The final field has been declared and the barrier draw conducted for the $1.5 million Gr1 Victoria Derby (2500m) to be run at Flemington racecourse in Melbourne on Saturday. First run in 1855, the 3YO blue-riband Classic is justly regarded as one of the greatest races on the Australian racing calendar. And with names such as Phar Lap (1929), Comic Court (1948), Tulloch (1957), Sky high (1960), Tobin Bronze (1965), Taj Rossi (1973), Sovereign Red (1980), Mahogany (1993), Nothin' Leica Dane (1995), and Efficient (2006) adorning the honour roll, it's easy to see why. This year New Zealand-bred gelding Main Stage and Gr1 Spring Champion Stakes winner Ace High share TAB favouritism at $5 in what is widely regarded as a very open renewal. Next best in the market is Main Stage's stable-mate Sully and the Chris Waller-trained Tangled at $7, ahead of another Kiwi 3YO in Weather With You at $8. All other runners are at double figure odds headed by Godolphin's Astoria at $11. Click below to view the full Victoria Derby field.
At Caulfield racecourse in Melbourne, Coolmore's champion European miler and former Blue Gum Farm shuttler Canford Cliffs (Tagula-Mrs Marsh, by Marju) sired his first Australian stakes winner when 3YO bay colt Cliff's Edge (Canford Cliffs-Simulation, by Snaadee) outstayed his rivals courtesy of a brilliant front-running victory in the $350,000 Gr3 Caulfield Classic (2000m) for 3YOs, defeating Tangled & Main Stage. Cliff's Edge, who hails from the family of 7-time Gr1 winning (including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe) champion French galloper All Along, improved his record to 4 wins and 2 placings (including the Listed VRC UCI Stakes) from 8 starts for $449,810 in earnings. He was purchased by his trainer Darren Weir and renowned bloodstock agent John Foote for just $60,000 at the 2016 Inglis Premier Yearling Sale. Weir said he was likely to give Cliff's Edge his opportunity in the $1.5 million Gr1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on 4 November. "I suppose you've got to have a throw at the stumps the way he went today," Weir told racing.com. "He's got a great racing style…he loves bowling along out in front and relaxes so well."
At Royal Randwick in Sydney, deceased dual Derby-winning shuttler & 6-time Gr1 victor High Chaparral (Sadler's Wells-Kasora, by Dashaan) celebrated an elite race success when 3YO brown colt Ace High (High Chaparral-Come Sunday, by Redoute's Choice) did just enough to hold on for a narrow win in the $500,000 Gr1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) for 3YOs, defeating Tangled & Sully. Ace High, who is a direct descendant of Natalma, the dam of the legendary Northern Dancer and grand-dam of Danehill, improved his record to 3 wins (including the Gr3 Gloaming Stakes) and 1 placing from 11 starts for $498,375 in earnings. Trainer David Payne said Ace High would now head towards the $1.5 million Gr1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on 4 November. "I think he is definitely a Victoria Derby horse," Payne told Sky Racing. "I'll speak to the owner and see how we go. I'm keen on the Derby." Ace High was purchased by Payne for $130,000 at the 2016 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale from the draft of Bell River Thoroughbreds.
Last start Gr3 Gloaming Stakes winner (1800m) Ace High (High Chaparral) heads the nominations for Saturday's Gr1 Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick. The David Payne-trained 3YO colt, who is now looking like a $130,000 Magic Millions Gold Coast bargain, has been priced the early $4.20 favourite by bookies after drawing the paint, however he will face three non-equine hurdles that weren't there in his most recent success. The first is the additional 200m, the second is that he is yet to win at Randwick, and the third is that rivals' senior jockeys will be a little wiser to the fact that Ace High cannot be left alone up front at a sedate pace or he'll prove pretty hard to reel in. Among his 13 opposition nominated are Godolphin's pair Sanctioned and Astoria, as well as a trio from the powerful Chris Waller yard: Augustus, Sambro and Tangled.
Racing Queensland has released an updated order of entry for the $600,000 Gr1 JJ Atkins Stakes (1600m) to be run at Eagle Farm on 10 June. Heading the order of entry is Gr1-wining Kiwi filly Melody Belle, ahead of dual stakes-winning Queensland colt Ours to Keep. Recent stakes winners Tangled, Debonairly, and Taking Aim also figure prominently. Melody Belle currently shares TAB favouritism with Chris Waller's progressive colt and Gr2 BRC Champagne Stakes winner Tangled at $6, ahead of Gr2 Champagne Stakes runner-up All Too Huiying, boom Kiwi Qiji Phoenix, Taking Aim & Viridine all at $11. Click here to view the latest order of entry.
