Thursday, September 20, 2012

Aussie Group 1 Has American Flavor

--by Kelsey Riley

With the first Group 1 of the year already in the books, the Australian spring racing season is in full swing. Last weekend, race goers at Rosehill in Sydney were treated to a thrilling one-two finish by Darley stable mates Epaulette (Aus) (Commands {Aus}) and Albrecht (Aus) (Redoute’s Choice {Aus}) in the G1 Golden Rose S., and this weekend the Group 1 action continues at Randwick in Sydney and Caulfield in Melbourne. Caulfield will host the enticing G1 Underwood S. over 1800m for 3-year-olds and older. This event has drawn top Australian-based gallopers Manighar (Aus) (Linamix {Fr}), Southern Speed (Aus) (Dubawi {Ire}), and Sincero (Aus) (Umatilla {Aus}), but also featured among the entrants are two runners with strong American ties.

Winchester (Theatrical {Ire}), winner of last year’s GI Sword Dancer and the 2010 GI Manhattan and GI Turf Classic Invitational, will make his debut Down Under. The 7-year-old has compiled a truly international record. He made his first five starts in Europe for trainer Dermot Weld, breaking his maiden in his second start in Ireland. After finishing a well-beaten 7th in the G1 Irish Derby, Winchester turned the tables in his stateside debut, winning the 2008 GI Secretariat S. by 7 ¼ lengths. After two subsequent (and unsuccessful) American starts, Winchester was turned over to trainer Christophe Clement. It was nearly two years before Winchester won again, but after getting back to his winning ways in a Keeneland allowance event in April 2010, he added two more Grade I victories that year. After a fourth place finish in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, Winchester travelled to Hong Kong for the G1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase, where he was a well-beaten 11th. He redeemed himself by winning last year’s Sword Dancer, and early this year was announced as retired by his owner/breeders, Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone. As it would turn out, the star turfer was picked up by Anthony Mithen’s Rosemont Stud in Australia as a G1 Melbourne Cup prospect and is now trained in Melbourne by John Sadler (the Australian version).

The second American interest is Sanagas (Ger) (Lomitas {GB}). Although he is German-bred and recorded his first five starts (for four wins) in that country as a 4-year-old, Sanagas was transferred to the States in the middle of his 5-year-old campaign by owner Andreas Jacobs, and entrusted to trainer Graham Motion. Sanagas went on to have a very productive season, recording wins in the Johns Call S. and the GIII Sycamore S. before tallying his most important win to date in the GI Hollywood Turf Cup. After a sixth place finish in his seasonal debut in the GII San Marcos S. at Santa Anita Feb. 11 for trainer Peter Miller, Sanagas was sold to the BC3 Thoroughbreds partnership in Australia. He joined the barn of the legendary Aussie conditioner Bart Cummings, and finished 13th in his Aussie debut over this strip in the G2 Memsie S. Sept. 1.

While these two former American gallopers should be well regarded by Aussie punters, as mentioned previously it will certainly not be a cakewalk for them. Manighar, Southern Speed and Sincero are among the highest rated horses in that country, and should all be doing well fitness wise with solid runs under their girths already this prep. In fact, it was Sincero who won the Memsie that Sanagas participated in. Maluckyday (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}) a consistent Group 1 galloper and one of the early favorites for the Melbourne Cup, was eighth in the Memsie. Niwot (Aus) (Galileo {Ire}), a Group 1 winner early this year, was 12th that day. Ocean Park (NZ) (Thorn Park {Aus}), second in last year’s G1 Rosehill Guineas, won his seasonal debut in New Zealand in the Challenge S. Sept. 1. It is important to note that most of these horses are considered route specialists, and it is normal in Australia for trainers to build their horses up to running longer distances throughout a prep. Therefore a race like the Memsie (at 1400m {7 furlongs}) would have been far from ideal for a number of its competitors (including Sanagas), and it is important to watch how these horses come into shape as they step up in distance throughout the season.

For the form for the Underwood, click here.

Across the country in Sydney, eight will line up for the 1600m G1 George Main S. at Randwick. Americans will likely best resonate with All Too Hard (Aus) (Casino Prince {Aus}), the 3-year-old half-brother to Black Caviar who excited race goers with three straight wins to begin his career last season. The colt appeared to falter when stepped up to top class competition, however, and is winless in his last three starts. He has not been beaten far, however, and he gets a break in the weights of up to 19 pounds from his rivals. His older sister didn’t reach her best stride until later in life, so it probably isn’t wise to throw this guy out yet. The George Main will certainly be a tough task, though, as razor sharp trainer Chris Waller brings three, including Group 1 winner Shoot Out (Aus) (High Chaparral {Ire}), who makes his first start of the season off a strong trial win Sept. 10. Although stablemate Danleigh (Aus) (Mujahid) doesn’t boast quite as flashy a record, he appears to be coming into excellent form, and could be interesting here. Secret Admirer (Aus) (Dubawi {Ire}) was a very consistent galloper in Group company last season, and returns to the track and trip of her career best score last season in the G1 Epsom S., so should not be discounted.

For the form for the George Main, click here.

The Underwood will go off at 1:40 am Eastern time Saturday morning, and the George Main at 2:00 am. So if you're able to stay awake, it will be worth tuning in to TVG to watch!

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