Timeform Preview – Doncaster
Three-year-olds have traditionally out performed market expectations in the Doncaster handicap and that may well play out again this afternoon.
Mo'Unga provided up and coming trainer Annabel Neasham with her first group one winner when successful in the Rosehill Guineas last time out and now the lightly raced three-year-old turns his attention to the Doncaster Mile.
In so doing looking to create a further piece of history for himself and Neasham by becoming the first Rosehill Guineas winner to win the prestigious Randwick feature in consecutive starts.
Mo'unga has always had a big wrap on him and Neasham is the second trainer to be responsible for his preparation, Chris Waller having guided him early in his career.
However, there is no denying that the colt has blossomed under her care and now finds himself taking on seasoned, older group battled campaigners in what is shaping up as a great spectacle for Day 1 of The Championships.
Timeform rated 120 with more to come off his Rosehill Guineas win, Mo'unga after three runs back from a spell should be at his peak today and with just 49.5kgs on his back looks attractively placed on weight adjusted ratings.
In more recent times, only the Chris Waller trained D'Argento has tried the double in 2018 when a close up fourth to Happy Clapper after getting a long way out of his ground early. There are similarities between the pair as he too was Timeform rated 120+ off the Rosehill Guineas win.
The only difference between the two is that D'Argento was fifth run back from a spell into the 2018 Doncaster Mile, whereas Mo'unga is fourth run back today. Both were 14 days off their last run coming into the race.
In the last 10 years, six three-year-olds have used the Rosehill Guineas as a lead up to the Doncaster – Sacred Falls , second to Dundeel in the 2013 Guineas, the only horse to win the Doncaster.
History aside, Timeform weight adjusted ratings point to a big run under his postage stamp weight of 49.5kgs.
Racing is about patterns and James Cummings knows a thing or two about them – his iconic Grand Father Bart Cummings worked to patterns too.
There is no doubt Avilius is the pattern horse for the Doncaster. In 2018 Cummings used the same pattern with old war horse Hartnell winning the Epsom Handicap under 57kgs.
Most of Hartnell's best form had been over 2000m and beyond, but Cummings decided to switch him to shorter trips. After two runs from a spell, Hartnell found his way into the Epsom and with his class playing a big part in the victory, duly the major prize.
Fast forward to 2021 and Avilius has been given the same preparation.
All of his recent racing has been at 2000m having raced in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups last Spring.
At The Championships last year, Avilius was racing Addeyb and Veery Elleegant.
But this campaign, Avilius resumed with a slashing close third to Verry Elleegant in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes at weight for age followed by another narrow defeat in third place in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes, also at weight for age – the most successful lead up to the Doncaster providing five of the past 10 Doncaster Mile winners.
On both occasions, with an ounce of luck, Avilius would have been successful, but just as Cummings did with Hartnell in 2018, Avilius now drops back to Group 1 Handicap company third run in.
Handicapped on 56kgs, the lightest weight he has carried since the 2018 Melbourne Cup, combined with a big drop in class, Avilius looks well placed. He has shown a tendency in the past to peak his Timeform rating when third up.
Granted a damp racing surface would assist, however Avilius has several ratings in the locker that would win the Doncaster Mile, with a career equalling 125 Timeform rating good enough to get the job done.
Many will argue Avilius cannot beat Think It Over on their George Ryder match up, meeting that galloper 3.5kgs worse at the weights today. However, Avilius has scope to improve further whereas Think It Over may well have reached his peak after three excellent preparation runs taking his Timeform rating from 113 first up to 119 last start.
Glen Boss who is riding in great form will be aiming for his 91st Australian Group 1 win aboard Think It Over and with just 52.5 kgs to carry rates as a definite danger.
All Star Mile winner Mugatoo has to bring that form to Randwick today on a much better surface.
Mugatoo, like Avilius raced over longer distances last campaign finishing second in the Metropolitan and fourth in the Cox Plate, but this campaign has been restricted to shorter distances.
The All Star Mile win was Mugatoo's second run back from a spell and achieved on atrocious track conditions that clearly suited him and the runner up Russian Camelot. While the form has worked out well since, it is the only rating performance Mugatoo has that wins the Doncaster Mile.
All his other lower Timeform ratings have been achieved over 2000m or longer.
