The two best-supported runners (in early markets) were both scratched from the Black Opal, with the slightly easing favourite — Rocket Tiger — placing third behind Team Snowden's Kalashnikov — who we'll likely see next in the Golden Slipper.
It was a great day for the locals winning five of the eight races. Mossman Gorge and Handle The Truth, both took out decent contests. Team Joseph trained a brace with Sydney hoop Rachel King riding both.
The $250,000 John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes Group 3
Peter and Paul Snowden have won a third Black Opal Stakes in partnership with Kalashnikov ($15) claiming Canberra's feature two-year-old sprint.Settled in the box-seat behind the leader and favourite Rocket Tiger ($3), Kalashnikov saved ground along the rail before moving off heels into the clear at the 300m to just get the better of Solar Wind ($6), with the favourite sticking on well in third beaten 1.5LIt couldn't have worked out better for the winner who will now — in all likelihood — go on to the Golden Slipper. Solar Wind's effort was a talking point. Slow to begin, the Team Hawkes debutant settled midfield on the rail and overraced noticeably in the early and middle stages. Strung up on turning, Berry went back to the rail and the colt finished determinedly to just be lipped out. The local Miss Ostend ($41) raced outside the above and elected to go to the outside. She hit the line hard and would have made the placings in another few hops. Norm Gardner has a good one on his hands with her. Disappointments were Team Snowdens' better tried colt Construct (5.50) who was slow to begin and didn't respond to riding. Bacchanalia ($8.50) had the run of the race and just battled. Bourbon Flyer sat outside the leader and was contacted at the 300m by the winner. He looked to have every chance after that.
The $150,000 Seears Workwear Listed National Sprint
It was a hometown victory in the National Sprint with the beautifully prepared Handle The Truth ($4.20) taking out the sprint feature.
The Keith Dryden-trained gelding settled back in the field and peeled wide in the straight, giving the front pair many lengths. He let down strongly, hitting the front at the 100m and drawing clear for a 1.6L victory. Any niggles that the gelding wouldn't run out a strong 1400m were well and truly put to bed. It was Rawiller's third aboard Handle The Truth. Among those was the 2019 $1.35m Koczuisko at 1200m. Dryden says the horse will now have a go at a Group 3, with the Star Kingdom on the radar.
Handle The Truth vied for favouritism with Academy ($4) who trailed behind the leader Peyton Place ($26) and positioned-up outside him on the turn. They came away but were gobbled up by the winner at the 50m and Thy Kingdom ($5) stormed home to get second. His effort was an eye catcher as well. He was last and widest on turning and will be some bet when produced at the mile. Peyton Place had country cup form and his run was a ripper doing all the work.
Disappointments included the Snowden pair Brave Song ($7) and Poetic Charmer ($8) who failed to let down and both will be sent for spells. Just Thinkin' knuckled on jumping.
The $80,000 Affinity Constructions Australia Quality Open Sprint
Three of the four best-backed runners ran the trifecta and it was another hometown victory with the Matt-Dale trained Mossman Gorge ($5.50) making it back-to-back wins off a 4 week freshen-up. This was the toughest company he's faced and stepped-up with aplomb.
The two longshot grey The Unknown Factor ($26) tussled for the early lead and then hoofed along and on turning looked a sitting duck for the better supported runners bunched behind. However the local coming off a 22 week spell fought like a tiger and it was only at the 100m peg that Mossman Gorge got the better of him. He'd settled forward of the chasers with Black Magnum ($2.90F) railing on his inside. Mossman Gorge was presented beautifully into the race and showed a good turn of foot to hold-out the fast finishing (after a slow start) Wayupinthesky ($7) with Black Magnum just dying slightly on his run a close-up third.
The big disappointment was Flat Heaven ($4.40) who finished 6L last. He raced wide and the jockey said in his view the gelding did not appreciate today's firm surface. No abnormalities were found post race. Brazenpine raced three wide on the speed and is worth another chance in the right company. Demonstrate ($61) just held fourth over Cradle Mountain ($13) and it was a decent effort in this class.
