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Moonee Valley 26—8—17

Almandin is on the way back, there is nothing more certain than that after his outstanding performance in running second to Pacodali at Moonee Valley on Saturday.

A second Melbourne Cup is a strong possibility after his amazing performance in the MSC Sign Handicap over 2040 metres.

He took up a handy position running third for most of the trip; he actually had his head in front turning at the top of the straight, only to be run down by the eventual winner, and favourite, Pacodali.

Almandin will pay the price, naturally, having won last year’s Melbourne Cup, but never under estimate his owner, Lloyd Williams; he didn’t come down in the last shower.

He is a shrewd operator; he has made a success in the business world and has since applied much of that knowledge into racing, with amazing results, having been involved in the ownership of five Melbourne Cup winners.

Lloyd doesn’t attend the races much these days; he prefers to watch them on the screen, with the additional advantage of replaying them in slow motion.

He was up at Port Douglas, he could read the race perfectly, he left his son Nick at Moonee Valley to answer all the questions.

Ben Melham received the accolades for a perfect ride, he didn’t allow himself to get bottled up on the fence with nowhere to go, he had a clear run all the way.  

Almandin won’t be his sole representative in the Cup when weights are issued by the handicapper, Greg Carpenter, there is sure to be multiple entries.

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Almandin on the Melbourne Cup trail  

We will have to forgive Tulip for what I thought was a run out of character; she appeared to run her race in patches.

She didn’t clear the gate all that well, running fifth in a field of six for much of the way, and was only a nose in the result.

Maybe it will pay to forget that run as it was her first outing since finishing third in the Golden Slipper Stakes to She Will Reign, and fifth in the Sires Produce Stakes at Royal Randwick.

Spunlago showed a definite return to form with an impressive win in the Ranvet Handicap at Moonee Valley.

The success was well received by Ballarat trainer, Archie Alexander, who has been out of the winning list of late in the city.

There was support for the son of Hard Spun who was popular with punters, he is a six year old gelding and he did shorten up in the close of betting.

“He has come through the race really well, now that he has struck form again he could easily win again, he had a bit to spare when the horses reached the line.”

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Archie Alexander

Hey Doc, the Aurie’s Star Handicap winner, showed he was ready to take on all comers in the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday, when he galloped between races three and four at Moonee Valley last Saturday.

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Hey Doc on track for the Memsie 


Caulfield 19—8—17

Crown Witness kept her unbeaten record intact in winning the Group 3 Quezette Stakes at Caulfield.

The market suggested it would be a duel between the two favoured horses, Crown Witness and the Blue Diamond Stakes success, Catchy, who started the preferred favourite

Trainer, Stuart Webb, was full of praise for his filly Crown Witness, and why not? She has earned Black Type at her third start; she is now a very valuable filly.

“She beat a very good filly today, she gave a good kick on the home turn, it was class that got us there,” he said.

Catchy is likely to be the improver once the distance of the fillies races leading into the Thousand Guineas are extended.

However, nothing can be taken away from the winning ride of Ben Melham; it was a gem of a ride.  

Catchy will certainly he improved by with run, she will be harder to beat next time out when the fillies races get longer.

Her mission is the Thousand Guineas, she would have little trouble getting the mile, where as Crown Witness looks more the typical sprinter.

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Crown Witness defeating Catchy

Jukebox returned to racing with a barn storming performance winning the Vain Stakes.  

He hasn’t been sighted since winning back at Caulfield in February; however, after a rousing gallop on Tuesday morning it didn’t take long for tongues to begin wagging.

The race developed into a two horse war once heads were turned for home, and it didn’t conclude until the post was reached, the winning margin was a half neck.

The deciding factor was the strength of Craig Williams, he threw everything at the winner as he could see Plutocracy was beginning to weaken, it was a punishing finish, the result could have gone either way, it was close.

“Jukebox has had a good long break, he spelled well around the stable, he has had a smooth campaign, he put the writing on the wall after that great gallop on Tuesday morning,” said Ciaron Maher.

For once no one mentioned the Caulfield Guineas that was not on the agenda at this stage; no doubt it will be repeated as the spring presses on, and another three year colt pops up and wins to make the race an interesting puzzle.

Jukebox is by Snitzel, the current leading sire, he was simply a sprinter himself yet he is getting winners that can run a mile, and he will possibly get them again.

