Melbourne Racing Club, BMW partnership to end

The 2013-14 season will be the last of BMW’s eight-year partnership with the Melbourne Racing Club, the club announced today.

The sponsorship included naming rights of the club’s flagship race, the $2.65 million Group One Caulfield Cup, and wider Caulfield Cup Carnival.

BMW’s tenure as major sponsor marked a significant era for the Caulfield Cup, considered one of Australia’s four "grand slam" races.

Throughout the period, northern hemisphere-trained horses won the Cup for the second and third times: All The Good in 2008 – Godolphin’s only group one success in Australia – and Dunaden in 2012.

MRC Chief Executive Officer, Brodie Arnhold, spoke appreciatively of BMW and the club’s partnership with the luxury car manufacturer.

"A major sponsorship of eight years is a rare phenomenon in sport, and speaks volumes about the relationship between BMW and the Melbourne Racing Club," Mr Arnhold said.

"Accordingly, we are grateful to BMW for its part in a successful working partnership over the best part of a decade.

"We also understand the forces in place that have precluded it from continuing. Nonetheless, we wish BMW Australia and its staff the very best for their future endeavours."

Mr Arnhold incidentally announced that the club had bolstered its commercial arm with the appointment of former Southern Cross Austereo Agency Sales Director, Sam Bingley, as its Head of Business Development.

"We believe that the Caulfield Cup, among the wider Melbourne Racing Club, presents one of the premium products and brands in Australian sport, and we look forward to leveraging Sam’s commercial expertise to combine with a new, world-class major sponsor to match that."

Toni Andreevski, BMW’s General Manager – Marketing, added, "The Caulfield Cup Carnival has been a fantastic property for BMW and we have enjoyed the relationship with the MRC. We wish them all the best for 2014 and beyond."

The Melbourne Racing Club’s major sponsors include Sportingbet Australia, BECK Property Group, Schweppes and David Jones.

Caulfield course proper to undergo renovation

The Melbourne Racing Club is pleased to announce that a full renovation of the Caulfield Racecourse course proper will commence immediately following the 2014 Caulfield Cup.

The resurfacing will mirror the project undertaken in 2005, and will keep the track out of action for much of the 2014-15 summer, with racing set to return in advance of Blue Diamond Stakes day in 2015.

Tentatively, six of the eight meetings typically scheduled at Caulfield throughout the period will be run at Sportingbet Park, with the remaining two to be moved to Moonee Valley. Those transfers will be confirmed upon the release of the 2014/15 Victorian racing calendar by Racing Victoria.

The proposed works are in line with the club’s strong commitment to racecourse management: specifically, to supplying racing industry participants and punters with the very best conditions possible.

The renovation is one of several significant capital expenditure projects scheduled for the coming year, the majority of which will be dedicated to development of new and improvement of existing members’ amenity and facilities. Further information on those projects will follow in the ensuing months.

The proposed Caulfield resurfacing follows similar renovations currently underway at Sportingbet Park, where racing is scheduled to return in February 2014, and at Mornington in 2010.

For more information, please feel free to contact the Melbourne Racing Club on 1300 GO RACE (46 7223) or at .

2013 BMW Caulfield Cup Carnival key results

At the 2013 BMW Caulfield Cup Carnival Media Awards today, Melbourne Racing Club Chief Executive Officer, Brodie Arnhold, presented a snapshot of the key results across the club’s carnival. It finds that:

  • Overall wagering turnover (all licensed Australian wagering service providers) increased by 4.3% year-on-year for the Carnival.
  • Racing at Caulfield gained strong exposure and wagering results in Hong Kong on feature group one races, attributable to later timeslots for those races.
  • The BMW Caulfield Cup experienced a record television audience, underpinned by the new Seven Network coverage.
  • Combined traffic through the Melbourne Racing Club and Spring Racing Carnival websites increased by over 50% year-on-year.
  • Strong oncourse attendance and increased food and beverage sales delivered a record overall financial outcome for the Melbourne Racing Club.

Read the full report online now.

2013 BMW Caulfield Cup Carnival media award winners announced

The winners of the 2013 BMW Caulfield Cup Carnival Media Awards were announced at a function in Melbourne today.

Pertaining to coverage of Caulfield Spring feature racing and/or associated events from Carnival Preview Day (Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes) in September through to the conclusion of the BMW Caulfield Cup Carnival in October, and judged by a panel of Melbourne Racing Club executives, awards were presented across five categories.

The major winners in each category received a cheque for $1000 and a trophy courtesy of the Club, while merit award winners each landed $250 and a corresponding memento.

Winners in each category were as follows:

Major prize – Matt Stewart (Herald Sun/News)
Minor prize – Chris Roots (SMH/Fairfax)

Major prize – Seven Sport
Minor prize – Roger Oldrige (Ten News)

Major prize – RSN ‘Racing Ahead’ – Shane Anderson
Minor prize – SEN ‘Racing Fix’

Major prize – Vince Caligiuri
Minor prize – Sharon Chapman

Major prize – Racing Network
Minor prize – Brad Bishop –

The Melbourne Racing Club congratulates all winners, and indeed all media operators, on their contribution to the club’s successful carnival.

