Mon, Nov 5, 11:16am by Staff Writer
The Flemington carnival kicked off in style on Saturday and over 91,000 racegoers treated to a bumper day of racing highlighted by four Group 1s with the Darren Weir-trained Extra Brut saluting in the Victoria Derby.
In what was Weir’s first ever runner in the 3YO classic, his colt has had only the one blemish in his career which was last start when sent out favourite in the G3 Norm Robinson (2000m), only to finish sixth of nine but bounced straight back in the $1.2 million race.
He was specked late at double figure odds to SP at $10 and in the end won by 1L over Stars of Carrum with Chapada a further 2L away. The well supported favourite, Thinkin’ Big, didn’t have the best of runs and was involved in a bumping dual on the turn but he never looked likely, finishing well back.
Sunlight was the only filly to contest the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) but she was brilliant in beating the Chris Waller pair of Zousain and Lean Mean Machine, with Written By in fourth. This race was never on the radar for trainer Tony McEvoy until a luckless run in the G1 Manikato (1200m) last week, but she was too good in notching her eighth career win and first G1.
The colts in the race were not only chasing a G1 victory but a lucrative stud career and while none could manage it on this occasion, the 2013 winner of the Coolmore – Zoustar – managed to sire the first three over the line.
Shillelagh was a G1 mile winner at this meeting last year when taking out the Kennedy mile and she backed it up again this year with a victory in the G1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) for the fillies and mares. Bottled up on the fence at the top of the straight, James McDonald weaved a path along the inside to win quite comfortably in the end by 1.25L. Tony McEvoy continued his good day training the runner-up Bring Me Roses with the well-backed Fundamentalist in third.
Only 3.5L separated the first 13 over the line with the whole field finishing within 5.5 lengths – race favourite Amphitrite, and Oohood a couple of runners that didn’t get the clearest of runs down the straight.
The big stables were certainly to the fore at Flemington with James Cummings and Godolphin grabbing the fourth major of the day, the G1 Kennedy mile with ex-import Best of Days.
Originally the first emergency in the race, the weight was the difference in running down a very gallant Le Romain who carried second top weight and gave the winner 5.5kg, with the Weir pair of Peaceful State and race favourite, Land of Plenty, in third and fourth. Like the fillies and mares mile race – and like many good big mile handicaps – 3.5L covered the first 11. The win gave Godolphin three for the day with Ranier and Osborne Bulls winning earlier in the meeting.
Outside of the G1s, the G3 Lexus Stakes (2500m) is always a highly anticipated race with the winner gaining an automatic entry into The Melbourne Cup were they to take it, and A Prince of Arran will certainly do that after winning the Lexus. Third to Yucatan in the G2 Herbert Power, that form was certainly franked with Brimham Rocks and Gallic Chieftain second and fourth in the Lexus. Jameeh – third in the race – just missed out on a Cup berth for a second successive race after going down to Avilius in the G3 Bart Cummings (2500m) a month ago.
The Hayes/Dabernig gelding was blocked for a run early in the straight although he got out in plenty of time while Brimham Rocks continued his good form in Australia with his eighth placing from eight starts ‘Down Under’, the Chris Waller-trained four-year-old yet to crack it for a win for the master trainer, despite getting very close on several occasions.
While in the final Oaks lead-up for the fillies, Aristia and Qafila firmed for the big one after running one-two in the G2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m) – pre-post favourite for the G1 Oaks on Thursday Verry Elleegant a slight drifter after finishing fifth – beaten 3.5L – on Saturday.
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