The Inglis Dash and the Kensington Stakes are the two highlights on today’s nine-race card at Flemington.
Three-year-old Nature Strip looks to hold a mortgage on the Dash under the set-weight conditions of the race down the 1000m straight. He has won impressively at three of his four starts and will be having his first start for new trainer Robert Hickmott.
Hickmott, who is famous for his Melbourne Cup wins for leviathan owner Lloyd Williams, is now training under his own steam after departing from his long time position with Williams following a quinella in the 2017 Melbourne Cup.
Fortunately the weather bureau is forecasting a cool change on Saturday with a maximum of just 28C, after sweltering heat during the week in Melbourne. The track is rated as a Good 4 and the false rail will be out to nine metres.
QUADDIES (races 6,7,8,9)
Skinny Play: 6,13 – 4 – 8 – 3,10
Wide Play: 3,6,11,13 – 2,4 – 1,4,8 – 3,8,10,12
BEST BET: R2 – 8. LAST WEEK
Next Best Bet: R4 – 2. ADDISON
Best Roughie: R9 – 6. CURRAGH
No8 WILLI WILLI scored two tenacious wins at Flemington and Bendigo this campaign. Last start was left flat footed at the gates but rallied to run a closing sixth over 1400m here on January 1. He was backed from $6 into $4.80 that day and carried 58.5kg. He carries 55.5kg today.
No6 ROYAL ACE was a fighting winner over 1600m at Ballarat three starts ago. Last start charged home out wide to narrowly miss the major prize over 1600m at Caulfield on January 7. The winner of five of his 14 starts gets leading stable rider John Allen to steer from gate two. Serious chance.
No4 GUIZOT was an easy winner over 1600m at Pakenham three starts ago. Last start he ran a close third over 1600m at Sandown on December 30. He loomed as a serious threat but just peaked on the run as a $4 favourite. He drops 3kg to 57kg today and gets top rider Damian Lane to guide.
No11 MUTAREKEM has been in blistering form at Sandown, stringing together successive wins. Latest he rattled home to score a narrow but strong win over 1800m on January 10. Damien Oliver is replaced with Michael Walker and he drops 2.5kg to the limit on 54kg for his debut at this track.
VALUE RUNNER: No11 MUTAREKEM
No8 LAST WEEK (BEST BET) is a British-bred import who looks to be right out to his favourite distance here. He challenged the winner Civil Disobedience strongly over 2000m here on January 1 but could not get past. Premier trainer Darren Weir has booked top apprentice Ben Allen to ride but he has no claim and the horse will carry his listed weight on 54kg. That is a drop of 3.5kg on his last start. Hard to beat.
No5 BINT EL BEDU has netted two wins from past five starts and is hard and ready to go.
No3 GOODWOOD ZODIAC was a $4.40 favourite and punters got a run for their money when narrowly beaten latest.
No2 AL HARAM is a French import who look now ready to show his best form and would keep safe in the exotics.
VALUE RUNNER: No2 AL HARAM
No1 CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE gave leading trainer Darren Weir a quinella when he staved off a strong challenge from Last Week to post a narrow and courageous win over 2000m here on January 1. The three-year-old is back against his own age but pays the penalty going up 5.5kg to top weight on 60kg
No2 CAVALERO has won at two of his past three starts and at his other start he ran a top third. Last start he fought hard to beat Krusty over 1700m here on January 1. He was at the rank odds of $41 that day, but will be far trimmer today with bookmakers. Nikita Beriman stays on top.
No5 CHAIN OF FOOLS gets a critical gear change with the addition of blinkers for the first time. The Sydney galloper made a raid at Hobart where he ran a strong fourth in the Tasmanian Guineas (1600m) on January 12. He is on the quick back up but has Beau Mertens riding on 56kg today.
No7 ALMIGHTY CROWN is another Sydney galloper who scored for top trainer Chris Waller at his last Victorian start over 1968m in a maiden at Yarra Valley on January 9. Michael Walker keeps the ride for his rise in class today and he does drop 1.5kg to 55.5kg for his debut at Flemington.
VALUE RUNNER: No7 ALMIGHTY CROWN
No2 ADDISON (NEXT BEST BET) she is a brilliant mare amassing a record of three wins and a second at her only five starts. She was a fighting winner two starts ago at Caulfield before narrowly going down to Shenandoah over 1800m at the same track on January 7. Top jockey Damien Oliver replaces stable-rider Regan Bayliss today and she carries the same weight on 57kg and is well drawn in seven.
No3 SHENANDOAH seeking to exact another defeat on Addison after winning narrowly last start, but she meets her 2kg worse on 57kg.
No4 BONUS D’ORO chased hard to just fall short last time at Caulfield in the same company. Drops a half-kilo to 56kg.
No1 ROYAL APPLAUSE had her party ruined when ran a narrow fourth, after claiming a hat-trick.
VALUE RUNNER: No1 ROYAL APPLAUSE
No3 SOHOOL had to dig deep to get over the top of Runson in a dueling finish over 1300m at Sandown on January 10. Apprentice Jordan Turner keeps the ride and the stallion will carry 59kg with Turner’s 1.5kg claim. Has yet to finish further back than fourth at three starts this prep.
No12 TAN TAT TRUSTING is a four-year-old who has won and been placed third at his three starts for top trainer Tony McEvoy. Last start he ran on well to the line but was outmuscled finishing a close fifth over 1600m at Sandown on January 3. He gets top rider Craig Williams to pilot and drops 3kg to 56.5kg.