Cairon Maher said all along, “ you like to see a horse that has come on as he has, we will take our races as they come, he will now go the Danehill Stakes, there are a lot of options open to him, ” he added. 

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Jukebox winning the Vain Stakes 

Patience was rewarded when Hartnell, who so often has been the bridesmaid, was rewarded in winning the P B Lawrence Stakes.

After Saturday ‘s win he has now squared the ledger, with 11 wins and 11 placing ,had Winx not been about his stake earning would at least doubled, had the great mare not been on the scene, as he ran so many placeings to her.

Hartnell really looked good in the Lawrence Stakes; Charmed Harmony led them down the railway side of the track with Hartnell a couple of lengths away hard up against fence, as if Craig Williams was dusting the running rail.

The race developed into a procession, once he made his move on the home turn it was all over red rover, he won like a really good horse.

There are no firm decisions where Hartnell goes next, maybe the Caulfield Cup? Or it could be a weight for age campaign.  

Black Hard Bart was the best of Darren Weir’s seven runners; he finished third, the remaining six drifted in at long intervals.

Hartnell is by Authorized, the champion three year old in Europe of his year, he only ventured out seven times, winning four times including the Derby and the Juddmonte International Stakes, both Group 1 races.

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Hartnell wins in a breeze    

Winx gave her most ardent supporters a touch of the swannie rivers (the shakes), when she emerged from the starting gate, four lengths behind the rest of the field in the Group2 Warwick Stakes.

To the credit of Hughie Bowman he put no pressure on the mare in the early running of the race, he simply allowed her to work herself into the race that was to be her 19th win in succession, and possibly the narrowness of margins in her marvellous career.

It was foreign for her to leave the gates so slowly; she will need to correct that before she faces up to her third Cox Plate.

Yes, she got there, but only by the skin of her teeth, Bowman played it cool, he didn’t knock her about.

The record of 19 straight wins was established in 1918 by Desert Gold, a New Zealand bred mare, in 1918, equalled four years later, by Gloaming, bred in Victoria and raced in New Zealand in1921

Ajax went close with 18 wins, as did Mainbrace; however, there was a span of 91 years before a new record was established by Black Caviar, who never tasted defeat, winning 25 races.

Winx needs to win seven races to create a new record; they could be her hardest metres, they certainly won’t get any easier.

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Winx just gets there in the Warwick Stakes


Flemington 12 -- 8 --17

Brothers, John and Frank, were both heavily involved in the win of Sheer Madness, John as trainer, and Frank heads up the syndicate that races the gelding.

The brothers are pretty close; John may have had the day off as Frank was in charge of proceedings at Flemington.

At this time of the year, when three year old males win a city race, the obvious question usually raised is concerning the Guineas.

Sheer Madness turned in a long sustained run; he was three wide for most of the race and was full of running when heads were turned for home.

Whether he is Guineas material is another matter, he still has a long road ahead of him, a full two months.

Frank wasn’t going to get drawn into the conversation, he was pleased with the win and more so for the partnership that race the gelding, they were enjoying the moment.

Sheer Madness is by Moshe, a full brother to Black Caviar, her first foal won at Geelong the day before; it could have been an omen bet.

Moshe is currently standing at Sun Stud at a very fee affordable fee, he has sired 34 winners to date, with one stakes winner.

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Frank Salanitri with Sheer Madness

 Whilst Chris Waller failed to train a winner at Rosehill on Saturday, which is a rare occurrence, he can take solace with a treble at Flemington.

His forelady, Joanne Taylor, saved the day with three winners, Jaminzah,Wayanka and Alward, all were impressive, in particular Alward, it was a welcome change of luck for jockey Michael Walker, he has previously been dogged with back injuries of late, that has restricted his riding.

There might be a touch of sentiment about the win of Jaminzah, as he is by Master of Design who won the Group1 T J Smith Stakes for Waller.

Joanne Taylor is a popular figure on Melbourne racecourses, always wearing a warm smile, plus quite a very competent horse women.

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Joanne Taylor  

Hey Doc was back to his brilliant best, leading for most of the way to win the Auria’s Star Handicap.

He had a bit on his rivals, in the post parade he looked a treat, and will only look better as he presses on into the spring.

