Oakleigh Plate no picnic for punters The Oakleigh Plate always produces a fantastic race. Generally a capacity field, or close to it, handicap conditions and the testing 1200m circuit at Caulfield, are ingredients that lead to dramatic results – which are not always in most punters’ advantage. Since 2000, only three favourites have won the Group 1 sprint whilst during the same period of time, eight double-figure priced contenders have scored. Interesting to note also, that in recent times, drawing an inside gate hasn’t provided the advantage most would think it to be in a sprint race around a turn. Five of the past nine winners of the Oakleigh Plate have come from gate ten or wider. No winner during the same period of time has jumped from a gate inside of barrier six.
1. FLAMBERGE – D Lane (17)
Has finished a head, and 1.5 lengths second to Chautauqua his last two fresh runs – not bad form is it? Comes into this off a sixteen week spell but, as highlighted above, fresh record is great and has missed a place only once this track/distance from five starts.
2. DOTHRAKI – S Arnold (21)
Rounded out his last prep with a solid third (1 lengths) to Eclair Choice in the G2 TAB Stakes (1200m), continuing a solid run of performance throughout last year. This is his first go at Group 1 since finishing last of sixteen in the Golden Slipper of 2013 and the draw won’t make it easy for him.
3. FAST’N’ROCKING – D Dunn (7)
Good late in the G1 Manikato Stakes to finish fourth behind Chautauqua, and good again when third in the G1 Winterbottom over in WA toward the end of last year – both WFA events. Suited back here to the handicap conditions, draws to get a nice run from seven and should be within striking distance on the turn. Hard to catch, but wouldn’t be surprised to see him pop up with a big run here.
4. SMOKIN’ JOEY – J Mott (15)
The 8yo will be having his first start for fifteen weeks but has raced well fresh in the past, winning the G3 Bletchingly and finishing fourth and within two lengths of Mourinho in the Australia Stakes. Pattern is to get back, meaning he’ll be giving some gifted sprinters a start turning from home and in a capacity field, will need it all to go to plan.
5. ECLAIR CHOICE – D Tourneur (14)
Lined up in the Rubiton Stakes first up off a fifteen week spell, and with an impressive trial win under his belt. Had every chance in the run but like most, was run of his legs by leader and eventual winner Heatherly, finishing sixth (7 lengths), making It the first time in his career he has finished outside of the top five. Improves, but enough to win a this event from fourteen?
6. LORD OF THE SKY – D Oliver (19)
Speedster who has had the past 8 months off after finishing a well beaten last of eleven in the G3 Bletchingly Stakes – the sixth consecutive time he had been beaten when sent out favourite. Not trials to go on but did run eleventh in this race last year with 53kgs, after a solid summer campaign. From nineteen, more than enough queries over him to leave him out.
7. BOUNDING – M Zahra (8)
Scored most impressively first up last campaign, winning a G3 at this track by four length, before a disappointing effort in the Sheraco Stakes and again, being spelled. Looked fantastic winning a Randwick Trial by 5.5 a week ago and will get to find a lovely spot from her draw. No reason why she shouldn’t put herself right in the mix.
8. FELL SWOOP – G Schofield (5)
Winning of eight of her ten starts, her progression through the grades has been quick and impressive. If she’s continued to develop at a similar rate over her five month break for trainer Matt Dale, then no saying what’s she’s capable of here – her first attempt at a Group 1 event. Should position up well and get her chance.
9. GREGERS – C Williams (1)
Has finished within three lengths of the winner in each of her past three attempts at this grade – including a nose second to Miracles Of Life in the Goodwood Handicap last year. Will be able to take up her favourite position from the inside draw and settle on the pace. Has the fresh and track/distance record to be given a genuine hope.
10. KURO – D Stackhouse (13)
Resumed from a spell in the Rubiton where he battled on for a well-beaten fifth behind Heatherly who dominated things from the front but running her competitors into the ground. Finished 2.3 lengths in second position behind Sweet Idea his last attempt in a Group 1 – The Galaxy but for mine, was in more solid form then compared to more recent months.
11. THE QUARTERBACK – L Currie (12)
Back-maker who is in some solid form – having finished in the top three in each of his last three outings, all in Listed race, including victory in Listed Earl Grey Stakes (1000m) down the Flemington straight. Will be giving the capacity field a big start and Caulfield wouldn’t be the first track chosen by connections to suit is style. Worth a crack at this in his current form given he only has 52.5kgs, but another who’ll need it all to go perfectly for him in the run.
