I’ve said it before – Turnbull Stakes day is the fork in the road for the pretenders to spring glory. If your horse is a four-year-old or older, and you have dreams of a Cup or a Plate on your mantle, your horse needs to fire in the Turnbull, or the Epsom, or some other big race on the weekend.
That doesn’t mean you need to win the Turnbull. In fact most of the winners don’t go onto spring classic victories, but if you run in the Turnbull you’ll need to beat more than half the field home.
The Group 1 Turnbull Stakes is set to jump at 4:20pm (AEST). Tune into Sky Racing to catch all the action!
Last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente ran fifth and was only a length away from the winner Happy Trails. Fawkner was beaten by only a half-length into fourth spot, and he went on to win the Caulfield Cup. They were both slashing Turnbull runs, in the most important race so far in the spring.
In 2012, Green Moon ($19 with TAB.com.au) won the Turnbull and after an inglorious performance in the Cox Plate that year, he came out in the Melbourne Cup and romped in. Last year’s Turnbull winner Happy Trails did himself proud in the Cox Plate, running a close 2nd to the 3yo surprise packet Shamus Award. The 2013 Turnbull Stakes was the best form race of last spring. But that’s history, and you can’t eat history.
This year’s race doesn’t appear to be as strong. Last year we had a crop of rising stars mixing it with some veteran, but in-form, contenders. This year the veterans look too…well…veteran. And the rising stars haven’t really made it above the horizon yet. This race is a lottery.
The traditional lead-up races for the Turnbull, in Melbourne, are the G1 Underwood Stakes 1800m Caulfield, and the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes 1600m Flemington. In Sydney it’s the G1 George Main Stakes 1600m at Randwick. Rating the form from these races will be a key indicator.
Check the full TAB.com.au market for the Turnbull Stakes here.
Of the up and comers, The Offer ($14) has plenty of staying talent and only a few negatives on his CV. The distance will suit him better than his last run in the Underwood Stakes. He officially ran second last in that race, but the run was better than it looked in the “weird” race generated by the tactics on Crackerjack King who led in the middle of the track.
Silent Achiever ($7) is a proven star, and both her runs this spring have been creditable without wearing the “flashing light”. Distance is not a problem for her and the big Flemington track will suit her too. A bit of rain might help, but it’s not in the forecast. Lucia Valentia ($5.50) is another mare who has come back this spring in fine shape, but she’s small and I suspect better suited on wet going at this level.
The proven performer with the best recent form is none other than last year’s winner – Happy Trails ($6). Apart from his normal malaise when he returned from a spell in the G1 Memsie Stakes 1400m at Caulfield, he lifted performance strongly in the Underwood, and he loves this race and this track. If the Turnbull Stakes was a handicap race instead of a set-weights+penalties race, Happy Trails would be giving far more weight to most of the field than he will on Saturday. Why can't he win?
I think it’s a tall task to pick this year’s winner, but by process of elimination I have settled on Happy Trails to beat Silent Achiever and The Offer.
G2 - The Totepool National Spirit Hurdle Race (class 1)
G2 - Paddy Power Johnstown Nov Hdle
Grade B - Nas Na Riogh Nov Hcp Chase
G3 - Paddy Power Newlands Chase
G1 - Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup