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The final of eight Group 1 races to be run at Flemington during the VRC Carnival week, will be the Emirates Stakes and as all of the elite races have been leading up to it, it’s a wide open affair. Early favourite is Godolphin’s Contributor ($5.00) with no less than another five runners under double figure odds, including last start winners Hooked ($7.00) and Lucky Hussler ($6.50). Chris Waller, who has won two of the past three Emirates Stakes with Boban and Albert The Fat, will be hoping either Bull Point ($7.00) or I’m Imposing ($34.00) can deliver him his second Group 1 of the week whilst Mike Moroney’s Rhythm To Spare ($15.00) will be out to brighten up his stable’s carnival after the tragic loss of Araldo on Tuesday evening. Rhythm To Spare run an eye-catching run in the G1 Toorak at his most recent outing and punters were quick to jump on his opening price of $26.00. Another who was met with early support was Smokin’ Joey – who ran second in this race last year to Boban, with his opening price of $41 near halved and now into $21.

Emirates Stakes Form Guide


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1. RIVER LAD – T Berry (14) 58.5kgs

Stuck on well first up behind the impressive Chautauqua in the Bobbie Lewis when fourth (5.9 lengths) before being caught three deep with no cover throughout in the G3 Moonga Stakes (1400m). Finished tenth and close to ten lengths from the winner in the Moonga but will not get any easier time of it here with top-weight and a wide draw to contend with.

Odds: $81.00


2. THE CLEANER – S Arnold (6) 58kgs

Couldn’t pull of the fairy-tale in the Cox Plate but did himself proud all the same in running ninth (3.4 lengths) behind Adelaide after he went for home, as expected, a long way out. Gave Akavoroun 4.5kgs when finishing second (0.8 lengths) to that horse in the Listed Winter Championship his last start this course/distance and form in four runs since, three of which he has won, is outstanding. Drawn to take up his favourite role and is sure to give them plenty to run down as always.

Odds: $15.00


3. SPEEDINESS – J Bowman (1) 57kgs

Looked set for his moment in the sun when starting a well-supported 13/8 favourite in the G2 Crystal Mile last start but despite looming up on the turn he was disappointing in the run home, finishing fourth (3.2 lengths) behind Hooked. He ran a neck third in this race last year after a much stronger showing in the Crystal Mile. Has produced some mix results this campaign which makes it hard to include him with confidence but, from an inside draw and with Bowman aboard, would be prepare to give him another go at his current price.

Odds: $14.00


4. SMOKIN’ JOEY – B Melham (12) 56.5kgs

He ran a bottler in this race last year, finishing a head second to Boban, after winning the G3 Stakes on Derby Day seven days earlier. Hasn’t worried the winners in his three runs back from a spell, the most recent of which was Saturday’s Yellowglen Stakes where he crossed the line in seventh spot, 2.6 lengths behind Hucklebuck. Drops nicely in weight here from 59kgs but the wide draw and recent form rub that advantage out for mine.

Odds: $26.00


5. HOOKED – C Williams (4) 56kgs

Racing in great form at the moment and made it two wins from his last three starts with a dominant 1.8 length win the G2 Crystal Mile when leading throughout. That was just reward for an outstanding effort in the G1 Epsom (1600m) at his previous start when third (1.6 lengths) behind He’s Your Man – second in Saturday’s G1 Mackinnon Stakes. Drawn perfectly in four, will get a lovely cart behind The Cleaner and in his current form, looks a great chance of claiming a much deserved G1 victory.

Odds: $7.50


6. CONTRIBUTOR – J McDonald (2) 55.5kgs

The High Chaparral stallion was in the box-seat throughout when making his Australian debut in the G3 David Jones Cup (2000m) three weeks back before registering what was in the end, a pretty soft one length win over Noble Predictor with Signoff third. Fitter for that run but most of his racing in Europe before coming over was at 2000m. From gate two, if he doesn’t punch forward, might find himself in awkward spot turning for home and when asked to $5.00 in such an open race, just wonder if he’ll have the sprint required at the end of the race to figure here.

Odds: $5.00


7. HUCKLEBUCK – D Tourneur (5) 55.5kgs

Enjoyed the run of the race and was held together until the 300m before extending nicely late to record a length win in Saturday’s G3 Yellowglen Stakes. That made it two wins and a second from four starts at this track, and on each occasion, as he will do so here from the perfect gate, has been able to find a lovely spot in the run. Will get his chance but this is only his third attempt at a mile and his first go at WFA G1 – never easy to win one at your first attempt and has been an early drifter, $6 out to $7.50

Odds: $8.00


8. STIPULATE – W Lordan (10) 55.5kgs

On a very quick back up here after running seventh (3.5 lengths) behind Atacama in the Listed James Boag (1800m) on Cup Day. That was his fifth start this campaign and whilst it started off on a very promising note, the last couple of efforts, although in top company, haven’t been up to scratch.

