Looking for that value runner to throw into your Stakes Day quaddie at Flemington today? Never fear, the boys from The Roughies are here to expand your punting mind.
A great carnival for roughie punters. There is nothing more satisfying than dancing on the lawn in front of thousands of stunned shortie addicts. For mine, the increase in weights meant that those set to carry 60kgs topweight who did any work at all in the run were consistently outfinished by lesser-performed but better-weighted horses.There is no reason to think that the same won't apply on Stakes Day. Most good judges still haven't fully recovered from 2007 when the worst horse in the race won each leg of the quaddie.
All value lies in getting one or both of Fawkner and Silent Achiever beaten. Not easy but this is Stakes Day and our shape therefore is wide early and home skinny.
• Race 6: Quality handicaps mean looking for class or reading from the bottom if you can't find it. Don't be put off the latter but in this case as there is genuine weight-for-age form, 3 PLAYING GOD ($50 Betfair) appeals. He has the added advantage of not having been put through the wringer already this Spring. 8 SECRET ADMIRER ($18 Centrebet) has good form at the distance in Group 1 company, she must be cuddled to produce her short sprint but they'll all be tired at the end here.
• Race 7: On form and even at the weights it goes against the grain tipping against the toppie here but, as she will be $1.50 in the quaddie, it is compulsory. 2 INVEST ($15 Betstar) couldn't sprint with them last start but stuck on and appears to be looking for 2000m. 10 ROCK HIT ($41 Betstar) was thought good enough for the Queensland classics, won its prep race by seventh lengths but struck a bog track, mortgage mare.
• Race 8: There is no obvious pace in this leg with all those in the betting preferring to race off the speed. Shahwardi was presented with the race last time out. Its form in Europe wasn't good enough for it to be short here. There is no reason 9 VATUVEI ($14.50 Betfair) can't win again. His St Leger win here was outstanding. 10 EXCLUDED ($32 Betfair) would be $5EF in this if he hadn't run so ingloriously last Saturday and his stable wouldn't risk him unless improvement was very likely (eg, Green Moon).
• Race 9: There is no reason not to include the favourites here, who look well graded, but 3 UTAH SAINTS ($11 Betstar) didn't get the 1600 last time. He should lead and fly and has beaten better fields than this. Looks like they put 9 DOWN UNDER BOY (not as long as he should be) away for this after last year's surprise win.
ABOVE: Corey Brown rides Solzhenitsyn in today's Emirates Stakes.
Group 1 Gav
Sometimes I miss the old Stakes Day — it used to be the Hotel Lounge for a nightcap of Port at the end of a busy evening before ambling out to the kerb to find a cab. Now it's more like the Brunswick "pop-up bar" you walk to in the wee hours to kick on with Goji-infused potato vodka. Except you don't see toddlers in suits at hipster bars, they'll be everywhere at Flemington today.
From a punting perspective, Stakes Day has always been about prices and value. The general rule of thumb is to rule out anything in the market, circle the roughies you think have a chance, then put a line through them as well. Throw what's left into the quaddie and sit back and wait for Tears I Cry to romp home. Of course, that reverse psychology was too canny to last forever ... at last count, we were up to reverse double reverse psychology (2012 version) which has led us to these good value propositions.
• Race 6: The serious 4 SOLZHENITSYN ($8 Centrebet) had an rough and unfair day on the job last visit to the track. Will return from his winner's stall exile with a dominant performance over his pet distance. 3 PLAYING GOD ($34 Centrebet) has quietly snuck over from the west. It's hard to assess where he's at, but this is the right race for him and represents great value.
• Race 7: Sydney mare 4 CRAFTY IRNA ($11 Centrebet) is an earnest fair dinkum customer and is one of the few chances to ruffle the favourite. 6 FULL OF SPIRIT ($16 Centrebet) has been upside down and back to front. But don't be put off by the numbers in the formguide, she's a good one, and today may be her day.
