Royal Symphony (Image: Racing Photos)
Guineas favourites galore
The market-elect for October's Caulfield features, the Caulfield Guineas and Thousand Guineas, both step out on Saturday. Unbeaten colt Royal Symphony resumes in the Pin & Win Plate (also known as the Exford Plate) over 1400m, while Blue Diamond Stakes-winning filly Catchy is second-up in the Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1200m). Other potential Caulfield Guineas fancies running on Saturday at Flemington include Esperance, Plutocracy and Muraahib, while Thousand Guineas hopefuls Booker, Jorda and Roomooz are also in action.
Kerrin comes to town
Kerrin McEvoy is Godolphin's number one man once again on Saturday, as he rides four of James Cummings' five runners. McEvoy was already booked aboard Hartnell (PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes) and Esperance (Danehill), but he also takes the ride on Jorda (Cap D'Antibes) and Toga Picta (Exford). If McEvoy wins the PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes aboard Hartnell, it'll be his first Group 1 win for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed since Guelph in the 2013 Thousand Guineas, back when he was number one stable rider for Darley/Godolphin Down Under. Meanwhile, trainer Cummings has indicated Saturday is D-Day for Esperance, in regards to launching a Guineas bid this spring: "He's at a crossroads on Saturday. We could either pull up stumps with him after the weekend and have a vastly improved horse in the autumn. Or we could head toward the Caulfield Guineas, or keep to the short-course races, like the G1 Coolmore Stakes on Derby Day. If he's up to it we'll know from his performance on Saturday and plan towards those targets."
Price quartet in Exford
Only twice all last season did Mick Price saddle up four runners in any one race, but in a key Guineas led-up, the Caulfield trainer has almost a handful of gallopers at his disposal in the Pin & Win Plate. Lone Eagle, Mighty Boss, Ouyang Feng and Hulme are all in the race. Lone Eagle has drawn the fence, while the remainder start in double-figure gates.
Six of the best for Hickmott/Williams
Naturally, the only race longer than nine furlongs on Saturday has attracted the attention of Macedon Lodge, entering six horses in the Japan Racing Association Trophy (2500m). Emirates Melbourne Cup champion Almandin runs second-up, alongside stablemates Crocodile Rock, Bondi Beach, Aloft, Hans Holbein and Granddukeoftuscany. Rob Hickmott's fellow Emirates Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Darren Weir has four in the race also - Killarney Kid, Pacodali, Loresho and Yogi - meaning the two power stables take up 10 of the 15 runners between them. A sign of the times, the Lindsay Park-trained Charlevoix is the only Australian-bred horse in the staying race.
Twenty-six last-start winners accepted for
There are 131 horses accepted for on Saturday at Flemington - including six emergencies - and almost 20 per cent of them won at their most recent trip to the races. Of course, only nine - pending any dead-heats - will take winning honours this weekend. All-up, there are 20 Group 1 winners in action on the Flemington card, including reigning Emirates Melbourne Cup winner Almandin. Eleven of the 20 are in the G1 PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes, with Seaburge the only non-G1 winner in the $750,000 race, but he has multiple runner-up finishes at the top level.
Weir, Hayes watch
Weir has 19 horses in on Saturday, spread in eight of the nine races. David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig have 17 acceptors, representation in each race and multiple runners in six of the nine events. Also prominent are the likes of Tony McEvoy (seven acceptors), Hickmott and Price (six each), Cummings (five), Mike Moroney, Anthony Freedman and Mathew Ellerton/Simon Zahra (all four).