Interest will be massive in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m). Formerly known as the Feehan Stakes, the race is run at Mooney Valley and is a major lead-up and form pointer towards the big spring majors. More importantly, the winner of the Dato gains automatic entry for the Cox Plate on October 22.
Champion trainer Darren Weir last week won the first Group 1 of the season, the Memsie Stakes, with Black Heart Bart. He saddles four runners here, but most interest will centre on race favourite, Tozen Stardom, and how the former Japanese trained stayer performs for his new trainer.
Sentiment will, as usual, be for The Cleaner, especially with his shot at history. The Cleaner is attempting to become only the second horse to win three consecutive Dato Stakes. Shorengro (1969-70) is the only other horse to achieve the feat. The Cleaner will probably lead the field, but can he keep going?
This lightly raced former Japanese stayer is making his debut for new trainer Darren Weir. The six-year-old is second favourite for the Cox Plate ($17) and Caulfield Cup ($15).
Why he can: Has raced well fresh in the past. This was evidenced by his second in last year’s Group 1 Ranvet Stakes at Randwick. Showed he is ready for forward showing with a powerful win in a 1000m unofficial trial at Mortlake.
Why he can’t: His five wins have been from 1800m to 2000m. The 1600m, around the Moonee Valley circuit will be too short. Query if track is worse than slow.
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Imported entire returning to racing after an outstanding autumn carnival in Sydney, where he won the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes. The best-backed runner and holds around 33% of early money wagered on this race.
Why he can: This Galileo seven-year-old has performed consistently since joining the Robert Hickmott stable. He’s tough, oozes class, boasts a solid first-up record and loves the Valley.
Why he can’t: May not be forward enough to match the turn of foot of some of his rivals. He is high in betting as a $17 chance for the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate and those races are his major targets.
This grand nine-year-old is aiming to become only the second horse to win this race three times. In the money 35 times from his 55 starts and rarely shirks the task with his bold front-running style.
Why he can: Far from disgraced when unplaced in the Lawrence Stakes. He did all the chasing and tired late to be beaten 3.5 lengths. Fitter, track specialist and could set a temp to suit.
Why he can’t: Wins are well spaced and past his best.
A nine-year-old gelding that is racing well despite his vintage.
Why he can: Racing in career best form this preparation. He comes into this race after running a nice second to Miss Rose De Lago in the Lawrence Stakes. He should be able to use barrier three to advantage.
Why he can’t: Wins have been in much easier company and lacks the class to win in this grade.
This Darren Weir-trained stayer was fourth to Protectionist in the 2014 Melbourne Cup and is $17 second favourite for this year’s Cup.
Why he can: Versatile seven-year-old with wins from 1400m to 2600m. Showed he is capable of a strong first-up run when he won over 2500m here in February. Expected strong tempo could set it up for this backmarker to steam home.
Why he can’t: A tendon injury has hampered his career since the 2014 Cup. He’s been treated with kid gloves and with the Melbourne Cup his main mission he is not ready for a fast tempo 1400m around the Valley.
A former European stayer who won the Lexus Stakes last year before running seventh in the Melbourne Cup. This seven-year-old is prepared by Gai Waterhouse and co-trainer Adrian Bott.
Why he can: He showed he is capable of racing well fresh when second in the Ajax Stakes, during the Sydney autumn carnival. He then wintered in Brisbane, which is always a plus and galloped strongly at the Valley this week.
Why he can’t: Connections expect improvement on whatever he does on Saturday. His “grand final” is the Melbourne Cup.
This five-year-old entire ran the best race of his career in March when second in the Australian Cup (2000m).
Why he can: Resumed from a spell in the Lawrence Stakes and was far from disgraced when beaten 3.4 lengths behind Miss Rose de Lago. Will take improvement from that and he should be able to get a soft run from barrier two.
Why he can’t: Inconsistent, two wins in two years makes him very hard to catch.
This four-year-old is regarded as Weir’s second best chance in the race. Strung together six straight wins culminating in the Group 2 Autumn Stakes in February. He backs up here after an even run when third to Black Heart Bart in last week’s Group 1 Memsie Stakes.
Why he can: Massive fitness edge and down in grade. Has enough speed to cross from a wide gate and get the gun run. He should be suited by the tight Valley track.
Why he can’t: Just struggling to find that bit extra to match it with the elite. Query on whether he can handle the seven-day back-up after his Memsie placing.
Kiwi who was spelled after winning this year’s ATC Derby. The four-year-old is on the third line of Caulfield Cup betting at $17 and the second-best backed runner, behind favourite Tarzino ($13).
Why he can: Highly promising and blew away a couple of Saturday’s rivals, Jameka and Tarzino in the Derby. Two-time winner over this distance and showed surprising speed before going to the line under a hold, when second in a Cranbourne jump out (1000m) earlier this week.
Why he can’t: Suffered a slight setback last Friday and was scratched from the Memsie Stakes, after he pulled a tooth. He will take a run or two, before he comes to hand.
A high class, dual Group 1 (Futurity & C.F. Orr Stakes) winning mare.
Why she can: This six-year-old rarely runs a bad race. She made up ground when resuming in the Lawrence Stakes. A winner here over this distance, she also has an outstanding second-up record and blinkers go on.
Why she can’t: She was worse than midfield in the high tempo Lawrence and took time to wind up. If it is another high tempo race she could lose touch again and get too far back.
She won the Group 2 Perth Cup last year and is one of Weir’s outsiders.
Why she can: It’s tough to make a case for her. She did win two Group 3 races during the Brisbane winter carnival and is honest.
Why she can’t: The Weir polish can take them so far, but she is out of her depth here. This distance won’t suit and the opposition are superior over 1600m.
MISS ROSE DE LAGO
Honest mare who last start notched her second Group 2 win in the Lawrence Stakes.
Why she can: Returned to racing with a strong win and her fitness levels will improve. Winner this track and the 1600m is to her liking.
Why she can’t: Outside barrier, 14. She jumped from gate one last start and enjoyed the run of the race. Every chance she will get posted deep or spend too much pushing forward to try and get in.
The first, of trainer Ciaron Maher’s, two Victoria Oaks winners entered for the Dato. She won fillies’ classic in 2014 and has had her runs well spaced.
Why she can: She made up a lot of ground and finished off the Lawrence Stakes in good fashion. The five-year-old trialled before that, with a run behind her and a slightly longer trip she should be finishing hard again.
Why she can’t: She has run well in top grade, but her last win was the Oaks. She needs 2000m and beyond to show her best and will be better suited in the staying races.
Maher’s star mare, who won last year’s VRC Oaks. She performed well during the Sydney autumn carnival without winning.
Why she can: Turned in super first-up run in the P.B.Lawrence Stakes. She was slowly away, cramped slightly in the straight and was doing her best work late for fast-finishing fourth.
Why she can’t: Usually takes a couple of runs before she comes to hand. Jumping from a wide barrier (13) and is a big risk of being trapped deep.
ENTIRELY PLATINUM (Emergency)
Group 1 placed (2015 Orr & Memsie Stakes), seven-year-old gelding prepared by “Team Hawkes.”
Why he can: He was three deep for a good part of the race and still finished off strongly for third to Rose De Lago in the Lawrence Stakes. Will strip fitter here and three of his six wins have come when second-up.
Why he can’t: Group 3 Sky High (2014) was best win, but has not won a race in more than two years.
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