Three days of Group 1 racing, two Grand Finals, one epic weekend.
After a sports smorgasbord to please any fan, we’ve rounded up the best and worst of the on-track action with the meat of the Spring Carnival still to come.
On the punting weekend of the year it was grand old campaigner Hartnell who stole the show. Godolphin’s stable star wound back the clock, smashing the Randwick 1600m track record on his way to a fourth Group 1 victory in the Epsom Handicap. It was arguably a career-best performance from the eight-year-old, who gave 3kg away to the rest of the field. It was also a cracking result for readers of our Spring Best Bets column who snapped up $18 and $5.00 the place about the tough gelding.
🏆🏆🏆🏆 x G1 winner!
HARTNELL grabs D’Argento on the line to win the G1 Epsom Handicap at @royalrandwick 🇦🇺
— World Horse Racing (@WHR) September 29, 2018
Nature Strip was sent out an odds on favourite in the Group 1 Moir Stakes on Friday night but compounded to finish eighth, beaten 4.5 lengths. Post race, trainer Darren Weir indicated the preparation had gone slightly awry and by Saturday he’d lost his slot in The Everest. A leading contender for the vacant ATC-owned Everest slot appears to be dominant Moir winner Viddora, who secured redemption for her unlucky second in the same event 12 months ago.
Friday night was also a last chance for Chautauqua to show fans, connections and stewards alike that a return to the racetrack was possible. He loaded well for a much-anticipated trial but when the gates crashed back he simply stood there, leaning against the gate, stoic in his refusal to jump. The Hawkes team simply shrugged their shoulders, while deflated jockey Tommy Berry led the Grey Flash past the crowd for a final salute into retirement.
— Telegraph Sport (@telegraph_sport) September 29, 2018
Hartnell wasn’t the only horse to break a track record at Randwick. Santa Ana Lane shot to all-in favouritism for The Everest via a sizzling victory in the Group 2 Premiere Stakes in sizzling time. The gelding arrived just in time to edge out stablemate Shoals and secure $7.00 top billing for the $13 million race in a fortnight’s time. Previous favourite Redzel went out the gate to $9.00 after a disappointing fifth in the event.
Maiden no more
Australia’s best maiden before Saturday was undoubtedly Oohood – the Golden Slipper runner up with six placings and over $1 million prizemoney from nine starts. Fittingly she broke her duck in the top class, getting her nose down in a thrilling four-way finish to the Group 1 Flight Stakes. After settling back in the field, Oohood was too strong in the final furlong overhauling Fiesta, Nakeeta Jane and favourite Miss Fabulass which never settled in the run.
ICYMI | Wowee!
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) September 30, 2018
Many horses find their first go at Caulfield a testing experience and El Dorado Dreaming was no different. In the Thousand Guineas Prelude she jumped well but was shuffled backwards throughout as favourite Smart Melody stacked up the field in front. She finally got out on the turn but took a while to balance and wind up, eventually charging home to finish two lengths from the winner. She was only first up over 1400m and looks right on track to return for the Group 1 in a fortnight.
Winx. The world’s best horse lines up in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington on Saturday, her final hit out before the Cox Plate. On Monday 13 opponents had been nominated to take her on over the Flemington 2000m – a stronger contingent than the six rivals she smashed by 6.5L in this event 12 months ago.