by Ray Hickson

Race 1: IPrint Craig Opie Cup (2500m)

1st Mulaqen – Glen Boss
2nd Count Encosta – Damian Lane
3rd Crafty Cruiser – Ben Melham

Hippopus gathered pace to kick through and lead Mr Andre with De Fine Lago taking the box seat. Mulaqen landed in a nice spot and moved to third at the post the first time. Count Encosta and Unchain My Heart raced together and Crafty Cruiser trailed. Hippopus ran along in front and stretched them out midrace with Mr Andre doing the chasing. They bunched up coming to the 600m and Mr Andre put the pressure on with Mulaqen looming up. Crafty Cruiser made a dash from the back putting Count Encosta momentarily in a pocket, De Fine Lago also held up and Unchain My Heart dropped the bit and was pushed along. Mulaqen had the leaders covered on the turn and went for home. Crafty Cruiser and Count Encosta ran on but couldn’t match Mulaqen’s sprint. Unchain My Heart finished off okay late after struggling when the sprint went on. These horses take turns but the blinkers first time gave the winner some dash he lacked at his previous start.

Follow: give Unchain My Heart another chance back at Flemington and Count Encosta back to 2000m.

Race 2: Quest Moonee Valley (1600m)

1st Rememba Howe – Harry Coffey
2nd Reckless Assassin – Tom Sadler
3rd Aliyana – Michelle Payne

Spirited Will was a bit casual early and settled last. Reckless Assassin pushed on to lead Aliyana with Resumethegame on the fence. Rememba Howe was trapped wide so pressed on and took over about 1200m out. She broke a few lengths clear of Reckless Assassin before having a breather. Acapela settled midfield and Text’n Hurley had her back. Rememba Howe still led by three or four at the 400m with Reckless Assassin under a heap of pressure and Aliyana also worked on to make ground. Acapela looked to be running into it and Text’n Hurley couldn’t keep up. They didn’t pose any threats to Rememba Howe and she kept running and held just over a length on the line. Reckless Assassin pulled a little late ground and Aliyana held third. Big disappointment was Text’n Hurley who beat two home and didn’t hit the line with any gusto at all. On face value no real excuses and wouldn’t be entitled to start favourite next time.

Follow: none.

Race 3: City Jeep Handicap (1500m)

1st Caveka – Luke Nolen
2nd War Point – Craig Newitt
3rd Lotion – Damien Thornton

Four in a line coming to the first turn until Hawking and Second Base kicked up to cross and Second Base ran to the lead. Breath Of Life held the fence and Caveka found a perfect spot. Lotion and War Point were the next pair and The Mighty Jrod was caught wide around them. Flamin’ Mogul wanted to over race in the second half outside of Heavy, who recovered after missing the start. Caveka moved out three wide well before the 600m to avoid a pocket and he raced alongside Hawking and Second Base. The Mighty Jrod tried to continue his run but was under pressure as was War Point picking up between horses. Breath Of Life was bailed away on the fence. On the turn Caveka took the lead but had a bit of a struggle before getting the better of Hawking and Second Base. War Point, Lotion and Breath Of Life were trying to make ground and they left the remainder of the field behind. Caveka’s last 100m was strong and he forged away. War Point charged the last bit as well and Lotion also picked up the tiring leaders. Second Base was game to hold on just behind the placings. The first six beat the rest a long way.

Follow: the winner Caveka is a nice horse and there’s win in War Point.

