Winx's pursuit of a third-straight Group 1 George Main Stakes at Randwick quite rightly holds top billing as this weekend’s racing highlight, but it’s not as if followers of Victorian racing don’t have anything to get excited about.
The Makybe Diva Stakes meeting at Flemington has gathered a typically brilliant array of talent.
Below are five major points of interest at the fixture that will no doubt once again prove a key Spring Carnival form reference.
5 - Furrion’s biggest test (Race 9, 5.30pm)
Only two of Saturday’s nine races do not contain Black Type, so it is a mark of just how highly regarded Furrion is that his appearance is considered one of the meeting highlights. Darren Weir’s imported son of Camelot created a massive reputation in his initial campaign, which produced three wins and a second, and proved he had not gone backwards when a brilliant first-up winner at Geelong. Is already being spoken of as a potential Cups horse in 2019 and this 1700m handicap will prove telling regarding what might be achievable this spring.
4 -Cracking Cap D’Antibes (Race 2, 1.05pm)
The Cap D’Antibes Stakes only carries Listed status, but it would shock if there were a couple of Group 1 performers among this year’s assembly of 3YO fillies. Multaja and Smart Melody share the top line of betting in BetEasy’s Thousand Guineas market, but whether the head that way is likely to be determined by how they perform on Saturday. Music Bay is definitely Guineas-bound and it was interesting to hear her trainer Phillip Stokes suggest she has similar ability to Assertive Play, who should have won last week’s Atlantic Jewel Stakes at The Valley. Sweet Rockette – who defeated Multaja last start – Setsuna and Thine Is The Power, among others, add depth to the 1100m event.
3 - Elation out, but still a deep Danehill (Race 8, 4.50pm)
The $200,000 G2 lost a drawcard when brilliant Sydney filly Pure Elation did not accept due to injury, but there’s still plenty of reason to pay close attention to the race that includes Black Caviar, Sepoy, Snitzerland, Rich Enuff and Catchy among its recent winners. Native Soldier, a son of Sepoy, won like Black Caviar in the McNeil Stakes and is the deserved favourite but has a more-than-handy field of rivals, including Queensland visitor Ef Troop, classy local Marcel From Madrid, McKenzie Stakes runner-up Tavisan and Ocean Knight.
2 - Brutal test for 3YOs (Race 4, 2.15pm)
The Antler Luggage Plate - aka: Exford Plate - was one of the most anticipated races on last year’s Makybe Diva Stakes card and, thanks to Brutal, that’s again the case this year. If the 1400m event is half as exciting as last year, when Royal Symphony came from a seemingly-impossible position to score a last-stride win, racegoers are in for a treat. Brutal’s only two starts have yielded victories, one a gap job and the other by a slender margin, and his claims to Caulfield Guineas favouritism depend of how he fares here against the likes of Declarationofheart, The August, Leonardo Da Hinchi and Good ‘N’ Fast.
1 - Marvellous Makybe Diva (Race 7, 4.10pm)
Twelve runners, eight of them Group 1 winners and the ones that aren’t (yet) can safely be called bona fide G1 performers. Humidor returns to defend his crown, fresh off a surprise Memsie Stakes win, with the placegetters from that G1 – Kementari and Caulfield Cup favourite Kings Will Dream – back for another crack at him. Add to them Epsom and Doncaster winner Happy Clapper, ever-improving Sydneysider Comin’ Through, Australian Guineas winner Grunt, five-time G1 winner Black Heart Bart, classy Kiwi Jon Snow and fascinating Japanese import Tosen Basil and you’ve got the ingredients for one of the great renewals of the VRC’s first G1 of the season.
Grunt winning at Flemington, picture Quentinjlang.com