The Orr Stakes is typically contested by a sprinkling of Group One horses but it's rarely a target and sparingly takes a true Group One level performance to win it.
This year it is headlined by the Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet who holds sway in the early betting which is interesting given the different scenario he finds himself in from the wet track slog that was the 2020 Cox Plate.
Sub 2/1 about Sir Dragonet over 1400m at Caulfield? Australia is supposed to be the home of sprinters. Surely a failed stayer from the Ireland can't towel us up in this scenario?
But this is hardly a true Group One sprint. Alabama Express was able to nick the race last year as a listed winner from the spring, taking advantage of the fact that none target this faux Group One, and Crosshaven arrives having won three times at stakes level in the spring. A rating of 115 is better than the 109 that Alabama Express brought to the race last year and given that it is easy enough to pin a case around him.
But the best local defence against the 123-rated middle distance wet tracker from Ireland that is Sir Dragonet is.... another Irish import - Imaging.
Imaging is rated 117 and is coming off a career-best campaign in the spring where a close up fourth in the Winx Stakes (another fake G1) over this trip and a good third in the George Main (a real one) were at a level that is going to be about good enough to take this.
That he has form at this trip appeals as does the fact that the current favourite came to Australia with quotes such as these from his last four runs, "seems to lack the speed for this trip" "is in danger of becoming a nearly horse" "though was again found wanting for tactical speed at a trip likely to prove shorter than his optimum" "shaped similarly to last time (and the time before that), still crying out for another try at 1½m".
We will take the $6.50 Imaging.
Two races earlier on the card is another trial for middle distance horses, the Carlyon Cup over a mile and here we get a mix of the up-and-going and the talented resumers.
The talented resumers category is headlined by Nonconformist and he tops the betting early on, but it's the $14 Harlem that takes our eye and he goes in as our each way play.
Harlem made his way into the Melbourne Mail last time when beaten in the Ballarat Cup at similar prices and looking (certainly through the eyes of those that backed him each way!) a bit unlucky in fourth.
17 runs over 700 days without a win might tell his tale a bit, but he has twice won the Australian Cup and his best efforts in the spring said that he was about as good as ever. One of those was when running Nonconformist to a neck in the Coongy and while he concedes that one promise he meets him on much better terms today.
He can also poke forward, has raced well at a mile, and despite his flaws just has to be kept onside at the double figure prices.
THE MELBOURNE MAIL
Bet Of The Day: Race 8 #6 Imaging @ $6.50
Each Way Play: Race 6 #5 Harlem @ $14.00