David and Ben Hayes after a Group 1 double on Super Saturday (Image: Racing Photos)

David and Ben Hayes after a Group 1 double on Super Saturday (Image: Racing Photos)

FEATURE: Luck, lanes, that psychotic straight

It wasn't a tale of two races, but three; the Australian Cup and the two Newmarkets.

The common denominator was Team Hayes, which is so relentlessly powerful that it wins races it isn't supposed to; throw enough runners at 'em and laws of probability - assisted by magnificent rides and lightning strips - mean you will sometimes add unlikely names to significant honour boards.

Boom Time was a $51 Caulfield Cup winner for Team Hayes last spring, aided by a rails-centric track and today a $61 pop, Harlem - described pre-race by a long-time Hayes employee as a "thief" - did the same thing for pretty much the same reason.

Talk all day had been of a fast lane close to the inside fence. Nothing unusual there. Australia hasn't had a completely even track since 1862.

That fast lane didn't compromise the symmetry of the Newmarket Handicap - number one beats number two, a head between them on opposite side of the straight, Hayes beats Weir - but it was the ace card for Harlem and Michael Walker in the Australian Cup.

The Cup was not a race of champions but it was intriguing none the less. It shaped as a gang-up.

The big money came for the 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin. He had blinkers and two mates, both dressed in the same Team Williams navy blue.

The Taj Mahal's natural role of relentless pacemaker would in theory not detract from his chances and also not detract from Almandin, who'd need a strong gallop to gobble them up over the relatively-sharp 2000 metres.

There was a "team theme" in the scenario for the Williams runners - the other was Homesman, who settled off speed and finished sixth - but it was all above board, and came unstuck anyway.

The Taj Mahal cooked himself and faded to run eighth but he and the Waterhouse/Bott runner Supply And Demand, who collapsed to run 11th, worked favourite Gailo Chop early and robbed that horse of a kick he desperately needed at the 2000m when he was flat and Harlem, angling into the fast ground, came at him.

Gailo Chop was the best run in the race but he ran second. In most sports the best performance usually translates to victory but racing is not that reliable. There are always "factors".

Walker acknowledged the key factor, second to his masterful plotting, as he trotted back to scale, interviewed by Racing.com's Dean Pettit.

"Down on the fence was like lightning," Walker said.

The straight course is a different beast all together. Its moods can change abruptly multiple times on any given day.

The inside strip was a factor all day in the corner races but in the straight line of the Newmarket it offered connections of Brave Smash victory only in the race of the inside division; and a few moments of utter confusion and desperate lining up of impossible angles.

Redkirk Warrior, who was brushing the roses on the outside fence, never got within 20 metres of Brave Smash in the run but beat him by a nose. Explain that to someone who doesn't know about this fascinating caper of straight racing and the spectacle of races within a race.

The chopper shot revealed a story of the race not apparent to the naked eye.

Among Redkirk Warrior's many great skills is that he can swoop from last one day, as he did beating Redzel in the Black Caviar Lightning, or lead an outside division in a Newmarket.

From that shot from above, you were reminded of a flock of birds startled by an eagle as the field split; half scattered left, half right.

The speed appeared to be all on the inside on paper and Lord Of The Sky and Booker were to the fore down there but in reality they were a mile off the speed, dictated by a superstar straight runner down the other rail.

Redkirk Warrior was four lengths in front for probably three quarters of the race before the flock on the inside started evening up. On the wire, Brave Smash had surged but Redkirk Warrior had him by a nose.

It was all very confusing, as most split Newmarkets are, but there was something very emphatic about the result.

Redkirk Warrior has now won two Newmarkets and a Lightning and is described by David Hayes as the best straight horse he has trained; one so good he wins regardless of lanes and no-go zones.

The straight was being mischievous and playful all day.

They all came up the middle in the first race, over 1000 metres, but by the Newmarket the middle had become poison - at least in the minds of the riders - and equally in the last race, where just three runners tracked Redkirk Warrior's glorious footsteps as the rest, including the winner She's So High, came up the inner.

Like other straight tracks around the world, like (Royal) Ascot, which now awaits Redkirk Warrior, the Flemington straight is not a patch of grass but a personality. A psychotic personality.

It makes form gurus look like goofs. One of the most astute gurus - a champion speed mapper - was having a coffee in the press room after the last race. The tea lady was telling him she bet only on numbers she liked and had found two of the three straight winners.

The guru, dejected after being terrorised, yet again, by that adorably evil straight, offered weary support: "Numbers? Yep, as good a strategy as any..."