Feature spring racing heads to Moonee Valley on Saturday afternoon for Cox Plate Qualifier Day. The 10-race program is headlined by the Group 2 Feehan Stakes (1600m), which offers the winner a golden ticket into the Cox Plate. The Feehan is accompanied by the Group 2 McEwen Stakes (1000m), with genuine Group 1 superstars Giga Kick and Imperatriz set to clash. With rain forecast in the lead-up, we expect to be racing on a Soft track on Saturday. The rail returns to the true position, with action commencing at 12:10pm AEST.
Keep reading for our free race-by-race preview and quaddie selections
Race 1: Super Vobis 3YO Handicap (1500m)
Apulia was a smart Cranbourne maiden winner when resuming on August 20. The three-year-old colt holds a runner-up finish to his name to Veight in the Group 2 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), with that runner subsequently coming out and winning the Group 2 McNeil Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield last weekend. Apulia draws to gain a beautiful run in transit under Mark Zahra from barrier five and as long as the track plays fairly for those wanting to run on, Apulia can blouse some potentially vulnerable leaders.
Falcon Of Malta was a determined Sandown winner on August 16 and we expect he will go on with the job in the city on Saturday. Despite drawing barrier 14, Mark Zahra will roll forward and take up the running over the mile. As long as he does not have to use up too many tickets to find the front, Falcon of Malta can get the job done at a nice price in an open affair.
One of our better bets of the day, Superstock, was a handy track and trip winner on August 12 and strikes quite a similar event on Saturday. He will need a touch of luck early on to find cover midfield having drawn out in barrier 11. However, as he showed last run, if he can gain a nice cart into the race from the 600m mark, Superstock has a turn of foot that not many of these will be able to match and he looks a great bet early on in the program.
Savannah Cloud got the chocolates first-up in the Listed Regal Roller Stakes (1200m) and returns to Moonee Valley, a track he holds a formidable record at. With two wins and three seconds at the track, the six-year-old gelding will have a tactical advantage over odds-on favourite Recommendation. Savannah Cloud will look to roll forward from barrier five under Sheridan Clarke who claims 3kg and with just 55kg on his back, Savannah Cloud will look to run his rivals ragged and can bring up yet another win.
Unbeaten three-year-old colt Steparty is set to have his first look at Moonee Valley and can bring his record to four wins from as many starts. The Artie Schiller colt continued to go to another during his juvenile campaign, including when making a mess of his rivals at Flemington at his last two starts prior to a spell. He draws perfectly in barrier four under John Allen and if Steparty can land the one-one position upon settling, he should prove far too classy for his rivals upon resumption in the Listed McKenzie Stakes.
Inhibitions showed all her class in a smart Moonee Valley 1200m victory on August 26 and she can go on with the job in the Listed Atlantic Jewel Stakes. Having landed the one-one, Inhibitions responded to the urgings of Ben Melham nicely to wear down lead Oz Empress in the shadows of the winning post. The Zoustar filly draws to gain a similar run in transit in albeit a tougher race. With a nice trail into the race on the back of a genuine speed, look for Inhibitions to be launching her case late on and proving a touch too slick once again.
Young Werther broke a long run of outs when getting the job done at Flemington on July 15 and with eight weeks between runs, strikes another winnable race. Despite the reigning Melbourne Cup champ Gold Trip making his spring debut, Young Werther is arguably the class of the race outside of the toppy. He draws to gain an economical run in transit from barrier one for Billy Egan and as long as the gaps appear at the right time, Young Werther can bring up a third career win at start 24.
The Group 2 McEwen Stakes has been billed as a match race between Giga Kick and Imperatriz, in what shapes as one of the best “match-race” battles this spring. We’ve gone with Giga Kick on top who comes to Moonee Valley for the first time and in the small field of seven, can make an early spring statement. Sparks will fly early with Rothfire, Zoustyle, Acromantula and How’s The Serenity all looking to settle on speed. As long as Craig Williams has Giga Kick within striking distance on the home turn, the reigning Everest champion should prove too classy for most of his rivals and should get the better of Imperatriz in a stirring battle.
Win and you’re in to the 2023 Cox Plate (2040m), that is what is on offer for the winner of Saturday’s Group 2 Feehan Stakes. Despite lacking potentially a touch of class on her rivals, last start Moonee Valley 1500m winner Deny Knowledge looks ready to go to the next level this spring and can do so in the Feehan. Ethan Brown should have no issue in finding the rail from barrier five where he will look to open this field up a long way from home. The 1600m will be no issue and with a favourable track for her daring front-running tactics, Deny Knowledge will be in this for a long way, and we think she can stave off her challengers.
Our best bet of the day comes up in the last as the Peter Moody & Katherine Coleman-trained Hennessy Lad looks to bring up a second straight win at the Moonee Valley 1600m. Having sat off the leaders last time out in BM78 company, the son of Belardo managed to sprint the best in the home straight and had plenty left in reserve on the back of a dream run. He will need a touch of luck from out in barrier 11, but if Carleen Hefel can have him settling outside expected leader Rambler Rebel or at worst in the one-one, Hennessy Lad looks to be far too good for his rivals in a field like this.