Racing week preview: Reputations need to be restored
A dearth of genuine weight-for-age gallopers will see no more than five contestants for the $500,000 Futurity Stakes (G1) at Caulfield on Saturday.
El Segundo, Weekend Hussler and Light Fantastic will be more than happy to escape the attention of their respective veterinarians to join Alamosa and Niconero at the mile start as they try desperately to restore careers, reputations and pride.
This time last year Weekend Hussler was flying. The son of Hussonet was basking in the glory of a crushing defeat of Magnus in the Oakleigh Plate and was getting ready to do the same in the Newmarket Handicap. Light Fantastic was unbeaten and sitting pretty as favourite for the Australian Guineas which he duly won. El Segundo was out injured. Alamosa had just secured his future as a stallion with a couple of Group 1 wins in New Zealand.
And Niconero, well he took on 11 rivals in the Futurity Stakes and blitzed them!
Twelve months is a long time in racing.
Weekend Hussler is suffering a severe case of the 'yips' and is completely off his game after a below par effort in the Australia Stakes. The only thing greyer than Light Fantastic is the faces of his supporters who all looked gravely ill after his recent fourth in the C F Orr Stakes. Trackers were called in to search for El Segundo and Niconero after they finished out of sight in the Orr. In fact the only bright light is Alamosa - his Orr second to Maldivian shaping as the best, if not only, form in the race.
Well, that's a snapshot of how it looks on paper but we know it rarely works out that way.
Weight-for-Age races can prove the most amazing of racing ordeals.
Where is the pace? Will Weekend Hussler be asked to be assertive, go forward, stack them up and then race away? Are we set for a game of cat and mouse as jockeys hold up their mounts and settle down for a mad dash home?
Who knows, but one thing is for sure, the Futurity Stakes on Saturday will be the making and breaking of more than one or two highly touted racehorses and I'll be there to see just who they are.
Victorian trainers Greg Eurell and Danny O'Brien are certainly proving to be among the most adventurous horsemen going around. O'Brien this week notched up a career highlight when Valedictum saluted in Dubai. On the other hand Eurell is doing something that gets the scribes in Sydney bristling with anticipation - he's taking unbeaten Mic Mac to Rosehill Gardens to take on Youthful Jack on his home track in the Hobartville Stakes. This is Sydney versus Melbourne rivalry at its best.
On Wednesday this week the Launceston Cup will be run at Mowbray on their beautiful new StrathAyr track. While Hobart Cup winner Gotta Keep Cool and second placed Zavite should prove hard to toss I think South Aussie Centurytwentyone will be right in the finish. Gotta Keep Cool will lose nothing in his change of rider - now Steven Arnold from Craig Williams (who has a full book at Betfair Park).
On Wednesday night at Happy Valley in Hong Kong there is a significant riding engagement as James Winks hops aboard his old mate Book of Kells in the Cheong Ming Handicap. They've enjoyed success together before - at Rosehill Gardens no less and with James's spirits high after winning at Group 1 level on Dim Sum on Sunday they should also be hard to beat.