The rail is in the True position throughout and the surface is a Good 4, which is where it was at the last meeting on September 8. Most horses up or on the speed were advantaged, however, horses were able to make up ground from the rear and out wide. It was a definite improvement from the meeting prior, where you had to be in the first four or five to win.
A couple of obvious leaders in this with Ball Of Muscle (4) and Jungle Edge (3) noted frontrunners while Houtzen (2) has been known to fly the barriers and did lead last year’s Everest. Nature Strip can come out of the barriers but we doubt that he will cross those mentioned above.
1. Brave Smash – H.Bowman (58.5kg) (Barrier 10): $11*: A decent price about a horse that is rated amongst the best sprinters in the land. Brave Smash worked home nicely last start in The Shorts behind Ball Of Muscle and did a similar thing two starts back when appearing to have his chance to run that galloper down in The Heath at Caulfield. Is on track for the Everest and probably isn’t fully wound up yet but the weight-for-age conditions play into his hands here.
2. *SCRATCHED* Voodoo Lad – B.Rawiller (58.5kg) (Barrier 12): $12*: Flew home from near last in The Heath behind Ball Of Muscle despite giving the winner 1kg in weight. Meets him on level terms this time around but the barrier means he will more than likely be in the second half of the field again. Knocked off Home Of The Brave two starts back with that galloper going on to win the Theo Marks. Has a second to Vega Magic in the Bletchingly to his name. Has won twice at Moonee Valley and is definitely value at the double figures.
3. Ball Of Muscle – G.Schofield (58.5kg) (Barrier 4): $12*: Is low flying! Led throughout to win The Heath and The Shorts beating Brave Smash on both occasions and Voodoo Lad in the former. Will either lead or be thereabouts up front, possesses a high cruising speed and the 1000m suits him down to the ground. Schofield’s only ride for the night so he isn't going down for nothing. Isn’t as well served with the weights this time around but is still a big price or a horse chasing a hat-trick of wins.
6. Nature Strip – D.Lane (58.5kg) (Barrier 7): $2.20*: This is his biggest test to date and is short enough considering the level of opposition. Cannot deny the raps on this guy who has won eight of 11 starts and has secured a slot in the TAB Everest. Beat Houtzen in the Group 2 McEwen Stakes at this track on September 8, breaking the track record in the process, but didn’t have much of a margin on the line. Has to carry the same weight as some older, more proven gallopers which puts a bit of doubt in our minds. Highly unlikely to lead but can jump quickly so expect him to be close enough to them on the turn. He can run the times but is he the right price especially since this isn’t his Grand Final?
8. Houtzen – R.Maloney (56.5kg) (Barrier 2): $6.50*: Has returned in sensational style. The now four-year-old was one of the quickest fillies of her age but did taper off at the end of her prep last time. Was brilliant first-up, trailing Nature Strip all the way in the McEwen before diving at him right on the line to fail narrowly. Is unbeaten second-up and is drawn to get a gun run on the fence again. Is yet to miss a place in three Valley runs.
Voodoo Lad ($12*) *SCRATCHED*
Nature Strip ($2.20*)
Ball Of Muscle ($11*)
We have to play around the favourite here simply because there are a few tiny questions marks on him at this stage of the preparation.
I like Voodoo Lad at the each way quote while you can also be enticed to have something on Ball Of Muscle, Brave Smash and Houtzen, but hey, you can’t take them all.
60% of the bank on *SCRATCHED* Voodoo Lad each way ($12/$3.20*)
20% of the bank on Houtzen to win ($6.50*)
20% of the bank on Ball Of Muscle to win ($12*)