Un­cov­er­ing the dark horses of spring

The Sportsman Weekend - - Front Page - By Ray Hickson

THE search for that dark horse of the spring is un­der­way with re­lease of the en­tries for some of Mel­bourne three-year-old fea­tures this week.

Two months out from the run­ning of the Caulfield and Thou­sand Guineas some of the nom­i­na­tions seem am­bi­tious – hence the healthy num­bers.

But you’ve got to be in it to win it and quite of­ten we see a lightly raced young­ster emerge as a force from left field.

With that in mind I’ve looked through the nom­i­na­tions and ear­marked some pos­si­bly easy to dis­miss three-year-olds, and a cou­ple of fa­mil­iar names, that just might step up.

ESPERANCE (James Cum­mings, 1:1-0-0)

The rat­ings peo­ple will tell you this geld­ing pro­duced one of the high­est rated two-year-old per­for­mances last sea­son – in an Echuca maiden on July 27.

There he beat older horses by eight lengths, seem­ingly in a can­ter, af­ter blow­ing the start lit­tle.

It’s never a great idea to get too car­ried away with win­ter form, par­tic­u­larly coun­try maid­ens, but Godol­phin has held him back for a rea­son and he’s cer­tainly city class at least.

I DID IT AGAIN (Greg Eurell, 1:1-0-0)

In­ter­est­ingly also nom­i­nated for the Cox Plate, he has a bit of form around him to back up his easy de­but win at Caulfield in mid-July.

He eas­ily ac­counted for Bandipur who went to Adelaide to win the Listed Light­ning Stakes.

Whether he’s able to stretch out to a Guineas or Plate trip is ques­tion­able on his pedi­gree (sire Nic­coni was a win­ner at 1400m, dam Not That In­no­cent only went to mile once) but they haven’t taken en­tries for the Cool­more Stud Stakes yet and that might be more his go.

BRANKSOME CHIMES (Dar­ren Weir, 0:0-0-0)

This one might be a bit of a hail mary but I’ve very much liked the way this colt has gone about things in his tri­als in past month.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to know at this point where he stands and Weir will most likely kick him off in the coun­try some­where but his of­fi­cial trial win a month ago was im­pres­sive, as was a jump out at Bal­larat sub­se­quently.

MERCHANT NAVY (Ciaron Ma­her, 3:3-0-0)

Ma­her showed his hand en­ter­ing the colt for a Group 1 race on back of maiden win (he was an emer­gency and didn’t gain a start).

He went to Sandown in­stead and won then was again im­pres­sive win­ning the Listed An­zac Day Stakes.

That race pro­duced the Caulfield Guineas win­ner in 2013 (Long John) so don’t be sur­prised if he’s there

early Oc­to­ber for the Group 1.

TULIP (D& B Hayes & T Dabernig, 6:2-1-1)

The most ex­posed on this list and she’s here be­cause I think go­ing to take a sig­nif­i­cant step from what was al­ready a very handy au­tumn.

Third in the Golden Slip­per and fourth in the Blue Di­a­mond is a good plat­form to im­prove at three and on pedi­gree you’d think the best is yet to come.

More im­por­tantly, hav­ing kept an eye on her in her jump out and of­fi­cial trial I’m sure she’s come back bet­ter if that’s the case she’s a big spring player. KING’S AUTHOR­ITY (Mick Price, 1:1-0-0)

A Snitzel colt who was a dom­i­nant win­ner at his only start down the straight at Flem­ing­ton in mid-De­cem­ber and missed the au­tumn.

Be­ing out of a Shamardal mare, this tells me Price has thought he’ll ex­cel as a three-year-old over a bit of ground.

He’s had three jump outs in suc­ces­sive weeks so can’t be far off a re­sump­tion and a guide as to whether he is a con­tender. SILVERHAWK (Mick Price, 2:0-0-0)

This grey colt al­ways looked like he’d be a three­year-old and he showed enough prom­ise in his two starts in the au­tumn to sug­gest there’s tal­ent.

I won­der whether he might be more a Derby hope than a se­ri­ous Guineas chance but that’s just hunch, either way I’d be sur­prised if he’s a maiden much longer.

He’s yet to have a jump out this cam­paign but can’t be far off one.

LUVALUVA (John Sar­gent, 1:1-0-0)

A few good judges have her al­ready marked as a po­ten­tial Oaks win­ner this sea­son.

With that in mind I’d be sur­prised if she runs in the Thou­sand Guineas but she showed plenty of prom­ise a very easy Goul­burn maiden win a few weeks ago.

Sar­gent is a mas­ter with the stay­ing fil­lies and his next cou­ple of steps her will tell us whether the VRC Oaks is a pos­si­bil­ity or if we have to wait un­til au­tumn see her best.

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