• Race 8: The Godolphin stable has had tremendous success in this race since 2001 when they began targeting this feature, instead of the Melbourne Cup. Hatha Anna and Fantastic Love have been the previous standard bearers for the royal blue silks and 1 LOST IN THE MOMENT ($15 Sportsbet) looks to be the next runner to deliver Godolphin their most treasured prize. Sydney bruiser 6 THE VERMINATOR ($41 Centrebet) will put the niggle on up front. If he handles the wide open wrong way of Flemington, he'll be competitive.
• Race 9: God's Own gelding 3 UTAH SAINTS ($14 Centrebet) wouldn't want a kilo more, but I couldn't think of a more honest horse to have on your side in the last leg of a bumper quaddie. 12 HOT SPIN ($26 Centrebet) has talent but has been all over the shop lately. There are signs he's turned the corner and a big showing is (hopefully) on the cards.
• Race 1: Despite a distracted debut performance, can give 3 SHAMUS AWARD ($13 Centrebet) another chance to display his sharp turn of foot
• Race 3: Here's a classic each-way bet ... 6 MODULE ($21 Sportsbet). Third up from a spell at mile and a quarter, it's difficult to see how he doesn't return some style of dividend.
• Race 5: The super quick 15 SNITZERLAND ($19 Sportsbet) carries no weight and will give the older ones some anxiety as she tries to steal the race from them.
ABOVE: Wall Street (purple, white stars) bursts through the pack to win the 2010 Emirates Stakes.
As reported in The Age earlier this week, the Victorian TAB had $37.4 million wagered on the Melbourne Cup, NSW $50 million and Queensland's Tattsbet $40 million. NSW I can understand, but our friends further north investing more than us on our Cup through the pari-mutuel? Does anyone else find that odd?
Speaking of wagering, more than $2.24 million was punted through the Victorian TAB on the last race on Oaks day, yet live vision was only available on a secondary digital channel due to the VRC's farcical Cup week coverage arrangements with a free to air provider. The explanation put up by notorious "chest beater", VRC CEO Dale Monteith, when the same situation occurred same day in 2011 was insulting, inadequate and flawed. Whatever spin you may put on it this year Dale, I for one are thankful as a long time, 52-week supporter of this industry that you are soon vacating your position. Indeed, you had a lamentable week, remarking how disappointed you were that the Damien Oliver betting allegations resurfaced on Cup Day. With that 'head in the sand' mentality, you need a lie down. Nigh nigh.
• Race 6: Traditionally a truly run race that can throw up a long shot result. Expecting 20 STRIKE THE STARS ($41 Sportingbet) to be there at the finish. Last two runs have been fair and goes into this 3rd up on the limit weight. 5 WALL STREET ($31 Sportingbet) tuned up nicely for this last week and the 2010 winner of this race is not without a hope.
• Race 7: Believe 6 FULL OF SPIRIT ($15 Sportingbet) has been targeted at this race and is now ready for the 2000 metres. Last Saturday's performance of the aptly named 2 INVEST ($51 Sportingbet) was full of merit and she has once twice over this trip in Group class.
• Race 8: Aside from the best bet of the carnival in 2 SHAHWARDI ($6 Sportingbet), fellow import 1 LOST IN THE MOMENT ($13 Sportingbet) also missed a Cup start but has found a suitable replacement. 5 TANBY ($17 Sportingbet) wasn't disgraced in the Lexus and from his gate should be positioned well most of the way.
• Race 9: An even affair to close out the carnival. 10 SNOW COVER ($15 Sportingbet) has performed very well at Flemington previously in lot better class races and will improve on the 1st up run. 14 REGALMANIA ($26 Sportingbet) should enjoy a cosy run behind the speed to be in contention at the finish.
• Race 4: After a very impressive debut win in the country, 14 GOLD MEDALS ($26 Sportingbet) then totally disliked the wet ground during the Warrnambool Carnival in May and was put away. Is second up here and gives the impression that 1400 metres will be ideal.
