A competitive edition of the Alister Clark Stakes will see a full field of fourteen runners take part. The only filly likely to race, the second filly be an emergency, is Scratchy Bottom who opened up the $4.60 favourite in betting on Wednesday. There’s a number of live chance though according to the market with several entrants expected to relish stepping up to the 2000m for the first time this campaign. A capacity field on the tight Valley circuit, should make for a great race with plenty of action.
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1. VILANOVA – C Newitt (13)
After threatening to do so in most of his dozen Australian starts since coming across form New Zealand early last year, Vilanova finally broke through for a win in the G2 Autumn Classic (1800m) at Caulfield a fortnight ago. He bided his time at the tail of the field in a strangely run race before swooping down the centre of the track to win by 1 ½ lengths with Countersnip in second. The son of Commands has always shown plenty of promise and he should be able to go on with it after last start.
2. HONEY’S STEEL GOLD – S Baster (16)
David Hayes’ gelding won the Listed Taj Rossi (1600m) in July last year but was just a few lengths of them in the better class races during the spring. The son of Keep The Faith returned from a spell a month ago, finishing mid-field in a RST 78 (1400m) at Sandown before, at the same track a fortnight ago, appreciating the step up to 1800m and narrowly winning a BM 70 by a nose. The distance will be to his liking but will have plenty of work to do no matter where he goes in the run, from the widest gate.
3. SURGE AHEAD – C Symons (12)
Promising stayer from Anthony Cummings’ stables who had won three of four, including the Listed Connoissuer Stakes (1800m) during last year’s spring carnival, before returning to racing a in the C. S. Hayes Stakes last month. He found the 1400m of that race too short before following the leader and eventual winner, Shamus Award, in the G1 Australian Guineas (1600m) last start and sticking on well to run sixth (1.9 lengths). Didn’t have the acceleration of the winner in the Guineas but was still there on the line and the step up to 2040 will be very much to his benefit. Will look to take up a forward position in the run and could prove very hard to run down if he finds it from gate 12.
4. LATE CHARGE – V Duric (11)
Returned to racing with a good effort in the G2 Autumn Stakes (1400m) two starts back, where he came from the tail of the field to run third (2 lengths) behind Thunder Fantasy. He then drew wide in the Australian Guineas and was posted three deep without cover for the duration of the race, so it was no surprise to see his run peak the last 100m. His effort to run ninth, only 2 ¾ lengths from the winner Shamus Award, was full of merit. Nothing wrong with either of his runs and his previous start here, in the G2 Bill Stutt Stakes, was also a good effort. He only needs a touch of luck again from an average draw to figure in the finish.
5. PHEIDON – D Oliver (10)
Gai Waterhouse’s gelding by Al Maher lines up in this race after being beaten a short-priced favourite in a weaker race at Canterbury last start. Winner of two of his four runs, he set the pace in a BM 72 (1900) at his most recent outing but, being his first run for a month and carrying a hefty 58.5kgs, he weakened late to run third, 1.4 lengths behind Falago. He’ll be fitter again for having had that outing and the combination of Oliver and Waterhouse is not to be underestimated but does face a stiff race in class here.
6. ALL RIGGED UP – (1)
Ran the race of his life when, as a 200/1 shot, he finished second to Savvy Nature in the G2 The Vase over this track and distance last October. The Enconsul gelding has had two starts back since that run and neither would see him starting a much shorter price than he did in the The Vase. He has finished over eighteen lengths last of ten first up at Moe before being over ten lengths at Sandown a just over a week ago. Will go forward from the inside gate but impossible to have on his latest efforts.
7. BRING SOMETHING – (6)
Ran an eye-catching race on this track in the G2 Bill Stutt Stakes (1600m) last spring, finishing hard to run third behind Devine Calling and Shamus Award, before finishing fifth and seventh in the G3 Norman Robinson and VRC Derby respectively. He returned in the G2 Autumn Stakes (1400m) but had no luck from his inside draw, running sixth behind Thunder Fantasy before stepping out at his next and most recent start, as the 13/4 favourite for the G2 Autumn Classic (1800m). Again, not much went right for Ken Keys’ Sebring gelding and he was caught wide early and had to work up the Caulfield hill in the back straight, before settling much closer to the speed than he had ever done previously. Stuck on well for fifth (2.4 lengths) behind Vilanova and drawn to get a much more favourable run here. Only needs a change of luck to be figuring in the finish.
