Mick Price is well placed to take the 3yo feature race at his home track this weekend, with three runners entered, two of which sit atop of the betting market, in the Group 3 Vain Stakes. Price’s impressive last start winner Nordic Empire was met with good support when his opening price of $3.60 was posted Wednesday afternoon and was by the evening, had been wound into $3.20 favourite for the race. Nordic Empire’s stable-mates Jabali and Cornrow, who ran second and third respectively in the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes behind Earthquake earlier this year, return to racing for their 3yo season. Jabali jumps from gate 2 and is $5.00 whilst Cornrow hasn’t faired as well in terms of the barriers and jumping from 11, is rated a $13.00 shot. Robbie Laing’s pairing of Boomwaa and Just For Starters are on the third line of betting, each at $8.00
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1. ZULULAND – S Baster (3) 57.5kgs
Continued to improve with each run last campaign, claiming the G2 Sire’s Produce Stakes (1400m) by producing a big finish before rounding out his prep with a length second to Go Indy Go in the G1 Champagne Stakes (1600m) where he camped on the speed. Will likely get back in the run here over this trip and from an inside draw, that could have him awkwardly placed. Wait for him to get over further ground and preferably, on a bigger circuit.
2. BOOMWAA – V Duric (9) 57.5kgs
Robbie Laing’s gelding returned from his 2yo season, which saw him win one from eight, the Maribyrnong Plate (1000m), by running third to Nordic Empire in a BM 78 at Moonee Valley a fortnight ago. He settled back from a wider gate, which he has also drawn here, but closed well enough to claim third (1.9 lengths). The run will see him strip fitter and he was competitive in some of the leading races last season but he does meet Nordic Empire 2.5kgs worse at the weights.
3. MOONLIGHT HUSSLER – N Hall (12) 56.5kgs
Made his debut with an impressive half a length win in the Listed Debutante Stakes, at this track and over 1000m, finishing hard from well back in the field to defeat Good Prince and Piacenza. The Hussonet colt hasn’t faced the starter since then though which is ten months ago now. The outside gate here will see him have to repeat his previous win and in a tougher field, that may be too much of an ask.
4. CORNROW – C Schofield (11) 55kgs
Even though he is still a maiden, Mike Prices’s Duporth colt has recorded five placings from his seven starts and has twice been placed in Group 1 company (Blue Diamond Stakes and Sire’s Produce Stakes) He too has drawn wide here, unlike most of his previous starts, and should settle back in the run but be finishing well out wide.
5. JABALI – D Oliver (2) 55kgs
Like his stable-mate Cornrow, this Exceed And Excel colt is also searching for his first win but also can boast a Group 1 (Blue Diamond Stakes) and Group 3 (Blue Diamond Prelude) placing from only five starts – both at this track. As he did in the Blue Diamond, he has drawn well here and will be ridden by Oliver, who should afford him every chance in the run. Has the runs on the board to be a strong consideration in this race.
6. NORDIC EMPIRE – C Newitt (1)
The third of Price’s runners, Nordic Empire defeated Zululand on debut back in November last year before heading to Sydney on his way to the Gold Coast’s Magic Millions and running third (1.8 lengths) to Invisible. He never made the Gold Coast but the spell since that run hasn’t harmed the Wilander colt judging by his all the way win in a BM78 at Moonee Valley a fortnight ago where, under 58kgs, he defeated Stingray and Boomwaa. Drawn the ideal gate to take up the same position here and Newitt sticks with him. The pair should give their opponents plenty to catch.
7. I AM THE GENERAL – J Noonan (6) 55kgs
Took up a prominent position when returning from a ten week break in a BM78 over 1000m at Moonee Valley last fortnight and fought on in the run home to hold his position, finishing fourth (2.1 lengths) to Nordic Empire with Boomwaa third. Hard to see him turning the tables on those runners here.
8. STINGRAY – P Moloney (4) 55kgs
Returned from a five month spell in a BM78 at Moonee Valley last fortnight, drawing the widest gate in the field of twelve. That saw the Kaphero colt settle back in the field for this first time in his seven start career but it may be something we see more of given the way he finished to claim second (1.8 lengths) behind Nordic Empire. Draws better here and probably takes up a better position. Can’t be ignored on last start effort.
9. REIGNING METEOR – D Yendall (7)
Warranmbool trainer Matthew Williams has prepared this Norther Meteor colt for two wins from his three starts to date – all of which have been on country tracks. He comes to town for the first time in his career and for his first start in fifteen weeks, to face a slick field of promising three year olds. Would prefer to see him in something easier than this.
10. JUST FOR STARTERS – D Dunn (8)
Foreplay gelding who is a stable-mate to Boomwaa who commenced his career two starts back, on a winning note, taking out a Caulfield 2yo 1000m at this track under the steadier of 58.5kgs. From a good draw, we camped on the speed and proved too strong on debut, defeating Just Magical by three quarters of a length. At his next and only start since, the barrier draw wasn’t as kind and he jumped from the second to widest gate in the field of twelve which saw him settle well back in the run. His effort to finish fifth (2.9 lengths) behind Nordic Empire was a solid effort but again, he’ll be giving Nordic Empire a start.
11. GET THE NOD – J Bowditch (10)
Adelaide Lloyd Kennewell put his son of U S Ranger out immediately after his debut win at Morphettville Parks in RST 68 (1000m) back in March He has obviously improved over this break judging by his comfortable recent barrier trial win and his trainer’s decision to make the trip across for this event. Enough to win this race from a wide gate?
12. HONEST LEE – S King (5)
The training partnership of Morgan and Widdison have taken their time with this I Am Invincible gelding who only his first start in July of this year, a comfortable two length win in a Bendigo Maiden (1000m), leading all the way on a heavy track. He has been kept up to the mark with a winning barrier trial at Cranbourne a week and a half ago but faces a stiff rise from a Bendigo maiden to a Group 3.
Plenty of speed obviously engaged here and that should give those settled off the speed, a chance to run home. Camped in behind them will be Jabali whose two runs at this track have been first rate and in top grade. Nordic Empire is well placed at the weights after meeting and defeating several runners here last start. The camp have always had an opinion of him and he looks set to deliver this campaign judging by his first up win. Taking that form-line as the one to follow, Stingray appears to be value at $15.00 in early markets. He’ll get a nice run from his gate and only requires a bit of luck rounding the one turn to have his chance of finishing well again.
- NORDIC EMPIRE