Two promising gallopers dominate the market for this Saturday’s Ajax Stakes. Ecuador, winning of five of his eleven starts including both runs this prep, is the early favourite for the race at $2.50, just in advance of Messene at $3.80 who is coming of a good win the Listed National Sprint and looking to make it seven wins straight. With the above pair battling out favouritism, it has created some attractive prices for horses in the race that have strong credentials for a race such as this. Mouro ($9.00) and Malavio ($11.00) are already Group winners and both come into this race after good performances first up from a spell.
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1. MOURO – C Williams (1) 58kgs
He made it three wins in a row when claiming the G3 Tab Rewards Stakes (1400m) first up from a spell three weeks ago. Tony McEvoy’s runner was positioned well in the run from an inside gate, as he has here, and finished too well for Mourinho and Fat Al, who then came out and won last week’s Bendigo Golden Mile. Has won two from four second up and didn’t have much luck in the Toorak Handicap at his second run in last prep. He should be right in the mix.
2. MONTON – S Clipperton (4) 57kgs
Made it three wins in four starts when, under the steadier of 61.5kgs, he was simply too good for his rival in a BM 95 (1600m) at Randwick two starts ago, winning by a two lengths. He stepped up then to better company and the G1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m). Having drawn well, he got a lovely run and his chance in the race but could only manage fifth, three lengths behind winner Boban. Much better suited back to this grade, drawn well and drops 2kgs from last start but has drifted quickly in early betting from $12.00 to $16.00.
3. RIVA DE LAGO – J Cassidy (10) 55.5kgs
Finished strongly to win the G2 Theo Marks (1400m) in what was a solid preparation last time in. The Chris Waller galloper has had two runs back from a spell but hasn’t been able to duplicate that form, finishing down the track in both the G3 Southern Cross and last start, the G3 Liverpool City Cup. Neither start is encouraging but looking for positives, he has won four of nine on this track and been placed a further three occasions. His last visit to Rosehill resulted in the Theo Marks victory.
4. MALAVIO – B Avdulla (2) 54.5kgs
Drew the inside gate when resuming in the G3 Liverpool City Cup a fortnight ago, and find himself in a nice spot turning, just behind the pace. He finished well to run fifth, 2.4 lengths behind Terravista and El Roca who had dominated things from up front. He won the G3 Tramway Stakes second up last prep and would think he’ll get every opportunity from gate 2. He creates plenty of interest at $11.00
5. MESSENE – J McDonald (9) 54.5kgs
He made it six straight wins with a tough victory in the Listed National Sprint at Canberra a fortnight ago. Having his first start since late December and coming from the outside gate in a field of fifteen were not enough to stop this 5yo son of Lonhro who will only be better again for the run. Has drawn wide again and takes another step up in class but has handled the previous six increases of grade well enough.
6. DIAMETRIC – SCRATCHED
7. LESS IS MORE – J Ford (5) 53kgs
David Vandyke’s gelding was in very solid form last spring and claimed the Listed Premier’s Cup (1800m) among his five starts. He returned to racing form a spell in the G3 Liverpool City Cup (1300m) and was only starting to warm to his task over the final stages when finishing eighth (4.4 lengths) behind Terravista. It was a good start to this campaign and one that he’ll continue to improve on but at this class/distance, think he’ll find a few too sharp.
8. ECUADOR – T Berry (8) 53kgs
Bit of hype around this promising galloper saw him start this campaign as the odds-on favourite in a BM 95 (1400m) at Rosehill last month. Leading throughout, he was able to hold off the challenges, albeit just, and score a ¾ length win over Kaypers who has since placed fourth in the G3 Newcastle Newmarket. He returned a fortnight later as an 11/8 commodity in the same grade and over the same distance, and again the job done only just, holding off a spirited challenge by stable-mate Almighty Charge. Can’t deny he’s getting the job done and the last two starts were on slow, we could see a stronger performance again here on dry and an extra 100m also suits.
9. DANCHAI – C Newitt (7) 53kgs
Former imported galloper having his first start in Australia for his trainer Chris Waller. He has won two and been placed three times in the UK in races ranging from a mile to 2000m. His form is only fair but Waller as the knack with these imports and reckon he must be showing Chris the right signs if he has decided to kick him off here in a Stakes race.
10. RHYTHM TO SPARE – G Boss (6) 53kgs
After finishing seventh and within two lengths of Boban in the G1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) last spring, this 4yo by Pins was spelled and made his return to racing a fortnight ago in the Listed Super Saturday Stakes (1400m) Sent out a well supported 3/1 chance, he settled in the second half of the field but when eased out at the top of the straight, couldn’t pull in the leaders who had a nice time of things up front and ran the quinella. Will be suited with a more genuine pace and always shown above average ability. Look for him to finishing strongly late.
11. WEARY – G Schofield (3) 53kgs
Another imported galloper from the Waller’s stables who made his Australian debut last month in a BM 95 (1400m). Punters weren’t going to take any chances with a Waller import and especially one coming of a handy trial win a fortnight before. He was rated a 7/2 chance and caught the eye finishing well late for third (1.2 lengths) behind Ecuador. Hasn’t had a run since but been kept up to the make with a trial and wouldn’t have to make much improvement from his first run, to test the favourite here.
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Ecuador leads and it’s hard to know how to classify his last two wins. He has won yes, by not in the manner expected of a short priced favourite. Takes a stronger field again here and will have to show good improvement. Messene is the horse on the up who continues to improve with every run. There was plenty for him to overcome in the National Sprint but as he has down so regularly, he met the challenge. As mentioned above, Weary should not have to improve much to make the beaten margin it’s only the fact the Ecuador should be able to control the tempo from the front, that prevents him from going on top. Mouro is a good horse as is Malavio and both are capable of showing up at a good price.