Race 1 - 12:40PM THE PAUL HOFFMAN HANDICAP (1000 METRES)
There was a lot to like about the way 3. Arthur Francis trialled on two occasions, pinning his ears back to convincingly put his rivals away. The John O'Shea-trained debutant showed plenty of early speed before being allowed to find his feet, from there he produced a lovely turn of foot. He was asked for a final effort but the response was brilliant. Drawn barrier 1, expect Hugh Bowman, who rode Arthur Francis in his first trial win, to hold a prominent spot. Digging into the colt's pedigree, by Foxwedge out of a Montjeu mare (Val De Loire), he could find the 1000m a touch on the short side with his full brother winning out to 1400m but it does reiterate how strong he will be late. He is also a half relation to Chateaux Park, a miler with Jason Coyle.
Dangers: The barrier is the only knock on 8. Ashema. That could be offset in the first 100m if she comes out humming, and it's one turn for the Randwick 1000m, but it's enough to just lean the way of Arthur Francis. Loved the debut of Ashema behind Acrobat, one of the best two-year-olds we've seen to date, though. She's quick, professional and now has race experience on her side. 9. Headliner ran fourth beaten 2.7L by Ashema in a recent Rosehill trial but the Star Turn filly did it very easily. She finished alongside Mallory, a filly that ran second to Enthaar in the Gimcrack. Extreme Choice colt 7. Stay Inside also caught the eye on his most recent barrier trial, responding well to a click up late.
How to play it: Arthur Francis WIN ($3.30 TAB Fixed Odds) Odds & Evens: SPLIT
Race 2 - 1:15PM TAB HIGHWAY HANDICAP (1100 METRES)
1. Art Cadeau is the benchmark in this Class 2 Highway. He's the horse to beat, as the market suggests. The four-year-old is incredibly consistent with two wins and six seconds from his eight career starts and from distances over 1000m to 1500m, on good tracks to heavy tracks. Terry Robinson has placed the gelding well again in this and he maps to get the run of the race. Yes, he has 61kg but he ran well with that impost the last time we saw him, albeit regressing slightly off his win the start prior on a heavy track. Ideally, even off an eight week break since we last saw him, this would be on another wet track over 1200m but presented fresh over 1100m with the likelihood of tucking in behind the speed gives him his chance to maintain his great record.
Dangers: 7. Superior Witness comes off two 1000m wins on Heavy 10 tracks. There was merit to both victories on the clock but how will it correlate to 1100m back on top of the ground? His two dry track runs were awful. 4. Amicus Curiae failed at Gosford last start but that was a deeper race than this being a BM64 and it was on heavy ground. He held off Fifteen Rounds (just) at Bathurst the start prior to that, a horse that prior wasn't far away from Toto and Depth That Varies. Two proven Highway performers. Beware the unbeaten horse in 9. Water Dove but she didn't beat much at Wellington last start. 2. Shelby Sixtysix might need this first up off a 36 week break.
How to play it: Art Cadeau WIN ($3.20 TAB Fixed Odds) Odds & Evens: ODDS
Race 3 - 1:50PM TAB HIGHWAY HANDICAP (1100 METRES)
1. Melik's style is to hunt forward and with positive tactics likely to be used again here, he profiles as the winner. The lightly-raced five-year-old, with just four starts to his name, has built and imposing record with two wins and two seconds. He has had excuses for both defeats too. In the first of those he was rolled as the $1.80 favourite at Newcastle after sitting wide on speed throughout while first up last preparation the wet track proved the difference in winning and losing. He immediately made amends thereafter back on top of the ground. He hasn't started any longer than $2.15 in his four career runs either. The son of Redoute's Choice wasn't knocked around in a recent Muswellbrook barrier trial cruising through the line.
Dangers: 8. On Time gets in very light with just 51kg after the claim of Reece Jones. She beat Crackerjack Kenny at the backend of last preparation before finding the line strongly first up at Wellington with 59kg over 1000m. 7. Makana has yet to prove herself beyond 1000m but she sets up well for this being hard fit and can put herself on speed. 4. Expellable finished on the heels of Makana last start at Muswellbrook. Did fail after leading a Highway back in January last year, however. 10. Fantini is lightly raced and was entitled to feel the pinch late first up on a heavy track after kicking clear half way down the straight. 2. Southern Appeal's Wagga win over Blitzar was dominant but he hasn't fired a bullet since. The ability is there, however.
How to play it: Melik WIN ($3.10 TAB Fixed Odds) Odds & Evens: SPLIT
Race 4 - 2:25PM ANZ BLOODSTOCK NEWS HANDICAP (1100 METRES)
9. The Face sets up well here third up, down in the weights with a big fitness edge on his main dangers. Add into the mix that he'll drive forward and lead this field. It's an appealing scenario. First up the Gerald Ryan-trained three-year-old was nailed late by Salina Dreaming after doing a touch too much early work which made him vulnerable late. He subsequently ran in the Listed Gosford Guineas on a heavy track and gave plenty of cheek out to 1200m having sat outside of the leader. Forbidden Love was too strong late but she is a Group One placed filly. Dropping back to 1100m also looks in The Face's favour, as does getting back on top of the ground. The race is tailor made for him really.
