Timeform Previews : 2020 Australian Derby Day

The Timeform Team at Racing and Sports has looked into the four major group one races on one of Sydney’s biggest racedays – Australian Derby day.

Timeform Preview - Doncaster 2020

SHARED AMBITION winning the Entire Travel R'wick City Stks
SHARED AMBITION winning the Entire Travel R'wick City Stks Picture: Racing and Sports

Leading trainer Chris Waller has won six of the last 12 Doncasters and is well represented this year with eight runners engaged.

Waller won his last Doncaster with star mare Winx in 2016 and while he doesn't saddle up the favourite this year, the progressive Shared Ambition  shapes as one of the hardest to beat.

Trainers are creatures are habits and none more so than Waller.

Barrier trials mid-preparation have certainly become more trendy in recent times, however it is one of Waller's oldest tricks.

MAMARAGAN winning the Schweppes Skyline Stakes
MAMARAGAN winning the Schweppes Skyline Stakes Picture: Racing and Sports

When Rangirangdoo won the Doncaster back in 2010, he was 28 days between runs, back in trip, off a new peak and a barrier trial in-between.

No guesses as to what Shared Ambition is doing on Saturday (all of the above).

Shared Ambition has won six of eight starts and arguably should be unbeaten in Australia, after he did everything to get beat first up at Warwick Farm.

The inside draw allows him to adopt a more prominent position and when assessing Timeform weight adjusted ratings, he has the figures to be winning.

NATURE STRIP winning the Hyland Race Colours Challenge
NATURE STRIP winning the Hyland Race Colours Challenge Picture: Racing and Sports

Very hard to suggest we've seen the best of him and if able to run a new peak, he should prove hard to beat.

The John Sargent trained Brandenburg ticks all the right boxes on Saturday and is the deserved favourite.

3YOs have dominated the race winning eight of the past 20 renewals, while providing just 14% of the participants.

Follow the exact same path as Brutal last year, Brandenburg performed well in the George Ryder Stakes, a race that has provided five of the last six winners.

He drops to 50.5kg and the king of the Doncaster, Glen Boss sticks aboard (chasing his eighth success).

From the middle draw Boss has plenty of options and he rates as one of the hardest to beat.

SANTA ANA LANE winning the Aquis T J Smith Stakes during day one of The Championships as part of Sydney Racing at Royal Randwick in Sydney, Australia.
SANTA ANA LANE winning the Aquis T J Smith Stakes during day one of The Championships as part of Sydney Racing at Royal Randwick in Sydney, Australia. Picture: (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Fellow three-year-old Prince Fawaz sets up well following a career peak performance last start in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas.

Very game in defeat behind Castelvecchio, he appears well placed dropping back to the mile and is another who appears well placed at the weights.

In his first attempt beyond a mile he took a big step forward and given the likely testing conditions of Saturday's event, it should play right into his hands.

Of the rest the James Cummings trained Cascadian did a great job to win the Doncaster Prelude last weekend and gets his chance on the quick back up.

Yet to be seen at a mile this time in, he is sure to appreciate the step up in trip and appears well placed when assessing Timeform weight adjusted ratings.

CASTELVECCHIO winning the Sky Racing Rosehill Guineas
CASTELVECCHIO winning the Sky Racing Rosehill Guineas Picture: Racing and Sports

The wide draw keeps him out of trouble and if able to springboard off that mark, he should be strong late.

Timeform Preview - Inglis Sires'

The John Thompson trained Mamaragan  has been most impressive in two starts and appears well placed to take out Saturday's Group 1 Inglis Sires'.

Successful in upstaging his more fancied rivals on debut in the Group 2 Skyline Stakes (20-1), he was one of the best closers in the Golden Slipper, when finishing third behind Farnan.

Only Farnan and Away Game went quicker the last 400m and both are absent on Saturday.

The Golden Slipper is the A1 form and at just his third start, he still has upside.

The step up to 1400m should suit and suspect he does lead, had he jumped better he would have settled a lot closer in the Slipper.

On debut he rode a very hot speed in the Skyline and is more than capable of taking full advantage of the inside draw.

Leading rider Nash Rawiller sticks aboard and with even luck, he should prove hard to get past.

The Team Hawkes trained Ole Kirk should have won the Group 2 VRC Sires' last start, when blocked at a vital stage.

He too steps out for just his third start and sets up well having already had the run at 1400m.

Kept fresh (28 days), he has trialled very well since (Randwick – 1050m) and appears in fine fettle.

Out of the full-sister to Black Caviar, he is trending the right way and should be prominent from the inside draw.

The Maher and Eustace trained Holyfield did a great job on-speed when winning last weekend and has to be kept safe on the quick back up.