Race 4: Jeep Don’t Hold Back (2040m)

1st Wrotham Heath – Dwayne Dunn
2nd Purple Tiger – Michelle Payne
3rd Clear Direction – Holly McKechnie

Rowland was quite slow and crossed the field at the back in last place. Plenty of competition for the early lead with Warwarick and Relentless with Midnight Glory just off them. Vizhaka and Master’s Degreee kept their forward moves going out of the straight and Wrotham Heath got one off the fence behind them, outside Purple TigerPost D’France found a midfield spot in the clear. It was still on up front at the 1200m and Master’s Degree finally took over from Warwarick and Relentless and the field strung out. Vizhaka started to improve around the 800m and Wrotham Heath got onto his back. Master’s Degreee had Relentless struggling to keep up and Warwarick dropped out sharply as Vizhaka moved to third. Midnight Glory and Wrotham Heath were poised and Purple Tiger picked up the bit to chase. Coming to the turn Master’s Degree was giving a huge sight before Wrotham Heath got to him at the 150m. Purple Tiger tried hard and Clear Direction burst through late to get very close but Wrotham Heath held on for a deserved win. Not as dominant as expected, though. Anudjawun closed off his race nicely, as he can do, for fourth and Like A Carousel also made some late ground. Warwarick was found to have pulled up lame and couldn’t see an excuse for Vintage Lad who was never a threat.

Follow: none in particular, but like to see Master’s Degree in something easier.

Race 5: McEwen Stakes (1000m)

1st Angelic Light – Ryan Maloney
2nd Lankan Rupee – Craig Newitt
3rd Eloping – Linda Meech

Lankan Rupee charged out of the gates from the outside and tried to cross Eloping but the filly kicked up and held him out. Orujo eased off them into third and Angelic Light didn’t miss it this time and she landed in the box seat. They got away from the other five with It Is Written next. Eloping held about a neck’s advantage on Lankan Rupee midrace as they went hard in front. Angelic Light appreciated the pace and she travelled well inside Orujo and It Is Written was about four lengths back. Cauthen was best of the rest. On the turn Lankan Rupee was going better than Eloping but behind him Angelic Light had moved out three wide and was looming up. Orujo struggled to keep up with them. Lankan Rupee hit the lead on the turn but didn’t dash away as expected and at the 50m Angelic Light put her head in front and while Lankan Rupee tried to fight back she held a margin. Eloping clung on to third from the fast-finishing It Is Written and Orujo who just battled. Unpretentious and Cauthen were never in the race and were probably run off their feet. Have to say Lankan Rupee was disappointing in that he didn’t win. That said, they did run 0.22 outside the course record and he was up there working. But he’s also rated the world’s best sprinter. Let’s not be too hard on him until we see him second-up.

Follow: none.

Race 6: Telstra Phonewords Plate (1200m)

1st Tawteen – Stephen Baster
2nd Fortiche – Chris Symons
3rd Pittsburgh Flyer – Craig Williams

Good line and Tawteen was straight on the lead from London Lolly coming over to sit at her quarters. Pittsburgh Flyer slotted in behind her outside ForticheKalabek had to ease and she was joined by Feels Like Home andLady Trickster three wide. Pickin’ Time had their back. Tawteen seemed to have it pretty easy up front and London Lolly had trouble keeping up passing the 600m. Pittsburgh Flyer tried to get going moving up three wide an Fortiche waited. Tawteen waved them goodbye on the turn and broke a few lengths clear. Fortiche got up inside the weakening London Lolly, who was squeezed up in the process, and Pittsburgh Flyer kept coming. Feels Like Home worked off the fence and Pickin’ Time had improved a bit to midfield but were hardly booming home. Tawteen held the margin to the line and bolted in from Fortiche and Pittsburgh Flyer, who both ran well at their second starts. Pickin’ Time was fair getting home next and Golconda stole ground on the fence to finish close up. Pass mark runs from Berimbau and Not A Happy Camper who were near the tail at the 600m. Tricky race to assess, either the winner is top class or was advantaged by the circumstances of the race.

Follow: merit in each of the first six home.