That said, Mugatoo has never raced better and has to be kept under notice.
Cascadian, a stablemate of Avilius, is also third up from a spell today but was responsible for an eye catching fourth in the George Ryder Stakes.
Jamie Kah takes the mount and Cascadian does have significant weight pull on rivals from the George Ryder.
Narrowly beaten in the Cantala Stakes over 1600m last Spring, Cascadian is a knock out chance at odds.
Zaaki is the interesting runner of the field. Also trained by Neasham the former Sir Michael Stoute-trained galloper resumes from a spell but has twice trialled impressively in the lead up to today's race.
His fresh up form is sound and could be a huge value chance for the multiple players.
Timeform Preview – T J Smith Stakes
The top three Timeform rated sprinters in the land line up in a cracking renewal of the TJ Smith Stakes.
The James Cummings-trained Bivouac on 128 courtesy of his emphatic Darley Sprint Classic win in the Spring is two pounds clear at the head of the pack from Nature Strip (126) and four pounds to a reinvigorated Eduardo (124).
However, Chris Waller will again be hoping his crack sprinter Nature Strip is on song today as the enigmatic galloper does not always put his best form on the line.
Nature Strip's best Timeform rating is 129, a figure a figure he ran winning the TJ Smith last year and a performance close to that would see him comfortably home again.
And it would seem Waller is travelling a proven path with the crack sprinter giving him the identical preparation to last year – VRC Lightning, Challenge Stakes and T J Smith with a barrier trial leading into the T J.
Nature Strip scored brilliantly in the Lightning with Jamie Kah in the saddle running to a Timeform rating of 126 before coming off that figure with a narrow defeat by Eduardo in the Challenge Stakes.
James McDonald retains the ride and there is a sense of timing again about his preparation for today's race.
The big question to be answered today is whether Bivouac can regain that level of performance around a bend at Randwick.
His first up run in the Group 1 Lightning Stakes over 1000m can be overlooked but it has to be said his last start fourth in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes behind stablemate Savatiano was well below par rating just 113.
It looks a big leap of faith to predict he could reach his 128 peak today but the 28 day break might just be the catalyst.
It is worth remember that Bivouac came off a 28 day break when runner up to Classique Legend in the Everest last Spring and a repeat of that run does get him in the frame.
It is also worth noting that behind him that day were Nature Strip and Eduardo.
The rider switch to Hugh Bowman who won the Group 1 Golden Rose atop the entire at three is also a significant pointer.
Eduardo franked the Challenge Stakes form with an all the way win in the Galaxy over 1100m on his preferred soft ground and under a somewhat biased track that favoured leaders.
Eduardo has won at 1200m however his highest rating form since coming to Sydney with Joe Pride has been between 1000m and 1100m.
While he has been a model of consistency, today's race is a different assignment.
Libertini who disappointed first up in the Manikato Stakes can improve while Savatiano is always capable of getting into the finish.
The Australian Derby
In recent years the Tulloch Stakes has been the right form line for the Australian Derby, however Timeform ratings suggest it could be time for the Rosehill Guineas form to hold up.
Lion's Roar will bring the highest Timeform rating of 120 into the Derby courtesy of his flashing Randwick Guineas win with Sky Lab on 118 and Montefilia 114 next best.
Narrowly beaten in the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes by Montefilia, Lions Roar did not appreciate the soft conditions in the Rosehill Guineas but still found the line strongly after getting held up in the straight.
It could also be argued he may have been slightly disadvantaged by where he was in the ground as both Sky Lad and Montefilia made their runs deep on the track.
A winner of four of his eight starts, Lion's Roar is a progressive three-year-old ready to atone for his Spring Champion Stakes second.
Montefilia already a dual Group 1 winner has a sense of timing about her preparation and will be peaking this afternoon.
There was a lot to like about her Rosehill Guineas run, second up and jumping from 1400m to 2000m, she showed no signs of easing off over the closing stages just going down in a three-way finish.
She will improve again off that effort and although untried at 2400m, she gives every impression of not being troubled by the extra distance.
Sky Lab has always shown promise as a stayer and has made a rapid rise through the grades improving his Timeform rating by 20 pounds in the Guineas to 118.
If he can build on that today, he could give the Paul Perry stable another big race win.