The Derby itself looks a hot edition this year with the winners of the four established trials all lining up looking either up-to-scratch or better.
Up-to-scratch are Soul Patch, the Vase winner, and Long Jack, the Geelong Classic winner, and both should run well. But they find themselves up against better than average winners of the Caulfield Classic and the Spring Champion and it's the Spring Champion winner, Shadow Hero, that appeals most.
Shadow Hero posted the third fastest time in the Spring Champion since the pattern was established in 1979, when Kingston Town won by five lengths, and he did it in style, out punching Castelveccio who has since run second in the Cox Plate.
Disclaimers: 1) Fast times are as much about the conditions under which they are produced as it is about the horses producing them. 2) Castelvecchio almost certainly posted an improved performance in the Cox Plate.
The big positive is how he powered through the line. Sectionals suggest that third back were all flattered by how close they finished to the first two past the line there who were not quite Dundeel/Proisir but were still on the very high end of Spring Champion form.
Thought Of That went close to matching him with a blistering win of his own in the Caulfield Classic and has now posted two high-rating performances since the blinkers went on.
But he did get complete control at Caulfield. Nothing to eyeball him and a smart ride made the most of it, clicking him through the gears early enough to boom home and post the big figure. He surely cops more pressure on Saturday and stretching to 2500m may be no sure thing. Of course if he finds his flow on speed his talent means it will take a darn good horse to get him - but we think we are backing one in Shadow Hero.
It's very much an each-way sort of card so we are not short of options in that sphere.
In perhaps the each-way race of the day, the Cantala, we will throw up Chief Ironside as a good gamble at double figures, backing up for winning the Crystal Mile at the Valley last week.
At first glance, eight horses finishing within 1.5 lengths doesn't scream 'hot race' but the time stacked up well against the overall card and it looks a case of a lot of evenly matched horses all running well on the day.
We are happy to gamble on that being the case. Chief Ironside lacked for wins but had similar peak ratings in the UK - so no fluke about what he did there - and he meets these on good terms back to handicap conditions.
THE MELBOURNE MAIL
Bet Of The Day: Race 7 #1 Shadow Hero @ $3.50
Each Way Play: Race 8 #15 Chief Ironside @ $12.00