"And I will be a monkey's uncle if I let you ruin this for me, because if you can't get the job done, then I will!" roared Hugh Bowman at the corner. "Do as you are trained... Win the All Star Mile!" *
Mugatoo did as he was trained. To the roars of a soaking Valley crowd a flash of blue (steel) shot through a narrow seam under Bowman who seemingly has only one look himself on the Moonee Valley catwalk. His fist-pumping growl, pictured above, familiar after a famous quartet of Cox Plates and one of the first images that spring to mind when thinking of the Valley.
Few (if any) tracks do big races like The Valley. There is the 'cauldron-like atmosphere' (drink...) but what really makes the big races at the Valley pop is geometry. The quirky, tight-turning Valley promises to reward those who don't hestitate. No counting to the clocktower nonsense. Get going and make your own luck.
Such rewards are on offer at essentially all Australian racecourses - pace makes the race - but the Valley lures jockeys in like Sirens on the rocks.
Falsely-run races lead to false results and truly-run races lead to true results. The All Star Mile delivered the latter, the best two horses pulling clear under the best two jocks - certainly the best two rides.
Damien Oliver produced a gem on Russian Camelot, keeping him flowing throughout on what had become very testing ground, before efficiently cutting through to have the race, and Bowman, at his mercy. Oliver eyeballed Bowman - brilliant - but then The Harrovian heard the Siren's call. The brave Queenslander headed to the rocks and through came Mugatoo.
Now Mugatoo eyeballed Russian Camelot, the pair producing a stirring battle, a memorable contest, and a strong, reliable looking piece of form.
Mugatoo returned a Timeform rating of 124, up 2lbs from his spring peak, and Russian Camelot ran to 123, just a pound shy of his best to date. Both roll on to Sydney rated 124 and ready to stretch the neck of Verry Elleegant (rated 123) and the 129-rated Addeybb. That pair are set to lock horns for the third time in this weekend's Ranvet before a Queen Elizabeth that is shaping as a genuine Championship Race.
The number of Group One races in Australia dwarf the number of true Championship Races. The addition of 'pop up races' like the Everest and All Star Mile has further weakened some of those established Group Ones, which is a shame, but what it has done is provided what the Group One races once endeavoured to do. Meaningful clashes between the best.
Whether a race has 'Group One status' or not hardly matters to punters or race fans. A $10 winner is a $10 winner whether it be Bowman downing Oliver at the pinnacle of the sport or a 4kg claimer clinging on aboard a 50-rater at Coonamble. But for most, $10 winners come along a bit less frequently than 1 in every 10 and racing must provide sporting reasons for fans to keep fronting up and paying up.
The world may have changed in the information age but we are wired the same, and want the same from sport, as those who walked into The Colosseum 2000 years ago. We want the best to face the best and we want it to mean something. Perhaps not life and death, like the great gamblers of Rome, but we still love a pattern, a narrative, an easily understood triumph to celebrate and remember.
The All Star Mile delivered that and the Queen Elizabeth promises to do so with interest.
Hopefully we can add Arcadia Queen to the mix there as well. The story of the 2021 All Star Mile up until the gates opened was that of Arcadia Queen and her troublesome feet.
As it turned out it probably hardly mattered. The rain turned the going very testing (officially soft but it was heavy ground to all with a stopwatch) and Arcadia Queen's chances were basically the same standing in her yard at Bendigo as they would have been had she been at the Valley with four good feet.
Arcadia Queen was rated 121 in her very first preparation and the world looked to be at those troublesome feet. But a failed mountain climbing expedition has been followed by setbacks that have meant we have seen just glimpses of what she has to offer. Twice this season she has looked ready to take the step up and stamp herself as Australia's best racehorse at the Valley and twice she has been scuppered by rain and by her feet.
Arcadia Queen is due a bit of luck and perhaps that luck will come via a fast track for the Queen Elizabeth. Alas, five of the past seven QEIIs have been run on soft ground. Few tracks do big races like the Valley. And few to rain like Randwick in the autumn.
*This is (loosely) quoted from Mugatu in Zoolander FYI