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Hawk’s 2014 Golden Slipper and Grand National Selections and Analysis

April 5, 2014

What a day of racing we have ahead of us across the world today!

It will be a sombre mood at Rosehill as the racing industry comes together to reflect on the life of Nathan Berry. I didn’t know Nathan too well, I had interviewed him a few times, but the shock when the news filtered through on Thursday afternoon was immense. Even if there was an inkling of how bad his situation was, it was still so sudden and so shocking. For him to be taken by this awful disease at his age, having just been married and on the cusp of the best years of his career – it is a reminder that life is not fair. My heart goes out to those most deeply affected, in particular the Berry and Schofield families.

Still, the show must go on, and it will only be fitting if Tommy Berry and the Schofields – both father Glyn and son Chad – can dominate the day in Nathan’s memory.

Nine hours after the Golden Slipper has been run and won, the attention turns from raw two-year-old sprinters to ageing, battle-hardened stayers in the Grand National at Aintree, near Liverpool in England. It is one of my favourite races, and it ranks up there as nine of the best minutes in world sport each year. If you want to get to my Grand National preview quickly, which comes after my Rosehill previews, click here.

As it is a day full of Group races, I’ve written a blurb for each race explaining my rationale. Here are my selections for Golden Slipper day at Rosehill and for the Grand National at Aintree:



This race attracts horses which may be headed for a race like the Champagne Stakes – horses that couldn’t make it into the Slipper and may be headed for longer races as a three-year-old.

Last year was quite disappointing, but a year before, Flying Snitzel beat a field that included the likes of Dear Demi, Honorius, Toydini, Solemn and Fiveandahalfstar. The form stood up for sure.

I’m not sure how this year’s field will stack up but there are a number of nice horses that I think we’ll see in better races next season.

I’ve gone with GIULIANI, despite what was a very disappointing run first up in the Skyline Stakes behind Valentia. I was keen that day, if he was able to repeat his debut performance when he was a very unlucky second to Unencumbered, I thought he’d win. But he seemed to struggle. I think skipping the Golden Slipper and coming here may prove a masterstroke. I will confess, I was a big fan of the dam – I first saw an unraced Sea Eye Pea when she won a trial at Warwick Farm, beating our unraced filly Stella Command. I still remember cheering her home at Canterbury one day when she was 20-1 – and she was punched home in fine style by Nathan Berry. I’ll be cheering Giuliani home today.

One who should relish the track is TASHBEEH, by Commands out of a More Than Ready mare. That’s got mudlark written all over it. He wasn’t too bad coming from off the speed last start at Newcastle behind HAMPTON COURT, who led all the way, and a start before he had the better of VEUVELICIOUS. He meets her 2kg better here, so I think he definitely looks some chance.

CARELESS caught the eye behind runners when fourth behind BACHMAN last start. He was second to his stablemate and Slipper runner Memorial on debut, and he definitely looks like he’ll appreciate further. The cut out of the ground is a concern, but he’s definitely some hope.

Obviously if Veuvelicious can repeat her five length romp from last start, she’ll be tough to beat, but there’ll be more speed here and despite the margin, I didn’t think she was incredibly impressive last start. She was very good, but I’m happy to be on others.



A high quality running of this race this year, plenty here with a chance and I expect the form to hold up out of the race.

I think MALUCKYDAY is serious overs if he can repeat his last start fifth in the Newcastle Newmarket. It’s taken them a long time to get him right, and I’m sure it’s been a labour of love, but it appeared he was back to his best and if he is, he’ll be hard to beat here off 55kg. There’s a general “understanding” that he doesn’t handle the wet, but I’m not sure that’s right. From four runs on a slow track, he ran third in the Tulloch Stakes (when still rather raw) behind Count Encosta and Descarado – and remember that Descarado then went on to win a Caulfield Cup on a wet track – second in the Melbourne Cup behind Americain, fourth in the Ranvet Stakes behind Zavite in an on-pace dominated race, and sixth in last year’s BMW, when he was slow away, squeezed, began to overrace and still only finished two lengths from Fiveandahalfstar. So it’s fair to say he’s had excuses. This is perfect for him second-up, and I’d be disappointed if he didn’t run a terrific race.

