Countdown To The Championships: Australia, New Zealand Host ‘Super Friday’ Down Under

The coming weeks will be an exciting time for North American race fans, with the Kentucky Derby looming large on the horizon and Churchill Downs preparing for the opening leg of the Triple Crown. They’ll also be counting down to Australia’s The Championships, the grandest stage of the Sydney Autumn Carnival at Royal Randwick on Friday, April 6th and 13th.

This Friday’s racing Down Under has been billed as ‘Super Friday,’ with 15 Group races that feature many horses on their way to The Championships. The Randwick Guineas and Australian Cup are part of a full schedule of fixtures that will see a total of 15 Group races taking place at Sydney’s Randwick and Melbourne’s Flemington racecourses and also at Ellerslie in New Zealand.  

G1 Randwick Guineas
Run over seven furlongs and awarding $1 million AUD ($775 000) in prize money, the G1 Randwick Guineas is open to all 3-year-old horses. As a set weight race, colts and geldings saddle 125 lb and fillies must saddle 120 lb. The winner of the Guineas receives an automatic entry into the ATC Derby and Doncaster Handicap, two flagship races of The Championships.

Running at 12:15 midnight EST on Saturday, March 10th (9:15 p.m. PST on Friday, March 9th), this year’s Randwick Guineas favorite is the promising Godolphin colt Kementari (5/4 favorite). He is unbeaten in two runs this campaign – a first-up win in the G3 Eskimo Prince Stakes (5f) and a last start victory in the Hobartville Stakes (6f).

The early nominations for the Randwick Guineas indicate that a rematch between Kementari and Magic Millions Guineas winner Pierata (5/1 odds) will likely materialize after the son of Pierro failed to live up to expectations in the Hobartville Stakes.

The three runners that finished directly behind them, D’Argento (18/5 odds), Trapeze Artist (7/1 odds) and Ace High (10/1), will also be involved in the battle for the top honor.

Despite the strong nominations, Godolphin stable representative Darren Beadman is confident that the Guineas’ distance will be right up their star’s alley. “This colt has a mile written all over him,” says Beadman. “He is very brilliant but is a clean-winded horse and that will assist him in getting a strong 1,600m.”

Randwick will also host the following Group races Friday night EST/PST: the G1 Canterbury Stakes, the G2 Challenges Stakes, the G2 Reisling Stakes, the G2 Todman Stakes, the G3 Wenona Girl Handicap, and the G3 Aspiration Quality.

G1 Australian Cup & G1 Newmarket Handicap
Flemington racecourse in Melbourne will also capture attention with five races on Friday night EST/PST, including the G1 TAB Australian Cup and the G1 Newmarket Handicap.

The Australian Cup, a weight-for-age over 9 furlongs (1¼ miles) with a purse of $1.5 million AUD ($1.1 million), will break from the gates at 4:35 p.m. Melbourne Time on Saturday, March 10th (12:35 midnight EST, or 9:35 p.m. PST on Friday, March 9th). This year’s meeting has attracted a field of 12 and all eyes will be on the French export Gailo Chop, whose impressive form shot him to the top of the betting lines.

“He was backed from $13 [12/1 odds] into $11 [10/1] before he resumed from a spell with a dominant win in the Carlyon Cup and he was even more impressive in the Peter Young Stakes,” says Tabcorp racing media expert Nick Quinn.

Gailo Chop has won two G1 races over the Australian Cup distance of 1¼ miles. Even though he drew barrier 10, he looks on track to give trainer Darren Weir successive wins in the Australian Cup, considering that seven of the past nine Cup winners came from barrier 7 or wider.

But there are at least two serious challengers in the form of Almandin and The Taj Mahal (both 11/2 odds and representing Team Williams). Almandin, the 2016 Melbourne Cup winner, will also carry the hopes of jockey Damien Oliver to claim his 110th G1 win.

Futurity Stakes winner Brave Smash will campaign for a rare double when he takes on the $1.25 million AUD ($970,000) Newmarket Handicap at 3:15 p.m. Melbourne time on Saturday, March 10th (12:15 midnight EST or 9:15 p.m. PST on Friday, March 9th).

He is, however, not the favorite to win the race. Merchant Navy is currently enjoying top billing at 17/5, with Redkirk Warrior and Rich Charm clear second choice at 13/2 each, and Brave Smash given a reasonable shot at 8/1 alongside Booker.

Flemington will also host the following Group races Friday night EST/PST: the G2 Kewney Stakes, the G2 VRC Sires Produce Stakes, and the G3 Matron Stakes.  

G1 Auckland Cup
Also on Friday night, North American racing fans will be able to enjoy one of the highlights of the New Zealand racing calendar, the G1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup. Run over two miles at Ellerslie at 5:20 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 10th (11:20 p.m. EST or 8:20 p.m. PST on Friday, March 9th), the race for 3-year-olds and up features a field of 12 battling for a $500,000 NZD purse.

The Allan Sharrock-trained Ladies First is current favorite (7/2 odds), after the 5-year-old mare’s 7 wins from 14 starts, including taking home both the Auckland Co-Op Taxis Handicap and Hamilton Cup over the last few weeks. She faces strong competition, though, from Charles Road after winning the G3 Windsor Park Stud back in January.

Ellerslie will also be hosting the G1 Bonecrusher NZ Stakes and G1 Sistema Stakes Friday night EST/PST.

From New Zealand to Sydney and Melbourne, North American fans can live stream the entire ‘Super Friday’ experience using ADWs such as TVGTwinSpiresXpressbetNYRA BetsWatchandWagerHPIbetAmWager, and BetAmerica. They can also watch the races live on TVG, and get free access to expert picks and past performances on Sky Racing World.

About David Haslett

A former Managing Director of Sportech Racing, David was appointed President and CEO of Sky Racing World in April 2014. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company, a subsidiary of Australian wagering firm Tabcorp, provides Australian, New Zealand, South African and South American racing content for simulcast horse-race wagering to multiple North America-facing ADW brands and race-tracks.

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