• Race 5: It's boom time in Race 5 when half-brothers 2 TEMPLE OF BOOM ($14 Sportingbet) and 3 SPIRIT OF BOOM ($18 Sportingbet) chase Group One glory. The Temple would prefer cut in the track, while the Spirit may be disadvantaged with the #1 alley. Regardless, they can fight it out as both adore the Flemington straight. Quinella up here.
ABOVE: Down Under Boy wins the 2011 Emirates Stakes ... at a massive price.
Given the fact that I ran second in the consistently-exasperating Emirates Stakes (behind Testa Rossa in 2000), I ought to know a thing or two about how to get close without succeeding. So go each-way, or take the following tips in multiples if you rate any of them. But don't forget that you get double the odds on one runner per group one race with Betstar, a generous incentive that has seen me collect nothing on placegetters Super Cool, Secret Admirer and Fiorente this week. The Emirates is traditionally a roughies race, and even the favourites usually start at good odds. Two things I suggest:
- Forget the odds, just pick your winner, it will be good value.
- Do not dismiss even any formline — the most unlikely horses have won this race at huge odds.
• Race 6: Following the Umrum route, 12 ROLLING PIN ($51 Betstar) dropped back to an unsuitable 1200 metre race last time out to tune up for the mile. Gets a 2kg weight pull from well-fancied Ambidexter and Fat Al from the Epsom Handicap, when it ran an excellent third. That followed two group wins in this distance range. 16 SPIRIT SONG ($13 Betstar) is a well-performed, yet underrated mare, with a 4kg weight pull on second favourite Solzhenitsyn after running a game second to him in the group one Toorak Handicap. Superb record at this distance range and won only race this track — at this distance — at group level. Has only missed a place once in past 13 starts, and that when first-up.
• Race 7: Silent Achiever would have been a good chance in the Emirates, and should be first picked in your quaddie. However, should another favourite be cursed, there are several options. Crafty Irna and Midnight Martini are in-form, hardy middle-distance types. 2 INVEST ($31 Betstar) and 6 FULL OF SPIRIT ($12 Betstar) won winter group races at this distance and both have caught the eye with fast-finishing unplaced efforts over unsuitable distances in good class lead-up races.
• Race 8: The Queen Elizabeth has become a fine race in recent years as the quality of the Melbourne Cup (and those who miss a run in the Cup) improves. Love the pre-race market here. The favourite is obviously talented, but few of the nags it beat last start would barely scrape into this field. Our rule is that our value tips must exceed 6-1. If you get that about Herbert Power Handicap winner Shahwardi (currently 5.50 Centrebet) take it. But also consider: 12 DARE TO DREAM ($8.00 Centrebet). Great run last start in the Lexus, when held up for a clear passage when finishing second to subsequent Melbourne Cup fourth place-getter Kellini. 1 LOST IN THE MOMENT ($14.00), a close sixth in last year's honestly-run Cup, has solid form this preparation, and a class edge on many of these.
• Race 9: The powers-that-be ensure that the get-out is always a vexing 1400 metre test full of enigmas, has-beens and wannabes. Just to leave a pleasant taste in the mouths of punters staggering to the end of a rough carnival. It's a wonder we come back with such vindictive policies in place. We do because such races offer tantalising value. This year's edition features several handy middle distance types resuming, and well-fancied distance specialists being asked to carry unfamiliar weights. My best stabs in the dark: 6 TESTACANA ($14.00 Centrebet) ... an honest, consistent type with good formline through Fawkner. 9 DOWN UNDER BOY ($31.00 Centrebet) won this race last year when first-up and unwanted in betting. Connections will hope the eight-year-old again has a finishing swoop left in him. As will barrel-wearing punters like me.
ABOVE: There's no certainties in life ... except that there will be a blow-out winner in the Emirates Stakes today. The frustrating Smokin' Joey could be the one.