MORIARTY looks extremely well weighted here with just 56.5kg, but there’s no real suggestion about whether he’ll handle a wet track or not. If he handles it, he’ll be awfully hard to beat. In fact, I reckon if he runs up to what he’s achieved in five of his last six runs – in the Caulfield Cup, Mackinnon Stakes, Apollo Stakes, Chipping Norton Stakes and Ranvet Stakes – he’ll win here. Happy to stick with the value in Maluckyday, but will be having something on Moriarty too.

ENTIRELY PLATINUM made the quantum leap from midweek class to Group class last time out, winning the Sky High Stakes impressively. I’d say it’s another step up here entirely, because this is a much tougher race. But winning form is good form and who knows where his limit is? Definite chance.

Plenty of them in with a chance for fourth, including SPILLWAY, LESS IS MORE and JUNOOB (who I’m prepared to risk on a win line on a wet track), but I reckon the one I’d be keeping safe is DISCLAIMER. He wasn’t bad at all behind Leebaz, who is the favourite in the last, first up and I think this is about his trip. $26 seems a big price.


Race 3 – GROUP 3 SEBRING STAKES (1200m)

A competitive little sprint race here, almost the TJ Smith Prelude in the same way as the Doncaster Prelude – both races unlikely to have much influence, but they may do.

It’s not a race I’m terribly keen on, but if I was to have a bet, it would be on HOT SNITZEL. The winner of this race last year, Hot Snitzel flies fresh and his last start second to Lankan Rupee looks terrific now after Mick Price’s horse won the Oakleigh Plate and the Newmarket Handicap. Has only raced on a heavy track once, when he was a somewhat disappointing fifth in the Hobartville Stakes as a three-year-old, but it was a slogging 1400m and I don’t think that’s his go. I think a 1200m on a bog will be fine and I’ll see what price he is before having a bet.

BULL POINT is somewhat of an enigma and he’s quickly become a horse you either love or hate. He was terrific first up against his own age group before a disappointing fourth in the Futurity Stakes behind Moment of Change and a terrible last in the Randwick Guineas. He comes back to Rosehill, where he produced one of the biggest runs you will ever see in last year’s Golden Rose. Despite being detached from the field, he motored home for third behind Zoustar and Dissident. If he can run up to that form, which I think he can do chasing over 1200m, he’ll go close.

I think FLAMBERGE, THAT’S A GOOD IDEA and TEMPLE OF BOOM are also chances, while I’d love to see BENNETTA return to her best, but I think it’ll be Hot Snitzel or nothing here.



The good thing of the day, on paper. Really, CATKINS should be winning on her way to the Queen of the Turf in two weeks time. She was dominant two back in the Wiggle Stakes, before a top third in the Coolmore Classic. Nothing in this field has anywhere near her form and I fully expect her to win.

SHARNEE ROSE, VAQUERA, FLORIA and DIAMOND DRILLE can fight out the placings, but I think it’s a case of odds-on, look on here. And really, there’s nothing more to be said.



Emotions will be running high before and after this race after News Limited so graciously gave up their naming rights to the race so it could be renamed the Nathan Berry Tulloch Stakes.

It is a race which always tends to attract the B-grade staying three-year-olds, but when you look at some of the horses to come through even in the last five years, you quickly realise it is a legitimate Derby prep race all on its own. Three of the last five winners have gone on to run second in the Australian Derby (Philippi, Polish Knight, Harris Tweed), while the vanquished in that time have included the likes of Predatory Pricer, Descarado, Maluckyday, Shootoff and Retrieve.

I think this is one of the better Tulloch Stakes in recent times. It’s very open and there are a few that have the ability to step up and become major players. And of all of them, I think HIGH TEC’s the one with the most upside who has the sense of timing which is so often important in this race. He was disappointing in the Phar Lap Stakes, but he flopped out of the gates and was just left flat footed at the top of the straight. He didn’t make any ground, but I think the step up to 2000m and the wet track will be crucial. He won his maiden on a wet track by seven lengths, and I’d be disappointed if he’s not somewhere in the mix as long as he jumps with them.

