placings and qualify for the $200,000 Final. Go Dancing seems underrated from the Stewart/Tonkin yard, Narutac Prince is an emerging type for Team Aiken and Soho Bollinger is a horse who should thrive on the long trip with his bold and courageous style of racing.
Again, I'll reiterate I believe the market is wrong and American Dealer deserves to be top pick, so based on that he's my best of the night.
TIP - (11) American Dealer win $2.40 (All odds via Sportsbet)
Race 4 - Victoria Derby (Heat 2) Major Moth was superb last weekend at Kilmore, parking out and breaking a track record on a cold old evening. He draws well here but does seem to lack any gate speed so you'd imagine Damian Wilson will balance him up and allow him to stroll to the top. Kimble is a Group 1-winner and he possesses nice early toe. He could cross them here and hand to Major Moth. Yambukian is an improving fella with 4 wins from 5 career runs. His win last up from the breeze suggested he can be a player across this series.
Outside of those, it's hard to see many featuring prominently but something will run a drum at massive odds.
It's just the way Derby heats go.
TIP - (5) Kimble tiny win + strong place bet $17 & $2
Race 5 - Victoria Derby (Heat 3) Act Now was sublime beating American Dealer last week but he found the top, stacked them up and blitzed home in explosive fashion. Whether he can get to the top from gate nine remains to be seen. Sebs Choice has had early support and will be prominent, whilst Bettor Call Me is another for Matthew Craven with nice early speed and the ability to sit on a good horse's back. Drawn 12 and 13, Sugar Me and Patsbeachstorm are quality animals but both will be interesting to follow in the market. Both are easily good enough to qualify but from their alleys, both could easily miss out. My rough hope in the race is Rock N Roll Doo. He's a rangy type with massive scope. This series may have come up too soon for him but we knew very little about Line Up when he claimed a Victoria Derby not so many years ago.
TIP - (8) Rock N Roll Doo tiny win + place $41 & $6
Race 7 - TAB Smoken Up Sprint (Group 2) Max Delight returns from a decent Sydney campaign but has come up $2.40 here. You'd be mad to take that. Drawn side-by-side, Fourbigmen (2) and Torrid Saint (3) will both be desperate to hold a forward position and potentially hand to a Max Delight in the run. Out the back, Malcolms Rhythm and Tango Tara will both be looking for extreme early tempo and a back to follow for the last 800m of the event. In the scenario, either could bob up.
It's not a super strong Smoken Up but it's certain to be ultra-competitive.
TIP - (3) Torrid Saint win $5
Race 8 - Chris Howe Trotters Free-For-All (Group 3) A race in two could be a race in three with gallant mare Red Hot Tooth drawn the front and with a decided advantage over fancies Majestuoso and Pink Galahs. With 98 career runs and oh so close to half-a-million in the bank, Red Hot Tooth's very best would win this, even with blossoming stars like the aforementioned trotters stalking the pace.
The way Majestuoso won last start, giving Pink Galahs a beating suggests he's the one on a serious upward trajectory.
On Harnessed this week, co-host Adam Hamilton labelled the Team Gath 5YO as his best of the night. From there, Sleepee is the only other one I'd mention but she's been off the boil in her past couple.
TIP - (8) Majestuoso win $2.20
Race 9 - Victoria Oaks (Heat 1) Well well well. We have ourselves a contest here - and as far as I'm concerned a real genuine betting opportunity.
Emma Stewart put a boom on Beach Music in a recent media appearance and many have been wondering whether we'd get to see her challenge the top two fillies of this generation, Ladies In Red and Tough Tilly.
She gets a crack at Tough Tilly here with Tilly drawing awkwardly in 8 and Beach Music getting a beautiful leading marble (2).
Let's presume Beach Music leads easily and Tough Tilly is in the chair with a lap to go.
From there, it's even-steven as far as I'm concerned which means we need to look at the market and Sportsbet have Beach Music at $1.35 (madness) and Tough Tilly at $3.40 (very kind of them).
Tough Tilly is proven, classy, went amazingly-well first up and is - as the name suggests - Tough.
After the match race is sorted, it's anyone's opportunity to pinch 3rd and 4th and beyond to sneak into the Oaks Final next weekend.
TIP - (8) Tough Tilly win $3.40
Race 10 - Victoria Oaks (Heat 2) Save the horses their legs and give Ladies In Red the winners blanket.
Yes, she's a star and yes she'll win but racing is racing and you just never know. As mentioned on the podcast, both Adam and I are all over her to win the Oaks Final so this should be a walk in the park.
Joanna was monstrous at Kilmore, holding off stable mate Techys Angel and Treachery draws well whilst Don't Lie To Me is a decent exotics hope and Soho Broadway is Group 1-placed not too long ago.
TIP - Standout Trifecta (for a laugh) 5 beats 11 beats 1.
JOSH JENKINS' BEST BETS - BEST: R3 N11 American Dealer $2.40 VALUE: R4 N5 Kimble $17 ROUGHIE: R5 N8 Rock N Roll Doo $41 FUTURES: King of Swing to win Victoria Cup $2.20 (TAB)
ADAM HAMILTON'S BEST BETS - BEST: R8 N8 Majestuoso $2.20 VALUE: R7 N10 Malcolms Rhythm $12 ROUGHIE: R3 N2 Blitzern $18 FUTURES: Ladies In Red to win Victoria Oaks $2.10 (Ladbrokes)
Thanks for reading. Tune into Harnessed, Ep. 2 next week for the lead-up to the Victoria Cup, Oaks & Derby Finals - available on Apple Podcasts & Spotify.