Jason Bonnington's Preview for Ballarat

Sat, 18 Jan 2020

The Summer of Glory is finally here and is has never felt bigger with the Oaks heats joining the Derby heats over a traditional long trip to supplement another magnificent addition of the Ballarat Cup. Heat night cards are always a minefield and I expected to play very conservatively with this Game Plan but as it's turned out I'm having a genuine dip. Self Assured and Be Happy Mach have the biggest roles to play here but Pacifico Dream is pretty important as well. Regardless of how the night plays out from a punting perspective you should sit back, soak it in and just relish watching such brilliant horseflesh take to the track tonight.

Track information

Circumference: 1000m, Sprint Lane: No, Leader's win: , Leading Trainer: Emma Stewart, Leading Driver: Chris Alford

The Moral

Race 2 - No. 6 Maajida

She's first up and it's her first time over the long trip but by every other measure this girl looks a gilt-edged lock.


Take On

Race 4 - No. 2 Keayang Livana

There are a few I'd risk tonight but this girl is one; she's just too quirky and inexperienced to be as short as she is a in a pretty strong affair.

Jason Bonnington Tips - All Races


Suggested Bet Flexi Trifecta: 6/ 1,5,10,11/ 1,5,10,11 ($24 gets 200%) & 1,5,10,11/ 6/ 1,5,10,11 ($6 gets 50%)
OVERVIEW: The return to a testing, traditional staying trip for this year’s Vic Oaks series is extraordinarily welcome but it also advantages the Kiwi combatants given their superior experience over testing journeys. And it appears that advantage should likely prove crucial in tonight’s opening event. Based on their past two meetings at Alexandra Park STYLISH MEMPHIS (6) is clearly superior to fellow Silver Fern DR SUSAN (5) but both fillies have enough gate speed to occupy very prominent positions and if DR SUSAN (5) leads and posts STYLISH MEMPHIS (6) then the gap between them will be significantly bridged particularly given DR SUSAN (5) is a strong type which may run along a little in an attempt to blunt the dazzling high speed of her Kiwi contemporary. As nice as those fillies are there are no Piccadilly Princess’s or Belle Of Montana’s here this year so there are three genuine local hopes. Given her beaut draw and sit-sprint racing pattern the best of those hopes might be AMELIA ROSE (1) who has constantly had the backing and support of champion trainer Emma Stewart but if they really burn up Bray Raceway then ALICE KAY (11) who has been brilliant in two wins against inferior opposition comes sharply into play as does the event’s most interesting runner SHESSKYLAH (10). Her dad Alta Christiano won a WA Derby and her dam Yeronga Songbird ran third in a Vic Derby so she is blessed with elite staying blood and is the race’s most untapped runner.

EARLY SPEED: 1,5,6 + 2,3

RATINGS: 6/ 5/ 1/ 11/ 10/ 8/ 4/ 3/ 7/ 2/ 9


Suggested Bet Flexi Trifecta: 6/ 8,10/ 2,4,8,10,11 ($40 gets 500%)
OVERVIEW: There will always be question marks when 3YO’s are stepping up to a distance they never previously encountered and there will always be queries when horses are returning from a break but on all the available evidence we have at our disposal MAAJIDA (6) just wins this second Oaks heat this evening. Last season’s dominant juvenile filly that swept both the Vicbred super Series and Breeders Crown she returns here from a draw which should see her balance, progress and secure the front. With no Kiwis engaged in this qualifier it’s very much expected that there will be no tempo to speak of which can only aid the hot favourite’s cause as will the fact her two chief threats are stablemates starting from second row draws. On raw talent TREASURE (10)is the most dangerous of those threats. A somewhat mercurial customer in her juvenile term she did display flashes of absolute brilliance and has the versatility to make a mid-race move and still be there at the finish should she not overrace, which she has done in the past. The other heavy-hitter is JEMSTONE (8) who can grind away for days but draws horribly for her pattern of racing inside the second row.  The absolute class factor drops away a little outside the top trio though STARSBYTHEBEACH (11) has run some excellent races against the best of her gender and generation and ROCKINGWITHSIERRA (4) also warrants respect after claiming the Gold Chalice at her most recent outing.