VILANOVA comes out of the Alister Clark Stakes when he was well beaten by PHEIDON, but he’d been good the start before to win the Autumn Classic at Caulfield. I doubt he was suited by Moonee Valley as he takes a while to wind up, and back to his home track – he could be the surprise package.

If it had been a dry track, NZ 2000 Guineas winner Atlante would have been on top for sure, but he is a duffer in the wet and I doubt anyone can tip him with any confidence. It’s a shame the autumn has been plagued by rain, because I think he would have been a big show in some of the top three-year-old races if it had been dry. But you have to play with the cards you’re dealt. Class means he goes in, but my gut tells me he’s one to avoid.

Next best is Pheidon, who had a perfect run but still came away nicely to win the Alister Clark Stakes at Moonee Valley two weeks ago, while I’m not ruling out a return to form by a fitter SHOW THE WORLD. Won’t rule out SHIKRA either.


Race 6 – GROUP 1 THE BMW (2400m)

A good BMW field this year, if not outstanding. Still, the winners of the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Derby, the Ranvet Stakes, the Irish St Leger, the Sandown Classic and the Makybe Diva Stakes is pretty good. It would have been the last two Melbourne Cup winners if not for the withdrawal of Green Moon.

There’s many ways to look at this race. There’s the logical big three – FIORENTE, SILENT ACHIEVER and IT’S A DUNDEEL. But there are enough negatives about each of them to suggest we can look elsewhere.

And that’s what has happened – instead, I’ve looked to a runaway Irish St Leger winner who is proven on wet ground. I am, of course, talking about VOLEUSE DE COEURS. Regular readers of these previews would know I took a big set against her in the Melbourne Cup, as I believed it was coming at the end of a long season and she wouldn’t be physically ready to tackle a tough Melbourne Cup. She ran better than I expected, to be honest, and the signs were there that when she was fully mature she’d be a force to be reckoned with. She was good first up in the Australian Cup, and now she gets everything falling into place here. I took 20/1 on Monday, and she’s now $6.50 – probably at her limit value-wise, but hopefully she blows out again. I reckon she’ll be able to steal our hearts today (a little joke for those who know French).

The big three will be hard to beat, and of those three, it’s hard to go against Silent Achiever after her last performance. She finally got her Australian Group 1 in the Ranvet Stakes, and she’ll only be improved. She was unlucky not to beat Fiveandahalfstar in this race last year, and the blinkers seem to have really done the trick. If it’s a bog, she may not be allowed to wear the blinkers – which could be to her detriment – but wait and see how it plays out. A wet track holds no concerns for her and she’s the logical danger.

The move for Fiorente in the Sydney Cup markets yesterday is interesting, as it suggests he’s headed to the staying feature before a potential tilt at the Ascot Gold Cup (which, I’m told, is still on the agenda). Perhaps they think after his last start he’s more dour now? He won his only start on soft ground, winning the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket from Joshua Tree and Red Cadeaux, so it shouldn’t be a problem. He’s a definite chance, but I think the other two represent better value.

As for It’s A Dundeel, I’ve been one of his staunchest fans since he won his maiden in New Zealand. But the shoeing issues this week which suggest he is still having feet issues really does concern me, and although he gets normal race plates back on and a wet track, I am extremely wary. I’d love to see him win, but I wouldn’t be backing him.

Next best is the Sandown Classic winner SERTORIUS, and he’s the only other one I could really consider. I like BRIGANTIN as a horse but he needs 3200m and a dry track, while I don’t think LET’S MAKE ADEAL is up to weight-for-age racing – yet. ANGOLA is outclassed, while FORETELLER is better at 2000m for mine.



First, ZANBAGH. I think she’s potentially the best staying filly in the race, and 2000m now is perfect for her. If everything was fine, I’d have her on top. But with bar plates on, especially on a wet track, she’s just way too much of a risk for me. She may win, but she is a horse you simply have to take on.

