Flying Artie will return to the scene of his Coolmore Stud Stakes win on Saturday (Image: Racing Photos)
Black Caviar Lightning – An Early Look
A bigger-than-normal field has been assembled for Flemington's first Group 1 of the year.
Racing fans have become accustomed to small-but-select gatherings for the Black Caviar Lightning, the headline event at Flemington's Black Caviar, The Great Horse Raceday this Saturday.
But a field of 13 - which, if all run, would make it the biggest Black Caviar Lightning field since Spinning Hill defeated 14 rivals in 2002 - has been assembled for this year's $750,000 event over 1000m.
Terravista, Flamberge and The Quarterback are the older Group 1 winners in the race, while Flying Artie and Star Turn represent the group of highly-rated three-year-olds.
Add to that exciting types Spieth, Supido, Illustrious Lad, and flying mare Heatherly, and the first leg of this year's Global Sprint Challenge shapes as an intriguing affair.
What does the big field mean?
This Black Caviar Lightning will probably be run differently to recent editions, which have attracted small fields. The past two editions have contained just six runners, while three of the previous four had fewer than 10 runners.
Expect a true speed test with the field bringing together a good mix of horses who are at their best when allowed to roll along on the speed, which should suit the number of runners who have been blessed with brilliant closing speed.
Where is the early speed drawn?
The tendency in straight races of late at Flemington has been for the horses to get to the middle part of the track, or wider, which creates some intrigue around the map with some classy speed horses drawn low. The rail is out nine metres.
Heatherly, the expected leader in the eyes of many, has drawn three with three-time Group 1 winner Flamberge, who raced on speed in the Kensington Stakes over the Black Caviar Lightning course last start, drawn the inside.
Between them is one of the three-year-olds, Star Turn, who set the pace in the much-talked-about Coolmore Stud Stakes last spring.
Faatinah (barrier 11) is the speed out wide, while Illustrious Lad (eight) should also settle handy.
Can the 3YOs deliver on the hype?
Below-par performances by a couple of big guns - Divine Prophet and Impending - last weekend raised some eyebrows, but they are not really considered part of the sprint group that had everyone talking last spring.
Star Turn already owns a comprehensive victory over Malaguerra, who may very well be Australia's best older sprinter, and Flying Artie then swept past him in the Coolmore Stud Stakes.
Both have trialled impressively ahead of what is their return to racing.
The Star Turn team probably would have taken a draw a few slots wider, but having speed either side presents the chance to take a sit if they'd like, while Flying Artie has demonstrated he's capable of overcoming a low draw to win up the straight when he won the Coolmore Stud Stakes from the inside.
Who else looks well-served?
You'd be surprised if Bryce Heys had anything bad to say about drawing five with Spieth, which presents Hugh Bowman with the chance to go either side of the field does split into a couple of divisions.
Gates nine and 10 mean Terravista and Supido will both plot a wide course, but both look suited by having something to chase in Faatinah and Illustrious Lad.
Over 1000m at Group 1 weight-for-age, The Quarterback's chances relied on a wide draw and that's exactly what he's got in 12.
The 3YOs hold the key to the race, posting Flying Artie the $4.60 favourite just in advance of Star Turn ($4.80). The lone filly in the race, Missrock, went up $81 but was swiftly turned into $61.
Spieth is considered the best chance of the older brigade, at $5.50, with Supido ($8) and Heatherly ($9) next best.
There's plenty of value if you want to back one of the older Group 1 winners with last year's runner-up Terravista at $9.50, Newmarket Handicap winner The Quarterback at $17 and three-time Group 1 winner Flamberge at $34.
The Black Caviar Lightning is Race 8 on the nine-event Flemington program, which also includes the Group 3 C.S Hayes Stakes (1400m) for three-year-old colts and geldings, the Group 3 TAB The Vanity (1400m) for fillies and the Listed Talindert Stakes (1100m) for two-year-olds.