Timeform's Gary Crispe is anticipating a fine return when Black Caviar's half-brother All Too Hard runs in today's G3 San Domenico Stakes.
The San Domenico Stakes, now run over 1100m at Rosehill, generally signals the return to racing of many of the previous season's classier juveniles, and this renewal has certainly done that.
A small field will contest the feature and All Too Hard is joined by Golden Slipper Stakes runner-up Snitzerland, Magic Millions winner Driefontein, and the lightly-raced improver Ninth Legion.
A brief look at the history of the race reveals that eleven of the last eighteen renewals were won by horses that contested the Golden Slipper Stakes the previous Autumn, however, All Too Hard, a latecomer to the juvenile scene, was not entered for the Slipper and went straight to the G1 ATC Sires' Produce Stakes.
All Too Hard has not raced since running a gallant second in the Sires' Produce Stakes behind unbeaten colt Pierro and has been handed no favours today, having to carry a three kilo penalty under the set weights and penalties conditions of the race because of his two G3 victories.
He ended his juvenile career with a Timeform rating of 121p, racing four times for three wins and finishing second to Pierro on the other occasion.
Black Caviar's half-brother had bolted in on debut down the Flemington straight 1100m before demolishing the G2 VRC Sires' Produce Stakes field over 1400m on the same course. For a fleeting moment, connections set their sights on a possible Golden Slipper Stakes run and seriously considered the significant late entry fee for the colt after he easily accounted for a handy line-up in the G2 Pago Pago Stakes over 1200m at Rosehill.
However, John Hawkes, who trains All Too Hard in partnership with his sons Michael and Wayne, is very experienced at nurturing young horses with an eye to the future, something he has done with past champions like Octagonal and Lonhro. So it was no surprise that the colt bypassed the Slipper, instead having a 'throw at the G1 stumps' in the 'softer' ATC Sires' Produce Stakes, before having a well-earned break and taking some time to mature.
All Too Hard achieved plenty in his maiden campaign and I am expecting this colt to have improved significantly in preparation for the Spring, the G1 Golden Rose being his immediate target in a few weeks time. 'Team Hawkes' gave the colt a 'hit out' in a 900m Rosehill barrier trial, where he just failed to catch Snitzerland but went to the line under double wraps.
Today he faces two speedy fillies that will make him work hard with his big weight, and he is almost certainly going to be conceding them weight and a start from the home turn. He will be a bit 'rusty' fitness wise, but so will be his main opponents, which also resume from spells. In his favour is his electric turn of foot where he can gather in good horses very quickly, much like his much admired big sister Black Caviar. All Too Hard will have to run better than a Timeform rating of 121 if the fillies run to form, but class often prevails and I am expecting that to be the case again.
An interesting statistic that favours the fillies in the San Domenico Stakes reveals that five of the last ten renewals have been won by fillies. Naturally, connections of Snitzerland and Driefontein will be buoyed by that statistic, and there is little doubt that Snitzerland is primed to race well fresh-up.
The Gerald Ryan-trained filly just held out All Too Hard in a recent barrier trial but has not raced since being caught close to the post by Pierro in the G1 Golden Slipper Stakes in early April. The filly has won two of her five race starts and is proven fresh-up, having won in that state last preparation.
Snitzerland carries a two kilo penalty for her G3 victory at Flemington but, interestingly, Ryan has elected to remove the blinkers this afternoon, a gear change that was attributed to her excellent run in the Golden Slipper Stakes. Instead she will just carry winkers. Clearly Ryan is hoping that she will settle better this preparation, and for this contest that change makes good sense as there appears to be considerable early speed. Snitzerland has a Timeform rating of 118 but she will need to be at that level to hold out All Too Hard.
The other main chance is the filly Driefontein, which had a long first preparation that started in November last year with a win over 1000m at Randwick, and ended with a close second in the listed Keith Mackay at Randwick in late April. Between those runs she won the Magic Millions Classic on the Gold Coast and the Widden Stakes at Warwick Farm, before finishing an unlucky sixth in the Golden Slipper Stakes, where she made ground quickly in the straight having given away too much start after missing the jump.
Trained by Gai Waterhouse, Driefontein, rated 116 by Timeform, will get a nice trial behind the fast early speed and could well end up being the value runner in what looks to be a first-class form reference for the early Spring three-years-olds.
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