This weekend is extremely busy, headlined by three stakes runners; with Gailo Chop, Araaja and Casterton all running in Group 2 races.
We kick off however with Kellstorm looking to recapture the scintillating form from his last start. He returns to Morphettville in a Benchmark 82, over 2500m. The race will commence at 1:41pm (AEST) and the track is currently rated Heavy 8. Winning by 4 lengths in a race over the same distance as last start, Paul Gatt will retain the ride and will jump from barrier 4. The Darren Weir trained five-year-old is a short-priced favorite and a strong winning chance.
2015 Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes winner Gailo Chop will make his long-awaited return to the track after a year and a half layoff due to injury. He will feature in what is a very strong PB Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield, which will commence at 4:00pm (AEST). The Caulfield track is currently rated a Good 4, although with rainfall expected, it may present a touch softer. Mark Zahra will ride from barrier 10 and will carry 59kgs. It will be interesting to see how he returns from a long layoff, but it is expected that he may need this run. We are however expecting him to be very competitive in some high-quality races this spring.
Rarely do we see a horse have a three year gap between runs, but that is what we will see when Il Mannaro greets the starter at Seymour in a Benchmark 58 Handicap over 1400m at Seymour at 4:16pm (AEST). Tendon injury and the well-documented ibuprofen issue combined to keep him out of action for the majority of this period, whilst a colic attack is his most recent affliction to keep him out of racing. He is now back, fit and healthy, and hopefully he can find some form and win a few races for his connections. Jordan Childs takes the reins on Saturday for Archie Alexander.
The Deauville Carnival in France is being held over the weekend and OTI will be well represented with 5 runners.
Le Juge has been in the placings consistently without winning in recent times and has even placed at stakes level. This Saturday he lines up in a 1500m Handicap at 10:35pm (AEST). Depending on the result, this may be his last race in France for trainer André Fabre, as Chris Waller looks set to train him once he does make the move to Australia. He has drawn barrier 3, with Pauline Dominois taking the ride and will carry 55kgs. It is surely his time to end up in the winner’s stall on Saturday!
Araaja will line up in the Group 2 Prix de la Nonette on the same day. The 2000m race will be run at 11:50pm (AEST). The Antoine De Watrigant trained three-year-old has been surprising if not outstanding in her career to date – winning her last three starts including a Listed event. Aurelien Lemaitre will take the ride from barrier 3 and she will carry 57kgs. You may know her as the half-sister to Tom Melbourne, so with a bit more luck than he had last weekend she can be in the finish and add to her burgeoning pedigree page.
On the second day of the carnival, on Sunday, Silent Romancer will feature and will be looking to get her first win for her connections. She lines up in a 1000m Handicap, which will commence at 11:15pm (AEST). While still a maiden, she has shown potential. In what looks to be a very big field, she is capable of breaking through for a win.
Last, but not least, Casterton is set to run in the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay at Deauville on Monday morning. The 3000m race will be run at 1:10am (AEST) and has become a very popular race for international horses looking to line up in the Melbourne Cup. Americain and Protectionist are horses who have won this race in recent times and have gone onto win the Melbourne Cup. This is a big step up in class for Casterton, but he has always shown us that he possesses a great amount of talent, so it will be a good gauge as to where he is at in comparison to some of the very good staying horses in Europe.
Happy viewing, and all the best of luck to our respective co-owners.