Miss Pandanus out to continue unbeaten start
Cranbourne trainer Mick Kent is set to unleash his unbeaten Street Boss filly in town for the first time, looking to build on her wins at Geelong and Sale in the past month. She gets her third jockey too for start three, with Kent's go-to apprentice Ethan Brown in the saddle after Beau Mertens and Craig Williams posted wins on her previously. Up to 1400m for the first time will be interesting for her, as will the rise in class - Magnesium Rose is down to back-up off a Caulfield win on Saturday, while Seductive Miss and Jealous Tycoon are other last-start winners. Naantali, Glayva and Absolute Heaven are also those to have won in their current prep, to make for a competitive opener. However, it is Mick Price's O'Reilly filly Shalwa - runner-up in four of her past five starts - that occupies early favouritism at $4.20.
Rising Stars Series a two-jockey race
While the final itself is a standalone race, the coveted prize as overall series winner of the initiative is down to Steph Thornton and Brown. Thornton holds a four-point lead from Brown ahead of Saturday, with Brown riding the Darren Weir-trained Ma Jones, while Thornton is aboard the Chris Waller-trained So Splendid. With 12 points for a win, six for second and four for third being the main points attainable, it could make for an interesting footnote should that pair be in a fighting finish to the 1700-metre race.
Macedon Lodge weigh in with two runners
Liam Howley, who trains for Hall of Fame owner Lloyd Williams, has his first Saturday runners in two months, with Crocodile Rock (2500m) and Kilimanjaro (2000m) both resuming. Crocodile Rock, a six-year-old Galileo gelding, is out to improve his impressive career Down Under having not missed a place in six starts, including two wins at Ladbrokes Park. The punters are always onto him too - albeit defeats at $2.90 (x2), $1.70 and $3.60 - and again they're keen to have him, opening a $2.60 favourite ahead of Weir's Thunder Cloud ($3.40). Kilimanjaro is set for his fourth Australian start, and he's raced exclusively at Flemington - including two close placings. Given it's a week we've been combining mountain peaks with racing - yes, the introduction of the Kosciuszko on Everest Day - he might be the omen bet to bank his first win in Australia.
Jaameh pops up head for Shadwell, Hayes
Lindsay Park has just one runner compared to Weir's five and Waller's three in the K.A. Morrison Handicap (2000m), but it certainly is an interesting one with Jaameh back for his second Australian start. The Iffraaj gelding delivered on his debut Down Under when he drifted from $17-$41 but motored down Hursley at Caulfield in April. Hayes said in his stable update on Thursday: "I love Jaameh. He's a horse to follow going into the spring."
Benchmark 78 fetches 20 acceptors plus four emergencies
In a clear sign of trainers and owners with restricted-grade horses gunning for a run, the $60,000 race on Saturday's card has clearly been the most sought after for a ticket. So much so, the unbeaten Eduardo from the stable of Sarah Zschoke has to wait on a run as first emergency. The rarely used '24' saddlecloth could be dusted off at the weekend, and it is currently reserved for fourth emergency Zamperini, a six-year-old mare from the Matthew Brown stable. Six of the 20 inside the final field as it stands are first-up.
Derby, Oaks ballot exemption up for grabs
There is more on the line than $120,000 in Saturday's Byerley Handicap (1800m), with the chance to be exempt from the ballot for two of Victoria's famous races for spring three-year-olds - being the $2 million AAMI Victoria Derby, and/or the $1m Kennedy Oaks. The field is split as five colts, two geldings and four fillies. Four of the 11 are winners already, but the whole crew are stepping out to nine furlongs for the first time.