Chris Waller’s impressive spring wrapped up with Mister Sea Wolf taking out the inaugural running of The Gong with stablemate Star Of The Seas running third.
While The Gong attracted a solid line up with The Villiers in three weeks the next start for many, the meeting as a whole shaped as a genuine transition from spring to summer racing as a number of useful benchmark types commenced their preps in good order.
Race 1: Destination - 2YO Handicap (1000m)
Destination produced a professional display against a small field of just five rivals. The Exceed And Excel colt landed outside the leader and took control of the race approaching the furlong.
We’ve got him running to a Timeform rating of 99 which is about the mark most of the 2YO winners in Sydney the past month have come in around. The Golden Gift is the clear exception to that rule with winner Dame Giselle the pick of the 2YO fillies in Australia to date.
There is an 1100m 2YO Plate at Rosehill in a fortnight, it might be worth Destination having one more run this prep as he’s already up and going. Another win early in the season would go a long way in allowing the colt to enter a Golden Slipper third run from a spell.
Race 2: Sneak Preview - Class 3 TAB Highway Handicap (1600m)
Sneak Preview landed one out and one back, coasted up to the lead at the 300m and really put them away.
The son of Smart Missile is building a nice little record with four wins and a placing from eight starts. There was a lot of post race talk about the Country Championships being his next goal and fair enough.
Clergyman was strong late in second. There is an 1800m Highway Handicap for him in two weeks. Lord Desanimaux back in eighth was okay in restricted room down the straight. He’s by Dalakhani so a step up to 1800m may help him out too.
Race 3: Mr Reckless - Benchmark 78 3YO+ Handicap (2000m)
The UK import led in a quinella for Chris Waller and Denise Martin’s Star Thoroughbreds.
The Waller duo parked just off a pretty hot early speed and they were there to pounce on straightening.
Mr Reckless has run to a Timeform rating of 101 which is the best display we’ve seen from him in Australia.
His master rating of 105 came when winning an Open Handicap at Windsor in the UK 12 months ago. This suggests Chris Waller has more to work with. The son of Reckless Abandon could perhaps be a lightweight Christmas Cup hope in three weeks.
Stablemate Mangione was good in second. There is another 2000m Benchmark 78 Handicap for him at Rosehill in two weeks time.
Nordic in fourth was getting to the line well enough too.
California Longbow disappointed on face value but post race was found to be 1 out of 5 lame.
Depending on how the Team Snowden runner has pulled up, he could always bounce back in that 2000m Benchmark 78 Handicap at Rosehill. He and Mangione had the same lead up form heading into this race and the latter gave it a nice push on Saturday.
Race 4: Kylease - Benchmark 78 3YO+ F&M Handicap (1200m)
Kylease landed in front and did enough to hold on from a wall of horses.
This Joe Pride-trained filly was charging through her grades earlier this year. A virus derailed her spring prep but she looks well on track now.
Pride can keep her in Fillies and Mares grade for the immediate future. A 1200m Fillies and Mares Benchmark 88 at Randwick in three weeks shapes as a logical progression after Saturday.
Handspun produced an eye catching display first up at odds. The Bernardini mare got back, had to weave through the field and surged late. The four-year-old can reel off great closing sectionals however just gets too far back most of the time.
Lucicello in third was beaten as favourite. She’s probably needing a slightly longer sprint trip for her next start. Connections have ample races to choose from over the coming weeks.
Race 5: Aqua D’ivina - Benchmark 88 3YO+ Handicap (1600m)
Aqua D’ivina’s prep got off to a pretty slow start but she turned it around quickly on Saturday third up and out to the mile.
Jockey Kathy O’Hara deserves credit who stayed patient on the fence and steered the Pierro mare through a narrow split at the furlong.
She’s only lightly-raced and Matthew Smith has a nice prep mapped out for her summer.
The Villiers Stakes in three weeks is up next for Aqua D'Ivina followed by the Christmas Cup and a trip north for the Magic Millions Carnival.
Fun Fact caught the eye late in fourth after being ambitiously placed first up in the Golden Eagle. Watch for him at his next start third run from a spell, potentially a Benchmark 88 on Villiers Stakes Day at Randwick in three weeks.
Race 6: Mister Sea Wolf - The Gong (1600m)
That all important Chris Waller polish came to the fore once again. Mister Sea Wolf got a nice run just off the pace and responded to JMac well that last 250m.
It was Mister Sea Wolf’s third win from eight starts this year, before this he’d won the Doncaster Prelude in the autumn and the Shannon Stakes two starts ago.
We’ve assessed his win on Saturday as a career peak performance with a Timeform rating of 117.
His options from here are either the spelling paddock or going to the Villiers Stakes in three weeks time.
If he’s come through Saturday alright, there is little reason not to go to the Villiers Stakes. The UK import would be the class horse of the race and likely compress the weights like he did on Saturday.
The great thing about The Gong is it does has the potential to keep some spring types in work until at least late November and even potentially through until December for a race like the Villiers, case in point is Epsom placegetter Star Of The Seas who is promising to pick off a decent race some time this season. The Ocean Park gelding has performed well through a five start prep to date and deserves one more chance this prep to add a Group win to his record.
Quackerjack was brave in second after enduring a torrid run from a wide draw. Military Zone, El Dorado Dreaming and Luvaluva should all be heading toward the Villiers also.
Race 7: Ghostly - Benchmark 78 3YO+ Handicap (1000m)
Ghostly has been a great bread and butter horse. He can race through the summer at Benchmark 78/88 level and keep the prizemoney coming in for connections.
Mossman Gorge was good in fourth while Latin Boy was strong out wide in sixth as well. Both were first up. The Matthew Dale and Team Freedman Stables each had a couple of runners at Kembla Grange on Saturday who performed nicely.
Race 8: Trumbull - Benchmark 78 3YO+ CG&E Handicap (1200m)
Trumbull had been promising to win a race like this for a while now and Saturday was the day. The Darci Brahma gelding found the fast lane along the fence and kept kicking.
He’d placed in three of his four prior runs this prep as favourite so congrats to any followers who stuck strong.
Kim Waugh post race suggested the Provincial Championships during the autumn will be his next main goal. There are a couple of 1400m races coming up in the next few weeks so it might be worth testing him over the trip before he’s sent out for a spell with greater goals in mind.
Race 9: Napoleon Solo - Benchmark 78 3YO+ Handicap (1400m)
This was a big effort by Napoleon Solo who was caught wide with no cover for most of the trip.
He loomed up in the straight and while you expected the wide run to take its toll late, the Uncle Mo gelding kept going.
It was an encouraging win by a horse who held his own against behind good opposition as a three-year-old. His best career outing to date came in the 2019 South Pacific Classic where he was beaten less than a length behind the likes of Fasika, Wild Planet and Gem Song.
He only has a Benchmark of 73 after Saturday so he’s got plenty of opportunity to pick off another Benchmark 78 Handicap over the summer.
Destiny’s Own has commenced his prep well with two solid runs. Boomtown Rat in sixth was held up on the fence straightening, but once he got off heels, found the line nicely that last furlong.
It was his stable debut for Bjorn Baker and with a Benchmark of just 69, there is another 1400m Benchmark 78 at Randwick in three weeks he can go to. It was an encouraging first up effort for a stable with a knack at getting tried horses to fire.