The Aurie's Star opens up the stakes-racing season in Melbourne and as always it's an interesting puzzle with plenty first up from a break.
Of the eleven acceptors in the Aurie's Star, only Great Again and longshot The Crusha have been seen in the past month. Great Again shapes as the most solid option in the race having strung consistent performances and ratings together across the winter and he's well set up to do that again.
The little knock against him would be that while he has been consistently running to a level that could well win this, he has done so with good opportunities and it's hard to envisage him producing something much better than that. Reliable but vulnerable.
The obvious alternative is Home Of The Brave who has become fairly hit-and-miss - and even his ratings hits have been in defeat with 13 runs and 700 days having passed since his lone Australian success.
Of course, that is no barrier to winning this. So Si Bon won the race last year having won one of his prior 34 starts. Home Of The Brave has the peaks to knock off Great Again - he meets him on better terms here for only being narrowly edged out by him in the Straight Six back in May - and with much of the field set to be better suited at 1400m next time there's a good chance Home Of The Brave is largely left alone towards the head of affairs under a jockey who will make them pay for slipping him too much rope.
He gets the 'best of the day' stamp on a card that looks a lot less clear cut elsewhere but there are plenty of interesting bits and pieces for each way players. We're giving the nod on that front to Lord Markel in the last - a handicap that doesn't really look made for Saturday's at Flemington but will pay out just the same.
Savvy Lad makes a good deal of sense as favourite here (Pinyin less so...) but Lord Markel has been a talent from day one and did a good job to land a nice handicap first up at Sandown, a race which produced a fast and so far lucrative figure - sixth and seventh both won well at Cranbourne on Wednesday.
That strong rating can continue to pay if Lord Markel can build on his effort there and he looks well set up to do just that. $8.50 looks a good gamble.
THE MELBOURNE MAIL
Bet Of The Day: Race 6 #2 Home Of The Brave @ $4.60
Each Way Play: Race 9 #9 Lord Markel @ $8.50
Racing at Flemington on Saturday, picture Racing Photos