Platelet pulls up well

Leading Victorian trainer Darren Weir said Platelet has pulled up well following the dual Group 1-winning mare’s unplaced run in yesterday’s $135,000 Group 3 Kevin Heffernan Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield.

Sent out the $3.50 favourite, Weir said he was at a loss to explain the five-year-old’s uncharacteristically poor performance.

“She seems OK this morning but she changed stride with about 150 metres to go yesterday and it looked like something had gone wrong,” Weir said.

“Michelle (Payne) sort of just eased her down (over the final 100 metres) but she seems fine today.”

Weir said both Platelet and stable mate Lonhspresso, who finished eighth in the Kevin Heffernan Stakes, would now head to the paddock before concentrating on the late summer/autumn.

Weir said Lake Sententia, who had been among the nominations for yesterday’s Group 2 Zipping Classic (2400m), has also gone to the paddock.

Turning attention next Sunday’s $200,000 Listed Ballarat Cup (2200m), Weir will likely be represented by both Hobart Cup winner Hurdy Gurdy Man, as well as progressive mare Bia Diamond.

Click here to view the full list of results for yesterday’s Kevin Heffernan Stakes

- Ben Asgari,

Floria seals Newitt double

Craig Newitt made the most of a late call-up to win the final race of the last feature metropolitan meeting of this year’s Spring Racing Carnival.

The strong hoop combined with the Peter Moody-trained Floria to win the $135,000 Group 3 Le Pine Funerals Summoned Stakes at Caulfield.

Newitt only got the ride after Moody’s stable rider Luke Nolen was forced to forfeit his rides after sustaining a knee injury after being thrown from Bullpit in the mounting yard before the opening event.

It gave Newitt a running double to round out the card, having partnered Lankan Rupee to victory in the Kevin Heffernan Stakes, and has him primed for a busy week ahead.

“I’m off to Singapore tomorrow (to ride in the Group 1 Gold Cup) then I fly back Monday, fly to Tassie to ride Wednesday night then come back Thursday and off to Perth next Saturday,” Newitt said. “I’ve got a busy week.”

Floria’s win gave Moody something to smile about at the end of what has been a trying Carnival when, after enjoying a sweet midfield run, she overhauled her rivals in the straight.

At the line the well-backed favourite ($2.80 to $2.50) had three quarters of a length to spare over Hi Belle ($11), who hit the line well, with on-pacer Wistful ($8) sticking on gamely for third.

While only the fourth win from 30 starts for the daughter of Savabeel – and first when in Moody’s care – she has raced in top grade for much of her career and Moody said he’ll continue to pursue a Group 1 success with the six-year-old.

“She was deserved of a win and she did look a good thing on paper but we wanted to convince ourselves that she wanted to be winning too,” he said.

“She’s never been far off them, she’s raced with the best mares her last five or six runs, so she’ll probably have a little let up now and she’ll run through the mares races similar to she did last year. Hopefully we can stump up a couple more (wins) with a bit more luck.”

The full result of the Le Pine Funerals Summoned Stakes is available here

- Brad Bishop,

Lankan logs another win

Lankan Rupee continued his transformation as a racehorse with victory in today’s $135,000 Group 3 TMB Printing Kevin Heffernan Stakes at Caulfield.

The Mick Price-trained four-year-old made it three wins from four starts in his maiden preparation as a gelding with a dominant win in the 1200m event.

Craig Newitt, who has ridden the son of Redoute’s Choice to his past two wins, said it was a shame the former troublesome colt had to be gelded but it has been the making of him.

“Unfortunately he had to lose his marbles, but it’s been the making of him,” Newitt said.

“He’s measured up at weight-for-age today and passed with flying colours, so I think there could be a nice win in him somewhere down the line.”

Lankan Rupee followed up his fighting win over Snitzerland over 1000m on Oaks Day with his Kevin Heffernan success.

He enjoyed a sweet run just behind a solid tempo set by She Can Skate and made the most of an inside run entering the straight.

The $15 chance powered through to claim the lead and kick clear to score by 2-1/4 lengths from Hot Snitzel ($10), who backed up his second placing in last year’s edition. Famous Seamus ($7.50) finished strongly along the fence to finish a half-neck back in third.

“He sat on the back of She Can Skate today, she ran them along nicely, but he just cruised in behind her at the top of the straight,” Newitt said.

“The thing I was really impressed with was that he ran through the line very solidly.”

Price was particularly pleased to see Lankan Rupee run out a strong 1200m given the sprinting options that abound after Christmas.

Not only is there the Group 1 Victorian triple crown of the Lightning Stakes (1000m), Oakleigh Plate (1100m) and Newmarket Handicap (1200m), but also the $2.5 million T.J. Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick in April.

“He was there today to see if we could run a strong 1200, he did, and it opens a lot of options up for him,” Price said.

“We’ll probably put him out and let him furnish again and have a crack at the autumn.”

The full result of the TMB Printing Kevin Heffernan Stakes is available here

- Brad Bishop,

Darley continues Guineas domination

Paximadia gave Peter Snowden and Kerrin McEvoy a fourth victory in six seasons in today’s $350,000 Group 2 Sportingbet Sandown Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield. 