RISING ROMANCE came out of the New Zealand Derby, where she was soundly beaten by Puccini, who failed last weekend in the Rosehill Guineas. Rising Romance was good that day, flying home and only finding the colt too good. Back to her own sex, over 2000m, she can win here. She has had a long campaign, but I think she’s the one they have to beat.

The one at big odds that can cause the boilover is Peter Moody’s SENSIBILITY. This filly won like Phar Lap on a wet track at Mornington on debut, but she proved very disappointing at her second start in the Morphettville Guineas. At her third start, though, she came to Sydney and found only Guelph too good in the Flight Stakes.

This prep, she was alright first up in the Vanity Stakes before a poor performance in the Kewney Stakes – both times behind SOLICIT. But if she follows her pattern from last prep, when she improved out of sight third-up, I think she’ll be in with a shot. I’ve been told she’s become quite mad this preparation, but I’m hoping the trip away can calm her down and she can find her best.

INTERSPERSED won the Canberra Guineas before rattling home for fourth behind Zanbagh in the Keith Nolan Classic. She gets a long way back in her races, which is a concern, but I think she’ll relish 2000m on a wet track and she’s a definite player.

MARIANNE beat a number of these fillies in the Alexandra Stakes last time, including SUAVITO and Solicit. She’s a bit camera shy, but she is honest and is always in there with a show. 2000m may prove some query with her – she’s bred to be a miler – but at this time of year, they can often run the 2000m even if it isn’t their best distance.

Next best Solicit, who was a shade disappointing last start but should improve on that, while FOREVER LOVED will more than likely be on the speed for a long way in a race which doesn’t look to have a great deal of pace.


Race 8 – GROUP 1 GOLDEN SLIPPER (1200m)

The world’s richest two-year-old, on a hairpin circuit on a track near Parramatta. Even as someone who has lived in the Parramatta area for most of my life, the juxtaposition doesn’t seem right. I do enjoy the race every year, though, and I do hope it remains at Rosehill – it just wouldn’t be the same at Randwick!

It would be great to see UNENCUMBERED or VALENTIA win here, obviously. Unencumbered was to have been Nathan Berry’s mount, and he had done so much work with the horse, while twin Tommy takes the ride on Gai Waterhouse’s Valentia. I think everyone will be willing a Damien Oliver result, hoping that either horse can win just as Media Puzzle did in the 2002 Melbourne Cup only days after Damien’s brother Jason died in a race fall.

Taking the emotion out of it, I’m not sure I can see it happening – I think Unencumbered will find it hard to bridge the gap on GHIBELLINES, while I think Valentia just may not be good enough. But as someone who loves racing, who knows its participants and who cares about the industry, there’s nothing I’d rather see.

Despite the reputation of the race for being a roughhouse affair, the cream usually rises to the top. Last year, Overreach was the form filly and she bolted in, beating horses that have subsequently proven the form – the likes of Sidestep, Sweet Idea, Guelph and Criterion were close up. It was the same the year before with Pierro, Snitzerland and Samaready well clear of their rivals, and all have subsequently won open class Group 1 races.

From what we’ve seen this year, the “cream” is undoubtedly EARTHQUAKE. This super Darley filly is yet to disappoint, winning her first race in such impressive style that she was immediately installed as Golden Slipper favourite before returning with a win in the Blue Diamond Prelude for fillies. She started second favourite behind Rubick in the Blue Diamond Stakes, but easily had his measure, racing away for a comfortable win.

She’ll be out to emulate Sepoy (2011), also trained by Peter Snowden and owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation, by winning the Blue Diamond-Golden Slipper double, as well as the likes of John’s Hope (1972), Manikato (1979), Bounding Away (1986) and Courtza (1989). Rare company indeed!

She came back to Sydney two weeks ago and won the Reisling Stakes in a manner that can best be described as workmanlike, albeit showing her class to beat MOSSFUN and ALPHA MISS. I think she’ll be better ridden off the speed, where she’ll probably find herself today from barrier 13, and if she turns up, has luck in running and handles the wet track, she’ll be mighty hard to beat. She’s the big chance for sure.

