Aurie's Star appeals to many types

Some might consider it ironic that the Aurie's Star Handicap, a race named after a sprinting great of the 1930s and '40s, was for a long time looked upon as a key guide to the spring 'majors'.

Bart Cummings brought a spotlight to the race, which was initially run on a Wednesday, by using it as a launching pad for stayers he was directing towards the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

Cummings did that regularly in the 1970s and '80s, while his 11th Melbourne Cup winner - Rogan Josh - had his first start for the Cups King in the 1200-metre event on August 25, 1999.

Cummings also used it as a spring starter for Magical Miss in 2002, by which time it had moved to the second Sunday in August, but the VRC Oaks winner had the misfortune of bumping into Fields Of Omagh, who later that spring beat home all bar champion Northerly in the Caulfield Cup.

The Aurie's Star Handicap is now the showcase event of the VRC's first meeting of the season, generally the second Saturday in August, and although it hosted the likes of El Segundo, Zipping and Niconero in the few years following the move to Saturday, of late it has appealed to a different type of horse.

The 2011 edition, won by subsequent G1 winner Temple Of Boom, included that spring's Cox Plate third placegetter (Rekindled Interest), Caulfield Cup runner-up (Green Moon) and a horse who went around $10 in the Melbourne Cup (At First Sight), but it has been no guide to the majors since.

Not one of the past six Aurie's Stars have included a horse who has contested either of the Cups or the Cox Plate later that preparation.

It has become a target race for sprinters with Tiger Tees winning the G2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) the start after his 2014 success, while last year's winner Hey Doc landed the G1 Manikato Stakes two months later.

Those type of performances are more in line with the achievements of the horse after whom the race was named, with Aurie's Star a winner of the biggest sprints Victoria and South Australia had to offer.

The son of Stardrift was the first horse to win the Oakleigh Plate twice, in 1937 and 1939, also won a Newmarket Handicap and Goodwood Handicap and set a Flemington six-furlong (1200m) record that stood for 50 years.

Despite missing his entire 11-year-old season, he won as a 12-year-old and retired with a record of 89 starts for 28 wins, 12 visits to the runner-up stall and four third placings.

The 2018 Aurie's Star Handicap has attracted its share of quality sprinters well-known to Australian racing fans, including Voodoo Lad (59kg), Rich Charm (57.5kg) and I Am A Star (56.5kg), plus one they are not so familiar with.

James Cummings will unveil his English import Home Of The Brave, the joint 59kg topweight, and while he has loftier goals he considers it the ideal introduction to Australian racing.

"While he's had a solid preliminary foundation for this, he will no doubt show improvement through the run as he gets more accustomed to how races unfold here," he said of the Starspangledbanner seven-year-old, a dual Group 3 winner in the UK.

"As a racy and sharp style of horse, he should still show the speed required to be competitive among these horses."
One of those rivals is a horse whose connections will be hoping to reinstate the Aurie's Star Handicap as a key guide to the majors.

Poetic Dream has had one more start in Australia than Home Of The Brave, a fifth placing over 1400m at Flemington in March, but co-trainers David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig remain confident the German recruit has Group 1 ability capable of carrying him all the way to the Cox Plate.

The son of Poet's Voice, who gets in on Saturday with 54.5kg, had a soft trial at Wodonga on July 16 before sizzling in a Flemington jumpout two Fridays ago.

It's a long way from a 1200-metre Group 3 in early August to Australia's premier weight-for-age middle-distance contest, but this year's Aurie's Star might be worth keeping an eye on for much of what happens in between at the very least.

Racing at Flemington on Saturday, picture