Gary Crispe has a topical tip today with the emerging Peter Moody-trained sprinter Golden Archer as he contests the time honoured Aurie's Star Handicap at Flemington.
The Aurie's Star Handicap generally serves as a starting point for major Spring Cup hopefuls and today's race sees Midas Touch and Seville begin that journey.
While I am not expecting either of them to be a threat, many punters will be keeping a watchful eye on how they perform, especially as early Cups betting has just begun this week following the release of first nominations last Tuesday.
However, the horse I will be watching is Golden Archer, a talented young sprinter which looks set to cement his position in the sprinting ranks this spring. The chestnut raced seven times as a juvenile and although generally regarded as being in the 'second tier' of that age group, form that now stands up to rigorous scrutiny through efforts against Sepoy, Hot Spin and others.
Golden Archer suffered an injury after just three runs early in his three-year-old career that necessitated almost a year away from the racetrack, but again the form around those runs looks quite strong by today's standard. For example, first-up he ran second to champion colt Sepoy in the Vain Stakes, then led throughout to win the McNeil Stakes at Caulfield before going amiss in the Guineas Prelude behind Helmet. That form earned Golden Archer a Timeform rating of 117.
Moody has nursed Golden Archer back to the racetrack bigger and better than ever, as evidenced by his fresh-up win at Flemington three weeks back over 1000m. Clearly in need of the run after a 301-day break, rider Luke Nolen held Golden Archer up early, racing off a fast tempo until produced at the 200m mark where his superior acceleration quickly saw him put the race beyond doubt, winning with something in hand and running to a new master Timeform rating of 119p.
That run will have improved Golden Archer again. On weight-adjusted Timeform ratings, he is clearly the horse to beat and brings an adjusted rating to the race that would have easily won four of the last five renewals. The main dangers look to be the consistent Zamorar and former Hong Kong-based Group 1 winning sprinter Greed Birdie.
Zamorar has raced seven times this preparation, winning twice and getting into the frame on every occasion. His last three runs have all been in Stakes company, and last time, on his toughtest assignment, he finished a close second to the Moody-trained Ready To Rip in the G3 Bletchingly Stakes at Caulfield (with Green Birdie fourth).
The one concern I have about Zamorar is his ability to make another step in his Timeform ratings to trouble Golden Archer and get close to the five year winning weight-adjusted required to take out the Aurie's Star. Right now he has about five pounds to find on both counts and, given he has been up since early February this year, there may not be that much scope for improvement in his ratings profile.
Green Birdie has now raced twice since being transferred back to Australia to race and although his sprint record abroad reads very well for a race such as this, I will be looking for confirmation that he has regained something like his old form and ratings. Green Birdie ran to a Timeform rating of 121 when winning the 2010 G1 Krisflyer in Singapore and around that same figure in other feature Group 1 sprints overseas, but he is currently rating several pounds below that level.
On his first run in Australia, coming off a 216-day break, Green Birdie looked a shade unlucky when seventh to Platelet in the Sir John Monash Stakes over 1100m at Caulfield. However, he failed to produce what many had anticipated in the G3 Bletchingly Stakes, finishing fourth behind Ready To Rip, having been heavily backed.
I was not too disappointed with that effort. As an older horse now he will take longer to find form, and even as a nine-year-old still represents class in this line-up. I note trainer Tony Vasil will fit blinkers, obviously in an effort to entice the veteran to focus. That switch combined with extra fitness does keep him under consideration.
Trainer Pat Hyland's recent good run with his stable will be put to the test here when he presents up and coming restricted galloper Shanghai Warrior. A slow-maturing type, he looked like a definite improver last time out, easily accounting for a three-year-old sprinting line-up down the Flemington 1100m. That was his second run back from a spell and he too will strip much fitter for this assignment. Shanghai Warrior, a lightly-raced type which has won four of his eight races to date, has more upside and must be kept safe.
Past renewals of the Aurie's Star have always been a solid overall form reference for the Spring and the dynamics of this race should see that trend continue.
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In the meantime, Golden Archer looks set to extend his unbeaten straight track record at Flemington from three to four victories.