Stakes Day Finale
The spring carnival has seen less spectators come through the gates across the entire week than what it would normally lure for Cup Day or Derby Day on its own.
But, considering what the world has been through, seeing up to 10,000 people flock to Flemington to dress up, have a drink and watch world class racing, it has seemed like the coming out party for the city of Melbourne.
I was among the fortunate few to get to Oaks Day on Thursday and enjoyed getting back to the track. Hopefully this time next year we see 100,000 fans packing out the racecourse.
But, before all that, we have one of my preferred race days to get through - Stakes Day.
We'll see Nature Strip, Zaaki, Colette, Warning, Superstorm and Mo'Unga strut their stuff with two mighty Group 1's and a handful of other Group and Listed events on the schedule.
Derby Day was cruel until Superstorm came to the rescue.
Verry Elleegant wiped me out in a Cup Day to forget.
Oaks Day was trending uglily as well until Willowy and Damien Oliver came to the rescue.
I'm feeling bullish about what Stakes Day has to offer!
Let's dig deep and pluck out three or four winners.
DARLEY SPRINT CLASSIC (1200m, Group 1, $2,000,000) It's rare you see a horse trialing for 2 million bucks but that's what NATURE STRIP faces here in the 2021 Darley Sprint Classic.
Now, that is a disrespectful statement to his opposition but the big chestnut is in rare air coming off a dominant win in The Everest against a far better group of rivals.
Here, he gets a plum barrier to jump, lead and dictate with most of his chief rivals likely to get back and need Nature Strip to beat himself to bring them into the contest.
STREETS OF AVALON (and a couple of others) may look to get up on speed alongside the favourite but none of them can sustain the speed he can over the six furlongs.
Nature Strip is $1.28 with Sportsbet and as stupid as this seems, he's value.
I'll be trying to make a quid from the exacta, putting SHAQUERO and BELLA NIPOTINA in for second. The mare is in excellent form and has been racing so consistently this spring.
Coming off a desperately unlucky Coolmore run, Shaquero goes around here and would be the one I like most to add some value to exotics in behind the champ.
TIP - NATURE STRIP (1) to win, from BELLA NIPOTINA (6) and SHAQUERO (8).
PARAMOUNT + MACKINNON STAKES (2000m, Group 1, $2,000,000) We have an absolute beauty here.
And I am taking on ZAAKI. Yes, the reason he missed the Cox Plate was just a mild temp which was incredibly annoying for connections but I am happy to back a few stars who are big in the market to upend Annabel Neasham's charge.
COLETTE was one I liked in the Empire Rose until the track dried out, but she proved she is way more than a duck with a powerful finishing burst thanks to a marvellous D. Oliver ride. She's in this and any rain would obviously help.
MO'UNGA was there or there abouts in the Cox Plate but was just not up with the top three, but his run was far from poor. He should relish the big Flemington track without being the hunted.
SUPERSTORM and CASCADIAN are two I am keen to play at odds after they ran the quinella in the Cantala. James McDonald scraped the paint with the Godolphin runner and almost nabbed the Group 1 but it was that man D Oliver who produced another peach to lift the West Aussie gelding over the line.
Both are currently $13 with Sportsbet, which is more than fair as far as I'm concerned.
On their day, you'd also consider DALASAN, KEAI NAUTIQUE and even HOMESMAN an unsurprising knockout hope. HUNGRY HEART will also run well but I doubt she can upend all these.
TIP - Split bets on COLETTE (9), SUPERSTORM (3) and CASCADIAN (2).
FLEMINGTON Race One: (5) HOSIER $2.20
Race Six: (1) NATURE STRIPE from (6) BELLA NIPOTINA, (8) SHAQUERO
Race Seven: (1) RANIER $10
Race Eight: (2) CASCADIAN $13, (3) SUPERSTORM $13, (9) COLETTE $4.80
MORPHETTVILLE Race One: (1) KEEP READING $2 Race Three: (2) ALL BANTER $2.70 Race Eight: (2) RENEGADE $18
Race Nine: (13) LADY DUNMORE $7.50
Enjoy the Cup Week finale... it's been a great re-opening to life as we used to know it!
Gamble very very responsibly!!