The victory continued Darley’s domination of the three-year-old features at Caulfield this Spring following the Group 1 wins of Long John in BECK Caulfield Guineas (1600m) and Guelph in the Schweppes Thousand Guineas (1600m).

Snowden said Paximadia deserved his place should he now head to Europe to race for Darley’s European arm Godolphin.

“I’ll probably get a phone call tonight but he deserves to go somewhere better because I think he’s a nice horse and he’ll make a name for himself over there,” Snowden said.

“I’m sure that he’ll get a lot further but its job done today and a great result.

“It’s (Sandown Guineas) a race we target with the right sort of horse and we thought all along that this was the right sort of level for this horse.”

After initially settling in fourth position, McEvoy made the decision to go forward and race on the outside of the leader Equator ($4.80).

Despite appearing under pressure approaching the home turn, Paximadia ($3.40F) proved too strong for Equator over the final 100 metres beating him by just over a length, with Apollo’s Choice ($4) just over half-a-length further back in third.

McEvoy, who also partnered Darley’s three previous Sandown Guineas winners (Caymans – 2008, Kidnapped – 2009, Tatra – 2012), admitted he was pretty worried at the 500 metre mark.

“It was a proper tempo and a proper horse race,” McEvoy said.

“He didn’t step out of the barriers as well as he did on Derby Day (Carbine Club Stakes) and it just left me a little bit of an awkward position in the first 100 metres but I was able to manoeuvre out of it and get him into a spot that he enjoyed and he got into a nice rhythm.

“It was a good battle and he did a really good job.”

Click here to view the full list of results for the Sandown Guineas or the rest of today’s Caulfield program.

- Ben Asgari,

Sertorious glorious in Zipping Classic

Sertorius continued his progression towards the top level of Australian gallopers with victory in the $350,000 Deadly Design Zipping Classic (2400m) today at Caulfield.

The Jamie Edwards and Bruce Elkington-trained gelding succeeded at his first try at weight-for-age with a soft win – the ninth of a 25-start career that has also yielded 10 minor placings – in the Group 2 event.

It atoned for a narrow defeat in last week’s Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes and was all the encouragement Edwards needed to confirm the partnership’s intentions to raise their sights with the six-year-old.

“He really deserves to be put away now and we’ll raise our sights with him a fair bit in the autumn,” Edwards, who earlier this year suffered a fall that threatened his way-of-life, said.

“I’m just rapt. For a stable like ours, we’ve had a tough time the last 12 months and this has really topped it off.”

Edwards was happy to defer credit for the Zipping Classic success to Ryan Maloney, who turned in a patient ride to score the biggest win of his career.

Normally a safe beginner, Sertorius was only moderately away from the inside barrier, but Maloney didn’t panic and used the rail to advantage and settled three horses back along the inside.

The inside running enabled him to save ground rounding the home bend and when Queenstown, who had run the field along at a solid tempo, raced away from the fence in the home straight Maloney stuck to the inside.

The $3.70 chance struck the front inside the final 100m before edging away to score by two lengths from Epingle ($12), who worked home solidly, with Queenstown ($5.50) battling on to hold down third.

The Bart and James Cummings-trained Precedence ($3.40 fav), who denied Sertorius in the Queen Elizabeth, suffered interference passing the winning post the first time and was never a winning factor, finishing sixth.

It was particularly satisfying for Maloney, who was riding in south-western Victoria on the corresponding weekend last year.

“This time last year I was at Dunkeld and today I’ve won a Group 2, so I’m wrapt,” Maloney said.

“He was really slow out and I had to hold my breath otherwise I was going to be caught in the backwash, like most of them did, but the race was run in a good, genuine tempo I was able to keep sneaking runs on the fence.

“From the top of the straight I was going good enough to win it and I asked him for an effort and, like usual, he gave me everything he’s got.

“He just turns up every week, tries his best and never lets us down. He deserved one of these.”

The full result of the Deadly Design Zipping Classic is available here

- Brad Bishop,

Mahisara goes back-to-back

Mahisara, Craig Williams and Paul Messara combined for a second consecutive victory today in the $150,000 Ronald McDonald House Monash Sandown Stakes (1400m). 

Held at Caulfield this year with the Sportingbet Park Sandown track currently undergoing renovations, Messara said it was always the plan to target the race with the five-year-old entire who today became the first horse to go back-to-back in the Sandown Stakes.

“The plan was to come down here and target this race and go back to Sydney and head towards the Villiers,” Messara said.

“He’s a horse with a lot of potential but it’s just a matter of finding the right race.

“It was a strong pace today and he hung on really well but if he can get a slightly slower tempo then he can be really strong at the finish.”

Settling in second position behind the leader Lady Of Harrods ($21), Mahisara ($5) appeared under significant pressure on the home turn as the leader raced two lengths at the top of the straight. 

As Lady Of Harrods started to tire over the final 200 metres, Mahisara responded to Williams’ urgings, racing to the lead before holding off the late surge of Go The Knuckle ($26) by three-quarters-of-a-length, with Galah ($5) a further neck away in third.

