It is Group 1 Turnbull Stakes Day at Flemington on Saturday afternoon – a meeting that traditionally plays a key role ahead of the Melbourne Cup Carnival. A stacked 10-race program awaits, and following consistent rain in the lead-up to Saturday, we expect to be racing on a Soft 5 or 6, with the rail coming out 9m the entire circuit. Racing is set to commence at 12:25pm AEDT.
Keep reading for our free race-by-race preview and quaddie selections
Race 1: BM78 Handicap (1200m)
Xtravagant Star returns to Melbourne with a narrow runner-up effort at Warwick Farm and a convincing win at Rosehill to her name. The mare tends to settle just off the speed, and from barrier 10, James McDonald can have her settled in the first six. With a well-timed sprint, Xtravagant Star looks to have a turn of foot and a touch of class that this lot cannot match.
It was hard to not be impressed with the recent Flemington jumpout win by Blue Illusion ahead of his debut in the Listed Maribyrnong Trial Stakes (1000m). The two-year-old son of Blue Point went to the line hard held and looked like he had another gear or three to go through. From barrier seven, Jamie Kah will no doubt want to have this bloke close to the speed throughout. If he brings what he put forward in his jumpout, Blue Illusion can justify his short price in style.
Riff Rocket gave his rivals too much of a start when finishing second at Rosehill on September 27, but the way he hit the line suggested he was worth following. The son of American Pharoah has already competed at Flemington during his last campaign, and that should hold him in good stead. James McDonald will need a touch of luck from barrier one, but there is no better jockey to have on board when needing a good steer.
De Sonic Boom has not won since her debut success in the Group 3 Blue Diamond Preview (1000m), but recent form suggests this race is well within her grasp. The three-year-old filly looked good when chasing home Charm Stone and Oz Empress, but she has seemingly been screaming out for the 1600m. She was hitting the line the best in the Listed Jim Moloney Stakes (1400m), so the extra 200m should be beneficial. With the long straight of Flemington, De Sonic Boom can build through her gears and ultimately bring up an overdue second win.
The Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1100m) has attracted a strong field of three-year-old sprinters, and we’re confident Stretan Angel can announce herself as a genuine Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) contender. The filly from the Phillip Stokes barn was hitting the line strongly in the Listed Cap D’Antibes Stakes (1100m) but ultimately ran into one better. With that Flemington experience under her belt, this race shapes up perfectly for Stretan Angel to unleash a strong turn of foot and reign supreme.
Having defeated a star-studded lineup in the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) in New Zealand, we’re happy to side with Skew Wiff in the Rose Of Kingston Stakes (1400m). The four-year-old mare from the Mark Walker yard defeated the likes of Legarto, Sharp ‘N’ Smart and Dragon Leap, and form like that really stands out in this race. Princess Grace is a deserving favourite based on her efforts in Group 1 company this campaign, but given how Skew Wiff put her rivals away in a tougher race than this, she looks a great play at a nice price.
A golden ticket into the Melbourne Cup (3200m) is up for grabs in The Bart Cummings (2520m). Despite lining up as an outsider in Saturday’s Group 3, Alaskan God looks a great betting prospect based on his run in the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m). He was hitting the line strongly over 2000m, and if Jamie Kah can have the Daniel Morton-trained stayer in clear air when it matters most, he can feature in the finish prominently.
Hong Kong star Romantic Warrior makes his Australian debut as a short-priced favourite in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m). West Wind Blows is another who is set for his first run on these shores, while local runners Soulcombe, Osipenko, Right You Are and Gold Trip are looking to spoil the party.
The Clinton McDonald-trained Star Patrol was a determined winner first-up from a long layoff in the Group 2 Bobbie Lewis Quality (1200m). The five-year-old chased a ridiculous speed set by Najem Suhail and managed to fend off the likes of King Of Sparta and Benedetta to win by the barest of margins. He will have taken great benefit from that run and should be ready to strike second-up at the same track and trip. Jigsaw will be leading the field up, but with Star Patrol expected to camp just off the leader’s heels, he will prove too hard to hold out.
Charterhouse produced the best last 200m split in the Bobbie Lewis Quality and should relish the step up to 1400m. With race favourite Tamerlane set to make this a genuinely run 1400m affair, the race looks perfectly set up for John Allen’s mount to be thundering down the heart of the track late. His turn of foot is elite, and as long as Charterhouse isn’t caught wide without cover from the wide barrier, he is going to take a power of beating.