The Championships Day 1 will be held at Royal Randwick this Saturday. The course proper was rated a Soft 6 on Thursday and with light showers in Sydney leading up to the weekend, Randwick is likely to remain in the Soft range on raceday.
The Kiwi visitor Madison County is primed to peak in the Australian Derby (Sydney Race 7, 2400m). The dual Group 1 victor has been in fine form winning the Levin Classic when 1st up on the 12th January before a close 3rd in the Karaka Classic. The gelding then finished 4th to the great The Autumn Sun in his first Australian start in the Randwick Guineas. Last week in the Tulloch Stakes, Madison County ran an eye-catching 2nd to Angel Of Truth on a Heavy 10 track. The drying track on Saturday will certainly suit the 3YO better as Madison County has never missed a place on Soft tracks with 3 wins and 3 placings from 6 attempts in the condition. And trainer Murray Baker does know a thing or two in winning the Australian Derby having trained Nom Du Jeu (2008), Mongolian Khan (2015) and Jon Snow (2017) to win the Group 1 classic. Backing up from last week’s Tulloch Stakes, Madison County is rock hard fit and will run the 2400m right out. Currently at $11.00 fixed odds, Madison County is a terrific value bet.
The under-rated Pierata is hoping to take centre stage in Saturday’s TJ Smith Stakes (Sydney Race 8, 1200m). The Greg Hickman-trained stallion has been racing against the best sprinters in the land, like Redzel, Santa Ana Lane, Trapeze Artist, with merit. On The Everest day last Spring, Pierata did run faster time when taken out the Sydney Stakes than Redzel’s winning time in The Everest. And last start in the Group 1 The Galaxy (1100m), the 4YO came from way back and was only beaten a nose by speedster Nature Strip. Stepping up to 1200m in the TJ Smith will suit much better. Pierata can handle any track conditions and he has an unblemished record winning all 3 starts over this track & trip. Tommy Berry will once again be on board and he will receive a cushy run in transit from barrier 2. Pierata will showcase his brilliant turn-of-foot and run over the top of this field.
The reigning Epsom Handicap champion Hartnell is in good shape to take out another Group 1 Randwick mile in the Doncaster Handicap (Sydney Race 9, 1600m). The veteran gelding had won some big Randwick mile races in his career including a Chelmsford Stakes and an Epsom Handicap. And the 8YO finished a terrific 2nd last start in the All-Star Mile to a potential champion in Mystic Journey. Hartnell can handle any track conditions and has shown that he has the ability to carry weight so the 58kg should not be a worry. Champion hoop Hugh Bowman will be aboard the gelding on Saturday and that’s another plus. Beautifully drawn in gate 7, Bowman will settle just behind the pace and Hartnell will be right there fighting out the finish.
By Owens Wong, Editor