Despite being officially a summer month, February is synonymous in racing circles with the start of autumn racing.
With the spring carnival a distant memory, racing fans have survived the tennis and the never-ending big bash cricket season. Not to mention the 117th edition of The Fast and The Furious empire.
Once dubbed a ‘mini-spring’, Autumn is now its own masterpiece. With the revamped “Festival of racing” in Melbourne and the established “The Championships” in Sydney, autumn racing now rivals its big brother, the spring.
Join our experts as they preview the most exciting races for February, the official start to autumn racing.
c.f. orr stakes
Raced underweight for age scale, The C.F. Orr Stakes is the first Group 1 race of the autumn racing carnival. It always provides a good form guide moving forward for the rest of the autumn features, and this year’s edition looks mouth-watering.
After his electric win on Australia Day, the three-year-old boom Jacquinot heads the early all-in market. His performance was first-class, and he will be ideally placed in this event. The 1400m second-up will give him an opportunity to win his first Group 1 win in open company.
With that being said, Jacquinot will be joined by an all-star cast. The forever teasing I’m Thunderstruck will be attacking the line and looking to strike first-up from a spell. His win in The Group 1 Makybe Diva second-up during the spring was a beauty, and I dare say he will be forward enough to win this fresh.
Champions Mile winner Alligator Blood will lead them a merry dance on top of the speed, while the veteran and Champions Stakes winner Zaaki will make his presence felt as always. Group 1 winners Tuvalu and Mr Brightside will add extra spice to an already smoking hot race! What a way to kick off the Group 1’s for autumn!
Over the years, the Group 2 Apollo Stakes has proven to be a tremendous lead-up race for horses heading towards the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes. Anamoe could be a great addition to this year’s event if he doesn’t head to the Group 1 Chipping Norton first up. He will be joined by Cox Plate placegetter El Bodegon who will get his chance to complete his first full Australian preparation, and no doubt there will be several lofty Group 1 events on the radar.
Formidable front-runner Think It Over, who had a career breakthrough last autumn in The Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, will add intrigue and speed to the race. With some horses still not fully wound up at this stage of the year, this is a race he can pinch against some of his more fancied rivals.
The usual suspects will be there. Fangirl, who was narrowly beaten in The Golden Eagle, rarely runs a poor race fresh, and she will be there to win first-up. Group 1 warhorse Cascadian will use the event to springboard his autumn campaign. His fresh runs over the distance are always eye-catching.
While this event won’t be the highlight of autumn, it does paint a vital picture and provide an excellent form guide for the remainder of the season and beyond.
black caviar lightning
Not since Haylist and Black Caviar battled it out down the long Flemington Straight has there been so much anticipation amongst punters and racing fans for the upcoming autumn sprinting features.
The Black Caviar Lightning and The Newmarket Handicap could provide a changing of the guard moment, a passing of the baton, or even a dethroning, as Giga Kick looks to take the title of the World’s Best Sprinter away from Nature Strip. The two have already met twice, with Giga Kick climbing to victory in The Everest, while in round 2, they we both upstaged by Rock ‘N’ Horse in The Champions Sprint.
With Giga Kick still not officially a Group 1 winner, and not to mention being several years younger than his main rival, he will undoubtedly hold an advantage under both handicap and weight for age conditions in the immediate future. However, the 1000m does look advantageous for the current King, and as always, write him off at your peril!
Boom filly and Coolmore winner In Secret will be there to prove three isn’t a crowd. Her win on Derby Day was breathtaking, and her autumn preparation could propel her to another stratosphere if she has come back bigger and stronger from the spring.
With Private Eye and Bella Nipotina also likely to line up, this will be a race for the ages!!!
silver slipper stakes
With King’s Gambit having his colours lowered on Saturday, the race to The Golden Slipper has never been more wide-open. The Silver Slipper is traditionally the right form guide for the richest two-year-old race in the world, and with the many unknowns about this crop of babies, this race has never been so important.
Learning To Fly was a stunning debut winner. Her hefty price tag now looks like an excellent investment, and she comes into winning calculations for all the two-year-old autumn features. She beat the smart Steel City and is now an equal favourite for The Silver and Golden Slipper.
Red Resistance stamped himself as a serious colt after stunningly upstaging the King’s Gambit. He led from barrier to post and never looked challenged or threatened. The 1200m looks ideal, and he will ensure genuine pace up front whenever he lines up.
With Magic Millions winner Skirt The Law likely using the Silver Slippers as a tune-up before the Golden Slipper, the dynamics for this race are fascinating.
“They will go like Oakleigh platters here”. One thing guaranteed yearly in the Oakleigh plate is speed, speed, and more speed. Asfoora can show them a clean pair of heels after her blistering win on Derby Day at Flemington. She is building an impressive career record, and she has the ability to break the clock with her sizzling sectionals. She is tough enough to get the job done at both ends, and she may prove hard to run down if she is left alone in front.
I Am Me is the intriguing runner. She has been going through her grades nicely during the late spring and summer in Sydney, and she looks to have plenty of upside. With her current rating, she will be ideally weighted for this event, and I am sure we will be talking about her after this race. This is a massive step up in grade, but she is up to it.
If Uncommon James returns 100% sound, he will be competitive wherever he goes. His win in the Listed Regal Roller in August last year was outstanding before he suffered a preparation-ending injury. His recent trial win leading into this event tells me he is ready to rock ‘n’ roll in the autumn.
Jigsaw is flying and putting the picket fence together, while last year’s winner Marabi, and Bella Nipotina, will be thereabouts despite not being well-weighted here as Group 1 winners.
Seriously…..February has never looked so good!