8. MISTA SPOT – S Arnold (8)
Kicked off this campaign by breaking his maiden status – at start number seven – in a Geelong maiden (1325m) and backed that up with a win at Sandown (1500m) in a RST 70 where he finished hard from near last on the turn. The Anthony Freedman trained runner then stepped up to 1800m at the same track, in a BM 70 grade, and again finished well late to run third behind Honey’s Steel Gold. Improving with every run and the distance shouldn’t bother him however, the class at this stage of his career might.
9. MYSONHARRY – D Lane (5)
One of two runners in the race for Mick Kent, this son of Myboycharlie has caught the eye in each of his last two starts. Firstly in a BM 64 (1600m) at Caulfield where he was last and then widest before running third to Alpha Beat under 59.5kgs, and then taking on the better class of horse in the G2 Autumn Stakes where he angled out form last on the turn to run fourth, 2.1 lengths behind Vilanova. He copped a bump at a crucial stage last start which didn’t help his cause but appears to be on the upward swing and worth consideration.
10. CADILLAC MOUNTAIN – C Schofield (2)
Peter Moody’s Reset gelding registered his second career win at start number five, when resuming from a nineteen week spell a fortnight ago. He flashed home from last on the turn to win by ¾ of a length with Amber Cavalier second. Fitter again but did only have to carry 54kgs last start and rises significantly in both weight (57kgs) and class here and would be looking to others.
11. SLEW LEFT – B Higgins (9)
He finally cracked his maiden last start, at his sixteenth outing, when successful in a Moe RST 68 race over 2400m. It’s hard to see him backing that up immediately with a win in a G2 race.
12. BARDEM – L Nolen (4)
Stable-mate to Cadillac Mountain, this Savabeel gelding ran a credible fourth (2.2 lengths) in the G2 Autumn Stakes (1400m) first up off a spell. It was only his third race start and his first in stakes company but he indicated potential by sticking on well behind Thunder Fantasy. With that run under his belt and despite stepping up in class again to the G1 Australian Guineas, more was expected off him than his twelfth placing. He hasn’t got the record on the board yet to be able to overlook that run and include him in the chances here.
13. CALENDAR LAD – B Rawiller (14)
Off a six week let-up, the son of Reset who is trained by Greg Eurell, was good when fourth (1.4 lengths) behind Alpha Beat in a BM 64 (1400m), the winner then running third in the G2 Autumn Stakes. Calendar Lad’s next and most recent start was a seventh (2.7 lengths) behind Vilanova in the G2 Autumn Classic (1800m). He was camped on the speed in a race that suited those swooping home so to held on as well as he did was encouraging. The draw won’t help but not the worst chance at big odds to fill a place.
14. SCRATCHY BOTTOM – M Rodd (7)
Mick Kent’s second runner and the daughter of Sebring has always shown a lot of potential. She resumed this spell with a soft ¾ length win at Caulfield in BM 78 before starting 13/4 against Solicit in the G3 Mitty’s Vanity four weeks back. She got a long way back in a race where Solicit, who has since won comfortably, again, dictated terms in the lead. She finished fourth but over seven lengths from the winner. A better horse than that and this step up to 2040 and a more genuine tempo, would see her rate a good chance. Capable of giving the boys plenty of cheek.
15. THE TERRICKS – L Currie (15) 1st EM
Kaphero gelding who has finished well from a long way back in the field at his two runs since returning form a seven week let-up. He finished fifth (1.6 lengths) in a RST 70 (1500m) behind Mista Spot and eighth, as the 13/4 favourite, in a BM 70 behind Honey Steel’s Gold. If he does gain a start, needs to lift substantially on his latest effort.
16. BLUE EYES – (3)
The Helenus filly has only had two starts for Pat Cary and whilst Pat is handy with a stayer off an unorthodox prep, it would be one of his greatest training feats if she gained a start and won here.
Pace he will be genuine with the big field looking for early spots on the tight Valley circuit. This should play into the hands of Vilanova who finally put it altogether last start and swept home over the 1800m. The extra 200m is ideal. Another likely to enjoy the trip will be Surge Ahead who was just a touch too dour in the G1 Guineas last start over the mile. Chris Symons will have a bit of work to do from 12, especially early in the race as he likes to roll along on the speed, but he’s a promising type and the price on offer about him is attractive. Scratchy Bottom just got too far back last start in the Vanity and was never a hope of running Solicit down. Rodd didn’t punish her in the run home and the step up to 2000m will see her produce her best. Late Charge and Bring Something have both performed well at this track in the past behind top line three year olds and are genuine chances. Tough race with luck in running to play an enormous part.
2. SCRATCY BOTTOM
3. SURGE AHEAD
4. BRING SOMETHING