Williams, who earlier partnered international raider Caravan Rolls On to win the Listed Sportingbet Sandown Cup (3200m), admitted he was concerned when the leader pinched a break at the top of the straight.

“I was a bit worried, I had to give him a few reminders and at first he wasn’t responding but once I gave him a reverse pull to try and get the bit back in his mouth he was really strong late,” Williams said.

“Paul was delighted his first up run and with the weights of this race it looked like his right race on paper.”

Mahisara will now head to the Listed Festival Stakes (1500m) in Sydney en route to the Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m) also held in the New South Wales capital.

Click here to view the full list of results for the Sandown Stakes or the rest of today’s Caulfield program

- Ben Asgari,

Mouro's amazing Eclipse win

Mouro earned a crack at Sydney’s autumn riches with a stunning win in today’s $150,000 Group 3 Snowhite Maintenance Eclipse Stakes at Caulfield.

The Tony McEvoy-trained import – the 59kg topweight – got home despite a tardy getaway and working hard up the famous Caulfield hill at the back of the course to find a prominent position.

McEvoy was not surprised that the son of Grand Slam won, but had his doubts the way he raced, and is already planning a shot at the Doncaster Mile and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m), now worth $3 million and $4 million respectively, in Sydney next year.

“He just showed that he is a good, quality horse and he’s justified us going to a Group 1 with him,” the trainer said.

“I’m glad we waited with him, it’s been a really good result, but in the autumn I think you’ll see him go up a level.

“I think I’ll look a Doncaster or a 2000-metre race in the autumn. I think I’ll step him up. I’ve thought of him as a Group 1 horse for a long time and I suppose we’ve got to find out now.”

Mouro, a five-year-old entire, produced one of the toughest performances of Spring to get home in the Eclipse Stakes.

After jumping in the second half of the field, he was posted wide early and worked to find the spot outside leader St Gabriel and kept the pressure on that galloper so the leading pair retained a break on their rivals.

The front two turned well clear of the rivals, with Mouro taking over 350m out and it was not until around 75m from home that he started to feel the pinch.

But the $3.60 favourite had an unassailable lead by that point and at the line held a half-length margin over the fast-finishing Rain Drum ($3.70). Bel Thor ($5.50) was 2.5 lengths away third.

“He’s done a good job with 59 wanting to go a little bit keen,” Oliver said. “He was a bit vulnerable, but he was too good.”

The full result of the Snowhite Maintenance Eclipse Stakes is available here

- Brad Bishop,

Caravan Rolls Caulfield rivals

Caravan Rolls On landed another blow for the international raiders this Spring Racing Carnival proving a class above his rivals in today’s $150,000 Listed Sportingbet Sandown Cup (3200m) at Caulfield.

The Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained six-year-old gave owner Sheik Fahad’s Qatar Bloodstock a second feature victory this Spring, to add to their earlier Mackinnon Stakes triumph with Andrew Balding's Side Glance.

Qatar Bloodstock representative Geoffrey Faber said Caravan Rolls On would now remain in Australia where he will be transferred to trainer Danny O’Brien.

“He’ll now go for a spell and hopefully he’ll get some nice dry ground in the autumn,” Fabre said.

“The plan will hopefully be the Sydney Cup. He’s a genuine two-miler that loves fast ground.

“We (Qatar Bloodstock) have got plenty of horse’s here (Australia). We’ve got 17 broodmares at stud this year, we’ve got 14 foals on the ground, we’ve got eight yearlings in training and we’ve got 15 horses in training at the moment. It’s been a huge investment since Dunaden won the (2012) Caulfield Cup.

“He (Sheik Fahad) is a great supporter of racing worldwide but he absolutely loves Australia.”

Driven forward in the early stages by jockey Craig Williams, Caravan Rolls On ($2.25F) then settled perfectly in fifth position on the rail.

After working his way into the clear on the home turn, Caravan Rolls On strode up to the leaders at the top of the straight before outstaying his rivals in the run to the post and recording a 1.8 length victory over Like A Carousel ($12), with Crafty Cruiser ($16) a length further back in third.

Caravan Rolls On’s success was the second international triumph in a row in the Sandown Cup following the win of Ibicenco in 2012.

Click here to view the full list of results for the Sandown Cup or the rest of today’s Caulfield program

- Ben Asgari,

Boss pays tribute to Gill on Golconda

Golconda provided Glen Boss with a special victory when she won the Desiree Gill Tribute Stakes today at Caulfield.

The $120,000 Listed event was named after female jockey who last Sunday died from injuries sustained in a racefall the previous day.

Gill was based at Gympie, which is Boss’s hometown, and the three-time Melbourne Cup winner was honoured to win the race named after his fellow Queenslander.

“Desiree, Rest In Peace,” Boss said. “She was a trailblazer all those years ago and she was totally committed to her sport, which was racing.

“Obviously our thoughts go out to (husband) Barry and the immediate family and the rest of the racing community in Queensland.”