If you've been following The Roughies' selections, then you're probably feeling exactly the way I'm feeling at the moment ... frustrated with close seconds, still tearing your hair out at getting three legs of the quaddie up on Oaks Day and Cup Day, and shooting dagger eyes at the "smarties" who took a dozen mystery trifectas in the Melbourne Cup ... for a collect of almost $23,000.
But at least we have Stakes Day ... that most unpredictable of days in which roughies reign supreme. You can bank on two or three double-figure odds winners today, mark my word. And if I'm wrong ... well, this column will be back sometime next year and you can look me up then.
• Race 6: Just for a moment, cast your mind back to those heady days of 2009, when a talented yet frustrating horse named All American won the Emirates Stakes at the odds of 40/1. He was a Red Ransom colt who'd run against the best of his generation, always looking like a potential champion as he ran home into fifth or sixth. I reckon there's a horse in this race who could be a reincarnation of All American ... and that's 15 SMOKIN' JOEY $31 Betstar). More often than not this bloke is at the top or near the top of the betting, but somehow finds a way to get beaten. But ignore hiim at your peril today ... he's coming off a 1.9-length Sale Cup fourth, carrying 60kg, to the super-promising Sertorius, to whom he gave 6kg. Today he drops back to 54.5kg, he returns to Flemington (where he's won) and he gets the services of the Pumper, Jim Cassidy, who'll give him a perfect run just worse than midfield from barrier four. Could be the first blow-out of the day. Include 2 HAPPY TRAILS ($13 Betstar), who's suited back to the mile at handicap conditions. Cox Plate was aiming a bit too high.
• Race 7: This is the leg to go skinny. Think Silent Achiever is just about a good thing, but this is Stakes Day, so we're including a couple at odds. I like the Kiwi, 6 FULL OF SPIRIT ($13 Betstar), who wasn't suited in the Moonga before running well behind Appearance on Derby Day. But I can get out of my mind her run behind Mosheen when sixth in the Blazer over an unsuitable 1400m on October 6. She drew 16 of 16 that day, got back to the tail and exploded down the Flemington straight to be beaten just two lengths. Absolutely crying out for the 2000m and gets her chance today. Arnold sticks and rides at 55kg. Doesn't he weigh about 65kg? That's another tick. And good luck to my good mate Glenn, who owns a hoof of 4 CRAFTY IRNA ($10 Betstar) ... she's nothing if not honest and you can guarantee she'll look the winner at some point in the home straight.
• Race 8: Big overs is the Godolphin stallion 1 LOST IN THE MOMENT ($17 Betstar), who was very good in last year's Melbourne Cup (sixth) and has run placings at his past two in the UK. Kerrin McEvoy jumps on for his old mate Saeed bin Suroor, and we'd like to ask Kerrin very nicely that he please stop riding seconds and thirds today please! This is your chance to redeem yourself. It's worth a brew or two (a beer, I mean ... not the horse, you've already had your fill there) if you can get this boy home for us in the third leg of the quaddie. Respect for the top three in betting, and also throwing in 8 LIGHTINTHENITE ($21 Betstar), who's jumping up to the 2600m for the first time but is bred to run four miles. Love a horse going up in distance and dropping in weight ... this gelding drops 5kg on his Cup Day sixth to the underrated Eclair Surprise.
• Race 9: Lightning never strikes twice, so we're immediately ruling out Down Under Boy. Surely not?!?! The first up form of 11 UNDER THE HAT ($10 Betstar) is good, he's trained on the track and he's been set for this race. Trainer John Sadler is as wily as they come and has engaged the services of Glen Boss. All this points to a sting. I'll be an interested observer in the betting ring. If Fawkner wins the Emirates Stakes, then I'll be very glad I included 6 TESTASCANA, who was very, very good when beaten just two-and-a-half lengths by that horse on Cup Day. Go a little bit further back in his form, and his 2.1 length fourth behind Lord of Brazil in the Mildura Cup on August 26 now reads very well following the Lord's sensational win on Oaks Day. Testascana gave the Lord 6kg that day and was clearly the run of the race. He'll run well.