We’re ready to dive into a massive 10-race program at Royal Randwick Racecourse for Day 1 of The Championships on Saturday afternoon. There’s four Group 1 races on offer for punters: the TJ Smith Stakes, Doncaster Mile, ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes and Australian Derby. The undercard is just as stacked, with the Country Championships Final and Adrian Knox Stakes among the standouts.
The rail is in the true position the entire circuit, and with the track currently listed as a Soft 6 and some rain around on Saturday, we’re doing the form for a surface staying in that range. The first race of the day is set to get us underway at 12:10pm AEDT.
Keep reading for our free race-by-race preview and quaddie selections
RACE 1: GROUP 3 KINDERGARTEN STAKES (1100M)
Saltaire goes on top in the opening race of the program as the Kindergarten Stakes looks a tricky affair for the two-year-olds. She was unlucky in the Sweet Embrace Stakes back on February 25 and should’ve finished much closer than the 2.5-length margin may suggest. She was forced to check off heels at a crucial stage before hitting the line well on what you could consider the worst part of the track on the inside. She’s been to the trials since to score a nice win there against race rival, Godfather, and did it nicely. She looks a progressive type and despite missing out on the Group 1 Golden Slipper, Saltaire can snag a nice prize here for connections. Barrier four and the booking of James McDonald are both massive ticks in our book, making for a good bet in the first.
Favourite backers will be hoping Osipenko misses out in the Doncaster Mile later in the meeting as he holds the first emergency spot. Provided he does miss entry, the Group 3 Carbine Club looks to be his to lose. He took on the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes against the older horses and gave a good showing to run 1.3-lengths off Anamoe. He gets to the mile for the first time in the preparation and from an ideal barrier should find a position near the one-one. Osipenko should have class on his rivals provided they head this way and he’s clearly a best of the day type if he lines up in the Carbine Club Stakes.
RACE 3: GROUP 2 CHAIRMANS QUALITY HANDICAP (2600M)
High Emocean looks a terrific each-way play in the Group 2 Chairmans Quality Handicap, in what’s one of the last lead-up races to the Group 1 Sydney Cup. We’re willing to be forgiving of her opening two runs of the preparation as she found firm surfaces to hinder her best form. Looking back to her third placing in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup is hands down the best for in this race heading into Saturday. Connections will be doing a rain dance, as will we, because her wet form is simply elite at this level with a record that reads 13: 5-1-4 on anything in the soft to heavy range. The 2600m poses no threat and neither does barrier 11. John Allen takes the reins and will be getting back to somewhere mid-field before unleashing her best down the middle of the course when straightening.
Sequestered is a dominant favourite in the Adrian Knox Stakes for the three-year-old fillies and its easy to see why. She’s been consistent over her four starts this preparation with her last two providing victories for team Godolphin. She was an even-money commodity when despatching Byron Belle at Hawkesbury on March 4 and did so in stylish fashion. Byron Belle wasn’t disgraced in the Vinery Stud Stakes last Saturday either, so the form should stack up nicely here. Her barrier trial since that win was outstanding running in behind Alcohol Free at Randwick over the 1200m. doing so under a hold throughout to run third. She looks progressive and we think this Pierro filly will prove too good before heading to the Australian Oaks.
In what we’re considering the most wide-open race of the day outside of the Group 1 features, Testator Silens gets the vote in the Country Championships Final. We want to be respecting the Moruya qualifying leg the most with both Testator Silens and Kimberley Secrets clearing out in their audition for this weekends $500,000 final. Kimberley Secrets lead all the way on that occasion with Testator Silens chasing home to miss by a half-length on the line. This time however, he gets a 1.5kg weight swing on her and looks ready to peak third-up for trainer Luke Clarke. We’re not concerned about the wider draw on Saturday and Nick Heywood retains the ride after producing him nicely last start. He’s been competitive in city class in the past, so we’re happy to be with him at Country grade here.
Cylinder ($2.20) is the favourite for the two-year-old feature event on Saturday afternoon, the Group 1 ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes after a terrific placing in the Golden Slipper. Don Corleone ($6) and Veight ($5.50) are sure to have their admirers to beat the short-priced commodity, but can they do it?
There are storylines everywhere you look in the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes on Saturday; Nature Strip ($5.50) is looking to do what no other galloper has ever done and take out four straight editions of the great sprinting race. Can the old boy stave off the challenge of three-year-olds Giga Kick ($4) and In Secret ($5.50)? We can’t wait to find out.
Where do you even begin with this year’s Doncaster Mile? Chances are scattered all over the page, but it’s last year’s winner, Mr Brightside ($5), that holds favouritism. Alligator Blood ($10), Fangirl ($7), Converge ($10) and Zougotcha ($10) have all seen early support for what is a wide-open edition of this outstanding handicap over the 1600m.
It’s a New Zealand blitz in this year’s Australian Derby, where Sharp ‘N’ Smart ($3.40) is clinging to favouritism. Pericles ($4) isn’t far behind, though, and anything outside of that pair you’re being offered an outstanding price with online betting sites. Could it be another Kiwi galloper that jumps out of the ground to shock?
Bookmakers seem to think the last is a race between two, with Opal Ridge and Parisal owning the market so far. We’re looking for some each-way value to finish off the card though with Mumbai Jewel looking well over the odds. She was only beaten two-lengths behind Parisal and was never a hope from back in the field at Moonee Valley on March 18. Now back to a big open track like Randwick, which holds her only win, should be much more suitable for this daughter of I Am Invincible. There should be a hot tempo on here with the girls going very quick up on speed while jockey Chad Schofield can smoke the pipe in behind. Her only win was second-up as a two-year-old and we think win number two can come second-up at three.