Having disappointed in the VRC Sires' he bounced back in a big way and if able to repeat, he is sure to make his presence felt.

Of the rest the Robbie Griffiths trained Glenfiddich cannot be underestimated.

A dominant last start winner at Mornington, he has to take a big step up in grade, but rates well dropping back from 1500m and is another on an upward spiral.

Timeform Preview – T J Smith Stakes

A Timeform rating of 125 is just an arbitrary point but it is one typically used to label a horse or performance with the tag 'Group 1'.

It's a point on the Timeform scale that could be considered the point where a horse is competitive at the highest level right anywhere around the globe. And so it is not insignificant that the TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick on Saturday hosts no less than six horses that have run to 125 or higher in their careers.

Those horses are Nature Strip  (rated 128), Santa Ana Lane  (128), Bivouac (127), Pierata  (126), Redzel  (126) and Exceedance  (125). The number grows to eight if we include the fillies In Her Time and Loving Gaby who have both hit highs of 121 which, considering their 2kg mares allowance, has them reaching similar levels.

Few sprint races anywhere in the world can boast such strength in depth, and so it is almost assured that winning it will take a performance from the top shelf.

Nature Strip can consider himself the headline act, having run to 128 last time out when winning the Challenge Stakes in formidable fashion. He also ran to that level when winning the VRC Sprint in the spring and that was over 1200m – so he can produce his peaks at this trip. But can he produce them under such heat and consistently?

That is the query with Nature Strip. For every glimpse of his brilliance seems to come a bad run. A world class Jekyll and Hyde.

The same can't be said of Pierata who is both reliable and predictable to go with his high class talent. And he brings a potent looking set up to the race having run to a big rating first-up in the Galaxy when closing better than all bar Deprive despite being away from the inside which had appeared the place to be over the course of the card.

That resulted in a Timeform rating of 122 with the thinking that it could have been a bit better than that in a more favourable circumstance. And that leaves him looking like a coiled spring ahead of Saturday.

Of the big guns engaged he looks most likely to fire. 

Redzel and Santa Ana Lane are no strangers to winning big Randwick sprints but they were both a fair way off their best, and perhaps more importantly Nature Strip, in the Challenge and as a pair of rising eight-year-olds they face no easy task to find career highs in this.

Fresher legs from the three-year-olds looks more likely, with Bivouac's Newmarket win the pick of the form. He was awesome that day, though it must be of some concern that Loving Gaby was able to brush him aside so easily around the Valley having been no match for him at Flemington.

The Valley seemingly suits her better, as the Manikato and William Reid have shown, and when Bivouac is on song he has posted better ratings than the filly. But the flat run does leave a nagging doubt.

There are more than nagging doubt around Exceedance who stamped himself as good as any in his crop when winning a high-rating Coolmore in the spring but has been very plain in two runs since returning and now has to prove that he has trained on at all.

He has the talent to figure in a race like this but to fancy him now requires a leap of faith.

Timeform Preview – Australian Derby

Castelvecchio  v Shadow Hero has been one of the great themes of the season to date and they resume their rivalry in the race that both have long looked destined for this Saturday – The Australian Derby.

Prior to the Rosehill Guineas, Shadow Hero had a 4-0 head to head record against Castelvecchio, but despite that the Castelvecchio had the higher Timeform rating courtesy of his Cox Plate second in the spring.

He put that to good use under another Craig Williams gem in the Rosehill Guineas and pulled one back on Shadow Hero for whom the race didn't play out so ideally and so we head to Randwick at 4-1 but with Castelvecchio holding the ratings edge.

His edge isn't just on Shadow Hero but on the Derby field overall. The pair have hit higher levels than the rest to this point and are both about good enough to win a typical Derby.

While the ratings are with Castelvecchio it must be noted that Shadow Hero has long looked better than his ratings and there is a better performance lurking within him. He hits his target for the season on Saturday having hummed through the line in both the Randwick and Rosehill Guineas and hopes must be high that he smashes through the 120 ceiling this weekend and gives Castelvecchio plenty to worry about.

The Derby winner has come through the Tulloch in each of the past three years and with Murray Baker behind this year's winner Quick Thinker there must be a line of thinking that the trend can continue.

Quick Thinker  posted a rating of 111+ beating the 108-rated Zebrowski. It's clearly a good set up to peak on the quick turnaround but the ratings show the task they face against the top two.

VRC Derby winner Warning and NZ Derby winner Sherwood Forest both have higher peaks (albeit narrowly) than Quick Thinker and while the pair were no more than even in the Rosehill Guineas they must come to Randwick, over the suitable longer trip, with a hope not dissimilar to Quick Thinker.

Racing and Sports