No9 HUSSY’S GLOW finished powerfully to post a strong win over 1400m at Echuca on December 31. Was steady in the betting at $4.80- that day and again gets the in-form apprentice Tahlia Hope to ride. Her 3kg claim helps alleviate the weight down to a more comfortable 56kg.
No6 KRUSTY was a strong effort to run a close second to Cavalero over 1700m here on January 1. He gets Mitchell Aitken’s 3kg claim to reduce his impost to 56.5kg today. Another important change is that he will wear blinkers for the first time. Can go on with the work here.
VALUE RUNNER: No9 HUSSY’S GLOW
No6 HANDSOME THIEF can oblige favourite backers by bouncing back here. Was a heavily backed $2.90 favourite when finishing third to Nasdex over 1100m at Caulfield on January 7. The Irish bred galloper gets top jockey Craig Williams to steer and will be charging home late.
No13 JUST HIFALUTIN has won at Geelong and Moonee Valley this campaign. Last start she ran a top second to the highly fancied Wise Hero over 1400m here on January 1. With 1.5kg claim of leading apprentice Ben Thompson she will carry only 53kg – a drop of 4.5kg on her last start.
No3 MURPHY’S REWARD has been in stellar form at two starts back from a spell with a win and a last start close seconds to Nasdex over 1100m at Caulfield on January 7. Gets the emerging apprentice Stephanie Thornton to ride and her 3kg claim reduces his impost down to 56.5kg.
No5 LEODORO with the 2kg claim of apprentice Ethan Brown will carry a more comfortable 56.5kg and has a good gate in four. Last start was five deep and finished strongly to run a 1.3 length fourth to Masdex over 1100m at Caulfield on January 7. Drops 2kg on his last start and that is a bonus for this race.
VALUE RUNNER: No5 LEODORO
No4 NATURE STRIP has won and been placed second at his four starts. He appears well suited under the setweight conditions against his own age group here. Last start he was a $1.55 favourite and won with a leg in the air by 5.5 lengths over 1000m at Sandown on January 10. Down 4.5kg today to 56kg.
No2 ONEHUNDRED PERCENT has won at three of his four starts and at his other start ran third. He was an easy $4.20 favourite when scoring a narrow win over Prevailing Winds over 1100m at Caulfield last start on January 7. He drops 2kg to 56.5kg under the setweight conditions.
No3 PREZADO is returning from a 10-week spell and has a solid first-up record. Last start he coasted to an easy win over 1000m here on November 7. He defied a big betting drift out to $20 that day and drawn in gate nine should head to the outside fence for this chased down the straight 1100m.
No12 SEE ME EXCEED made a fantastic debut with a smart win over 1000m maiden at Bairnsdale on August 10. She then ran a strong fourth to Onehundred Percent over 1100m at Caulfield on December 26. She gets a 2kg allowance on the males and is on the limit on 54kg today.
VALUE RUNNER: No12 SEE ME EXCEED
No8 ITZ INVINCIBLE Has finished inside the money at 11 of his 14 starts. Comes to Melbourne with a last-start 1.5 length win over 1000m at Morphettville on December 16. Leading Adelaide jockey Paul Gatt travels across to ride today and he is down 2.5kg to the limit on 54kg. Strong chance.
No5 THERMAL CURRENT has the addition of blinkers for today’s engagement. He has been most honest with a last-start third to Ken’s Dream over 1000m here on January 13. Top jockey Craig Williams replaces a 2kg claiming apprentice and he drops 2.5kg to 55.5kg today.
No1 FLAMBERGE is now racing in the stables of Ellerton and Zahra after being transferred from the yard of Darren Weir. This is his first start for 36 weeks. He was last seen in public when winning a trial by 1 length win over 900m at St Arnaud on July 4. Ace rider Damian Lane is the new rider.
No4 SARACINO was given a long spell after finishing last of 12 in the Group 2 Bobby Lewis (1200m) here in September. He was a Group 2 winner at home in New Zealand and is Group 1 placed. Top jockey Damien Oliver is back on board and has a good record when racing fresh of a win and a second at four starts.
LUE RUNNER: No4 SARACINO
No3 WISE HERO has looked impressive and claimed a smart 1.25 length win over 1400m here on January 1. That was his first start at this track and he gets the in-form apprentice Stephanie Thornton to ride. Her 3kg claim drops his weight to a comfortable 56kg – which is half a kilo less than last start.
No12 THE AVENGER kept on digging deep when scoring a narrow but hard fought win over 1400m at Caulfield on January 7. The Sydney trained four-year-old has the good record of seven starts for three wins and two seconds. Damien Oliver again rides and he has drawn well in gate four.
No10 MALAISE is one of the team from the formidable Godolphin racing and comes here from strong but close win over 1400m at Randwick on January 6. Top Victorian jockey Damian Lane replaces Tye Angland and he drops a kilo to 56kg today. He ran second at his sole start at this track.
No6 CURRAGH (BEST ROUGHIE) has shown plenty of potential with a record of four wins and four placings at 16 starts. He is first-up off a 29-week spell here, but he has an outstanding record when racing fresh of four starts for three wins. Hails from an astute betting stable and suggest to watch the market.
VALUE RUNNER: No6 CURRAGH