Boss knew a long way from home in the 1000-metre event that he was going to pay tribute to Gill with a win aboard the Robbie Laing-trained filly, a $145,000 Magic Millions purchase who improved off a debut fourth placing at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day to score a dominant win.

After jumping well, the $2.80 favourite settled outside leader Feels Like Home ($6) before issuing a challenge rounding the home turn.

She kicked clear early in the straight and held a three-length margin over All Sewn Up ($11) at the line. Heavy ($31) hit the line well to finish third, a further 1-1/4 lengths away.

“She went to the line really well in what will probably be a very strong form race going forward.,” Boss said. “She’s a nice filly going forward herself.”

Laing is now presented with a programming dilemma. Golconda is eligible for the $2 million Magic Millions 2YO Classic in Classic, but has the option of the $1 million Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes closer to home the following month.

“It’s probably more prestigious to be here running in Blue Diamonds, so that’s the thing we’re going to have to weigh up,” Laing said.

“Do we go to Queensland, where it may be 40 degrees Celsius and she might melt, or do we give her a little breather and go Blue Diamond and Bloodhorse Breeders (Stakes)?”

The full results of the Desiree Gill Tribute is available here

- Brad Bishop,

Murphy aims high with Evie

Gavin Murphy never dared dream he’d end up chasing Group 3 success at the final feature metropolitan meeting of the Spring Racing Carnival when he took over training of Evie Rose.

But then the Swan Hill trainer also didn’t think he would be winning an Ararat China Bowl with the former Lee and Shannon Hope-trained mare.

So after she won that $70,000 event last Sunday, making it three wins from her past four starts, Murphy decided to have another throw at the stumps with the six-year-old.

“She’s already done more than what I expected her to do,” Murphy said.

“The race was there so I thought I’d throw her in at the deep end and see if she knows how to swim. It’s the last day of the Carnival and she’s in career-best form.

“A mate of mine said to me not to ever be frightened to dream with them, so that’s why we’re here.”

Tomorrow’s $135,000 Group 3 Le Pine Funerals Summoned Stakes (1600m) at Caulfield is the next instalment in a career that looked over last spring.

Evie Rose, a daughter of Hold That Tiger, was retired after breaking down at Wangaratta on 2 September.

But after flourishing in the paddock, her owners considered a comeback and Murphy was called up.

“I’ve had horses for the owner on a couple of occasions and he just rang me one day and he said, ‘I don’t think Evie’s racing days are over. Would you like to have a try at her?’,” Murphy said.

“She had broken down – she had almost 12 months off – so it’s a pretty good story that something that was retired comes back and has earnt $79,000 in seven starts.”

Evie Rose had her first start for Murphy at Mildura 52 weeks to the day after hurting herself at Wangaratta, finishing fourth of eight before logging a third placing at Ballarat ahead of an eighth placing at Stawell.

She rebounded from that to win a 0-64 event over 1450m at Kilmore and made it back-to-back wins with Showcase Benchmark 70 victory over 1600m at Ballarat (pictured).

Murphy then reintroduced himself to metropolitan racing at Moonee Valley on Friday night 1 November, where Evie Rose finished fifth, before bouncing back to score a dominant on-pace win in the 1600m China Bowl.

That was by far the biggest win as a trainer for Murphy, who combines working two horses with a full-time job at the local abattoir, and he is excited about being a part of a Spring Racing Carnival feature raceday.

“I train racehorses for a hobby,” he said. “Some people play golf, but this is my let down and whatever I can get out of it is a bonus.

“Evie’s been great for me. It is a task for her on Saturday, but she’s up for a fight.”

- Brad Bishop,

Internationals Roll On at Caulfield

Caravan Rolls On can give his owner Sheik Fahad a second victory over the Spring Racing Carnival when the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained international raider lines up in Saturday’s $150,000 Sportingbet Sandown Cup (3200m).

One of four horses brought out for the Carnival by Sheik Fahad, he will be looking to join the Andrew Balding-trained Side Glance on the Spring winner’s list following his Mackinnon Stakes triumph.

Third behind Mujadale in the Carnival Handicap (2800m) at Flemington in his Australian debut, Chapple-Hyam’s assistant trainer Ronan Meehan saidhe is far more confident about the six-year-old’s chances on Saturday than he was at Flemington.

“A lot of things went wrong last time,” Meehan said. “He wasn’t eating and he just took time to acclimatise with the long flight which took quite bit out of him.

“He lost quite a bit of weight after the run but he’s put it back on and he’s eating really well compared to before the race.

“The European horses seem to run quite well once they’ve had one run in Australia. We’re very happy with him and he’s in great form. He’s going into this race better than he did the last one.”

Yet to run beyond 2800m in his 14 career starts, Meehan said he the son of Hernando would have no trouble with the extra distance.

“He’s been crying out for the 3200 metres the whole time,” he said. “The plan was always to run over two miles with this horse in England but there weren’t many races for him.

“He’d probably get two-and-a-half miles (4000m) or even further.”

Set to be partnered by gun hoop Craig Williams, Meehan said Caravan Rolls On doesn’t need to get as far back as he did at Flemington.

“He normally likes to sit around midfield but last start he got checked by Opinion on the first bend and he got dragged back to last and flew at the finish,” Meehan said.

