Fri, Jul 7, 9:00am by Senior Writer
Finals day at Flemington has become the peak meeting of the winter racing season and Saturday is no exception with some really competitive and intriguing races on a nine-race program.
Eight of the nine races are ‘finals’, which means they usually feature horses which have raced against one another across the previous couple of months. That generally makes it easier to do the form and theoretically, easier to find a winner.
Last year, the longest-priced winner of the nine races was $6.50 as favourites dominated and this year there are a couple of clear-cut top picks, especially Royal Symphony, who starts a $1.40 favourite in the Taj Rossi Series final, Race 4.
Our last two Best Bets of the Day have landed, with Kiwia, who was a late replacement as our Saturday best because of scratchings, getting the chocolates at $2.70 last week at Caulfield. The week before, it was Cannyescent at a similar price.
We could nominate Royal Symphony and help boost the average, but tipping $1.40 shots as our best of the day is not really our thing. While on paper, this two-year-old looks an absolute standout, we have cast our net a bit wider in order to get you something you can at least shout a round should it win.
It was a toss-up between Race 6 No.5 Hursley, or Race 9 No.1 Urban Ruler.
We’ve ended up with Hursley because we think he is more versatile and has been really, really consistent this campaign. He stepped up to the longer distance range for the first time last time and acquitted himself well, albeit a length and a half adrift of one of his main rivals here, Charlevoix.
Often horses need one run at that longer distance before they improve at their next start and with a 2.5kg weight turnaround on Charlevoix, we feel he can turn the tables here. The widish barrier doesn’t concern us too much as it has proven the case in recent meetings you can track wide with cover at Flemington and be very competitive.
The engagement of Damien Oliver is an interesting one, given Olly has never ridden this guy before, but this season he has ridden with a 20.5% winning strike rate over 2000m or further, compared with 15% over shorter distances.
He is currently a $4.80 chance, with Charlevoix at $3.10. We’re happy to be on Hursley again here.
Our best value comes up in the main race, Race 7, the Winter Championship final, No.8 Sovereign Nation.
This is a very open race, but Sovereign Nation comes up at a nice price ($8.50) when you look at his form. His win first-up was excellent at this track and while he was a bit disappointing second-up, he did get a long way back and was clearly looking for the step up in distance. He’s had four weeks since that run but can race very well third-up, including a victory in the Group 2 Stutt Stakes over this distance as a three-year-old.
His other third-up runs were ninth in a G1 Australian Guineas and second in a race over the Flemington carnival. Those stand him in good stead for a race like this.
While he is not quite double figure odds, he is very much worth an a each-way play with $2.90 available about him the place.
I’m actually on holidays this week, so the race by race preview will be numbers only, rather than the usual extensive race preview. Good luck.
Race 1: 1-4-2-10
Race 2: 6-1-7-4
Race 3: 5-6-1-10
Race 4: 1-2-8-10
Race 5: 2-3-6-8
Race 6: 5-4-8-9
Race 7: 8-3-1-10
Race 8: 7-3-1-4
Race 9: 1-14-2-4
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