This four-year-old Exceed And Excel entire trained by James Cummings has seven wins and seven places from 21 starts. He resumed after a 14 week spell for 2.6 lengths 5th in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning over 1000m at Flemington, then was trapped three wide with no cover and over-raced before finishing 1.8 lengths 4th in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes over 1300m at Randwick on 6 March. Should be in the finish.
2. Nature Strip
Last year he won this race by 2 lengths on a heavy track after running 4th in the Lightning then winning the Challenge Stakes by 3 lengths. This year he has come via the same two lead-up races with a 0.5 length win in the Lightning then he was the winner everywhere but the post in the Challenge Stakes when Eduardo got up on the inside and he was a close 2nd. At his best he would win this but his last start performance has me worried. If he doesn’t win he will go close.
This seven-year-old gelding trained by Joe Pride is the oldest runner in the race this year. He is in great form and after getting up in the last bound to beat Nature Strip in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes (and setting a new track record), he raced away to win the Group 1 The Galaxy by 3.5 lengths. He is a force to be reckoned with at the moment and can win this.
He resumed for 1.1 lengths 7th in the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate, then got there late for a 0.2 length win in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap. Has won three of his last five starts at Group level and is in the mix.
5. Masked Crusader
This Toronado gelding trained by Team Hawkes has five wins and three places from 10 starts. He was slowly away and got too far back before finishing 3rd in the Canterbury Stakes, then William Pike pushed him through a tight split at the 100m and he went clear for a big 2.5 length win in the William Reid Stakes. One of the main chances.
6. Dirty Work
Another Hawkes runner, this four-year-old was 5th in the Oakleigh Plate then 6.1 lengths 4th in The Galaxy. Looks to have improvement in him.
7. Order of Command
Currently the outsider in the betting market this six-year-old ran 2nd in The Galaxy in his first run in a Group 1 race. He was placed in the three starts prior to that – all at Group 2 & 3 level. He is better than his price suggests but not good enough to win in this field.
8. Eleven Eleven
Nine of the 11 runners in this race had their last start start in a Group 1 race, while Nature Strip had his last start in a Group 2. This four-year-old Fastnet Rock gelding has had a very different preparation and comes into this first-up after 12 weeks. His last three starts were all wins – in the Wyong Magic Millions for 3&4YO’s, the Listed Christmas Classic at Canterbury and the $1M Magic Millions Cup. He won his latest trial on a heavy track and is one to keep an eye on.
In four attempts at Group 1 level she has managed to place three times. At the end of last campaign she finished 3rd in the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic, then she resumed from an 18 week spell for 3rd in the William Reid. Not the worst.
10. Haut Brion Her
One of the three Chris Waller runners, this Zoustar mare has six wins and four places from 13 starts. She resumed a 21 week spell for 6.3 lengths 5th in The Galaxy. That was her first attempt at Group 1 level and I expect her to run well.
11. September Run
This filly is the only three-year-old in the race and has won five of her 11 starts. She worked home strongly out wide for 4th in the William Reid last start and won’t be too far away.