Darley Classic one of the best for last

The final day of the Victoria Racing Club’s four day 2017 Melbourne Cup Carnival on Saturday brings one of the races of the not just the four days at Flemington, but the last four weeks of spring racing with the $1m, Group 1 WFA Darley Classic (1200m).

Finally, contestants from The Everest over 1200m at Randwick back on October 14th in Chautauqua, Redzel, Vega Magic and Redkirk Warrior (GB) are back for another crack at each other along with the addition of two important runners Impending and In Her Time. This time a different track and a straight sprint.

Certainly there is a field of 14 for the race, but the market has sorted out these six as the leading contenders. That said the market is bouncing around with a little indecision.

Favourite and The Everest winner Redzel is $3.60 out to $4.40 with, Vega Magic $4.20 out to $5.00, Chautauqua $5.00 out to $6.00, In Her Time $10.00 into $7.50, Impending $7.00 out to $8.00 and Redkirk Warrior $13.00 into $9.00 with solid support driving that firming of price. Prices as at late Friday afternoon.

The form of each of them is well exposed, including Chautauqua’s late scratching at the barriers before the Group 1 WFA Manikato Stakes over 1200m at The Valley on October 27th. He was dressed up, well supported and ready to rumble until being unloaded and then scratched.

Co-trainer Wayne Hawkes said that the lack of a run has not impacted on their dashing sprinter’s preparation. He will certainly be fresh and ready to go this time as well.

Redzel is in a place runners seldom go, outside of Winx and BC, with a picket fence of wins since last September. In Sydney he has simply been too fast, too strong and for too long for the rest.

"I could not be happier with how the horse has trained on since The Everest," says co-trainer Peter Snowden.

"He is in a fantastic place and is very happy in himself. We have given him a month between races again when we know he is at his very best and he'll be tough to beat again on Saturday.

"His work on Tuesday was excellent and it is all systems go for Saturday," he adds ominously for the rest.

Redzel and Kerrin McEvoy winning The Everest at Randwick, picture

David Hayes is bullish about both the stable runners, defeated Manikato Stakes favourite Vega Magic and Redkirk Warrior who once again failed to run on at Randwick.

“Back both runners, I think they are over the odds and are back to their best,” he said on Friday.

That advice had already been taken with Redkirk Warrior, a proven two wins for two starts up the straight course, with wagers including $2,000 x $4,000 e/w @ $13/$3.55 and $1,000 e/w @ $13/$3.55.

The mare In Her Time has done everything she can to actually win at Group 1 level with two seconds, the last to Hey Doc in the Manikato Stakes. Corey Brown, fresh off winning the staying test of the Melbourne Cup with Rekindling (GB) on Tuesday, is looking to repeat that success with the mare at the sprint distance.

Then there is Godolphin’s Impending. There is a long way from winning the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap over 1400m at Doomben in June to competing against the tough, hardened sprinters over WFA up the Flemington straight.

However, the well-bred Lonhro four-year-old just might be maturing into this level. His first up second to In Her Time in the listed Sydney Stakes over 1200m at Randwick on October, the mini foothills of The Everest, was impressive. He came from a long way back, 11th at the 400m, to nearly mow down the mare at the line.

There are still question marks, first run at Flemington, he has not actually won at the distance, but he likes good ground and it will be that on Saturday with fine and warm weather finally arriving in Melbourne.

“He takes on some really impressive sprinters, but we were very impressed by the way he performed first up against In Her Time who was not only beaten some of the best sprinters in Sydney, but she was luckless in the Manikato Stakes down here in Melbourne,” said trainer James Cumming earlier in the week.

“He has trained on beautifully since his first up run and he looks to be thriving. He gives himself an excellent opportunity second up on fresh legs and comes into this race in as good a condition as we can get him.”

With Hugh Bowman out suspended a rider has yet to be declared for Impending, as at late Friday afternoon, but whoever rides him from barrier 11 will have the guiding missile of Redzel in front from barrier 10 and Kerrin McEvoy.

This will be a stern and fascinating test for Impending, but he is at twice the market price of the proven winner he must overcome.

The Darley Classic is Race 7 at 4.10pm.