“He’s not a horse that you can ride from the front because he gets a bit lazy, as long as he’s in front on the line then we’ll be happy.”

Currently rated the $3 Sandown Cup favourite with TAB fixed odds, Meehan said his only concern was a potentially wet track with Caulfield rated a Heavy 8 as of Thursday afternoon.

“We’re worried about the ground to be honest we don’t want the track to be too soft,” he said.

“As long as the ground is good than I couldn’t be happier with the horse.”

- Ben Asgari,

Newitt Confident Heading Into Zipping Classic

Leading jockey Craig Newitt is confident that Kiwi gelding Ransomed can give him his first ever win in the Group 2 Zipping Classic (2400m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Craig Newitt believes that Ransomed is the horse to beat heading into the Group 2 Zipping Classic at Caulfield on Saturday.

Craig Newitt believes that Ransomed is the horse to beat heading into the Group 2 Zipping Classic at Caulfield on Saturday. Photo by: Race Horse Photos Australia

Ransomed will be making his Australian racing debut in the Zipping Classic this weekend after a successful, yet inconsistent, four race campaign in New Zealand.

The Handsome Ransom gelding failed to fire first-up in the Ideal Elect 10 Year Anniversary Handicap (1200m) at Wanganui and did not beat home a single runner when he stepped up to Group 1 level for the Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at Hastings on September 21.

Ransomed was stepped up to the more appropriate distance of 2040 metres for the Group 1 The Turks Spring Classic and produced a tough staying effort to win his maiden Group 1 event from Nashville and Survived.

The six-year-old could not replicate that performance in the Group 3 Sofitel Luxury Hotels Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie just under a fortnight ago but Newitt is confident that Ransomed is an excellent winning chance in the Zipping Classic and revealed that the improving stayer had been specifically set for the Group 2 event by trainer Gary Vile.

“He’ll be hard to beat,” Newitt told New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing.

“He (Vile) has set the horse for this race and he actually rang and booked me for the ride before Caulfield Cup day.”

The Zipping Classic has not drawn the strongest field, with Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Precedence, progressive stayer Sertorius and Gai Waterhouse-trained Queenstown the standouts, and Newitt believes that if Ransomed repeats his performance from The Turks Spring Classic, he will be very tough to beat.

“He looks pretty much the only weight-for-age horse in the race,” Newitt said.

“I’ve watched his Group One win in New Zealand and he’s only got to reproduce that and he’ll be beating these on Saturday.”

Ransomed will be stepping up to 2400 metres for just the third time in his racing career and there are some questions mark over his ability to run out the trip.

He stepped up to 2500 metres for the first time in the 2012 New Zealand St Leger (2500m) at Trentham and finished a disappointing eighth and failed to fire in the Group 2 Wellington Cup (2400m) as well as the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m).

- Thomas Hackett,

Famous Seamus Arrives In Melbourne Ahead Of Kevin Heffernan Stakes

Noel Mayfield-Smith-trained sprinter Famous Seamus has arrived in Melbourne ahead of the Group 3 Kevin Heffernan Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Famous Seamus will be having just his second start in Melbourne when he contests the Kevin Heffernan Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday.

Famous Seamus has performed well in Sydney this campaign, winning the Listed Lightning Stakes (1100m) after promising performances in the Group 2 The Shorts (1100m) and Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m), but Mayfield-Smith has waited patiently to bring the Elusive City gelding to Melbourne for the 2013 Spring Racing Carnival.

The five-year-old won a barrier trial over 1175 metres at Warwick Farm last Friday in impressive fashion and Mayfield-Smith said that he is delighted with the condition of his star galloper heading into the Group 3 event this weekend.

“He is really well and I was happy with his trial,” Mayfield-Smith told Sky Racing HQ.

“They changed the trials to the all-weather track so we kept a good hold on him, he had never been on a track like that before, but he came through it really well.”

Famous Seamus failed to fire in his only previous start in Melbourne, finishing thirteenth behind Unpretentious in the Listed MSS Security Sprint on Melbourne Cup Day last year, but Mayfield-Smith said that the gelding had handled last night’s trip interstate in much better fashion than he did twelve months ago.

“He went down overnight and he is straight into his hay, bright and his temperature is good,” Mayfield-Smith said.

“He had one start in the MSS Security Stakes and I went straight down to Melbourne as soon as I laid eyes on him because I knew that he was in a lot of trouble.

“He had lost so much weight; he left home at 515kg and when we weighed him down there he was 494kg and never put it back on.

“He has put on weight in his of his runs and when he won the other day he was 526kg.”

There has been plenty of rain forecast for Melbourne this week, with a number of trainers concerned about running horses at the end of their preparations on heavy tracks, but the veteran trainer said a bit of sting out of the ground would be an advantage for Famous Seamus in the Kevin Heffernan Stakes this weekend.

“I’m not completely sure about an absolute bog and he is not comfortable on shifting ground,” Mayfield-Smith said.

“He is alright if it is raining, he handles that quiet well, and I would prefer that to a good three or firmer.

“I’m not really concerned about it and he has been at Caulfield before so he knows what it is all about.”