All that said, I can’t get last week’s win of BRING ME THE MAID out of my mind. She beat the B-grade fillies, but the turn of foot she showed late was dynamic and there can be no doubt that she handles the wet track. She has the sense of timing about her.

With all the focus on Tommy Berry, I think a lot of people will forget that Chad Schofield – who rides Bring Me The Maid – will also be under immense pressure. He’s not only lost a good mate, and will be grieving for him, but he also has the added burden of seeing his sister Whitney so distraught by Nathan’s death. It’s a lot to ask of any 20-year-old, but I think he’s as talented as any jockey I’ve seen and I think he’ll handle it. This would also be a very emotional win, as the syndicate of owners was headed up by legendary jockey Roy Higgins, who died earlier in March. I think she can salute to give Peter Moody – of Black Caviar fame – his first win in Australia’s big four races.

If one is to upset those two, it could be Earthquake’s stablemate Ghibellines. The half-brother to last year’s fourth placegetter and four-time Group 1 winner Guelph, Ghibellines had been quite disappointing in three starts in the Breeders’ Plate behind LAW, the Canonbury Stakes behind Fighting Sun and the Black Opal Stakes behind Lucky Raquie before turning it all around with a victory in the Todman Stakes two weeks ago. He was sent out at $41 – and quite rightly on what he had done to date – but he settled last before coming through the field with a tremendous run to see off Unencumbered. It seems odd that a gear change like a crossover noseband could make such a difference, but he raced genuinely and found the line terrifically. I think he’ll be the first colt home and I see him as the only real danger to the other two fillies.

Law and OAKLEIGH GIRL both look to be over the odds and could be worth something each way. Law was the Breeders’ Plate winner who resumed with a top win, but he beat absolutely nothing, before disappointing when leading them up in the Silver Slipper behind Mossfun. It’s hard to have him on top, or even in the first couple, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he is better with something to chase and he also gets the crossover noseband on here. A better run wouldn’t surprise.

Oakleigh Girl finished second to Unencumbered in the Magic Millions Classic and has not raced since. I think it’s good that she’s going into this race fresh, and she showed she was on track with a resounding barrier trial win recently. She still needs to prove herself at 1200m, but I think coming in fresh is a shrewd move and she can turn the tables on Unencumbered here.

I think I’ll be playing those five mainly, with decent bets on my top three. Throw Mossfun, Unencumbered and Valentia into your multiples, but I’m not really too keen on anything else in the race. If there’s to be two improvers in the race, I think they’ll be MEMORIAL and RISEN FROM DOUBT, but I think they’d have to improve far too much to make the top three and I’m happy to leave them out.

And while plenty of support has come for Mossfun, I’m happy to take a set against her on a win line. She’s definitely worth including in exotics given she handles a rain-affected track, but I couldn’t support her at the expense of Earthquake.

6 – LAW


The first running of this race on Golden Slipper day, moved forward a week, with the race now replacing the George Ryder Stakes, which was run last week. I actually don’t mind, it is great to have this open race on the card. And having it as the last race on the card really makes it feel like a prelude to next week’s first day of The Championships.

The pace scenario is quite interesting, in that there’s a lot of the pace drawn low – plenty of them could easily take the sit if horses out wide press forward.

I think this is WEARY’s race to shine. The English import, who raced overseas as Sir Patrick Moore (with permission from his namesake, a prominent astronomer who died in late 2012), has impressed at his first two Australian starts for Chris Waller, storming home for third to Ecuador before an impressive second behind the runaway winner Messene in the Ajax Stakes. His overseas form was far from shabby – at his penultimate English start, he finished a length second to subsequent Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner Olympic Glory. A repeat of that form, as well as his most recent two starts, would see him secure his Doncaster Mile berth here. And I think the wet track should be fine for him – he acquitted himself fine on a slow track at his Australian debut, while he won on a heavy track at Compiegne in France as a two-year-old. He looks the clear pick.