Race 7: Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m)

1st The Cleaner – Steven Arnold
2nd Mourinho – Craig Newitt
3rd Foreteller – Glen Boss

As expected The Cleaner took up the running and Star Rolling sat up second. Gris Caro was trapped wide around him and Crackerjack King had the box seat. Foundry kicked up to keep Gris Caro wide and Mourinho was left with a three wide trail. Hvasstan and Lidari were next, The Offer settled second last around Pakal and Foreteller sat a couple of lengths further back. The Cleaner strung them out a bit and that allowed the likes of Gris Caro and Mourinho to get in one off the fence. He strode along a couple clear and was shaken up before the 600m to keep his mind on the job and as a result had the field chasing off the bit. Star Rolling got tired of chasing him and Crackerjack King railed through but he couldn’t match them. Mourinho wound up strongly down the outside. Lidari tried to go with him but only whacked away and The Offer was hitting the line wider. Foreteller made quick ground through the middle and he flew through late. But The Cleaner kept them all at bay in another gutsy win. Mourinhro continued his fantastic Valley form and there was plenty to like about Foreteller and The Offer. Lidari seems a level below some of these horses and Star Rolling simply cracked under the pressure. The Cox Plate just got even more interesting, and while it’d be a super story you have to think The Cleaner will get found out on that stage.

Follow: super first-up run from The Offer.

Race 8: Sportingbet Handicap (1600m)

1st St Jean – Damian Lane
2nd Pyrrolic – Jackie Beriman
3rd Our Voodoo Prince – James Winks

St Jean was on the back foot at the start and was near the tail early. Kapour found the lead at the first turn from First Course improving and Henwood on the rail. Pyrrolic had good cover with Fulgur on his outside and Zanbaghthree back on the fence. Our Voodoo Prince landed in midfield and St Jean ended up on his back. Kerpour ran them along and First Course had a job to stay with him. Fulgur made it to third at the 800m from Henwood and Pyrrolic looking dangerous next. Under The Eiffel took off from the back and made it to midfield and St Jean latched onto him for a trail. Zanbagh was shuffled back along the rail to third last. The leaders were gone on turning and Pyrrolic swept to the front. Our Voodoo Prince was right on his back and St Jean had got to the outside and was winding up. Henwood was stuck behind the tiring leaders but was a bit one paced. St Jean got to Pyrrolic under his own steam at the 100m and when let go he forged almost a length clear. They got away from Our Voodoo Prince who ran a much improved race second-up on a dry track. Fulgur just missed out in a good run but he’s well exposed. Eye-catching effort from Zanbagh who hit the line hard late and we want to see her next time. The other two stayers Ancient King and Caravan Rolls On went fairly but assess them later on.

Follow: St Jean is an up and comer and a fringe Cups player. Our Voodoo Prince and Zanbagh are heading the right way.

Race 9: Drummond Golf Stakes (1200m)

1st Atlante – Dwayne Dunn
2nd Trust In A Gust – Damian Lane
3rd Lucky Hussler – Ben Melham

Solsay and Spirits Dance disputed the lead with Spirits Dance winning out. Le Bonsir was third but out three wide. Atlante had the box seat inside Lion Of Belfort and Club CommandTrust In A Gust found himself four wide and stranded. Lucky Hussler and Bloomingdale Miss, who recovered after being a shade slow out, were next. Trust In A Gust had no choice but to take off around them and he loomed up five deep well before the turn. Spirits Dance still had the lead but was being pressured by Solsay. Le Bonsir was under pressure to keep up as Trust In A Gust went around him. Atlante ran up behind Solsay on the turn and got a beautiful run through when cornering as Le Bonsir struggled. Lucky Hussler pulled the centre of the track to run on. Atlante and Trust In A Gust got past Solsay at the 50m and went head and head to the line with Atlante getting his nose out on the wire. The winner had all the favours, runner-up no luck at all. Lucky Hussler flashed home to be right on the hammer ahead of a very game Solsay. There’s a race for Solsay at the Valley surely! Lion Of Belfort picked up very well in the last 100m. Bit disappointed with Spirits Dance but she was first-up and led so don’t be too hard on her. 

Follow: stay with Trust In A Gust and super first-up run for Lucky Hussler.

Specials from the meeting: St Jean, War Point, Lucky Hussler, The Offer.