Uncovering the dark horses of spring
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.