Its been a wet week in Melbourne town and the Sandown steeple track does not drain as well as the course proper so I’m assuming a heavy 9-10 on the steeple course. It will be a grueling test of stamina as Sandown is a stiff track with only 2 jumps in the last 1200m and an uphill run home. Suspect stayers and poor jumpers unlikely to be featuring given the likely conditions
BM120 hurdle (3400m)
Small field but fascinating race with progressive 2nd season hurdlers Michelin and Flying Agent on top. Both are progressing well this season and look to have more upside than the competition. Numbers 2-4 -3 (gap) -1
2nd season hurdler who was scratched from the Champion Novice hurdle at the Bool after trailing extremely well the week before. Went to Sale on 12 May and was awesome, sitting off the speed, always travelling and jumping well before cruising home untouched by 4 lengths (beating Scholarly who had won maiden impressively at the Bool). Looks to have made progression this season, Pateman is reunited with him and looks very well placed here as a hurdler with plenty of upside. Heavy ground no problems
#4 Flying Agent
Another 2nd season hurdler who resumed this season with a solid 3rd (beaten 1.3 lengths and well supported) in the Champion Novice behind Riding High and Diamond Star Halo. Meets Diamond Star Halo 1kg better for that run and has scope to progress further from here. Relishes heavy ground, bred to get over more ground and likely to make a good chaser in time. Very competitive with Michelin in maiden hurdles last season
#3 Diamond Star Halo
Has been ultra consistent over hurdles this season and arguably unlucky not to win the Champion Novice at the Bool when a sloppy jump at the last hurdle probably cost her victory. That was a strong form race and looks well placed in BM120 grade here. Slight reservations are the extra distance, testing conditions (no heavy form) and deep into current preparation hence further improvement unlikely
#1 Mr One Eleven
Comes through the strong Galleywood where beaten only 6 lengths in 5th. Since run against Michelin at Sale and was beaten 8.25 lengths (and could have been further with Michelin coasting home). 3kg turnaround in the weights v Michelin will help but no heavy ground form and others look more progressive
Interesting race where the Galleywood trifecta (and some unplaced runners) clash with the novice hurdle form (Riding High). Interesting to note that the racetime for the Galleywood (3.40.27) was more than 2 seconds quicker than Riding High’s win in the Champion Hurdle (3.42.44). Times are not everything in jumps races given distance, tempo and many other variables but suspect, as always, the Galleywood form will be the benchmark hurdle form for the season. Track condition pivotal to chances here, promote Ancient King and Robbie’s Star if genuinely heavy. Numbers 1-3-7-6
#1 Ancient King
Typically brave carrying top weight (71kgs) in the Galleywood continuing to make ground to run 3rd. Extra trip poses no problem having won over 3900m and loves heavy ground. Ticks more boxes than most, generally jumps very efficiently, has won at Sandown and gets some weight relief here compared to major rivals.
1st season hurdler who won his first 2 hurdles by big margins and then started $2.15 favourite in the Galleywood when led to the shadows of the post when narrowly beaten by Gobstopper. Had another flat run since when poor beaten 19 lengths in strong Ramsden last week. Has heaps of ability but query extra trip, genuine heavy and a torrid schedule in 1st season of jumping. Can win but don’t want to be taking any less than $4
#7 Riding High
Unbeaten over hurdles after winning maiden at Pakenham impressively and then narrowly winning the Champion Novice at the Bool although arguably lucky when leader Diamond Star Halo made an error at the last. Still learning the caper and runs his races in patches, regularly on and off the bridle during the run. Genuine stayer, jumps cautiously and should relish the open spaces at Sandown. Not sure on genuine heavy. Will be better next season but still competitive if keeps improving and runs to his best
#6 Robbie’s Star
Ground was probably too dry for him in the Galleywood when only beaten 3 lengths in quick time. Grows another leg on genuine heavy (9 of his 10 career wins have been on heavy ground). Gets to 3900m for the 1st time has to be some query. He and Ancient King are the best wet trackers in the race if it becomes heavy 9-10. The heavier the better for him.
Intriguing race with formlines from the Annual (Bit of A Lad) intersecting with the Brierly (Slowpoke Rodriguez and Lucques) and the impressive winner of the BM120 chase Georgethefifth. The Brierly was run in faster time 4.09.85 compared to the BM120 in 4.11.75. Add to the mix high class NZ chaser Shamal making his seasonal debut for new trainer Amy McDonald and the Australian Steeple is full of quality and a difficult race to assess and price. Numbers 2-6-3-4
High quality NZ chaser over many seasons, now with Amy McDonald at Ballarat. Generally settles rearward, shows no early dash but great jumper (most Zabeel’s are) and can sustain a long run. Heavy ground and left handed tracks are ideal. Pateman rides and has yet to add an Australian Steeple to his incredible CV. Assuming he’s fit and ready for 3900m 1st up for his 2020 campaign then he should be right in the finish – fitness is the only query.
Solid NZ jumps form (without winning in 10 jumps starts) behind superstar Tallyho Twinkletoe in 2019 and flat form since arriving in Australia has been consistently competitive. Demolished his rivals in BM120 chase at the Bool (his 1st jumps run in Australia), heavily supported, jumped well and sprinted home to win by 8 lengths. Looks to have heaps of upside but still well out of the handicap as a 116 rater on the minimum 66kgs (Slowpoke rated 129 and also on the minimum). Rock hard fit
#3 Slowpoke Rodriguez
Resumed over jumps this season with a lethargic and never threatening 4th in the Brierly (started $2.70 fav) when never really got into the race. Only visible excuse was a poor jump at the 2nd in Brierly paddock when lunged at fence but otherwise jumped ok. He likes heavy and Sandown and career peak was narrow 2nd to the champion Wells in the 2019 Crisp over 4200m. Right in it if produces best. Lee Horner elects to ride Slowpoke ahead of Shamal, trained by his wife – is he a good judge?
Consistent jumper in recent years who improved significantly last start when 2nd behind Getting Leggie in the Brierly at the Bool. Prior to that was well held in strong chase at Pakenham. Was clearly better in the run home than Slowpoke Rodriguez in the Brierly however gets to Sandown now where his form has been patchy and genuine heavy ground also some query.