At the halfway mark of Saturday afternoon's racing, Australia's leading sire Snitzel was already having a very good day. By then he had notched up a two-state 2YO stakes double thanks to convincing wins by Debonairly in the Listed Woodlands Stakes at Scone & Tangled in the Listed Gr2 Champagne Classic at Doomben. But the best was yet to come courtesy of Triple Crown Syndications' 4YO gelding Redzel who sealed his rise up the sprinting ranks with a strong win in the $700,000 Gr1 Doomben 10,000. Co-trainer Peter Snowden confirmed that Redzel and fourth-placed Russian Revolution (also by Snitzel) will head to the paddock for a richly earned break. Between them they have won seven of their 13 starts - six of them in Group company - and added more than $1.7 million to Snitzel's prize money. Snitzel's fourth stakes winner for the day came from an unlikely quarter when outsider Vienna Miss scored a tenacious win in the Listed Adelaide Guineas at odds of 80-1 to claim her maiden stakes victory. Redzel, Tangled, Debonairly and Vienna Miss boosted Snitzel's prize money to a new Australian premiership record total of $13.8 million, surpassing the previous record of $12.9 million set last season by Street Cry. Snitzel's lifetime & worldwide statistics now read:
At Doomben racecourse in Brisbane, Arrowfield Stud's Gr1-winning high profile stallion Snitzel (Redoute's Choice-Snippets' Lass, by Snippets) added a Group success when 2YO bay colt Tangled (Snitzel-Bramble Rose, by Shinko King) looked a top prospect in the making when finishing powerfully for an impressive win in the $175,000 Gr2 Champagne Classic (1200m) for 2YOs, defeating All Too Huiying & Italia Bella. A $310,000 yearling purchase by Chris Waller Racing at the 2016 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale from the draft of Newgate Farm, boosted his record to 2 wins from 4 starts for $154,200 earnings. The beautifully bred tangled is out of 2003 New Zealand Oaks winner Bramble Rose and is a half-brother to Australian stakes winner Maules Creek and Singapore stakes winner Sebrose. Trainer Chris Waller said Tangled would only improve as he stpped up in distance at his next two starts in the Gr2 Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) and Gr1 JJ Atkins (1600m) at Eagle Farm. "He's a really nice colt who we know will run a lot further," Waller told Racing Queensland. "I was a bit worried about the 1200 metres today but 1400 metres will be even better and 1600 metres will be right up his alley."
Also in the US, a "key defendant in the complex ClassicStar mare-lease litigation has agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement that could lead to more settlements," reported kentucky.com. Gastar Exploration (a publicly traded energy company spun off from ClassicStar's parent Geostar) "has agreed to pay 7 plaintiffs (including the US bankruptcy trustee for ClassicStar) a total of US$21.15 million, according to motions filed in US Bankruptcy Court in Lexington". The other 6 sets of plaintiffs "were all investors in ClassicStar's fraudulent mare leasing programs & are among dozens involved in a mass of tangled lawsuits alleging fraud of more than US$500 million". The deal means Gastar "will be dismissed from claims in the on-going federal lawsuits, some of which are now set for trial in April in the US District Court in Lexington". In a news release overnight, Gastar admitted no liability & said the company entered into the settlement "to avoid the risk & expense of continued litigation". Beginning in 2001, ClassicStar marketed leases of thoroughbred mares for breeding & bought more than US$40 million in high-profile mares at Keeneland. Potential investors "were told they could lease the mares & claim millions in tax write-offs"; however the US Internal Revenue Service "later ruled the write-offs were fraudulent". But ClassicStar "apparently never had as many mares as the farm leased, so in some cases, the farm persuaded the investors to exchange mare leases for shares in oil & gas investments, including stock in Gastar Exploration". The investors suing ClassicStar allege former Gastar officers made stock in the company available "to conceal a shortage of mare lease interests & to perpetuate a fraud scheme". Previously, ClassicStar farm operators David Plummer & his son Spencer Plummer, plus 2 others Terry Green & John Parrott, pleaded guilty to US$200 million in federal tax fraud & "each face up to 5 years in federal prison".
Also in the US, former NZ Windsor Park shuttler Black Minnaloushe (Storm Cat-Coral Dance, by Green Dancer) added a black-type success when 4YO gelding Dancing In Silks (Black Minnaloushe-Lemhi Love, by Royal And Regal) scored a 1.25-lengths victory in the US$112,000 Listed Pirate's Bounty Stakes (6 furlongs on all-weather) at Del Mar. Dancing In Silks (ridden by Joel Rosario for trainer Carla Gaines) defeated fellow 4YO gelding Candy Pull (In Excess-Iza Bon Bon, by Iz A Saros) & 4YO entire Tangled Tango (Petionville-Out Of Step, by Affirmed). Dancing In Silks (a US$20,000 weanling at the 2005 Keeneland November Sale & subsequently a C$24,000 yearling at Canada's 2006 British Columbia September Sale) took his record to 5 wins (also including 2008's Listed NTRA Stakes over 6.5 furlongs at Hollywood Park) & 4 placings (including 2008's Listed On Trust Handicap 7.5 furlongs at Hollywood Park, Listed Damascus Stakes over 7 furlongs at Santa Anita & Listed Real Good Deal Stakes over 7 furlongs at Del Mar) from 11 starts for US$307,622 earnings.