The long weekend could lead to a dramatic shake-up of the All-Star Mile leaderboard, with 12 contenders in action across Australia and New Zealand.
Boom three-year-old Alligator Blood (5,185 votes*) and popular grey Star Missile (5,085 votes*) have opened up a healthy advantage at the top of the leaderboard after the opening week of voting, but the race to finish inside the all-important top 10 is intensifying with just over 100 votes currently separating Catalyst and Free Of Debt in 10th and 11th* places respectively.
Catalyst, undoubtedly New Zealand’s leading three-year-old with five wins from six career starts, will aim to enhance his burgeoning reputation when he lines up on home soil in the Mr Tiz Trophy (1200m) at Ellerslie tomorrow (Saturday, 25 January).
The Clayton Chipperfield-trained gelding is currently at the prohibitive price of $1.30, due largely to his scintillating performance in the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) last November.
Fellow Kiwi Melody Belle (currently third* in the All-Star Mile voting) will also take to the Ellerslie track for an exhibition gallop between races two and three, as the 10-time Group 1 winner builds towards an autumn campaign which her trainer Jamie Richards hopes will culminate in a shot at the world’s richest mile race at Caulfield on Saturday, 14 March.
Later in the day Harlech, trained by Mike Moroney, will step out in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m), where victory should ensure he climbs the leaderboard from his current position of 58th*.
Tonight at The Valley, four All-Star Mile nominees – Begood Toya Mother (sixth in the voting*), Scales of Justice (36th), Ringerdingding (51st) and Manuel (66th) – will compete in the Group 2 Mortimer Petroleum Australia Stakes (1200m).
Of that quartet, Daniel Bowman’s stable star Begood Toya Mother is currently the best placed to gain a start in the $5 million showpiece, having gained more than 1,600 votes* thanks in part to his large ownership group.
After narrowly missing out on a place in the inaugural All-Star Mile, connections of Group 1 winner Manuel are hoping a strong showing in the Australia Stakes could catch the eye of renowned comedian John Cleese, who got behind the Tony McEvoy-trained galloper on social media last year.
At Caulfield tomorrow (Saturday, January 25), the Listed John Dillon Stakes (1400m) features three All-Star Mile nominees aiming to climb the leaderboard: Guizot (24th*), Fox Hall (43rd*) and Yulong January (56th), who is seeking to extend his winning streak to five races.
The other All-Star Mile contender in action at ‘The Heath’ is Lady Lupino (92nd*), one of two nominees from the stable of Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Danny O’Brien.
The sole All-Star Mile hopeful running in Sydney tomorrow is Björn Baker’s Redouble (currently 79th* in the voting), who will be aiming to impress the Randwick racegoers in the Carrington Stakes (1400m).
“With almost 50,000 votes already polled, we have seen a very healthy start to the opening week of All-Star Mile voting,” said Greg Carpenter, Racing Victoria’s Executive General Manager – Racing.
“A fascinating weekend of racing both here and in New Zealand could result in some interesting changes to the leaderboard, and I’m particularly excited to see whether Catalyst can cement his place inside the top 10 with another dominant performance.
“Whilst some voters are understandably taking their time before casting a more strategic vote, others have moved quickly and it is now hard to see the likes of Alligator Blood, Star Missile and Melody Belle not getting a start in the world’s richest mile race.
“We have been delighted with the public’s engagement on both sides of the Tasman, not least as almost $50,000 has been raised for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal through the votes received so far.”