We have glorious Grand Circuit racing Lord's Raceway, Bendigo this weekend with the Group 1 $300,000 Victoria Cup.
In an almighty night of Harness racing action, we also have the Victoria Derby and Victoria Oaks as well as the Bill Collins Trotters Sprint in a jam-packed evening.
Due to the current situation surrounding Melbourne, Bendigo plays host to this mammoth night, just as it did last week with an excellent night of heat racing as well as the Smoken Up Sprint.
On episode one of HARNESSED, Adam Hamilton helped preview the heats of the Oaks and Derby as well as the Smoken Up Sprint. He produced THE GOODS on the betting front with his best bet - Majestuoso - saluting at $2.30 and his best roughie bobbing up at $21 with Blitzern taking out the opening Derby heat. Safe to say Adam was happy with his own work - and rightfully so.
On this week's edition of HARNESSED New Zealand Herald racing editor Michael Guerin joins the podcast with his say on the big group 1 races as well as the big issues in Harness.
With so many intriguing clashes set down for battle - lets delve deep into the Group 1's.
Victoria Oaks (Group 1, 2650m $150,000)
The showdown is set.
Ladies In Red is the champion two-year-old filly but has to deal with gate 10, as well as the new star filly on the block, Beach Music. Beach Music gets the cushy alley (3) and should stroll to the top whilst Ladies In Red will need to overcome the back row draw.
From there it's a case of how easy Beach Music gets it in front versus how hard Ladies In Red is forced to work to get up onto the speed. Aside from the big two, perhaps Joanna is the only other winning hope unless something miraculous and unpredictable happens.
Although unlikely, it's worth mentioning these fillies are both owned by Lauriston Bloodstock, so it would not fully surprise me to see Beach Music hand up to the stable mate to ensure the horses collect the winners and runners-up cheques. The likely map, though, is Beach Music in front with Ladies In Red in the chair with Joanna in the 1-1 and from there it's hard to see anything else running top three.
Should there be an absolute blowout maybe Dancing Finn could cause an upset from her easy run and could add value to exotics, as she did last week running third.
All in all, you've just got to decide on this – are you with the proven filly or the newbie with the favourable gate?
I'll take the proven commodity and be happily proven wrong.
TIP – Ladies In Red to win $2.
Victoria Derby (Group 1, 2650m, $200,000)
Whilst the Oaks is a race seemingly in two, this Derby is far less certain.
Act Now is a demon in the lead and he is drawn to do exactly that from gate three. He will however need to overcome American Dealer early who is drawn to his immediate inside. American Dealer has been beaten twice this time in but has been excellent on both occasions and one gets the feeling he will produce his best run yet in the Derby.
Another of the Emma Stewart runners, Major Moth, will have to overcome the outside front row barrier but the stable has said he may well be a better horse coming from off the speed – so watch out for him late if the speed is on.
Bondi Lockdown was brilliant last week but enjoyed a torrid run and he'll have to overcome another Paul barrier to be winning this. You just have to wonder whether he's got another big run in him after a big Queensland winter campaign and last weeks ruling clash.
Of the rest, Bettor Eclipse went super for Team Sugars/Tubbs whilst Rock N Roll Doo was ducking and diving up the lane looking for clear air, when running third.
American Dealer and Act Now are clearly the top two but how much will they take out of each other at the beginning – and will they set it up for a swooper?
TIP – American Dealer to win $3.50
Bill Collins Trotters Sprint (Group 1, 1650m, $50,000)
Majestuoso is now proven as a superstar - or at least a superstar in the making. He has coupled his acceleration with toughness and tactical prowess this campaign. With Kate Gath in the bike, the favourite - who is very short - should be leading with Pink Galahs in the trail. The mighty filly is perhaps racing just below her very very best. She's been admirable but I thought she'd have almost beaten the favourite based on last weeks trip in transit.
She'll be keen to hold up and hand to the appropriate horse - which may or may not be Majestuoso - to ensure she gets a crack in the spring line and to show her off her immense acceleration.
The other chance at each way odds is I'm Ready Jet. She's a strong striding mare and her best is very very good but her worst can break your heart. Her intent off the arm will be most interesting and may give us a good indication of her chances.
Sleepee is the other each way chance but from three back on the fence she will need serious luck. Over the mile on a track where it's hugely advantageous to be on the pegs I like the trifecta of Majestuoso, Pink Galahs and Sleepee with Majestuoso stood out to win.
TIP – I'm Ready Jet each way $10 and Trifecta 3 beats 1 and 8 from 1 and 8.
Victoria Cup (Group 1, 2150m, $300,000) The king is here but they are just not going to give him this race.
He's easily the best horse in the race and his best nothing here can really touch him.
But he's second up and will need to overcome the extreme back row alley. His best just beats these and any fears about him working in his races and not leading were allayed in Queensland when he worked triple time in the Sunshine Sprint and Blacks A Fake and performed incredibly well - albeit beaten on both occasions.
Amazing Dream is an amazing mare. She beats the boys but gets beaten by the girls. When she is forced to do the grunt work they beat her but she will follow any speed and I think she appreciates the more genuine tempo that the Group 1 open class races have.
Mach Dan is a horse I backed at massive horses so if he wins, I might take a holiday (when we're allowed). Of the others, Torrid Saint, yes Torrid Saint, can run a race from the pole and Triple Eight has been performing well without winning out of turn.
The king is here and I was with the king however Amazing Mare's trainer Nathan Purdon is talking incredibly tough about his mare leading and winning - and we all know how good a judge the Purdon's are.
TIP - Amazing Dream to win $4 and Mach Dan each way (I took $41 and $8 😬)
JOSH JENKINS' BEST BETS; BEST: R3 Soho Dow Jones each way $8 VALUE: I'm Ready Jet $10 ROUGHIE: Tuppence $81 / Dancing Finn $101 FUTURES: Sundees Son in the Dominion Trot $1.80, Bad To The Bone in the NZ Cup $41.
MICHAEL GUERIN'S BEST BETS: BEST: Mufasa Metro $4 / American Dealer $3.40 VALUE: Triple Eight (more so the place) $2.25