It’s been a relatively quiet autumn carnival for the Darley operation by their standards. They’ve come close to claiming a feature race with Earthquake in the Golden Slipper and Tupac Amaru in the Derby – both of whom ran second – but have a great chance to break through in this weekend’s Group 2 Royal Sovereign Stakes with two runners, Sidestep and Safegaurd. Sidestep ($4 fav) is coming off a good win whilst Safeguard ($13) has been set for this race first up. In a competitive betting race the lightly raced Chautauqua ($4.40), who is coming off an impressive effort in the Listed Gosford Guineas, and New Zealand mare Bounding ($5.50) are both well in contention.
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1. SIDESTEP – K McEvoy (5)
Showed plenty of potential as a 2yo and whilst unable to win a race during his spring campaign last year, did finish within three lengths of Zoustar who was dominating at the time, twice. He gave Shamalia 5kgs when beaten a lip first up in the Listed Fireball but arrived in time at his following start, the Listed Darby Munro Stakes, to claim Bound For Earth right on the line. Will appreciate the set weights conditions of this race, handles the wet and is in form. Has to be rated a leading chance.
2. SAFEGUARD – H Bowman (10)
Tackles this race first up off a thirteen week spell and each of his three career wins, have come when he has been resuming. The Exceed and Excel colt has been given two barrier trials in preparation for his return, winning the first and running third to last week’s G1 winner Lankan Rupee in the most recent. Despite drawing wide and this being his first look at a track worse than dead, there’s enough there to entertain him at $13.
3. DOTHRAKI – N Rawiller (3)
Won two barrier trials before he resumed from a spell in the Listed Gosford Guineas, running third (1 ¾ lengths) to In Cahoots, where he sat on the pace and chased hard on the heavy track. Trainer, Jockey and Connections, joined forces to claim the G1 Sires Produce Stakes last week and with Dothraki, who is fitter for the first up run, has a solid second up record and drawn to get a lovely run, they are a good chance of registering another Championship win.
4. IN CAHOOTS – D Oliver (6)
Made it two wins from three starts this prep and four from eight overall, with a good win in the Listed Gosford Guineas a fortnight ago. He secured a nice run from a good draw and handled the soft conditions better than most to defeat Chautauqua by half a length. An improving type who will get similar conditions to last start here.
5. NEVER CAN TELL – Z Purton (1)
He won his first two starts which included the Listed Canonbury Stakes (1100m) but hasn’t placed in five subsequent runs to date. The Anthony Cummings trained galloper will line up here first up from a twenty-two week spell and has been readied with two barrier trials in February. His fresh runs have been his best but his one start on a heavy track resulted in him finishing a long last in the Silver Slipper Stakes.
6. TURQUIOSE KING – T Berry (8)
Registered his third career win at start number seven four weeks ago, with a head win in Open 3yo race (1200m) at Moonee Valley. This will be the Stratum gelding’s first go the Sydney way of going and first look at a track rated worse than dead. Combined with the step up in class, there are a few question marks around him here.
7. BOSS LANE – SCRATCHED
8. HAVANNA – C Williams (11)
He has contested some good races during his short career but was taken to a mid-week Canterbury meeting first up just over a month ago, to register his first win. As expected he was too good for his rivals winning by four lengths. Hasn’t raced since than but given a trial last week to keep him up to the mark. Jumps from the widest gate here and still yet proven at this level.
9. CHAUTAUQUA – J McDonald (9)
Very well bred Encosta de Lago gelding from the Team Hawkes operation, he comfortably won a Geelong Maiden first up in March by 4 ½ lengths before travelling north to contest the Listed Gosford Guineas a fortnight ago. He made up good ground from the tail on a heavy track where not many were able too, finishing second to In Cahoots. That was his first run in almost a month and his first the Sydney way of going. Handles the wet tracks and the roomier Randwick track should suit his style more so than Gosford. There’s plenty to like about his chances.
10. THUMP – J Cassidy (7)
Good win second up from a spell in the G2 Surround Stakes (1400m) – which has proven to be a very strong form reference – before taking a dip at the elite level and travelling to Melbourne for the G1 William Reid Stakes She drew well and secured a nice run in transit but was no match for the likes of Spirit Of Boom and Fontelina late, finishing a respectable eighth, only 2.4 lengths from the winner. Better suited here back to her own age and the only start she has had on heavy, she got back in the run which isn’t her style. Would think she is capable of a good run at double figure odds.
11. BOUNDING – M Du Plessis (12)
New Zealand mare who has the impeccable record of seven wins and three seconds from her ten starts. Hasn’t raced for seven weeks but has won twice previously off similar breaks including the G1 Railway Stakes (1200m) on a slow track. Drawn wide and generally races forward but is to be treated with the utmost respect.
12. SHAMALIA – G Schofield (2)
Promising galloper who has won three of her five starts including the Listed Fireball Stakes where she defeated Sidestep. Her most recent start was in the Gosford Guineas where she settled at the tail of the field. The Shamardal filly pushed into the clear at the top of the straight but on the heavy track, didn’t really let down as well as she has done previously on drier surfaces. Drier the track, the better her chances.
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Thump to push forward from a wider gate with NZ visitor Bounding with Dothraki holding his spot closer to the fence. The pace should be good. Think they’ve found the right grade with Sidestep this time in and here, at the set weights, he is well placed. Did very well to make ground on the heavy track last start on a day when not many did. No reason why he can’t produce a similar effort here. Stable-mate Safeguard is good value given his fresh record and his recent effort in a very hot trial. Query over him handling the wet but worth taking the risk he will at $13.00 Dothraki is drawn to be well placed throughout and the team around him are flying at present.