EARLY SPEED: 6 (Likely Leader) + 3,4,5

RATINGS: 6/ 10/ 8/ 11/ 4/ 2/ 9/ 3/ 5/ 7/ 1


Suggested Bet PACIFICO DREAM (7) To Win
OVERVIEW: This first Vic Derby qualifier for 2020 will answer more questions than the Rosetta Stone and be twice as important for the course of human history. Amazingly, despite the random nature of Derby draws, the alleys allotted here makes this heat look more like a pref event with all of the major chances starting from difficult gates but easily the best drawn of the big guns is PACIFICO DREAM (7). For many, this fellow is something of an enigma given he went like a Jet Plane in a Breeders Crown heat last August but has not replicated the rating he achieved there at any of his other three outings. Despite not having a complete handle on who he truly is as a racehorse it does seem super likely that with so many of his front line rivals looking for soft trips he’ll blaze across early, ask the question of MACH DA VINCI (1) and ultimately lob the top. Exactly how much heat will be applied after that happens – if it happens – is tough to determine but if he goes as well as he did in that stunning triumph referenced above then they won’t want to cut him any slack in transit. From a natural talent and speed perspective Soho Tribeca’s little bro SOHO HAMILTON (9) looms as an obvious threat as does Breeders Crown runner-up YOUAREMY SUNSHINE (10) who has dominated slightly inferior rivals in two starts back, including over a 2760m trip. The excitement machine of the race and other winning hope is ADAPT (8). He went like Cheetah chasing a Jackal on debut and has since trialled excellently despite losing huge ground with an early gallop at Geelong. The very fact he’s been recruited by Clayton Tonkin as part of his ‘boutique’ team tells you something about how highly he’s rated at home but his inexperience and awkward alley are both against him tonight.

EARLY SPEED: 7 (Potential Leader) + 1

RATINGS: 7/ 9/ 10/ 8/ 1/ 3/ 5/ 4/ 2/ 6


Suggested Bet MAORISHADOW (5) To Win
OVERVIEW: MAORISHADOW (5) may not lead here but she should secure a gun run and based on her last couple she’s the one to beat with BULLION LADY (7) who has always shown great potential and was big last start and likely leader MAJESTIC DREAM (3) her obvious threats clear of intriguing NSW invader REVY JAY (8).

EARLY SPEED: 3 (Likely Leader) + 1,5,7

RATINGS: 5/ 7/ 3/ 8/ 2/ 1/ 4/ 6


Suggested Bet Flexi Trifecta: 9/ 8,10,11/ 8,10,11 ($30 gets 500%)
OVERVIEW: Roughly each fortnight the bar has been raised in regard to the quality of field for our feature squaregaiting races and with the addition of speed freak WOBELEE (10) to challenge Australian trotting’s King and Queen TORNADO VALLEY (9) and DANCE CRAZE (8) that bar has been elevated once again tonight. It’s fair to say that this is a much bigger challenge than TORNADO VALLEY (9) faced in the Maori Mile last start but he’s still very clearly the horse they have to role; and here is why: Not only is the six-time group 1 winners virtually as fast as his major threats and clearly stronger but he also draws best of the big guns given he follows out a fast beginner in KHEIRON (2) and will be in front of his chief opposition once they settled into stride. On what they’ve achieved and their overall ringcraft DANCE CRAZE (8) looms as the most likely assassin though WOBELEE (10) remains untapped and has the kind of lethal speed which should more than likely win in an open age Group 1 in the not-too-distant future. The only other proper winning hope is SAVANNAH JAY JAY (11) who finished off well first-up then actually went great after an early break in the Maori Mile while ALEPPO MURPHY (4), MAGICOOL (7) and MY SKYPOCKET (3) are the main ones worth considering to flesh out your wider multiple investments.

EARLY SPEED: 5,6 + 2,4,7?

RATINGS: 9/ 8/ 10/ 11/ 4/ 7/ 3/ 5/ 6/ 2/ 1


Suggested Bet Flexi Trifecta: 2/ 1,6/ 1,3,6,9 ($30 gets 500%)
OVERVIEW: In the past two decades a dozen horses have travelled down from Queensland to contest the Victoria Derby series and three of them – Sailors Corner, Major Bronski and Lanercost – have won their heats. The latest Sunshine Stater to take the plunge is GOVERNOR JUJON (2). The best ways we can line him up are via Virgil who was an above average commodity in NZ before emigrating to Queensland and through the Simpson Memorial where he beat Mach Da Vinci in OK time. In and of themselves these facts don’t necessarily recommend him as any kind of superstar but he has gate speed and late speed and if he leads as expected here he looks the one to beat at a painfully short and perhaps inaccurate price. The major threats are both from the Emma Stewart camp, they being GEE SMITH (1) and MIRRAGON (6). GEE SMITH (1) flew well under the radar prior to his debut on Bendigo Cup night but he went like a very nice horse there and must have some chance of challenging with expected improvement from a perfect alley while MIRRAGON (6) was one of the very best 2YO’s in Victoria last season but just draws awkwardly for his return to racing. Group 1 Vicbred Super Series champ YEJELE HAMMER (3) also won’t be far away from a handy gate while PERFECT STRIDE (7) faces a monster challenge starting widest on the front row.