Famous Seamus has been victorious at Listed level on four previous occasions but is yet to record a victory in a Group event.

- Thomas Hackett,

Apollo’s Choice Included In Sandown Guineas Final Field

Exciting colt Apollo’s Choice will step up to Group level for the first time when he contests the Group 2 Sandown Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Apollo's Choice finished an unlucky fourth behind Dothraki at Flemington on Saturday and will return to the races in the Sandown Guineas this weekend.

Apollo’s Choice recorded impressive victories at Benalla and Kyneton before making his metropolitan racing debut at Flemington on Saturday when he finished a most unlucky fourth behind Dothraki in the Listed Hilton Hotels And Resorts Stakes (1400m).

Trainer Shea Eden admitted that he was disappointed with the result of the race but was delighted with the performance of his star colt, who he believes is good enough to be a contender at the highest level of racing.

“He had no luck at all,” Eden told RSN this morning.

“After the run we were disappointed but at the same time we were a little bit excited.

“We have waited a little while to have a young horse with as much ability as this fellow and hopefully he is a horse that could progress and take us to the next level.”

Apollo’s Choice was included in the acceptances for the Sandown Guineas that were released this morning and is set to have his second run in the space of seven days this Saturday.

Eden has a slight concern about backing up such a young and lightly-raced horse so quickly but said that the three-year-old had pulled up from his run in good order, and according to his team, was bouncing around the stable at Cranbourne this morning.

“I suppose it is always in the back of your mind but the horse came home and ate up,” Eden said.

“The only slight concern is that he isn’t an overly big horse and there is not a lot there to strip off but he is a young colt and is pretty lively.

“The team at home yesterday said that he is more than lively enough and we are happy enough with him.”

Apollo’s Choice was ridden by Chris Symons at Flemington last weekend but will be partnered by leading provincial rider Brad Rawiller, who rode the three-year-old at Kyneton, in the Sandown Guineas on Saturday.

Rawiller told RSN that he is really looking forward to reuniting with Apollo’s Choice and rates the classy colt an excellent winning chance in the Group 2 event.

“I am really looking forward to Saturday,” Rawiller said.

“He was outstanding when I won on him at Kyenton, he showed a great turn of foot and he was obviously a bit stiff the other day at Flemington.

“I’m due to draw a good barrier on Saturday and he is a super chance.”

The Sandown Guineas has drawn a strong set of acceptances; with Apollo’s Choice set to face the classy Darley duo of Paximadia and Champollion as well as Group 1 placegetter Equator and Anthony Cummings-trained Best Case.

- Thomas Hackett,

Sportingbet Sandown Guineas Day goes west

103 horses have accepted for Saturday’s Sportingbet Sandown Guineas Day meeting, to be run at Caulfield as the resurfacing of the Sportingbet Park course proper continues.

More than $1.6 million in prize money is up for grabs at the Spring Racing Carnival curtain call, replete with nine black-type races.

The meeting features a double-header of $350,000 group two races, the Deadly Design Zipping Classic (2400 metres, weight-for-age) and the Sportingbet Sandown Guineas (1600 metres, set weights for three-year-olds).

The former provides a rematch of last Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes quinella, Precedence and Sertorius, who are joined by Kiwi raider Ransomed, recent winner of the Group One Spring Classic in his native New Zealand.

In the Guineas, leading trainers Peter Snowden (Paximadia and Champollion) and Gai Waterhouse (Equator and Ryker) are all well represented.

Snowden has dominated this race since being handed the reins of Darley’s Australia’s operation in 2008, boasting three wins (Caymans, Kidnapped and Tatra, 2008-’09 and 2012) and three minor placings (Chasse 2nd in 2010, Galah and Proverb 3rd in 2011 and 2012) in the five editions run in the period.

Another of the day’s features, the Listed Sportingbet Sandown Cup (3200m), offers $150,000 in prize money but will see European raider Caravan Rolls On land an additional $100,000 should he win.

Caravan Rolls On has earned the right to the bid in line with the Melbourne Racing Club’s Sandown Cup bonus, as a final acceptor for either the BMW Caulfield Cup or Melbourne Cup that failed to gain a start in either race.

One race will carry particular significance on Saturday, albeit of a different kind, with the Listed Merson Cooper Stakes renamed the Desiree Gill Tribute Stakes in honour of the much loved and admired jockey, Desiree Gill, who passed away last Sunday following a fall at the Sunshine Coast.

Desiree is fondly remembered as a pioneering woman in the sport and a passionate supporter and mentor for the future generation of jockeys.

Racing Queensland and the National Jockeys Trust have established a fund in Desiree’s honour, and expressions of support by way of donation can be made to the following account:

The Desiree Gill Fund
BSB: 084-004
Account number: 39-452-7218.

Jockeys competing in the Desiree Gill Tribute Stakes will wear black armbands in her honour.

For all the action on the turf on Saturday at Caulfield, there will be just as much off it, led by the popular modern custom of the day: the celebrity-sung national anthem, set to take place at 3.50pm.

This year, the anthem will be sung by a host of prominent jockeys with assistance from Ronald McDonald House Monash volunteers, the charity partner selected for the day.