His form tapered off a bit after winning the Australian Guineas, he finished well down the track in the Doncaster, that may have been a bit rich for him as he was still just a three year old and ran fairly after that in the Goodwood.

It is now off to the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield in a couple of weeks, with its stake of $1million dollars it makes it a worthwhile attraction.

“When the fight came on he really lifted, he was in there for the fight, he didn’t give in, he was brave, we can improve between now and the Memsie, he will be cherry ripe for the task, “said Tony McEvoy.

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Hey Doc



Tony McEvoy has unearthed another promising three year old in the form of Azazel, who put paid to the opposition in the VRC Members Pavilion Handicap.

First up since February, with natural improvement, he will be a force to be reckoned with when the major stakes races come along for three year olds in the spring.

The benefit of that trial down the straight improved his manners a lot, he raced true and had the race well and truly parcelled up when the horses reached the distance.

Whilst he has only won the one race in the spring at Moonee Valley, he has been competitive in his previous four starts as he did have the form line coming into the race.

“I think we will see the best of him when he sets over 1400 metres, he is not really a speed horse, “said Tony McEvoy.

The combination of Tony McEvoy, as trainer, and jockey, Luke Currie, is really firing up well, they are looking forward to a successful spring.

Azazel is by the leading sire for the 2016-2017 season, Snitzel, with 159 winners, with progeny earnings of $16,220,135, and is already away to a brilliant beginning again, besides Azazel, Steyne, Faerie Whisper and Special Diva.

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Azazel returns to scale  

First starter, Frankel My Dear, came in for quite some attention in the post parade, as he is by the outstanding race horse of our time, the unbeaten Frankel.

He had some backing opening up at $14.00 and finishing at $7.50, it was quite an impressive run, he can only improve on that.

There is a definite future for the son of Frankel, he is quite an impressive colt, he cost $500,000 as a yearling and with what we have seen he will prove a sound investment.

He is a big strong colt that will improve with racing, the Derby may not be flying too high for him.

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Frankel My Dear 

Nick Williams couldn’t be drawn into discussions about the Melbourne Cup after the win of Aloft in The Nursery Handicap, except to say, “it’s too early yet.”

The gelding at least has got the right pedigree, being by Galileo out of a Storm Cat mare, his only second win since coming from the U K, he has been lightly raced having raced 10 times for four wins, two of those wins have been at Flemington.

Once Nick Williams wins a race at Flemington, first thoughts lead to the Melbourne Cup, sure they have won a few, four in fact, but they have been to the well many times.

Nick said, “it is a winter meeting, there is still a long way to go, obviously we are very happy with his return, he was right up there on the speed, it was a great ride by Bennie”.

“He rode him beautifully, he is a horse obviously with some ability, it is now onwards and upwards, we will have another run in a month, we like to have our horses nice and fit ticking over, that is about the plan, we will have plenty of options,” he added

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Ben Melham and Nick Williams after the win

Steven Smillie was stand in stable representative for Brent Stanley in the win of Red Alto in The Stayers Lounge Handicap.

The gelding blew like a north wind; he opened up at $15.00 and finished up at $21.00, with very few takers.

Red Alto was bred and sold as a yearling by Fairways Stud, included in the draft the previous year was Winx.

The gelding was tried as a stayer and failed; he obviously has thrown to the dam, La Sangre, as he is by High Chaparral.

The favourite, Hay Bale, was a little disappointing; he led on the grandstand side of the course but failed to run on.

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Apprentice jockey Jordan Turner and Steven Smillie

Strength prevailed, that was the telling factor in the win of Yogi, the favourite in 1 Oliver St Plate at Flemington.

Johnny Allen, who mixes riding on the flat and jumps riding, got the favourite over the line with sheer desperation; he is an important cog in the Weir machinery.

It is quite common for recognised jumps jockeys to ride on the flat as well, provided they could make the weight.

Hughie Cairns, a New Zealander, was a great exponent of mixing both, he won the Grand National Hurdle in 1917 on Maranqua, and the Melbourne Cup in 1926 on Spearfelt, in the intervening years he rode Heroic in 16 of his 21 wins.

Cairns was killed instantly in a fall from Quick Deal in the Federal Hurdle, in front of the grandstand at Moonee Valley in 1929.

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The versatile John Allen


Racing at Caulfield

High winds forced the abandonment of the last five races at Caulfield on Saturday as a safety precaution.

