I'll say it from the outset, I am torn – Friday night's Group 1 Moir Stakes at Moonee Valley is causing me so much angst!
Two of my favourite horses in Buffering and Bel Sprinter will go head-to-head in what shapes up already as one of the toughest Group 1's we'll witness this Spring.
It pains me to have to choose one or the other, and I guess that's why I'm not such a flash punter, because I tend to bet with my heart and let sentimentality rule over all else.
Buffering is lining up in Group 1 start number 17, but unfortunately he is yet to score a breakthrough victory at the sports most prestigious level.
'The Bulldog', as he is lovingly referred to, is a galloper that flies while fresh, and he has the outstanding record of four wins and a placing from five outings, first-up from a spell. He's also a fan of Moonee Valley with two victories over the course, including last year's Moir Stakes when it was a Group 2 event, off an identical preparation. This horse is a fighter, a bulldog, and one who simply doesn't know how to run a bad race. Veiled information from the Heathcote stable suggest that Buffering is ready to rumble on Friday night and after taking one bet of $2,000 at $4.60, he has firmed with tab.com.au Fixed Odds to currently head the market at $4.40.
Watch the action from Moonee Valley on Friday night LIVE on Sky Racing with Race 1 set to jump at 6:15pm (AEST) and the Moir Stakes at 10pm.
While my affection for Buffering is strong, my feelings for Bel Sprinter place me in an invidious situation. Affectionately referred to as the 'Balnarring Bullet', Bel Sprinter ($4.60 with tab.com.au) spends his days cruising around trainer Jason Warren's lavish complex or splashing in the waves at Balnarring Beach, a picturesque coastal town on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.
Bel announced himself as a pony of serious potential when scoring an emphatic victory in the G1 Galaxy at Randwick during the Autumn carnival. Reverting to his old tricks (or bad habits), Bel Sprinter missed the start badly, but then blew his rivals away with a devastating burst of speed in the home straight to land Warren his first Group 1 success.
Like Buffering, his first-up statistics are impeccable – five starts for five wins including that Galaxy triumph, and two victories at the Valley, albeit over 1000 metres.
My concern with Bel Sprinter is his penchant to miss the start – they've fitted him with a barrier blanket, but if he is tardy at barrier-rise, I don't think he'll have the necessary ammunition to catch Buffering.
The bonny mare, Snitzerland, opened earlier in the week at $4.00 with tab.com.au, but has since suffered a case of the 'blows' to ease to her current quote of $4.60.
First-up last preparation, Snitzerland set a track record in the Challenge Stakes at Warwick Farm, and when you add to that a victory at the Valley, it's hard to dismiss a horse who will race on the pace and be given every opportunity by Dwayne Dunn.
One word of caution with Snitzerland however, this is the first time the daughter of Snitzel has been asked to shoulder more than 56 kilograms in her career. She has been burdened with the impost of 56.5kg's on Friday night, just two kilos less than her more experienced male counterparts.
And you would be foolish to discount the chances of the Peter Snowden prepared Epaulette - a strapping son of Commands, and already, a two-time-Group 1 winner.
Epaulette can produce a barnstorming performance when fresh and he successfully made the transition to weight-for-age company at his last preparation.
He resumed in the T.J. Smith Stakes in the Autumn and finished second, just three lengths off Black Caviar, in turn, beating Bel Sprinter home by more than two lengths. Two starts later, he won the Doomben 10,000 off a hot-pace and he has met with solid support in the Fixed Odds market with tab.com.au, firming from an opening quote of $6 into $4.60.
Epaulette is a professional racehorse, and if Buffering and Snitzerland go hard up front, he'll be smoking his pipe out the back, ready to unleash a blistering finish.
I've thought this before and been left lamenting, often with my head buried in my hands in disappointment, but I honestly believe the stars may finally align for Buffering in Friday night's Moir Stakes.Just don't mention to him it's a Group 1 race.
My tips are Buffering to beat Bel Sprinter, Epaulette and Snitzerland.
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Grade B - Three.ie H'cap Steeplechase
G1 - Ryanair Nov Chase
G1 - Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle
G1 - Nz Oaks