As is custom, the Melbourne Racing Club will donate the associated nominal $5,000 appearance fee to Ronald McDonald House.

In line with the chosen charity, family and kids’ activities are the order of the day off the track, with free entertainment aplenty for the enjoyment of all comers.

Racegoers will also have the opportunity to meet a host of players from the Richmond Football Club, including Nick Vlastuin and Jake Batchelor, who will be on hand from 1pm to conduct clinics and sign autographs.

Richmond is not only bringing along its on-field stars on Saturday, but its mascot, Tiger Stripes Dyer, also makes a return, for a rematch in the now time-honoured Mascot Stakes.

In the 2012 edition, the Melbourne Racing Club’s own Clip Clop Clyde started promisingly but suffered a disappointing finish, eating turf moments before the winning post, allowing Tiger Stripes Dyer to steal victory from the jaws of defeat.  (Relive this thriller, called by Greg Miles, here:

This year, another newcomer joins the mix: McDonald’s mascot The Hamburglar. With Clip Clop Clyde having undergone 12 months’ of performance training, Tiger Stripes Dyer ready to defend his title and The Hamburglar’s desire to mark his territory, the crown is sure to be hotly contested. Or at the very least, highly entertaining. It’s set down for 1.45pm.

Gates open at 10.30am.

Melbourne Spring set for stellar finale

The Spring Racing Carnival concludes in Melbourne for another year with a bang on Saturday with the running of Sandown Guineas Day at Caulfield.

Featuring an all black-type, nine-race program, Sportingbet Park’s biggest meeting on the calendar is being run at Caulfield this year with the Sandown track currently undergoing renovations.

Aside from the action on the track, the day also features plenty of family entertainment off the track including pony rides, a jumping castle, a reptile farm and face painting, as well as Richmond Football Club player appearances and football activities.

There will also be the annual charity national anthem performance and mascot race, with the Melbourne Racing Club’s ‘Clip Clop Clyde’ looking to gain revenge on the Richmond Football Club’s ‘Tiger Stripes’.

Turning attention to the on-course entertainment and the trainer Peter Snowden will be searching for a fourth victory in six seasons when he saddles two runners in the $350,000 Group 2 Sandown Guineas (1600m).

Snowden will run both Paximadia, who will be partnered by Kerrin Mcevoy from barrier five, and Champollion, who has drawn in gate eight for Steven Arnold.

First and last respectively in the Group 3 Carbine Club Stakes (1600m) at Flemington last start, should either galloper get the job done on Saturday they would join Snowden’s previous winners Caymans (2008), Kidnapped (2009) and Tatra (2012) on the honour roll.

Other key barrier draws include Carbine Club third and fourth placegetters Equator (barrier nine) and Best Case (four), as well as Shea Eden’s Apollo’s Choice (11), who comes off a most-unlucky fourth placing in the Listed Hilton Hotels Stakes (1400m) at Flemington.

The second of the Group 2 features on the program, the $350,000 Zipping Classic (2400m), is highlighted by a re-match between last Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes quinella of Precedence and Sertorius.

Though the Bart and James Cummings-trained veteran meets Sertorius 2.5kg better off for having defeated him by a head at Flemington, Sertorius has drawn the inside barrier for jockey Ryan Maloney with Precedence set to begin from stall four for Craig Williams.  

The pair appear unlikely to get things their own way again with Group 1 Spring Classic (NZ, 2000m) winner Ransomed (barrier six), progressive Sam Kavanagh-trained import Mid Summer Sun (two) and classy mares Queenstown (eight), Kazanluk (10) and Epingle (seven) also sure to make their presence felt.

A further highlight on what is shaping as an exceptional card of racing promises to be the $135,000 Group 3 Kevin Heffernan Stakes (1200m) which features a stellar field of 13 runners headed by dual Group 1 winning mare Platelet.

Drawn in barrier seven for jockey Michelle Payne, Platelet is joined in the race by her Darren Weir-trained stable mate Lonhspresso, who will jump from gate three for Ben Melham.

In arguably the strongest renewal of the race in years other key draws include Pinwheel (barrier 12), Hot Snitzel (10), Famous Seamus (two), Pago Rock (eight), Lankan Rupee (four) and She Can Skate (13).

Though he doesn’t have a runner in this year’s Zipping Classic, Lloyd Williams will use the $150,000 Group 3 Snowhite Maintenance Eclipse Stakes (1800m) to unveil another of his imports in Hartani.

Set to line up against the likes of Sale Cup (160m) winner Mouro and the Gai Waterhouse-trained Shannon Stakes (1500m) victor Rain Drum, the race should give a good guide to the five-year-old son of Shirocco’s ability.

The action kicks off on Saturday with the running of the $120,000 Listed Desiree Gil Tribute Stakes (1000m) for the two-year-olds at 12.15pm and concludes with the running of the $150,000 Group 3 Le Pine Funerals Summoned Stakes (1600m) for the mares at 5.30pm.

Click here to view the full fields, form and barriers for Sandown Guineas Day at Caulfield

- Ben Asgari,