Sacred Falls hasn't won since taking out last year's Doncaster from Pierro and Norzita. Photo: Jenny Evans/smh.com.au
Doncaster betting has been thrown wide open with many of the favoured runners drawing horror barriers. However with the track expected to be rain-affected, wide barriers might not be such a bad thing. Champion Sydney trainer Chris Waller has six runners, including former European miler Weary who won the Doncaster Prelude last weekend and drops to 51.5kg with Tommy Berry in the saddle. Following the tragic death of Tommy’s twin Nathan, Weary is likely to be the sentimental favourite. Team Hawkes has Messene , the winner of its past seven outings. However, the son of Lonhro is untested in slow or heavy going. At its third run this campaign, expect improvement from Waller’s Royal Descent , which did win the Oaks last season by 10 lengths on a Randwick bog. Stable-mate Sacred Falls is another swimmer, but is up 3.5kg on last year’s victory in this classic mile.
Though boasting 18 runners, the Australian Derby field lacks out and out quality. There is certainly no It’s A Dundeel (2013 winner). Criterion finished fourth in the Victoria Derby last spring and comes into this with a 3.5 length victory on slow going in the Rosehill Guineas. Still, being by Sebring there are question marks over David Payne’s colt running out a strong 2400m. Savvy Nature looked good winning The Vase in the spring, but failed badly as favourite in the VRC Derby. The son of Savabeel has been consistent this campaign, while Kiwi Puccini deserves another chance. Anthony Cummings has live hopes in Thunder Fantasy and Best Case .
The TJ Smith over 1200m has been run 17 times since its inception in 1997. Five horses have won the Lightning/TJ Smith double in the same year and four have succeeded in winning the Newmarket/TJ Smith double. Only one horse has completed the sprinting treble (Lightning/Newmarket/TJ Smith). That was Peter Moody’s great mare Black Caviar, who of course was never beaten in 25 race starts. In 2014, Australia’s most improved horse Lankan Rupee has the chance do his own ‘Nellie’ triple-treat after victories in the Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket earlier this year. But Mick Price’s 4-year-old has never been on a surface worse than dead, and despite a 35-day freshen up, is having his eighth start this preparation. Queensland champion Buffering has to bounce back after an ordinary effort first up this prep, as does three-year-old star Zoustar . Import Gordon Lord Byron created a huge impression at its first start in Australia, but is dropping back from 1500m, which is not ideal.
The Sires’ Produce Stakes will see a number of runners who were beaten in last week’s Golden Slipper back up over 1400m. It’s hard to tell if some of these were beaten on their merits behind Mossfun or didn’t cope with the heavy conditions. For that reason, it might pay to follow Peter Snowden’s Kumaon who was beaten a head in the Pago Pago a fortnight ago by Time For War (a rival on Saturday), after storming home from last. Believe Yourself was a huge run in the Slipper, coming from well back to finish fourth beaten just over two lengths. Gerald Ryan also has two other fillies, Peggy Jean and Lucky Raquie , which have claims.
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