Mug Punting: Liston and Premiere Stakes Previews
After all the hype and drama of recent weeks, the moment has arrived for Australia's two most promising gallopers, Weekend Hussler and Light Fantastic, to face off in the Liston Stakes in what is likely to be the first of many enthralling contests over the course of the next few months. There is also a fair amount of quality in the support races at Caulfield and a small but select field of Sydney's best horses engaged in the Premiere Stakes.
Liston Stakes (Caulfield):
There has been a fair bit of verbal jousting this week between the respective camps of Weekend Hussler and Light Fantastic which has created some much needed theatre and intrigue for this year's running of the Liston Stakes. In one corner we have Weekend Hussler, who some may already consider a champion, who has been set an ambitious campaign to take all before him and re-write the history books by winning the Caulfield Cup & possibly Melbourne Cup, with the Cox Plate a potential bonus along the way. In the other corner is the undefeated Light Fantastic who improved at every start in his first campaign, culminating in a win against the nation's best 3 year olds in the Australian Guineas at Flemington, who is being aimed solely at Weight For Age glory in the Cox Plate.
There's no doubting that both will not be at their peak fitness for this assignment however, the trainers of both horses will have their respective stars tuned up sufficiently in order to test the waters and strike the first blow in what could be a series of upcoming duels.
When so much focus has been drawn around two horses, it can be easy to forget that there are some more than capable gallopers in the remainder of the field, who you could easily have an interest in following on the weekend at the better odds. Most notably amongst these is Kiwi import Alamosa who is a prolific winner in New Zealand and has transferred across to the Mick Price stables. His form in the shaky isles puts him right in contention here and he could be the one that slips under everyone's guard. One time Caulfield Cup favourite Maldivian is out to restore some dented pride after an injury plagued Autumn campaign. He'll no doubt benefit from the run but shouldn't be too far away.
With most of the field returning from spells, it's always worth throwing a fit horse into your calculations. Jungle Ruler is well and truly jumping in class by contesting this however, has never been in better form, should get conditions to suit and will be out in front making his own luck. Could give them something to catch.
Premiere Stakes (Rosehill):
Whilst disappointingly there are only 5 candidates contesting this weekend's Premiere Stakes, the race is certainly not devoid of quality with Group 1 winners and placegetters engaged. Mentality had a very indifferent Autumn campaign and will be looking to re-establish his pre eminence in the Sydney Weight For Age ranks. 1200 metres will be ideal at this stage of his campaign and he'll be tough to beat. Worth noting that Daren Beadman has come down for the ride.
Triple Honour's form last campaign was faultless in parts given he got within a nostril of beating Weekend Hussler and then took out the Group 1 Doncaster handicap over the Randwick mile. He sprinted well fresh last campaign and no reason why he can't do so again here. Reigning to Win is a quality youngster who is looking to take the next step this campaign and also Captain Bax lines up after his impressive Missile Stakes win. He's got the fitness edge on his rivals and could repeat the dose here.
The Good Oil:
Vivacious Spirit (Race 7 Caulfield) - Quality sprinting mare who ran a cracker first up last preparation behind Absolut Glam over the same track and distance and also gave Light Fantastic a run for his money later on in her campaign. Ideally suited under the set weights and penalties conditions where she only gets 53kgs.
Black Piranha (Race 3 Rosehill) - Thundered home first-up in slowly run 1200 metre race won by Test Edition and now ready to take on the 1500 metres. Very good horse on his day who'll appreciate the firm surface and could be going places as opposed to most of his rivals.
Bashful Girl (Race 5 Caulfield) - Mixed with the best of Melbourne's 3 year old fillies last preparation and was highly competitive. Possibly will be better for this run but she's weighted to run a big race fresh and good speed in front should see her running home late.
Ten of Hearts (Race 8 Rosehill) - Will be much fitter for first up run when beaten in blanket finish, the drop back to 1100 metres suits and should box seat from the inside draw. Will give you a big sight.
Under the Odds:
Royal Asscher (Race 7 Caulfield) - She didn't have the best of luck fresh however, when the run did present itself she didn't ping as expected and that field was infinitely weaker than what she meets here. D-Day for her on Saturday.
Reigning to Win (Race 4 Rosehill) - Does carry the tag of being a promising horse however, hasn't really established his black type credentials in top grade whereas Triple Honour and Mentality have.
What the Speed Maps tell us:
Race 8 Caulfield - Likely dawdling tempo up front, despite the big field, could make it tough for the backmarkers.
Race 7 Rosehill - First up flyer Hairy is drawn to get the perfect trail behind Goldam who should speed across from her outside barrier.