EARLY SPEED: 2 (Likely Leader) + 6 + 1,3

RATINGS: 2/ 1/ 6/ 3/ 7/ 9/ 10/ 8/ 4/ 5


Suggested Bet SELF ASSURED (8) To Win
OVERVIEW: Ballarat Cups are always phenomenal races but this edition has it all. Heading the Billboard is potential champion SELF ASSURED (8) who is already a multiple Group 1 winner from just 10 race starts and has been compared to legendary pacer Lazarus with his combination of strength and speed. On the undercard is the fastest pacer in southern hemisphere history MY FIELD MARSHAL (13), the other Kiwi cavalry represented by A GS WHITE SOCKS (4) and CHASE AUCKLAND (5), the Country Cup king PHOENIX PRINCE (9) and also the untapped titans THE STORM INSIDE (2), DEMON DELIGHT (6) and CODE BAILEY (10). Despite all that depth it’s the favourite SELF ASSURED (8) which clearly rates on top. If he was a natural born leader or a one-dimensional ambush artist then you could understand why life may get tough tonight but the fact is he’s neither. This is a horse that’s won highly graded races in a variety of roles so when Mark Purdon makes a right hand turn after the start and gets off the pegs he’ll have two clear options; whip round and search for the lead or breeze should circumstances suit or launch three wide at the appropriate time if they’re running along. In either role he is the one to beat. If there is to be an upset then there’s four horses of the potential apocalypse. The first of those horses is CODE BAILEY (10). If this Standardbred monster had drawn to lead then he’d be a massive hope of beating SELF ASSURED (8). As it is he’s still drawn behind a fast beginner and if he can get to a striking role just off the speed or maybe even create a miracle by finding the front from gate 10 he is flat out good enough to salute based on what he did in the Bendigo Cup. PHOENIX PRINCE (9) has now won three Country Cups and each success has been better than the previous so he’s also a major player as is A GS WHITE SOCKS (4) who may not lead as many expected but would only need a replica of his Inter Dominion heat wins to go close and CHASE AUCKLAND (5) who was wonderful winning the Cambridge Mile last weekend and not far off the finest pacers in this part of the world.

EARLY SPEED: 2,4 + 1 + 5, + 6?,7?

RATINGS: 8/ 10/ 9/ 4/ 5/ 6/ 2/ 11/ 13/ 1/ 7/ 12


Selections BE HAPPY MACH (10), BAD TO THE BONE (9), SMOOTH DEAL (6), LINE UP (3)
Suggested Bet BE HAPPY MACH (10) To Win
OVERVIEW: There’s little doubt we’ve saved the best for last here given this final Vic Derby qualifier three of the four favourites for the series as a whole. That being said opinions on who will prevail here vary wildly depending upon your source. On face value the early Kiwi 3YO’s have yet to announce themselves as a golden crop of any kind and probably the best three classic age males in NZ have not made the trip across the Tasman. Conversely BE HAPPY MACH (10) has won 10 of 11 and was being lauded as one of Victoria’s best juveniles in many years after smashing his rivals in last August’s Breeders Crown decider. For this analyst that is enough to suggest BE HAPPY MACH (10) has an obvious and perhaps significant class edge on his rivals with the only doubts around him relating to the fact he’s first-up tonight and has never raced over this kind of journey (2710m). The other issue to consider is that this is a heat, not a final, so qualifying; not prevailing is the number one goal. Of the Kiwis SMOOTH DEAL (6) has been most highly rated and his run in the Alabar 3YO Classic on Inter Dominion Grand Final night was big but he’ll want an effortless lead to justify his very short quote while BAD TO THE BONE (9) could be the smoky after big finishes in the Sires Stakes Final at Addington and the Sales Series final at Alexandra Park in recent starts. The other Kiwi LINE UP (3) isn’t far off his compatriots and may keep the lead if A Butt thinks he’s ready to roll while MACH DAN (1) who’s dam ran fifth in a WA Oaks and is a half to a NZ OAKS winner brings wonderful classic bloodlines into play and also has the perfect polemarking draw.

EARLY SPEED: 3 (Early Leader) + 1,5 + 2,6

RATINGS: 10/ 9/ 6/ 3/ 1/ 5/ 2/ 7/ 4/ 8


Suggested Bet BELLISSIMA (8) 1 x 5
OVERVIEW: Tricky little race to close out night one of the Carnival here where AMAZING DAISY (5) should have the class edge with his most likely potential assassins being BELLISSIMA (8) and fast beginners ABOVE AVERAGE (4) and also NEANGAR GUY (2).

EARLY SPEED: 4,5 + 1,2,6

RATINGS: 5/ 8/ 4/ 2/ 10/ 3/ 9/ 1/ 6/ 7

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