Horses to watch at Warwick Farm for King of Australia contest

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

August 23rd, 2016

Although I was humbled when my latter two selections backed out after setting the pace over soft ground, it was still a profitable evening last Friday at Randwick when Divine Prophet kicked things off with a last-to-first rally to narrowly take the Up and Coming S. (G3) and paid $17 to win and $7.10 to place in the U.S. pools.

There is a little over a week remaining in the first stage of's King of Australia contest. customers that wager at least $500 on Australian and New Zealand racing through September 1 qualify to participate in the Final Round on September 2. The winner of the Final Round will win a trip for two to the Melbourne Cup (G1), "The Race That Stops a Nation," on November 1.

Racing resumes at the Sydney Metropolitan tracks Tuesday evening U.S. time at Warwick Farm, which I had the pleasure of visiting 25 years ago this week in my first foreign racing excursion. While my memories of the day aren't crystal clear, the weather was unforgettably ugly -- overcast, cool and blustery -- equivalent to day out in March or November in this hemisphere.

Having watched the previous year's Melbourne Cup (G1), won by Kingston Rule, on television and scrapping up as much information as I could in those pre-internet days, I arrived at the track with my Dad knowing enough rudimentary knowledge of the Australian side of the sport to get by. With all-turf racing run in a clockwise fashion and a bookie ring (which we were too intimidated to enter) behind the stands, it was definitely very different from what we were used to in America. We each cashed a few tickets through the pari-mutuel tote and all-in-all enjoyed the experience despite the inhospitable weather.

Although it ranks third in the pecking order of Sydney tracks, well behind Randwick and Rosehill, Warwick Farm will always be of great interest to me even if the racing there is generally standard fare.

Having looked over Tuesday night's seven-race card, here's a few intriguing Win-Place opportunitues. Note that as of this writing, the Warwick Farm course was rated soft with a Penetrometer reading of 5.15.

Race 1 -- OUR BELISA (#7) was thought enough of to contest stakes, one a Group 2, in her first two outings last autumn. No factor in either, she's come back to run fifth and second while encountering troubled journeys in both. ROYAL NAVY (#3) wasn't beaten by much in his first two starts, while PREFERITO (#2) is the probable favorite and one to catch.

Race 3 -- Seven (!) of the 13 entrants in this maiden are trained by Chris Waller. One is EARTH (#2), who has not raced since May when he was unplaced in back-to-back Group 2s at Doomben in Brisbane. He fared better at this level over soft ground at Randwick in late April. The main concern is he might prove a little too fresh off the long spell. TYCOON MAR (#4) is an interesting first-time starter. A recent barrier trial winner over this course, he hails from the extended family of Schillaci, a two-time champion sprinter in Australia.

Race 4 -- KANJI (#2) could not have been more ineffective in his last three outings, but all were in sprints and he finally stretches back out to 1 3/8 miles today. A year ago last month he registered a victory in a BM67 handicap (like this race) going 1 5/16 miles at Warwick Farm. In the frame with one of his better tries.

Race 5 -- ANTONIO GIUSEPPE (#2) perhaps will be strongly backed following a nice score at Canterbury last time. Lightly raced with a two-for-five record, he won't need much improvement as he steps up another quarter-furlong here.

Race 6 -- A hard race to get a handle on, but STILETTOED VIXEN (#8) appears a decent each-way play. She endured a rough start in each of her last two outings, and overcame the trouble in her latest to finish third at Randwick. She was narrowly beaten in her only previous start on this course going six furlongs over similar conditions.

Night owls on the east coast should note that first post at Warwick Farm is approximately 11:45 p.m. (EDT).

Good luck to all on their way to the finals of's King of Australia contest!

(Vance Hanson photos)