Haslett: Who Will Step Up In Australia’s ‘The Championships’?

The pinnacle of the Australian racing season, the two-week The Championships kicks off this weekend. The nation's top horses will compete in Sydney for a share of $20.2 million AUD ($15.4 million) in prizes. While next weekend's Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes will see Winx, Longines' equal-best ranked racehorse internationally, aim for her 17th straight win, this Saturday boasts four G1 races, with joint-fifth best ranked horses Le Romain and Chautauqua competing in the Doncaster Mile and the TJ Smith Stakes respectively at Royal Randwick.  

Launched in 2014, The Championships is the grand finale of Sydney's Autumn carnival. The event, which includes 16 races, eight of them Group 1s, is Australia's answer to the Breeder's Cup.

The Inglis Sires'
Scheduled for 3:10 p.m. local time on Saturday, April 1st (12:10 a.m. EDT or 9:10 p.m. PDT on Friday, March 31st), this 2-year-old championship features a $1 million AUD purse ($750,000). The Inglis Sires' is the only G1 seven-furlong race in the country for juveniles and is the second leg of Australia's 2-year-old Triple Crown along with the Golden Slipper and Champagne Stakes.

Since this year's G1 Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign and G1 Blue Diamond Stakes champion Catchy aren't running, the field is open for a new winner. This season fillies have won all the big juvenile races and this looks likely to continue with the favorites, Golden Slipper runner-up Frolic at 19/5 and third-placing Tulip at 5/1.

The Michael Freedman-trained Frolic beat Tulip by 5.2 lengths in the Slipper but has fared badly at the Sires' barriers, drawing 16. Tulip herself will start from barrier 2. Third favorite Menari, at 15/2, will be chasing his rivals again from barrier 11 after finishing 5.1 lengths behind Tulip in the Golden Slipper. Frolic is the only horse to have beaten She Will Reign this season, sweeping past her on the outside rail to win the Reisling Stakes. However, Freedman has told the press that racing on heavy tracks may have taken a toll on Frolic, who hasn't yet been tested over seven furlongs.

BMW Australian Derby
This championship for staying 3-year-olds, comparable to the Kentucky Derby, runs at 3:50 p.m. Sydney time on Saturday (12:50 a.m. EDT or 9:50 p.m. PDT on Friday, March 31st). The mile and a half, $2 million AUD ($1.5 million) race's winner can often be determined by looking back to the Rosehill Guineas, with 10 of the G1 race's winners since 1979 going on to win the Derby.

The last two Guineas winners have also been New Zealander-bred horses, which favors Kiwi Gingernuts, who won the 2017 Guineas and New Zealand Derby. Trained by Steven Autridge and Jamie Richards, Gingernuts remains the 5/2 favorite for Saturday's race, despite drawing wide with barrier 12.

Rival Inference made up a lot of late ground to finish 2.3 lengths behind Gingernuts on a heavy track at the Rosehill Guineas. The 3-year-old colt is second favorite for the Derby at 17/5 and has fared well with a barrier 4 draw. Jockey Tommy Berry believes Inference can win on a drier track, especially if Gingernuts, who has been slow off the barriers in the past, has a bad start.

Tulloch Stakes winner Jon Snow is third-favorite at 11/2 and will start from barrier 9. Trained by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, Jon Snow finished 2.5 lengths behind Inference at the New Zealand Derby.

Darley TJ Smith Stakes
This open sprint championship for 2-year-olds boasts a $2.5 million AUD purse ($1.9 million), making it the world's richest sprint race on turf. Named after legendary trainer Tommy Smith, the six-furlong race is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Saturday (1:30 a.m. EDT or 10:30 p.m. PDT on Friday, March 31st).

The favorite this year at 18/5 is Chautauqua. The 6-year-old nicknamed ‘Grey Flash' is aiming to make history by becoming the first horse to achieve three consecutive wins at the Smith Stakes. After finishing third at the G1 George Ryder Stakes, more than eight lengths behind winner Winx and just over a length behind rival Le Romain, Chautauqua is back to his most successful distance in the Smith Stakes. Ridden by Tommy Berry, he will start from barrier 11, his winning spot last year.

Although the John O'Shea-trained Astern is second favorite at 5/1, the 3-year-old colt has had a virus and missed out on practice runs at the Lightning and Newmarket Stakes. Astern is likely to retire to stud after the championships but has proved he's a top sprinter by winning the Golden Rose and will leave from barrier 4 with top jockey James Doyle.

Russian Revolution has 6/1 odds, and trainers Peter and Paul Snowden believe he will hold up well. The 3-year-old colt boasts five wins from six starts, including the G1 Galaxy Stakes and will leave from barrier 10. Jockey Kerrin McEvoy believes a significant weight rise to 56.5kg will be his main obstacle.

The Star Doncaster Mile
The most lucrative one-mile handicap in the world for 3-year-olds and up, with $3 million AUD ($2.3 million) in prizes. Often referred to as Australia's fifth major, the Doncaster has been won by many of the country's best gallopers, including Winx in 2016, though she is focusing on next weekend's Queen Elizabeth Stakes instead this year. The race is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. Sydney time on April 1st (2:10 a.m. EDT, or 11:10 p.m. PDT on Friday, March 31st).

The 5/1 favorite is Le Romain, who shares Chautauqua's fifth place in Longines' international ranking. The Kris Lees-trained 4-year-old colt won this year's G1 Canterbury Stakes and narrowly beat Chautauqua in the recent G1 George Ryder Stakes to finish 7.3 lengths behind Winx. Le Romain will leave from barrier 8 on Saturday, carrying the second-highest weight of 56.5kg and ridden by Winx's regular jockey Hugh Bowman. With this weight, he will favor firm ground, though rain is forecast for Saturday.

Second-favorite Hauraki at 9/2 will, though, carry the highest weight of 57kg and drew wide with barrier 16. Despite coming third behind Le Romain in the George Ryder and fourth in the Canterbury Stakes, Hauraki had a strong win at last October's G1 Epsom Handicap over the same track and distance as the Doncaster.

Trainer John O'Shea is hoping the 5-year-old colt can join Winx in winning both the Epsom and the Doncaster. Winx trainer Chris Waller's best chance of winning five consecutive Doncaster Miles comes with Mccreery, at 17/2, who came fifth in the George Ryder and will start at barrier 17 with Kerrin McEvoy.

While this weekend will climax with the Doncaster, The Championships continues next Saturday, April 8th (Friday night, April 7th, in the USA). Day Two boasts the G1 Sydney Cup, Australian Oaks and Legacy Stakes, but its star attraction is the $4 million AUD ($3 million) Queen Elizabeth Stakes. All eyes in Sydney's richest race will be on Winx and the question of whether she can extend her 16-race record.

For the Championships, American racing fans can visit Sky Racing World for free past performances and race information. TVG's TV network will be broadcasting all the Australian Championship day one races on TVG this Friday night. Racing can also be live-streamed via ADWs such as TVG, TwinSpiresTVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, BetAmericaWatchandWager, and NYRA Bets.

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.

The post Haslett: Who Will Step Up In Australia’s ‘The Championships’? appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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