Punters are confident that Lucky Hussler’s excellent form, and record at the Moonee Valley track, will continue on Saturday in the Group 2 Crystal Mile. Lucky Hussler’s first visit to the Valley resulted in a half-length third in the Listed Drummond Stakes (1200m), second was Trust In A Gust, and his only run on the track since saw him steam home to take out the Group 1 William Reid Stakes. He’s the ruling $2.25 favourite with the only other runners under double figure odds being Turn Me Loose ($5.00) and Godolphin’s Bow Creek ($6.00), who makes his Australian debut. Last year’s winner Hooked ($17.00) is back to defend his title with early money for last-start winner Amovatio ($13 into $11)
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1. LUCKY HUSSLER – G Boss (3)
Made amends for no luck at each of his previous two starts – the G2 Bobbie Lewis and G1 Rupert Clarke Stakes, with victory in the G1 Toorak Handicap at his most recent start. Overcame some trouble at the top of the turn last start to record what was a comfortable win on the line, finishing 1.3 lengths in front of Disposition and last weekend’s winner of the David Jones Cup, Stratum Star. Form could not be any stronger; he is the best suited under the weight conditions and will be the one they have to beat.
2. HOOKED – C Williams (8)
Found plenty first up in the G2 Tramway Stakes when challenged late, beating Ecuador and Rudy however, his two runs since have seen him struggle in G1 WFA events. He finished last of nine in the George Main Stakes and despite a nice run in transit, eleventh of fourteen in the Group 1 Epsom. At best when he can roll along in front and the Valley circuit, plus a drop in grade, should see an improved performance.
3. STRAWBERRY BOY – J Cassidy (6)
Two excellent front-running efforts saw him finish fourth in both the G2 Theo Marks (0.6 lengths) and G1 Rupert Clarks Stakes (0.6) at his first two runs back from a spell before lining up in the G1 Toorak Handicap at his most recent outing. Drew the second-to-widest gate in the big field of sixteen but still took up the running before finding the last furlong tough, running eighth (4.5 lengths) behind Lucky Hussler. Drawn much more favourably here and should give a good sight with the Valley circuit, which he races on for the first time, generally favouring his tactics.
4. AMOVATIO – D Oliver (12)
Would’ve been something beaten if the run didn’t eventually open for him in the Listed Weekend Hussler Stakes a fortnight ago. That was his first run in thirteen weeks and it made it three straight wins for the Al Maher 5yo who improved with every run last prep. Will be giving most a start but gets a good tempo up front courtesy of Strawberry Boy and co, and despite this being his toughest test to date, he appears to be a bit of late bloomer and will be charging home late.
5. RUDY – K McEvoy (10)
Just couldn’t pick up Saddler’s Lake on the Heavy ground under 58kgs two runs back when second (half a length) in the G3 Bill Ritchie (1400m). Sent out in the G1 Epsom Handicap as a genuine each-way hope off of that effort but from a position worse than midfield, never appeared to be travelling like a winner and finished second to last, 5.7 lengths behind Winx. Not his usual self last start but must’ve pulled up ok for connections to make the trip south – his first, however, happy to see how he bounces back and handles the Valley circuit.
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6. BOW CREEK – J McDonald (4)
An interesting runner from the Godolphin stable who has only had the two runs in the past twelve months, finishing last of six runners on each occasion. Previous form was good over a mile and included two G2 wins however, not seen at any official trials and after such a long lay-off, after two poor efforts, he’d be hard to take with any great deal of confidence here.
7. HOPFGARTEN – D Brown (11)
Set a task by trainer Rob Heathcote who resumed his 5yo gelding in the G1 Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) and although he finished twelfth, he drew wide, was disappointed for a run and his effort to finish only three lengths from eventual winner Stratum Star, was fair. His only run since saw him cross the line in tenth spot, 5.6 lengths behind Lucky Hussler in the Toorak Handicap. Drew inside on that occasion and wouldn’t think the wider draw would do him any harm however, he meets Lucky Hussler 4kgs worse at the weights and it’s hard to see how he turns the tables on him here.
8. RICHIE’S VIBE – M Zahra (5)
Drew wide, settled back and never really figured when contesting the Listed The Sofitel Stakes (1400m) at Flemington, finishing eleventh (4.5 lengths) behind Disposition, but was much more effective in the Listed Weekend Hussler Stakes (1400m) at his most recent start, finishing a close fourth (0.5 length) to Amovatio. Each of last four wins have come at 1200m and his best when ridden cold and saved for one last crack at them but closing in on two years since he last won a race and he has picked a tough event to break that drought in.
9. SONS OF JOHN – J Penza (2)
His two runs back have been first class and taken outstanding efforts by Winx to better him on each occasion.
He was caught right on the line by the mare first up in the G2 Theo Marks (1300m) before despite being caught deep and midfield throughout from his wide gate, running third (2.4 lengths) in the G1 Epsom Handicap. Will get a lovely run behind a genuine tempo here and could not have a better form-line for this event.
10. MALICE – J Doyle (5)
Bounced back after a disappointing effort first up to run second (1.5 lengths) in the G3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) behind Forget and held his position in the run to the line in the Epsom when seventh (3.7 lengths) to Winx, just over a length further back than Sons Of John. Fair the past couple but wouldn’t think – under the weight conditions of this race, that those efforts are good enough to see him winning here.
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11. TURN ME LOOSE –
Led all the way to dominant his rivals in last Sunday’s Seymour Cup, making light of the 60kgs to win by 3.3 lengths. The New Zealand galloper is only lightly raced and from the all-conquering Murray Baker stable – there’s plenty of upside to him and should he make the quick back-up, will get a lovely trial behind the leader’s from barrier one. His stable is going to well at present to deny this 4yo stallion his chance despite the rise in grade.
12. WORTHY CAUSE – L Dittman (7)
Queensland who took up the running and refused to surrender the lead when challenged by Turn Me Loose, before chasing home Vashka in the last week’s Moonga Stakes at Caulfield, running fourth and beaten 2.8 lengths. Won’t find it easier I wouldn’t think to find a spot on the lead here from seven with a couple of natural leader’s drawn inside of him but would have to be given some up of filling a place on his last couple of efforts.
RACE OVERVIEW –
Good speed here with Strawberry Boy, Hooked, Turn Me Loose with Bow Creek and Worth Cause also likely to push forward. This will suit Lucky Hussler who has been in exceptional form not only this time in, but for the past twelve months. Nothing wrong with Sons Of John’s runs this time in and at $19.00 and the likelihood of a good run behind the speed, he creates plenty of attention. Another who will enjoy the speed is Amovatio – he should’ve won by much more first up and his been improving with every run over the past twelve months.
1. LUCKY HUSSLER
2. SONS OF JOHN
4. TURN ME LOOSE