Timeform recap the 2017 Orr Stakes meeting where Black Heart Bart took out the feature for trainer Darren Weir.
The 2017 Orr Stakes meeting looks the precursor to a massive month of racing in Melbourne with plenty to take out of what was a deep card of racing. Timeform highlight four key talking points from the meeting.
The Darren Weir juggernaut won't be slowing down in 2017
The first Group 1 of 2017, The Orr Stakes, went to Darren Weir. It's a new year but it's business as usual for Weir and his stable star Black Heart Bart.
Black Heart Bart returned to his peak Timeform rating of 126 winning the Orr Stakes, a rating only matched or bettered in the recent history of the race by Black Caviar and Redoute's Choice.
It was a strong Orr Stakes, with nine Group 1 winners and eleven horses rated 120 or higher, and it run along at a genuine pace by a revitalised Turn Me Loose, leaving the form looking true. If 2016 had left any doubt Bart was quick to remind all in 2017 that he is the boss around (a Winx-less) Caulfield.
Black Heart Bart is the best horse Darren Weir has trained judged on Timeform ratings - his top three on that measure were all in the Orr Stakes with Black Heart Bart's 126 followed closely by Lucky Hussler at 125 and Palentino 124 - but his other winner on the card, Burning Front Horseform, is surely held in similar regard around the stable.
Burning Front is the quintessential Darren Weir-trained horse. Classy, for sure, but better described as resilient, tough and reliable.
He won the Carlyon Cup for the second year in a row, running as well as he ever has by returning a Timeform rating of 114, and will no doubt keep on keeping on. The runner-up Humidor is a work in progress, another keeping residence at Weir's stables, is a work in progress but he might be the more talented.
Humidor is also rated 114 by Timeform but while Burning Front is at that level doing everything right Humidor is there doing plenty wrong. There could be a good deal more to come from the former Kiwi.
Black Heart Bart and Brad Rawiller, picture Quentinjlang.com
Chautuaqua isn't finished with just yet
Black Heart Bart is back to his best but that's not the case with sprint star Chautauqua Horseform who was turned over for the third time since coming back from winning in Hong Kong.
Punters are paid on wins and losses, so horses are often judged by them, but it's rarely so simple. The grey flash Chautauqua was again beaten in the Rubiton Stakes but his third-placed performance returned a Timeform rating of 116 which actually bettered his rating when winning the same race in 2015 - albeit by just a pound.
Post-race talk seemed to focus on Chautauqua lacking his customary dash but the clock suggested otherwise. He was home in 33.04, well inside standard, and comfortably the best closing speed in the fastest closing race on the card.
Anecdotally it may have been the case, but closer inspection of Chautauqua shows that an electric burst of speed has never really been his weapon. He works through his gears before sustaining his top speed for longer than most can. He thrives on high pressure and has always been vulnerable when the early pressure is low. Get him back into a race where the leaders are up around the red line and we'll see how he's really going.
The Blue Diamond horses are an even lot
The last 600m sections of the Blue Diamond Preludes are a fine illustration of the even nature of this current two-year-old group, the fillies home in 34.21 v the colts 34.20.
The fillies ran 0.14 seconds (roughly 4/5ths of a length) faster than the colts overall but both races hovered very close to historical averages for the race - the two-year-old crop overall is tracking around the averages everywhere we look.
Unless something bursts onto the scene in the next week, Fillies Prelude winner Catchy will narrowly head the Timeform ratings going into the Blue Diamond but by the barest of margins.
While she has done everything required of her to this point, and the way she lifted to the line on Saturday has us thinking that she can prove better than her current rating of 111p, the Diamond is lacking a stand-out, and that's just fine. It will be a terrific betting contest and we need the mundane to properly appreciate when the Sepoy's and Extreme Choice's do come along.
Catchy, picture Quentinjlang.com
Some of the gloss has come off the three-year-olds
In the springtime there was plenty of hype around the three-year-old group and Timeform were at the head of the cheer squad. The Golden Rose and the Coolmore were vintage editions and Extreme Choice, Star Turn and I Am A Star were able to cut down their elders in feature carnival races with ease.
Despite that, the Caulfield Guineas, typically the pièce de résistance for spring three-year-olds, registered on the historical low end of Timeform's scale, with the winner Divine Prophet posting a performance that looked more Wonderful World than Whobegotyou. His autumn return, a non-threatening ninth in the Orr Stakes, was inglorious.
As mentioned earlier, the Orr Stakes was particularly strong in 2017, and we don't want to be too downcast about Divine Prophet who will hopefully improve sharply for the run.
But Divine Prophet's run could hardly be given any more than a pass mark and his contemplates earlier on the card contested an Autumn Stakes that was Group 2 in name only. Add to that last week's Manfred, which was slowly run and left us with very little to take away, and some gloss has come off the group.
It's a long way from doom and gloom, however, as next week we can expect to see the covers taken off a couple of the crop's top seeds, Flying Artie and Star Turn, so our fears could well be allayed in a matter of sleeps.