Sydney’s first Group One of the year should probably be named “The CHRIS WALLER Chipping Norton Stakes”. You see, not only is Sydney’s premier trainer chasing a record fifth straight win in the Group One Mile – he’s also saddling up over half the field!
Waller won the race in 2011 with Danleigh, in 2012 and 2013 with Shoot Out and last year with Boban, who hasn’t saluted since, but returns to defend his crown. The Rosehill based mentor is also (at this stage at least) taking Foreteller, He’s Your Man, Hawkspur, Junoob, Weary, Who Shot Thebarman and Opinion to Warwick Farm – meaning 8 of the 15 runners are from his stable. None though feature in the top 4 lines of the TAB.com.au Fixed Odds betting markets.
The G1 Chipping Norton Stakes is set to jump at 4:15pm (AEDT). Make sure you're watching Sky Racing for all the action!
Apollo Stakes winner Contributer, one of two John O’Shea runners, is the pre post favourite at $2.80 and deserves his place at the top of the charts. The UK import is two from three in Australia and was hugely impressive first up at the Randwick 1400. After settling a little worse than midfield, he let down with a stunning turn of foot at the 200 to put them away in a couple of bounds. The step to the mile should be ideal and the five year old could well provide O’Shea with his maiden Godolphin Group One win.
Ten horses that finished behind Contributer in the Apollo are rivals again, including the $5.50 Fixed second favourite, Kris Lees’ high class mare Lucia Valentina. It was hard not to miss her first up fourth, when she finished fast on the worst part of the track, to be beaten 2 lengths. The query with her though is her second up record. While she’s won two of four FIRST up, she’s never placed in three previous second up goes. Oh, and only 3 mares have won this race since 1979!
There were a couple of other Apollo eyecatchers a fortnight back as well. Silent Achiever was very good late as she prepares to defend her Ranvet-BMW crowns in the coming weeks. And I thought Boban went really well too. I’m convinced the horse has come back well this prep, despite formguides reading ninth of eleven and seventh of fourteen. He loomed up first up in the Expressway, only to run out of gas late and last start at Randwick was making his run with Contributer, when he copped a squeeze between it and He’s Your Man. He finished mid-field but was beaten only three lengths or so.
Check the full TAB.com.au market for the G1 Chipping Norton Stakes here.
The big query is former UK stayer Hartnell, who’s making his Australian debut under the care of O’Shea and will be ridden by English jockey James Doyle. This 4 year old has placed at Group One grade before and has won 5 of 13 in England, including a Group 3 over 2600 metres at Newmarket and a listed race at Ascot over 2 miles. Judging by his 2 trials – both here at Warwick Farm - he’s acclimatized beautifully and is ready to give some cheek. He struck a heavy 10 surface in his first and wasn’t asked to do a thing, when finishing fourth to I’m All The Talk over an unsuitable 808 metres. At his second, over 1200 metres, he settled down 5th, railed inside them as they entered the straight and under a tight hold edged out Testashadow and (race rival) Who Shot Thebarman. Last week’s impressive first upper San Diego was also behind him. He oozes class and could appeal at $15 fixed.
I’m chasing value and I’m hoping Boban can bounce back at $11. I reckon he’s ticking along nicely, he’s got a 50 percent strike rate at the mile and he’s two from two at Warwick Farm. In fact, he’s one of only two horses in the race to have won here before, with Ninth Legion (who looks the only pace in the race) being the other.
My selections are Boban on top and I’ll throw in Contributer for second and Hartnell for third. This is a great race!
G1 - The Bet365 Celebration Steeple Chase (class 1)
G3 - The Bet365 Gold Cup Steeple Chase (handicap) (class 1)
G1 - Aes Champion 4yo Hdle
Grade B - Setanta Sport H'cap Hdle
Grade B - Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe H'cap Chase