Thank heavens Platinum Invador has made the field for the Vodafone New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie on Saturday.

On form, it would have been a travesty if he missed out following his luckless run in the Avondale Guineas and his dominant win last Saturday at Otaki.

His run in the Guineas was as good as any of the beaten brigade. In fact, he ran the third-quickest last 600 metres behind the winner Surely Sacred and placegetter Vernanme after being checked at the 300-metre mark and unable to get a decent crack at them until the last 150 metres.

To cover his last 600 metres in 34.81 seconds despite an interrupted run suggested he could be right up to the $14 quote the bookies are now offering.

Despite holding a higher rating than others in the order of entry, Platinum Invador was on the verge of missing out through his lesser prize-money.

Should preference be given to form and ratings, or inadequate form but greater prize-money? That’s food for thought for the Auckland Racing Club for next year. A balance of both may win in the end.

If form and ratings held the trump card over prize-money won, a horse like Sword in Stone, who ran a game third in the Waikato Guineas, would also be comfortably in the race and nowhere near the ballot.

On ratings, he was the 11th-highest-rated runner in the Derby. He was a $10 quote with bookies on the Futures market.

I believe the club has switched on to this as well and may look at allowing the first three home in the Waikato Guineas automatic entry into the New Zealand Derby. The first four home in the Avondale Guineas are currently given a clear run into the race.

Because the Derby has been all about prize-money for making the cut, many horses have gone through the rich Karaka Million path, which pays back to $6,000 for last.

In saying all this, the Derby on Saturday will be a cracker!

 

New Zealand Stakes a trial for the Cox Plate?

If Melody Belle starts in the Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes on Saturday week, which seems very likely, you can bet your last dollar that the Cox Plate will be top of mind for syndicate manager John Galvin and trainer Jamie Richards.

“She’s in great spirits,” John Galvin this week.

“Jamie intends to gallop her on Saturday morning. She’s 90 per cent in line for Ellerslie, and only an ordinary gallop will prevent her from taking her place.”

It would be an amazing way to test Melody Belle’s ability at 2000 metres. The end result may not just be a fifth Group One win for the season and sixth overall, but also a test case for what lies ahead.

The odds are against Winx carrying on for a fifth Cox Plate, and it’d be fair to say others with quality weight-for-age milers are also going full steam ahead to Moonee Valley in the great mare’s likely absence.

“She will be nominated for the Cox Plate,” said Jamie. “Ellerslie will definitely be her last this term, and the Hastings spring carnival will be the launchpad when she returns, all going well.”

Melody Belle was offered a wild-card entry for the A$5 million All-Star Mile at Flemington on March 16.

“It was nice to be recognised, but as attractive as it obviously is, the timing isn’t right for her,” John said. “Maybe next year!”

Melody Belle has proven her class mainly over 1400 and 1600 metres at the highest level, but the manner in which she won the Haunui Classic after being intentionally ridden away from the rail for a wide berth throughout, running 2000 metres at Ellerslie shouldn’t be an issue. And why not have a go?

Jamie Richards has done a sterling job to keep her up to the mark. She began her black-type spree in the Foxbridge Plate in August, and apart from the unsolved mystery that surrounded her Telegraph run, she has been in dazzling form and a credit to Jamie’s conditioning and placement.

 

A “whoopsie” moment

The gremlins didn’t stay away from the TAB website this week.

One regular punter noticed that someone briefly forgot to enter the decimal point in Race 7 at Tamworth on Tuesday with the hot favourite Finne Realta. In a five-horse field it was showing $1.85, but when Lyndsay followed the prompts to the bet slip, up popped $185!

The temptation was too great. She invested $1. The bet was accepted. The horse was blocked all the way up the straight and finished 4th. In Lyndsay’s words, it was proof that crime doesn’t pay!

A couple of weeks ago I invited the TAB’s head of betting Glen Saville to answer some of the concerns and questions punters were having with the new betting platform.

He came back to me this week with the answers to some of those concerns.

  1. The format of the provisional results will be more in line with the current designs. He expects this one to go live next week.
  2. Trackside Radio. There will be a button next to the buttons on the left-hand side of the main page to the TS1 and TS2 feed.
  3. Race stakes will be re-introduced into the race header.
  4. The Will Pay buttons will be available on all races.
  5. Currently, when you sort the odds on a race it sorts them in descending order, not ascending order. This will be reversed and working on the Futures in this regard as well.