After the fourth race the jockeys took a deputation to the stewards showing concerns for their safety, the issue was never in doubt, the risks were too great, and common sense had to prevail.

The high winds were rattling the starting gate which was a concern, and is was not abating, some racegoers were surprised by the decision, however in the defence of the jockeys they were out in the open where as the patrons had the grandstands to shield them.

However, there was no reason for the schmozzle in the weighing area, a lot of people put their own interpretation on the issue which was confusing, the stewards are in control, they make the decisions.

Obviously there some lack of communication, as walking off the course Matthew Hill, the official broadcaster, was not sure of what was taking place.

Robert Smerdon trained his 37th winner for the season, when Every Faith got up in virtually the last stride to win the opening race on the program, the Janet Brady Handicap.

The favourite, Sullivan Bay, who really was the form horse of the field, held sway until the home turn, she looked all over a winner until Every Faith and Divine Chills staked their claims.

It was a three way finish, Every Faith getting the decision by the shortest of margins; she was luckly as she was held up on the rails at a crucial stage of the race.

Ryan Moloney doesn’t get the opportunities his ability deserves, he is a very capable rider and strong with it, that was a top ride on the winner.

The mare is going to stud in the coming season, to be mated with Medaglia D’Oro, standing at Darley in New South Wales.

”She will have one more run before she finally goes to stud, she is owned by great supporters of the stable, winners were a bit slow at the beginning of the season, we are really firing up now,” said Robert Smerdon.

Every Faith is by Not A Single Doubt, he has progeny earnings in excess of $10 million in the closing season, her dam Zephyria, is by Zabeel.

Her dam has won twice at 1800 metres, plus her other two foals, Alpine Eagle and Royal Fashion are both winners.

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Every Faith - Last run before going to Stud 

Kiwia was the first leg of a winning double for Darren Weir; hence with just four races run, due to the abandonment, he had won half the races decided.

After Kiwia won his first in the city win at Caulfield, he looked a pretty serious horse, he started favourite and had the race won a long way from home.

The second run at Caulfield two weeks later was right out of character, over the same distance he was well beaten, he never showed up at any stage of the race.

Saturday he came with his game plan, he was never going to get beaten, he was right on the ball at the home turn, ready to draw away when Damian Lane gave the word.

Darren Weir was confident the gelding would improve that is exactly what he has done “I thought he would improve, his mission is likely to be the Bendigo Cup,” said Weir.

He is a good type of gelding by Reset, possibly last time he just had a day off.

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Kiwia rehabilities himself 

Shamport, a $320,000 yearling, made rapid improvement after finishing third at Echuca, earning $2,800, and Saturday’s win in the Join Victorian Breeders Vobis Gold Ingot over 1400 metres, this time stake money to the winner was $82,500.

Whilst he is not out of the woods yet, however he is making steady progress, his nose is pointing in the right direction.

It was a huge jump in direction as there was no form line, yet he opened at $6.00 before drifting out to $9.00.

It was really a big run; he was handy in running for most of the way and let down well when heads were turned for home.

The colt was selected by John Foote for a client of the stable, he is likely to improve, Weir is conscious of his clients, he likes to see them get a return for their outlay.

Whilst he didn’t do anything wrong at Echuca, it was just natural improvement, a colt that is likely to go on with racing.

Weir is a remarkable trainer, he has 250 horses in work and he is hands on with every horse, no one pulls the wool over his eyes

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Shamport - Second leg of a double for Darren Weir.

Saint Valorem gave his rivals a start, and a sound beating, when he took the honours in the Jason Hart Handicap, the race was run fourth and the last run on a nine race card at Caulfield, when racing was terminated due to the high winds.  

The four year old gelding put up an amazing performance, he was last to leave the starting gate and was still last when heads were turned for home.

He is a lightly raced gelding, having just 11 starts, winning four races, and been in the money eight times.

On that run Saturday he is bound to win further races, he is just five years of a age and he is a gelding, this should be his best year.

He is prepared by Cameron Templeton, he has just a small team in work at Pakenham, he is able to give each horse individual attention.

The gelding was ridden by Brian Higgins, he has the perfect score, one ride, one winner at Flemington last week, and a repeat performance at Caulfield on Saturday.

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Saint Valorem  - A amazing performance  


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