The Melbourne Cup Carnival gets under way at Flemington race course
Australian racing delivers a sensory overload this Friday night, with stakes riches and fabulous wagering opportunities in both Sydney and Melbourne. A gigantic field of 4-year-old horses – and some famous European jockeys – will chase a $10 million purse at Rosehill Racecourse in the Golden Eagle, while racing “purists” will relish one of the great traditional events on the calendar, Victoria Derby Day, as the “Melbourne Cup Carnival” commences at Flemington Racecourse.
First post Friday evening is 9:10 p.m. Eastern / 6:10 p.m. Pacific.
The Golden Eagle was inaugurated in 2019 with a purse of AU$7.5 million, as an enticement for horses to be kept in training beyond their 3-year-old season. This year’s renewal has seen the field increase in size to 20 (plus four also eligibles) and the purse escalate by 33%. Winning connections are not the only beneficiaries, as 10 percent of the entire purse distribution goes to charities designated by each horse’s owner (and approved by the Australian Turf Club). This means that the 2022 Golden Eagle will generate a million dollars for worthy causes.
The Golden Eagle: Race 8 at Rosehill; 7 1/2 furlongs for 4-year-olds. The favorite is #12 Light Infantry (7-2): Australian debut; five career starts in England (G3 winner) and France (successive G1 second-place finishes); new trainer, Ciaron Maher: “I’ve travelled a lot of horses out here to Sydney and Melbourne, and this horse has travelled better than all of them.” Light Infantry has never raced around a turn, but has gained “invaluable experience” training at Canterbury, Sydney’s tightest-turning track. Regular rider Jamie Spencer has enthusiastically followed Light Infantry to Australia; Spencer previously rode in Sydney in 2017, finishing third in The Everest’s inaugural running.
The other “Euro” is #13 Welwal (14-1): Australian debut for champion Sydney trainer Chris Waller; career 7:3-2-0 (G3 winner at Longchamp); first Sydney mount for Frankie Dettori (interestingly, his father rode a winner at Rosehill during a jockey invitation series in 1969). Australian form lines are numerous and vary widely. The most intriguing belongs to #17 Gypsy Goddess (16-1): second in G1 Australian Oaks at 1 1/2 miles and first in G1 Queensland Oaks at 1-3/8 miles; has been specifically set for this race fresh (2-for-2 off a layoff).
Trophy for the Golden Eagle, a AUS$10M race that donates AUS$1M of the purse to charity
Supporting stakes: Race 7, the $3 million Nature Strip Stakes at six furlongs, is named for last year’s winner of The Everest and current top-ranked sprinter in the world. The field features five horses from The Everest two weeks ago – if you include Lost And Running, who was second wagering choice before being scratched on race morning due to a skin irritation on a fetlock. This race could prove a more than adequate consolation, as a win would net $1,725,000 plus a $2.5 million Sydney Sprint Series bonus! Private Eye and Mazu, second and third, respectively, in The Everest, are obvious dangers. Nature Strip (fourth in this year’s The Everest) is skipping the race named in his honor, instead targeting a blockbuster rematch with The Everest winner, Giga Kick, in Melbourne next weekend.
In Australia’s southeast corner, the “Melbourne Cup Carnival” comprises four cards at Flemington Racecourse: this Friday night (Victoria Derby); Monday night (Melbourne Cup); Wednesday night (Victoria Oaks) and next Friday night (Champions Day). A forthcoming article will focus on the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most famous race. For all its top-class races and equine athletes, the 2022 Cup Carnival is best viewed through the prism of the world’s leading jockey. James McDonald rode a record-setting 10 winners (from 29 rides) over the four programs last year, including four at Group/Grade One level, and is loaded with prime prospects in 2022. At 30 years of age, “J-Mac” is scaling heights in a career that already draws comparisons with the sport’s all-time greats. The Sydney-based New Zealander has amassed 72 career G1 wins and clearly leads the 2022 Longines World’s Best Jockey Rankings.
In Friday night’s G1 Victoria Derby, at 1 9/16 miles, McDonald reunites with New Zealand trainer Graeme Rogerson, who gave J-Mac his first Australian Group One win 11 years ago. #1 Sharp ‘N’ Smart (3-1) is on a quick turnaround after overcoming a tough trip to capture last weekend’s G1 Spring Champion Stakes at 1-1/4 miles in Sydney. Winning jockey Hugh Bowman elected to stay in Sydney (Lost And Running in the Nature Strip Stakes), so McDonald will take the reins. Berkeley Square is a fractional 5-2 favorite, while Mr Maestro sits at 6-1. Another top European rider has been lured by Australia’s racing riches, as William Buick flies in to partner Godolphin’s 7-1 fourth wagering choice, #5 Pericles.
Supporting stakes: This is annually one of Australia’s finest racing cards, comprising three G1s, two G2s and four G3s. The Derby is Race 7, and James McDonald rides the favorite in the other two Group 1 races. Race 6 is the Coolmore Stud Stakes, for 3-year-olds at six furlongs down Flemington’s iconic straight course. Godolphin filly, #15 In Secret (3-1) has a 5: 3-2-0 record (a G2 winner and G1 runner-up); and Race 8 is the Empire Rose Stakes, at a mile for fillies and mares. #14 La Crique (9-5) brings a 10:6-2-2 record and a huge reputation from New Zealand.
The Rosehill card (AUS-A) and Flemington card (AUS-C) will be broadcast live on FanDuel TV Friday night (first post: 9:10 p.m. ET / 6:10 p.m. PT) alongside cards from Eagle Farm (AUS-B), and Newcastle (AUS-D). All races will be live-streamed in HD on the new Sky Racing World App, skyracingworld.com and major ADW platforms such as TVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, NYRABets, WatchandWager, HPIbet, and AmWager. Wagering is also available via these ADW platforms. Fans can get free access to live-streaming, past performances and expert picks on all races at skyracingworld.com.
About Michael Wrona: A native of Brisbane, Australia, Michael Wrona has called races in six countries. Michael’s vast U.S. experience includes; race calling at Los Alamitos, Hollywood Park, Arlington and Santa Anita, calling the 2000 Preakness on a national radio network and the 2016 Breeders’ Cup on the International simulcast network. Michael also performed a race call voiceover for a Seinfeld episode called The Subway.