Race 1 (1200m) BM75
As expected Quiet Riot (1.80F) controlled the race at a leisurely tempo from Major Time and it was always going to be a sprint home. Returning to racing gelding he had a kick and did enough to hold off the hard-finishing effort of Onthetake (11), who had sat one-back on the rail throughout. Major Time didn't see it right out in third and Wilful Soul battled on next. The winner was the best horse in the race and will go on better things with this run under the belt.
Race 2 (2000m) CL1 SW
Kristalove ($3.20) and Lady Of Luxury ($2.05) were the pair punters wanted to be with and they ran the quinella in that order. Kristalove found the rail first and Lady Of Luxury settle fifth one-off the rail. Krogh slackened the tempo mid-race and Lady Of Luxury worked closer passing the 600m. The winner was 2L clear at the 350m with the runner-up the only challenger. Kristalove proved too strong holding his ground to win 2.5L. Lady Of Luxury gave her all, but stepping up to the middle distance found the Waterhouse-Bott-trained galloper a tough nut to crack.
Race 3 (1400m) BM65
A local win with Zelago ($4.60) well-backed and winning comfortably from Perfect Pitch ($4.40) and Mandalong Nicko ($5.50) third — well clear of the others.
ZELAGO (4) was out-graded in the country championship qualifier but the two close-up efforts prior read well for the contest. He was at peak fitness with Rachel King a key booking. He sat out the leader and then took over at the 800m and eased off the tempo. Mandalong Nicko was forward in the running line with Perfect Pitch behind him. The winner was 2L clear passing the 200m and won a length from the other pair who kept coming. Zelago was primed and it was a bold effort.
The disappointment was Underground Music ($3.90F) beaten 5.4L. The rider said the mare felt uncomfortable in her action rounding the home turn and did not respond to riding. Post-race no abnormalities were found and the trained could offer no explanation for the performance. Trainer Keith Dryden copped a $200 fine for the late rider declaration on Perfect Pitch (Rawiller) and three others on the day.
Race 4 (1200m) MDN
Local trainer Norm Gardner caused the day's biggest upset when Dancin' Til Dawn ($31) turned the form around on resumption. There has been no recorded trial and she held her long opening quote.
The betting was dominated by the Matt Dale debutant Glamour Runs Deep ($1.90F) off slick trials. She blew her chances at the start and met in the straight beaten 2.6L
The winner sat midfield one-out and the runner-up Spicy Restaurant ($9) missed the jump by 4L and was with the tailenders on settling. The third-placed Taylor Be Swift ($31) was three-wide on the speed. There four wide on turning and bunched behind. The winner found the right spot to take over and just hold out the fast finishing Spicy Restaurant. It was a massive effort from the latter. He was wide and a clear last on turning and hung a bit before knuckling down impressively. He wasn't beaten far in the Black Opal a year and looks in for a good campaign. Dancin' Til Dawn got the favours but it was a decent win all the same. Kermatin ($6 was well beaten. He over-raced in the easly and middle stages and had to be checked at the 450m.
Race 8 (1000m) CL1
Merc ($19) made it a double on the day for the Joseph, Jones, Jones partnership Merc off a plainish second-up effort at Queanbeyan. Her only other win was the first up effort on the Sapphire Coast heavy.
The ($3.1F) was beaten just over a half-length in third. The other best supported runner, London Gal ($ 3.50) finished seventh. She was slow off and wide but the rider said he was disappointed with the filly's effort to finish off it race. No abnormalities were found.
The second placegetter Crucial Witness ($12) led from Merc and there was a gap to the others on turning. In a decent go for the line Merc just got the upper hand. The eye catcher was Missile Magic ($8.50) who powered home into fourth for the Olive yard and there is a win coming with him.