Dangers: 2. Emanate comes off three straight wins at the backend of last preparation and gives every indication that she'll be racing in Group company before too long. Loved how she cruised to the line her one recent trial behind Greyworm. The query is whether she can give The Face 4kg and a two run head start in their respective campaigns. 7. Osamu is still a maiden but seven of his nine starts have been in Group or Listed races. This is his first start for Annabel Neasham. 6. Valaquenta has also matched motors with some handy horses in his short career to date and was only just touched off by Muntaseera first up last preparation at Caulfield over 1000m.
How to play it: The Face WIN ($2.30 TAB Fixed Odds) Odds & Evens: SPLIT
Race 5 - 3:00PM BOWERMANS COMMERCIAL FURNITURE HANDICAP (1100 METRES)
5. Rule Of Law is a colt still with plenty of upside but even off his exposed form to date, he sets up well to resume a winner against his own age in BM72 company. A rail-friendly heavy track was against the son of Snitzel on debut but his two subsequent wins on firmer footing were that of a sprinter capable of taking a giant leap from maiden and Class 1 provincial form into much better races. At his second start he held off talented stablemate Exoboom at Newcastle before giving his rivals a touch up at Gosford over 1100m. He didn't beat much that day but he won by 3.5L going away. Rule Of Law has trialled well on two occasions this time back and maps to get some kind of control in front.
Dangers: 7. Super Effort showed promise in Queensland last preparation, which was his first, before resuming with a luckless seventh at Warwick Farm. The gaps just didn't come and he went to the line hard held. Second up he split Private Eye and Count De Rupee, in what has been a sensational form race. Five of his seven rivals have run since and every single one of them won! Of the rest, 3. Dance looks better suited getting back onto a dry track but the draw poses a few map problems. 8. Geist is flying while 4. Rocketing By collected $17,000 for a walk in the park at Nowra first up. This is 10 times harder but he has obviously returned well.
How to play it: Rule Of Law WIN ($3.30 TAB Fixed Odds) Odds & Evens: ODDS
Race 6 - 3:40PM HEINEKEN HANDICAP (2000 METRES)
4. Sacramento only won narrowly second up but the margin doesn't tell the story of just how brave he was. The four-year-old was forced to take a trail behind a tearaway leader, carting the rest of the field up to the turn where he looked to be under siege yet he kept responding to hold off 3. New Arrangement. He actually meets New Arrangement 1.5kg better off despite beating him. That's due to James McDonald jumping back aboard instead of three kilo claimer Cejay Graham. Sacramento looked vulnerable staying at 1800m last start too, having kicked off his campaign over that same trip a fortnight earlier. The son of Pierro will get out further again than 2000m already being a winner over 2800m as a three-year-old but this is the perfect third up assignment for him to control from the front.
Dangers: It was J-Mac who paired with New Arrangement when he won so arrogantly two starts ago. He maps to camp on the back of Sacramento and get his chance to mow him down. 2. Kiss The Bride was posted wide last start behind Sacramento and New Arrangement yet boxed on to hold down fourth, only beaten a length. He drops down to 58kg and peaks now fourth up. There's a query over how forward 6. Accountability will be off a five week break but he warrants respect off his SP profile alone. 10. California Longbow generally finds his form third up so don't be surprised to see a sharp improvement off last start while 1. Marathon Man drops back in grade.
How to play it: Sacramento WIN ($3 TAB Fixed Odds) Odds & Evens: SPLIT
Race 7 - 4:20PM SKY RACING ACTIVE HANDICAP (1400 METRES)
11. Le Lude is probably pegged more as a miler-2000m horse in punter's minds but she is sharp enough to win over shorter, as evidenced throughout her career. She won over 1800m last preparation but her two wins prior to that, albeit much earlier in her career, were over 1100m and 1200. Kicking off over 1400m looks perfect for the daughter of Lope De Vega as she boasts a strong first up record (4:2-0-1). Rachel King knows the five-year-old well having ridden her in nine of her 20 career starts and will be able to use the draw to sit midfield which will give her every chance. She has had two trials this time back and liked what we saw across the line in the latest of those with the slightest of niggles producing a burst of acceleration.
Dangers: 2. Ulysses was a dogged all-the-way winner last start and imagine similar tactics are adopted in this given that this race is also devoid of an obvious leader. Slight query back to 1400m from 1500m when the mile would have been the logical progression but a positive ride would somewhat offset that. 10. Blondeau stuck his neck out when it counted to chalk up win number two last start, holding off Stormy Rock at the midweeks. Perhaps he'll go right on with it now but he is very well found in the market. We'll give 3. Outback Diva a pass mark first up but what stands out in her form when assessing her chances in this is her unbeaten second up record. Could improve very sharply. 4. Sausedge is back in grade, back to her best trip and back on top of the ground. Tick, tick, tick.
