Punters might have to wait a little bit longer for the spring weather to kick in, but there’s no doubting that the spring-type horses are starting to line up.
Many trainers opt to start their smart ones at midweek level and that’s evident this week at Canterbury and Geelong.
The size of the fields couldn’t be any more different as Canterbury has struggled to attract the big numbers, but Geelong has a minimum of 13 runners in every race which will make for generous odds from the bookmakers.
We have found our best bets and value tips from both venues where punters should be able to get a glimpse of what’s to come later this season.
Free Tips and Form at Geelong
Race 1. (11:30) Bet365 Mdn Plate 1100m
Lindsay Park lines up Prepare to Win in the opening race at Geelong and it could be an aptly-named runner.
The well-performed three-year-old hasn’t been seen since running last in the Cinderella Stakes at Morphettville, but her form prior consisted of two good performances in much harder races than this.
The Bel Esprit filly ran second on debut at Moonee Valley behind Something Violet and she didn’t get the best of luck during the run. She drew barrier seven, which is never ideal at The Valley, and she subsequently travelled wide throughout.
After leading shortly before the turn, she was headed coming into the straight but to her credit she fought gamely to only go down by under a length.
The Hayes and Dabernig team clearly thought plenty of her as she lined up in the Talindert Stakes at Flemington following that and agains she had no luck.
Prepare to Win was getting a good trip in transit, but was badly hampered in the straight and never had a clear shot at them. That run might have taken the wind out of her, which would explain the following effort at Morphettville.
We’re expecting a good fresh up effort from Prepare to Win which could contest stakes grade again this preparation.
Race 5. (13:35) Hyland Race Colours (bm70) 1100m
This looks a race in two with current $4.60 favourite Crystal Fountain expected to draw plenty of attention in the market, but Verstappen is a talented runner which has mixed it with some of the best in Melbourne.
The Danny O’Brien-trained four-year-old was a winner at Cranbourne in October over the talented Natch and despite putting in a couple of bad efforts since then, this is a fair drop back in class.
He ran 11th in the Hilton Stakes behind Souchez and last behind Ken’s Dream at Caulfield last start, but in between those efforts were two second placings – one of those coming in the Grand Handicap Sprint where he finished second behind Rich Charm.
He should be able to handle running fresh up over this distance and he has drawn well in barrier two whereas Crystal Fountain has drawn awkwardly in barreir six.
He’s currently $5 in the betting and that looks like good each way value.
Race 6. (14:10) Iga Liquor (bm70) 1100m
The Lindsay Park teams lines up another fresh runner and there’s plenty of excitement surrounding Bastille.
He’s a four-year-old entire which scored two wins and a placing from three starts last preparation and its debut win was what attracted us.
The son of Snitzel scored by over five lengths at this distance which proves that he can run well without much fitness and punters only got $1.90 on that occasion, whereas he’s currently at $4.40 for this run.
He followed that win up with another at Sandown and it was just as easy again – winning by 2.75 lengths. He then went to Flemington and boxed on well for second behind Theanswermyfriend which was a subsequent winner.
Carrying 59kg is a concern, but he’s a tough customer and Coolmore Stud and the China Horse Club share in the ownership, which is always a positive.
Race 9. (15:55) Viatek (bm64) 1400m
Giroux looms as a solid each way bet following two good runs this time in.
She’s a four-year-old mare that ran well for second at Bendigo last start and she should be in peak fitness with two runs under her belt.
Her form last campaign included a luckless run behind Crystal Fountain and an eye-catching run behind Special Witness at Caulfield.
It was that effort that caught our attention as she sat three wide around the turn and provided a big turn-of-foot. That will win her plenty more races and she looks a good chance to score her second career win from 13 starts.
Free Tips and Form at Canterbury
Race 1. (13:25) Ascot Restaurant Mdn Hcp 1550m
Runaway has yet to win a race from three starts, but it won’t take the talented filly long to crack the maidens.
He’s a three-year-old colt which ran second behind D’argento last start at Rosehill which came at metropolitan grade and that’s strong form for midweek level.
The son of Manhattan Rain went to the front at Rosehill and was only narrowly beaten in the shadows of the post. Being from the Waterhouse/Bott stable, expect Runaway to lead them again and having another run at this distance should hold him in good stead.
The $2.30 is as short as we would want to take, but he’s the class of this field and he should run well.
Race 3. (14:35) Tab.com.au Mdn Plate 1250m
There has been plenty of hype surrounding Smartedge and it has already been heavily backed with bookmakers.
The Peter and Paul Snowden gelding opened at $3.40 and was quickly smashed into $2.40 only hours after the markets opened.
That’s a good sign for a three-year-old which ran as the $1.80 favourite on debut when finishing second behind D’argento. That form – as suggested with our Runaway tip, should be a great form guide for races at the midweek level.
The son of Smart Missile is drawn to get every chance from barrier three and the early favourite Gold Standard ($2.30 – $2.70) has drawn wide in barrier eight.
Race 4. (14:35) Tab.com.au Mdn Plate 1250m
It’s not hard to pick a Chris Waller-trained unbeaten runner, but it’s more the lack of opposition which leads us to suggest backing Chatelard.
He’s a four-year-old which took a while to get to the races, but that proved worthwhile after winning on debut at Kembla Grange in July and backing up that win at Canterbury later that month.
He rises up in grade here, but he has experience at this track which can be vital and staying at the 1900m is ideal.
The opposition isn’t much to speak of with More Than Fabulous being the next best in betting at $4.80. He ran on well last start in a harder race than this, but that came with no weight on his back and he rises up to 60.5kg here.
Chatelard has carried 58kg and 59kg in two starts to date so carrying 59.5kg won’t be an issue and the current odds of $2.50 could come tumbling in.
Race 5. (15:45) Tab (bm77) 1100m
Malahat has serious spring targets in mind and punters should overlook its run in the Group 1 Sires’ Produce.
That came on an extremely heavy surface which most of the runners didn’t handle, including Malahat which did work early in the race before folding up late.
His form prior to that is worth getting excited about and his win over Kementari on this track showed just how much class he possesses.
The Exceed and Excel colt placed in behind Pariah and Invader prior to his win and that’s group one winning form.
He races well in a fresh up condition and having Tommy Berry in the saddle at a weight of 54.5kg makes him extremely tough to beat.
He’s our best bet of the meeting and his odds of $2.40 could well firm into odds-on come Wednesday.
Race 6. (16:20) Bowermans Furniture (bm72) 1250m
Super Star Bob is one of our favourite Highway Handicap runners and he has been targeted at an easier race after being scratched from Randwick last Saturday.
He’s a four-year-old which has a Highway Handicap win to its name and that form shouldn’t be overlooked. The Highway Handicap form stands up well at midweek level and Super Star Bob could arguably be unbeaten from five starts.
He flashed home late at Randwick to run fifth behind I Told Georgie in February and he found the level of racing just slightly too tough last start when winning third behind Argent D’or.
This is a quality midweek field with the likes of Jemadar and Missile Coda, but we couldn’t leave out Bob.