Timeform Preview – 2017 Star Doncaster Handicap/T J Smith Stakes
An outstanding field of “milers” line up in the 2017 Doncaster Handicap over 1600m at Randwick this afternoon headed in the weights by Epsom Handicap winner Hauraki.
However the top rated runner on Timeform weight adjusted ratings is tough four-year-old gelding Le Romain who will carry the number two saddlecloth.
Le Romain will be ridden by champion jockey Hugh Bowman who has the excellent record of three wins from five mounts atop the son of Hard Spun who last start chased home champion mare Winxin the G1 George Ryder Stakes over 1500m – a race generally regarded as the best lead up guide to the Doncaster.
Bowman shoots for back to back Doncaster wins having steered Winx to victory last year.
Since resuming from a spell, Le Romain has been in great form winning his first two runs then finishing second to Winx. At his start prior, Le Romain had defeated crack sprinter Chautauqua in the G1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick.
There is little doubt Le Romain has returned to racing this preparation in better form than ever, his Timeform ratings profile confirms that. And last preparation he won the G1 Emirates Stakes at Flemington over 1600m after a close up fifth in the G1 Epsom Handicap behind Hauraki.
The Randwick 1600m is the scene of Le Romain’s first group one success at three when he won the Randwick Guineas. From his low draw today, he looks set to run a bold race for trainer Kris Lees.
In looking for dangers, you don’t have to go far – there are several other well rated chances on Timeform adjusted ratings – the most notable are Antonio Guiseppe, Happy Clapper , Redkirk Warrior and Spectroscope .
The Chris Waller stable has had a quiet time of it in group one races of late (Winx excepted), but he does have a great record in Randwick 1600m races.
Antonio Guiseppe has always shown plenty of potential, last preparation going from a Benchmark 72 race to running second in the G1 Metropolitan in one preparation.
This campaign started off impressively with an impressive first up win over 1500m then jumping up to 2000m in the Sky High Stakes where he struck Tavago on soft ground and running second.
After a fourth placing off a quick 7 day back up in the G1 Ranvet Stakes behind Our Ivanhowe, Waller decided to step him back in trip to the 1600m of the Doncaster – a ploy he has used with great success previously.
And Waller is no stranger to winning Doncaster Handicaps. With six wins in the race he is one win behind the late T J Smith and Gai Waterhouse, both on seven apiece as the most successful trainers in the history of the race.
Antonio Guiseppe tumbles 7 kilos today and looks very well placed to give the race a real shake.
Happy Clapper who was runner up to the champion mare Winx in last year’s Doncaster has raced twice since a spell easily winning the Newcastle Newmarket over 1400m last start running to his Timeform peak rating.
He looks open to further improvement but does have 5 kilos more in weight to carry this year.
History is against Happy Clapper as well. Since the first Doncaster was run in 1866 just one horse has managed to win the Doncaster after finishing second the previous year – Sir William in 1870/71.
Surprise Newmarket Handicap winner Redkirk Warrior add some intrigue to the race.
A former UK galloper who arrived in Australia via a stint of racing in Hong Kong has impressed in just three runs in Australia winning twice including the G1 Newmarket last start over a distance considered well short of his best considering he started favourite in a Hong Kong Derby and won over 2000m in UK before going to Hong Kong.
To complete the Newmarket Handicap – Doncaster Handicap double is a rare feat – the talented mare Maybe Mahal in 1978 was the last of just 4 to complete the double since 1874.
There is no doubting Redkirk Warrior is an interesting contender as he does not fit the typical mould for a Doncaster Handicap winner.
That said he is an extremely versatile galloper who has gone ahead in leaps and bounds under Team Hayes. There is no question that he will be better suited by the step up in trip and while question marks continue to be raised over the quality of the Newmarket form, Redkirk Warrior might just be better than the bare form suggests.
Former French trained galloper Spectroscope now with Godolphin has been in sparkling form since coming to Australia winning both of his race starts but in lesser company than he faces today.
Last Saturday, Spectroscope looked impressive showing a fine turn of foot in the straight to win the Doncaster Prelude running a new career peak Timeform rating, however that race has proved largely irrelevant as a guide to the Doncaster.
Today he gets world champion rider Joao Moreira in the saddle and drops two kilos in weight off a quick 7 day back up.
If he makes further improvement, Spectroscope could give trainer John O’Shea a second Doncaster having won the race previously with Racing To Win in 2006.
The Gai Waterhouse/AdrianBott trained Ecuador could be the upset in the race.
After resuming in Sydney with sparkling wins under big weights, Ecuador ventured south for a crack at the group one Orr Stakes and Futurity Stakes finishing close up third in both behind Black Heart Bart.
After failing in the Australian Cup last start, he was set for the Doncaster and has trialled nicely back in Sydney in the lead up to this afternoon.
Ecuador could easily set the tempo here and take plenty of running down.
Timeform Preview – T J Smith Stakes
Reputations go on the line this afternoon in the 20th renewal of the group one T J Smith Stakes over 1200m at Randwick.
One of the world’s highest Timeform rated sprinters in Chautauqua along with emerging talents like Astern , Russian Revolution , Spieth and Malaguerra will all be keen to establish themselves on the international sprinting stage.
While the crack three-year-old sprinters from the spring like Flying Artee and Extreme Choice failed to make a dent against the older gallopers early in the Autumn albeit due to injury, it is now left to Astern and Russian Revolution to pick up that banner.
And their task will not be easy as the last three-year-old to win the T J Smith was Melito in 2010.
Astern gained a solid reputation early in his three-year-old season with wins in the Run To The Rose and G1 Golden Rose but then luck ran out for the star colt.
After a setback he lined up in the Roman Consul Stakes over today’s course and distance only to be left with far too much to do going down narrowly as a $1.40 favourite to Russian Revolution.
Then 28 days later he lined up in the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes down the straight 1200m at Flemington again settling last and flashing home late for second to Flying Artie.
Astern resumes here. He has not raced since the Coolmore but judging on the amount of time he has been in work and three trials leading in, Astern should not be lacking on the score of fitness.
Astern should get a lovely trail from his low drawn and if he runs anywhere near his best figures will certainly take holding out.
Russian Revolution who beat Astern in the Roman Consul then finished behind him (fourth) in the Coolmore showed he had returned to racing in career best form winning the G1 Galaxy over 1100m at Rosehill first up.
It was a tough performance as he had to contend with a heavy track and a very hard run trapped deep throughout.
However under Kerrin McEvoy he showed a tremendous amount of fight to get a narrow verdict on the line and should be further improved.
With the likelihood of limited early speed in the race, Russian Revolution could easily take up the running and prove hard to run down.
Chautauqua has won this race back to back (2015/2016) – the only horse to do so but now shoots for a record breaking three consecutive victories.
The flashy grey has been struggling to regain top form since dazzling Hong Kong punters with a slashing last to first victory in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize last May.
An aborted Spring campaign after two below par runs as well as a well beaten third on resumption this preparation put doubts in punters minds as to whether he would regain his sprinting mantle.
However two starts back in the G1 Canterbury Stakes, Chautauqua bounced back to near best form with a narrow defeat behind Le Romain over 1300m. Then last start he was no match for champion mare Winx when stepping up to 1500m for the first time in the G1 George Ryder Stakes.
Back to 1200m at Randwick today looks ideal and if the speed is on, Chautauqua will be closing off fast and should prove hard to hold out.
Malaguerra and English rate as the main dangers to the aforementioned trio.
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