His stablemate and fellow import DIAMETRIC can run an improved race here. He was heavily backed at his first run in the Sky High Stakes, shortening from double figures into a $4 favourite, but he disappointed in finishing seventh to Entirely Platinum, beaten three lengths. That day, he got stirred up and had expended all his energy before the race was run. I’m taking the risk that won’t happen today, and if that’s the case, he’ll run a far improved race. He’s never been tried on a wet track, but the progeny of Dansili tend to handle it so I think he’ll run boldly.

LEEBAZ is the favourite but seemed awfully short last time out. He’s clearly a promising horse, he keeps stepping up, and Team Hawkes are flying at the moment, but I’d still prefer to stick with Waller’s two here. That said, after seeing what Entirely Platinum and Messene managed to do stepping up with similar form two weeks back, who is to write him off?

And I wouldn’t be surprised if ALMIGHTY CHARGE runs a race at odds. He was average last start in the Newcastle Newmarket, but his run behind Ecuador before that was superb and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lob into the box seat here. He’s some chance.

Next best MALAVIO, while RHYTHM TO SPARE also seemed to be a ridiculous price.



Race 5 – GRADE 3 GRAND NATIONAL CHASE (4m 3f 110y – approx 7200m)

One of my favourite races every year, it’s hard to believe the Grand National’s already here again.

I just went back and read my analysis again from last year – and I must say, I got it fairly wrong! Completely different from 12 months before that when we cheered home Neptune Collonges. That said, I’m not sure how anyone could have found Auroras Encore, really. But that’s the nature of the Grand National, and one of the reasons it is such a popular race worldwide. Anyone who says with a straight face they are supremely confident about how their horse will go is lying. Even the connections can’t predict what will happen, and at best can be hopeful – if they have too much confidence their charge will fall at the first. It’s Murphy’s Law at its finest.

It’s a gruelling course – 30 large fences over four-and-a-half miles. The fences are well known, even to someone who doesn’t know National Hunt racing all that well. You have Becher’s Brook, a drop jump where horse and rider land 10 inches lower from where they take off. There’s Foinavon, the scene of one of the biggest pile-ups in the history of the race in 1967, where only one horse made it through unscathed – the despised outsider for whom the fence was named. There’s the Canal Turn, an almost 90 degree turn to the left. And there are fences like The Chair and Valentine’s, as well as the final kink in the track known as The Elbow, all of which are a distinguishable part of the Grand National course.

It’s a lottery – really, you’d get a good sight from any of them – and my knowledge of National Hunt racing is far from complete, but it is a race I have to have a flutter in so I have done the form and have come up with the following selections. I’ll probably have a flutter on a couple of them and just hope more than anthing.

THE PACKAGE was one that caught the eye, he was third but well beaten at Cheltenham but both first (Holywell) and second (Ma Filleule) have won at Aintree already this week. A concern is that he struggled over these fences in 2010 behind Don’t Push It before unseating the rider, but I’m happy to give him a second chance here.

I was impressed with ALVARADO, looking at his form before his last start. In particular, his win at Cheltenham in November – when he had the likes of Knockara Beau, MONBEG DUDE, Spring Heeled and BURTON PORT behind him that day. At his last start on New Year’s Day he was pulled up, but that may have been a blessing in disguise. He now comes here fresh and well, and he’s had this one race as his target. Unproven at Aintree but I reckon he’ll stay alright, looking forward to seeing him.

These are the two I was keenest on, but there were a couple of others I could entertain.

I remember seeing Burton Port in the flesh at Cheltenham in 2012, where he finished fourth to Synchronised in the Gold Cup. His form since has been patchy, and he’s also had plenty of injury issues, but he’s always looked a stayer and I think he’ll take to these fences alright. He ran his best race in a long time after the weights were issued, so whether they were protecting his mark, I don’t know. I have to include him, especially given he’s got Jonjo O’Neill on his side.

CHANCE DU ROY has serious stamina queries but he’s likely to be out in front for a long way, while Monbeg Dude is an obvious contender for Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips.

Next best LONG RUN, who is the class runner of the field.

33 – THE PACKAGE (generally 20-1)
37 – ALVARADO (33-1)
21 – BURTON PORT (16-1)
26 – CHANCE DU ROY (33-1)
19 – MONBEG DUDE (12-1)


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