The birds have not yet found their full voice, the weather still remains a little uncertain, the calendar tells us we still have a couple of days to wait, but for racing enthusiasts, Saturday trumpets the arrival of Spring.
It’s been more than two months since we have witnessed racing at the elite level, but this Saturday signals the beginning of the run towards the Spring Carnival, with the opening Group One of the season, the $400,000 Memsie Stakes at Caulfield.
Not only is it a race used by many trainers as the first tentative steps towards one or more of the big three – the Caulfield Cup, WS Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup – but the race has grown a tradition of being won by some of the superstars of our industry.
Just since the turn of the century, the honour roll of the Memsie has been dotted with stars.
Champion mare Sunline went back-to-back in 2000-01, while Makybe Diva in 2005, took her first step towards an history third Melbourne Cup in the Memsie.
El Segundo in 2006, Miss Finland in 2007, Weekend Hussler in 2008, the great So You Think in 2010, and more recently Atlantic Jewel effortlessly took her record to eight from eight in 2013, then last year Dissident won his first of four Group Ones for the season in the Memsie.
The Group 1 Memsie Stakes is set to jump at 4:45pm (AEST) on Sky Racing 1. Check the full TAB.com.au market here.
So who will join the elite list in 2015, and who has the credentials?
While there is no tried and true formula in finding the Memsie winner, there has been a trend in recent times.
The past five winners, Dissident, Atlantic Jewel, Sincero, King’s Rose and So You Think, have all won the race first-up from a spell.
Before that Weekend Hussler, Miss Finland, El Segundo, Makybe Diva, Magical Miss (2002) and Sunline in both her successes, were all second-up going into the Memsie Stakes. The exceptions since 2000 were Regal Roller – third up – and Le Zagaletta which had been up since March when he won in 2003.
This year there are 10 runners returning from a spell in the Memsie: Boban, Dandino, Sertorius, Prince Of Penzance, Entirely Platinum, Volkstok’n’barrell, Magicool, Hi World, Rising Romance and emergency Trevieres.
Those second up this year are: Happy Trails, Temple Of Boom, Weary, Setinum, and Stratum Star.
Fresh from his winter success in Brisbane in the Doomben 10000, and coming off a pair of solid recent Rosehill trials, Chris Waller’s Boban has been installed the early $4.80 favourite with TAB.com.au Fixed Odds, and that 10000 win showed what he can do first-up.
In a relatively wide market, Volkstok’n’barrell is second elect at $8.50. The Rosehill Guineas winner from the Autumn hasn’t trialled but has won first up in the past, and from all reports has settled in well in Melbourne.
Peter Moody’s four-year-old Hi World, who finished his last campaign with wins over 1600m twice and 2000m, is yet to miss a place in three first up runs, and with the benefit of two barrier trials last month, it’s not surprising he is in the market at $9.
Boban’s stablemate Weary, is the other runner in single figures at $9.50, and he’s expected to have further support on the back of an outstanding first-up effort in the Missile Stakes at Randwick when he stormed home for second behind Burbero.
Team Hawkes runner Entirely Platinum and Stratum Star from the stable of Victoria’s premier trainer Darren Weir, are on the next line of betting at $10, followed by talented New Zealand mare Rising Romance at $11.
Entirely Platinum owns a good first up record, and Rising Romance has also won first up, but the one of interest from the trio is Stratum Star which gained a run following the scratching of the topweight, Fawkner.
Stratum Star resumed a fortnight ago at Caulfield and got home strongly from last on the turn behind Setinum. He has great form over longer trips and was third in Australian Guineas over 1600m last preparation, but he has also won second up, and it would be no surprise to see him measure up in this company.
The ever-reliable Happy Trails ($15) is second up and has won second up previously, and we can expect him to be running on, the consistent Temple Of Boom ($14) will be better for his first up performance in the Missile Stakes, and Smokin Joey ($16), the Eye Liner winner during Brisbane’s Winter, cannot be discounted.
So who gets the nod? I think this year’s Memsie could be won by one of about 10 runners, and there should be value as a result of the open nature of the field.
For me I’ve gone for Stratum Star. There was a whole lot to like about his run at Caulfield, and he’ll be chiming in at the right time. Boban has to be included from a class perspective, with my third pick Weary, another who showed with his first up run that he’ll be ready for this Group One.