How to play it: Le Lude EACH WAY ($15 TAB Fixed Odds) Odds & Evens: ODDS
Race 8 - 5:00PM FUJITSU GENERAL CARRINGTON STAKES (1400 METRES)
John Thompson's four-year-old 9. Chat closed off nicely in the Christmas Classic at Canterbury last start, on the back of a seven week freshen. That was behind subsequent Gold Coast Magic Millions winner Eleven Eleven. His third prior to that behind Through The Cracks and Edison also stacks up well in this, where he thundered home late from a wide draw. His form this time back has been the most consistent of his career. Even his Silver Eagle fourth behind Flit and Alligator Blood warrants a mention. The Deep Field gelding sets up nicely out to 1400m, down on the minimum with 53kg and the likelihood of settling in the first four. Stepping out in trip as opposed to coming back in distance was the main rationale in putting him ahead of 3. Order Again .
Dangers: That said, Order Again produced a PB first up, as a seven-year-old! That was over the mile and on a wet track. He now presents second up three weeks later back to 1400m and on a dry track. Granted, it's not an ideal scenario but love the way he quickened to put the field away. He has had a tickover trial since with Sam Clipperton maintaining the ride. Perhaps that last start romp was the shot of confidence Chris Waller's galloper needed. 8. Bandersnatch closed strongly last start when splitting King Of Hastings and Big Parade. It was the run of a horse that'd be cherry ripe for 1400m next time out, and here he is. The only knock is how well found in the early market he is. Defending champion 6. Cradle Mountain hasn't fired in his last four runs but always wary given his bold front-running style.
How to play it: Chat WIN ($3.30 TAB Fixed Odds) Odds & Evens: ODDS
Race 9 - 5:40PM TAB HANDICAP (1600 METRES)
3. Selica is beautifully placed back to BM78 company on the back of a Group Three third in the Belle Of The Turf at Gosford three weeks ago. That was second up jumping from 1350m to the mile too. Now third up, with a tickover trial since, she should be at her top. The four-year-old is no stranger to black type racing either, when trained by Phillip Stokes in South Australia. Her first run for Annabel Neasham was also encouraging, on the back of an exceptional trial, doing her best work through the line behind Vitesse who had got complete control from in front throughout. Two kilo claimer Louise Day rode her that start and she jumps back on now. From a low draw she should park the daughter of Makfi in the first four or five. Would be very surprised if she didn't run top three.
Dangers: There's not much between most of these. 9. Zing is the early favourite having won last start on the back of an aggressive Tommy Berry ride. It was a solid win but certainly not one that'd leave you wanting to charge in again next time, particularly from a sticky draw. 13. Bowery Breeze knocked Zing off two back before a forgivable subsequent run. She never got a crack and should have finished closer. Then there's the cavalcade of backmarkers that could all steam down the middle to win this with the right set up. That includes 4. Game Of Thorns, 5. Dame Kiri, 1. Trajection and 11. Strawb, who has the winkers on for the first time.
How to play it: Selica WIN ($6.50 TAB Fixed Odds) Odds & Evens: ODDS
Race 10 - 6:15PM DRINKWISE MILE (1600 METRES)
5. All Time Legend wasn't quite as dynamic second up but he won. That's all he had to do. The four-year-old relished the hot speed first up settling out the back before unleashing a devastating turn of foot. It was a very different set up two weeks ago where Kerrin McEvoy used his initiative to take All Time Legend straight to the front, stack up his rivals before pulling out enough late. There is a case to be made that he should have won more comfortably given his SP of $1.45 and the level of control he got in front but he was never losing, despite Subedar, a proven Group horse, taking ground off him late. He steps out to the mile now third up and although he rises 3.5kg in weight, his record of five wins from seven starts suggests he isn't going to be knocking around in benchmark races for much longer. The cherry for him in this however is how beautifully he maps from the inside marble.
Dangers: 14. Brutality would be chasing four straight wins if not for a wide draw which cost him victory last start. His last 600m of 34.43s was four lengths faster than the next best in the race, according to Punters Intelligence. The mile sets up perfectly now and he has no weight on his back. The problem being where he'll find himself in the run again, in what could be another slowly run race. 9. Snowfire will put himself on top of the speed which will see him at least hold his current form which will see him thereabouts again. 6. Soldier Of Love, 8. Betcha Flying and 13. Cisco Bay are in their right grade too. And how about this… Hugh Bowman has won his last three rides on 3. Matowi . That's no mean feat!
How to play it: All Time Legend WIN ($2.40 TAB Fixed Odds) Odds & Evens: SPLIT