The Queensland Racing Carnival will move across the road to Eagle Farm after two weeks off racing at Doomben over the last fornight, as the Brisbane Racing Club will host its annual Queensland Derby Day this Saturday afternoon. Of the nine races on the program, seven of them will be either Group or Listed, with Derby Day considered one of the best race days of the carnival.
The track is currently rated a Soft 5, but with no rain on the forecast for Friday and Saturday, we expect to be racing on a perfect Good surface for the entire meeting. The rail will be in the True position for the entire circuit, with racing set to kick off at 11:43am AEST.
Keep reading for our free race-by-race preview and quaddie selections
Race 1: Benchmark 78 Handicap (1600m)
The opening race of they day will be a very competitive Benchmark 78 Handicap, where we will be siding with the Natalie McCall-trained The Drover, who is very close to a win this preparation, after finishing in the top four at all four of his starts. This six-year-old gelding finished second at his first two runs to begin his campaign, before running fourth only 1.5 lengths off the very smart Antino on April 29. At his last start, the team chose to ride him more negatively and he flew home from the back to run second in a Benchmark 80 Handicap at Doomben on May 13. With very little speed expected in this race on Saturday, we anticipate that Ryan Maloney will push forward on this son of Bon Hoffa and find the lead. If Maloney can get The Drover into a nice, comfortable rhythm and hold him for one final sprint in the final 250m, we should see him breakthrough for that deserved win.
Even though the favourite for this race in Antino is very smart, we will be against him on Saturday, as the wide barrier (14 of 16) and 61.5kg will be a tough task for the four-year-old gelding. Therefore, we have the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained Blaze A Trail on top in this race, who is coming back from The Archer last start at Rockhampton where he finished seventh only 2.3 lengths off the winner on April 30. This five-year-old gelded son of Criterion hasn’t raced for nearly four weeks but has been given a tick over trial at Rockhampton over 900m, where he wasn’t asked to do much and coasted the line under little to no riding. Early on last preparation, this gelding was at his best when winning at Caulfield in a Benchmark 78 Handicap and the Mildura Cup over 1400m. On Saturday, Mark Zahra will be legged aboard for his first ride on this gelding, and we expect to see Zahra settle Blaze A Trail in behind the leaders and get a very economical run, unlike the favourite, which should prove to be the difference in the final stages of the race.
With the first two races done and dusted, we now move into the first of seven straight black type races, with the Group 3 Premier’s Cup over 2400m kicking them off. Kalapour has been going from strength to strength this campaign, finishing in the top four at four of his five starts, including a very impressive Group 3 win in the JRA Chairman’s Handicap over 2000m last start at Doomben on May 13. This Saturday, he will meet Serpentine again, after he was beaten by the 2020 Epsom Derby winner over 2200m two starts back in a four-horse race at this track on April 29. However, the son of War Command comes into this second meeting under better conditions for him, as there will be a much bigger field with more speed expected. Blake Shinn will have his first ride on this six-year-old gelding in the Premier’s Cup, which should improve his chances and give him every possible to go back-to-back and record his second Group 3 victory.
The 2023 Group 3 Lord Mayor’s Cup will feature Bigboyroy who will be attempting to defend his crown after winning the race last year, which is the last time he was in the winner’s circle. Since winning the 2022 Lord Mayor’s Cup, this six-year-old gelding has only been to the races nine times, with his best effort being the second-place finish that he recorded last start when first-up at Doomben over 1600m on May 13. Considering this son of Dissident has never won when fresh from 10 attempts (10:0-6-1), and he was only defeated by a long-neck last start, it indicates to us that he has returned in great form, and he should be ready to show his best on Saturday. With a lack of speed expected, we should see Nash Rawiller take up a prominent position in the first two or three upon settling, and if they set a soft tempo, Bigboyroy could be very hard to run down in the concluding stages of the race.
After taking out the Group 3 Gold Coast Guineas last start on return to the racetrack Yellow Brick will go into the Group 3 Fred Best Classic as the favourite and our best bet at Eagle Farm on Saturday afternoon. The three-year-old gelded son of The Mission was caught three-wide for the entire trip from a wide barrier, and at the top of the straight he was there to be beaten by many of his rivals. However, under the urgings of Ben Thompson, this gelding lifted and kicked clear with 300m to go and never looked like being beaten from then on, defeating Lady Laguna by 1.3 lengths over 1200m. After winning the Gold Coast Guineas, Maddysen Sears and Thompson agreed that their gelding is a serious racehorse and that he has returned the same horse, if not better, than last preparation. Thompson will continue his strong affiliation with Yellow Brick in the Fred Best Classic, and with even luck and clear air in the final 400m, he should be winning again.
The Group 2 BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes see a full field of two-year-olds clash over 1400m, where we will have the Graeme & Deborah Rogerson-trained Solidify on top as one of our better bets for the day. This two-year-old colt has raced three times over in New Zealand for two wins, before taking the trip across the ditch to race in Australia for the first time. This son of Redwood was very impressive in his two victories, where he ran on from the back of the field to record dominant victories over 1200m, with his last start win in the Listed WEVC Stakes being the best win of his career to date. Graeme Rogerson, who also trains Sharp ‘n’ Smart, said that this colt could be on the same level as their four-time Group 1 winning three-year-old, or even better. Ryan Elliot has ridden this guy at all three of his career starts and he has chosen to travel with him. After drawing barrier four on Saturday, Elliot will have the option of taking the one-one behind the leaders or settle mid-field off the rail, and if Solidify gets even luck, he should be going very close to winning again.
The Queensland Derby will be the final chance for three-year-old stayers to win a Group 1 three-year-old classic, with a full field 18 set to do battle over the 2400m journey. Chris Waller and Ciaron Maher & David Eustace hold a strong hand for the Queensland Derby, with the top three runners in the market hailing from their stables. The Waller-trained Kovalica goes into the race as an odds-on favourite with online bookmakers, followed by Promises Kept and Special Swey.
The 58th running of the Kingsford Smith Cup could be one of the better editions of the race in recent history, with five of the 16 runners currently under double figures with most online betting sites. The 1300m contest is as open as any race on the card, with the Joseph Pride-trained Think About It currently marked at the favourite. Will the up-and-coming race favourite win his first Group 1 of his career at his ninth start, or will another sprinter claim the 2023 Kingsford Smith Cup?
The Listed Coughlan Stakes is the toughest race to dissect on the Eagle Farm program, with only two of the 18 runners being last start winners, including the race favourite Brookspire. Therefore, we will be siding with Sneaky Five from the Tony Gollan yard, after she finished fifth in the Listed Bright Shadow over 1110m at Doomben on May 13. At her two starts this time in, this daughter of Fastnet Rock has drawn wide barriers over 1000m and 1110m, but on Saturday she has drawn barrier six and should find a much better position upon settling. This five-year-old mare has been crying out for 1200m at her last two starts, running on strong at the end of both races, so the extra distance will only be a positive for her. James Orman will retain the ride, and if he can find a position off the rail, better than mid-field, we should see Sneaky Five finishing off strong down the outside in the concluding stages.