12. ATMOSPHERICAL – M Payne (3)
Stepped out as favourite for her first run for new trainer Robert Smerdon (formerly David Pfieffer) but could only muster seventh (2 lengths) behind Shakespearean Lass. That was the first run in thirteen weeks so will strip better for it, but last win was November 2014 and hard to think she’ll break that drought here in a competitive race.
13. GRIANTE – H Coffey (10)
Didn’t record a victory, but ran some neat races last campaign including a second to Politeness in G3 company and a close-up fifth (1.6 lengths) in the G1 Moir Stakes won by Buffering. Has had two trials in readiness for this race, her first since Cup day and looked good in each. In a wide open race, on efforts last time in, could find worse.
14. PITTSBURGH FLYER – J McNeil (9)
Rounded out last prep by claiming the G3 G H Mumm (1100m) on Oaks Day. The 4yo mare has spelled since, and has not been seen at any public trials. Competitive against her own sex last season and would take the lead that the stable are kicking her off her in a race of this calibre, that she’s come on well during the break. Being by Street Cry, it wouldn’t surprise if that was the case, nor if she were to run well here.
15. VEZALAY – G Boss (20)
Hasn’t been since at the races since she scored a well-deserved victory in the Listed Alinghi Stakes back in mid-October. Connections would’ve been keen to see their consistent mare return however, their confidence – and her chances, were dealt a harsh blow at the barrier draw, where she draw 20. Only three winners since 1983 has come from a gate wider than 14 – With Me (1991), Swiss Ace (2009) and Mookta (1993)
16. HEATHERLY – K Mallyon (2)
Never gave them a look in when scorching along out in front and winning the Rubiton Stakes by 5.5 lengths – this track and distance, last start. That made it three wins on the trot and although this is a step up again, the filly will do the same again here from gate two and again, give her owners and supporters, a great sight.
17. HEADWATER – P Moloney (18)
Good win first up a month ago, taking out the Listed Kensington Stakes (1000m) up the Flemington Straight. It was her first win since claiming the Silver Slipper as a 2yo in February of last year. The well-bred mare has always carried high expectations but might struggle to fulfil them here given the poor draw.
18. KEEN ARRAY – S Baster (4)
Had won two in a row before running second to Japonisme in the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes on Derby Day last year. Japonisme is a very good measuring stick, and finished over the line with Chautauqua and Terravista last week in the G1 Lightning Stakes. Drawn perfectly, not seen at the trials – reckon the stable might be trying to keep it as quiet as possible, but market is having none of it and rightly so. Should run well.
19. RELDAS – (16) (1st EM)
Expected to do well off a six week freshen up three weeks ago at Caulfield and started a $3.80 chance in the Listed Adams Stakes (1000m). The 5yo gelding finished sixth (1.9 lengths) from winner Shakespearean Lass after settling at the tail of the ten horse field. Hard to see him, if he did get a run, running this lot down.
20. SWINGING ARMS – R Bayliss (11) (2nd EM)
Adelaide galloper who registered his ninth career win when returning from a spell at Morphettville three weeks ago, recording a half-length win over his five rivals in the Open Class (1000m) event. Has placed twice in his three attempts at Listed level, but not competed in anything stronger and will find this too tough.
21. SECRET AGENDA – C Newitt (6) (3rd EM)
Mick Price’s filly needs a few scratchings to gain a start but if she does sneak into the field, there’ll be a few who give her some hope of running a good race. Recorded a most impressive 4.5 length victory in the G3 Gucci Stakes on Oaks Day last year at her most recent start. Not seen at recent trials, but with a super light-weight, handy draw and an improving record, certainly not the worst hope.
RACE OVERVIEW –
Good luck – it’s what punters and the ultimate winner of the race is going to need here. Like Bounding over Heatherly. Both get the right kind of run, Bounding just off the pace, Heatherly setting it, but just want to be sure the last 100m is a strongest part of their race, and that tips the scales in favour of Bounding. Fast’n’Rocking is great each-way value for mine – goes well fresh and here at Caulfield whilst top- weight Flamberge, who’s recent first up record reads so well for this, can’t be left at $26.00 despite the wide gate.