And a better system for option numbers in retail is also a priority that is being worked on.

Most of us agree that the option numbers as they sit at the moment are a real challenge that slows down betting, and urgency as such is vital.

 

Zacada on target for Sydney Cup again

Zacada won’t be running in the Auckland Cup but will be heading to Sydney again for the Sydney Cup.

His run behind his stablemate Vin De Dance in the Kaimai Stakes on Saturday, less than four lengths from the winner, pleased his co-trainer Andrew Forsman.

“It was encouraging,” he said. “He’s one run behind where he should be, and that’s why the Auckland Cup won’t be considered.

“It was relatively testing track at Matamata and he stuck to his task well and just petered out over the last 100 metres or so.

“He will probably need another two or three races before the Sydney Cup, and of course we hope to get Vin De Dance there too.”

Zacada was just beaten in an all-New Zealand finish in last year’s Sydney Cup. The old Kiwi-owned favourite Who Shot Thebarman won the race, with Charles Road third.

Zacada will run at Ellerslie in the Nathans on Saturday, while Vin De Dance will be aimed at the New Zealand Stakes on Saturday week.

Australia could also be a target for the very progressive Rhinestone Cowboy, who resumed from a 12-week break with a second to the equally exciting Concert Hall at Matamata.

“We will work back but we’ve been thinking about aiming him for the Andrew Ramsden Stakes on May 25,” Andrew said.

That race has just received a stakes increase to A$400,000, a reduction in distance from 3200 to 2800 metres, and it will be run at weight-for-age and restricted to three, four and five-year-olds. What’s more, it will be a ballot-exempt race for the Melbourne Cup.

“He’s come a long way in a short time,” Andrew said. “He’s still learning. We believe he’s a stayer in the making.

“In a perfect world it would be nice to get him the Andrew Ramsden, but there’s no panic and there are lots of options to look at.

“He was vulnerable on Saturday and his next race will be either over a mile or we may step him out over 2000 metres.”

 

QUESTION TIME:

  1. After watching The Autumn Sun win first-up over 1400 metres on Saturday, did you get the feeling that the big horse may not win too many races at that distance, but when he stretches out over 1600m or further nothing will stand in his way?
  2. At Wairoa last Thursday, Sarah MacNab rode her first winner since resuming following a frightening fall at Woodville in September. She made the five-hour drive to Otaki on Saturday for one ride – Torre Del Greco, who ran second. Sarah returned to Wairoa to ride at that venue again the following day. How’s that for dedication?
  3. Do you wonder how many other jockeys have won all 21 Group One races in New Zealand, as Opie Bosson has after the Haunui Classic at Otaki last Saturday?
  4. How well is Chris Johnson riding? Did you know that had you placed $20 on an all-up on Saturday at Otaki, you would have collected $6093? He had six rides for three wins and three placings including dividends of $7 (Consensus) and $4 (Floral Belt)!
  5. Yourdeel’s dominant performance in the Waikato Stud Slipper augurs well for the benchmark filly Probabeel for her upcoming Sydney assignment, wouldn’t you say?
  6. Could champion horseman Mark Purdon drive his first Miracle Mile winner with Spankem this weekend? Of course, he’s trained the winner of the great speed race before, and if he doesn’t win it as a driver, he still holds two other trump cards as co-trainer of Thefixer and Chase Auckland.
  7. Did you know that Matthew Cameron has now won 12 black-type races this season, which is already equal to his best-ever season two years ago? With a host of stakes races still to come, you’d say a fresh record should be a formality.
  8. Did the saying “class is permanent” ring true on the Slow8 track at Otaki on Saturday? Wyndspelle and Consensus were both drifters in the market because of their dislike of wet tracks, but they ran outstanding races to place behind the superstar Melody Belle in the Haunui Farm Classic.
  9. From an excellent undercard at Matamata and Otaki on Saturday, which horses would you put in the “rising star” category? My three would be Concert Hall, Our Hail Mary and Maison Roxanne. Would you agree?
  10. It should be more of the same for Winx this weekend as she shoots for her fourth consecutive Chipping Norton Stakes, equalling the record of Tie The Knot. After that, there will be just two more races for the mighty mare.

When she won her first Group One in the Queensland Oaks in May of 2015, she gave trainer Chris Waller his 13th win at that level. Now he’s sitting on 94! Amazing, isn’t it?