Odds: $41.00


9. LUCKY HUSSLER – G Boss (15) 55kgs

Darren Weir has this former Queensland galloper flying at the minute and after three close consecutive placings, two at Listed level, the 5yo by Husson broke through in emphatic style, winning the G3 Moonga Stakes (1400m) by 3.3 lengths from Under The Louvre. He is as ready as he’ll ever be for a G1 race and by displaying the same turn of foot as he did at the top of the straight last start, we should see him figuring in the finish. Might just need a touch of luck from a wide draw but at $6 and with Boss up, can take the chance that the breaks come his way.

Odds: $6.50


10. LEEBAZ – D Dunn (3) 54.5kgs

The Hawkes Racing runner raced through his grades last campaign with the final start of that preparation resulting in a head second to Streama in the G1 WFA Doomben Cup (2000m). Punters expected the son of Zabeel to pick up where he left off when resuming in the G3 Moonga Stakes, sending him out the 9/2 favourite for the 1400m race. They could only watch in horror though as from an inside draw, he not once got a crack in the straight and finished eighth (8.6 lengths) and under a hold, behind Lucky Hussler. Again drawn in but will get a chance on the bigger Flemington circuit and seems over the odds for mine compared to last start.

Odds: $8.00


11. BULL POINT – D Oliver (9) 54kgs

Keeps running on teasingly in each of his races including his most recent, a fast finishing second (1.8 length) to Hooked – who dominated from the front – in the G2 Crystal Mile. Start before saw him also settle well back when sixth (1.6 lengths) in the G1 Toorak (1600m). Draw and pace of this race should see him settle mid-field here and the Flemington track, which he races upon for the first time, combined with the fact that this race for mine isn’t has strong as he past two Group 1 races he has contested, put him right in the mix.

Odds: $7.00


12. HONORIOUS – D Yendall (11) 54kgs

Ran a very cheeky race as a 100/1 chance in the G1 Epsom (1600m) starts ago, finishing 1.8 lengths behind He’s Your Man, and backed that up with a solid effort in the G3 David Jones Cup (2000m) three weeks ago. Did have every chance last start to run down the winner Contributor and although going well, it’s hard to see him turning the tables on that runner, let alone accounting for some of the leading chances here.

Odds: $51.00


13. DESERT JEUNEY – J Winks (17) 53.5kgs

Nigel Blackiston must be as proud as punch of his Desert King mare given her form this time in. She was given a peach of a ride by Winks from the inside gate to run third (1 length) in the G1 Toorak behind Trust In A Gust as a 100/1 chance and despite that effort, was 25/1 when third again at her following start to Hooked in the G2 Crystal Mile. Settled three back the fence last start and just had to wait for a few strides rounding the turn before closing well late to finishing 1.9 lengths from the winner. Drops a massive 5.5kgs here, is in solid form – just a pity the draw was a brutal one!

Odds: $21.00


14. I’M IMPOSING – D Lane (16) 53kgs

Ran second to last behind Sidestep (goes around in the Darley Classic) in a barrier trial consisting of eight runners before making his return to racing off a seven week spell in an Open class handicap (1500m) at Rosehill three weeks back. He settled three back the running line and was solid late under 58.5kgs, running second (neck) to Monton. Second up runs last two preps have resulted in placings at Listed in races over 2000m behind Zephyron and Travolta. Hasn’t been down to this weight for a long time and normally runs well when he does however, this is by far the toughest race he’s taken on in the past twelve months and the draw will not help.

Odds: $41.00


15. RHYTHM TO SPARE – C Schofield (8) 52.5kgs

Expected to see more from him his first two runs back from a spell but signalled he was reaching top form last start, with a fifth (1.3 lengths) placing behind Trust In A Gust in the G1 Toorak Handicap. From the tail of the field he was held up for a run on the turn, had to search for runs in the straight and was held up again close to the line. Won a Flemington mile race fourth up last prep and whilst this race is significantly harder, would rate him a decent place chance off of his last start effort.

Odds: $15.00


16. ESCADO – S Baster (7) 52.5kgs

After efforts that belied his quote of 60/1 and 50/1 win for the Listed Sofitel Stakes and Tavern Stakes respectively, the Matthew Laurie trained galloper again exceeded the expectations of his starting price when running seventh (1.8 lengths) in the G1 Toorak Handicap (1600m). From gate four he settled on the leader’s back and was given every chance in the run home by Tommy Berry. Drawn handily enough here as well but meets just as strong a field and will need to improve again.

Odds: $81.00


17. SPY DECODER – K McEvoy (13) 52.5kgs

On the quick back up here after running a head second to General Groove in a RST 90 (1400m) on Cup Day. A touch unlucky last start and whilst he has talent, his previous four races in Group company have seen him come up short each time. Would expect that to be the case again here, should he get a run.

Odds: $51.00



Good pace here with The Cleaner showing the way and leading chances Hooked, Hucklebuck and Leebaz all keen to make use of their good draws. With any sort of luck, Leebaz figures in the finish first up for mine and now, over a mile, on a bigger track, meeting the winner of that race Lucky Hussler a 1kg better, seems over the odds at $8.50. Hooked is a consistent galloper and maps to get every chance in the run here. Bull Point gets his chance here now we’re at Flemington in a strongly run mile. Will not have to settle as far back as he has been and Oliver has been in super form. Best value in the race, Rhythm To Spare and Speediness and Desert Jeuney.

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