Three weekends in, it is fair to say that spring has started with some gusto in Melbourne. Mr Brightside, Imperatriz, and then Mr Brightside again, have ensured that the feature has gone to a high-class winner on each of three Saturdays in September so far.
It seems that reports of the death of the Melbourne Spring Carnival have been greatly exaggerated. Change always ruffles feathers but sending the Rupert Clarke back to the late spring can (even should) work. Running with the momentum of Cup Week, tracks and horses in full spring bloom among a quiet sporting calendar and with the festive season in sight; November is a great time for racing.
September is also great for racing of course, but it can be a time of 'blockbuster fatigue', and a quieter Sunday after Grand Final Day is welcome. Certainly Saturday's Underwood meeting has lost nothing. The feature returns to it's Saturday slot and draws a full field including the defending champion, with the stature to continue September's roll of high-class winners, and no less than two Coongy winners!
Duais v Nonconformist is a juicy subplot for Coongy enthusiasts but Alligator Blood is front of house - in terms of the betting, the ratings, and the map.
Being handy counts for plenty and that is assured with Alligator Blood who will have company up front this week but no Mr Brightside to fend off.
In the past decade the Underwood winner has come from no further back than fifth and the median position in running has been third.
Small, tactical fields and the last two have been at the fast-finishing Sandown you say. Fair enough, but cast the net wider to include the past ten runnings of the Naturalism over an extra furlong (and always with a big field) and the trend holds.
Only one of the past ten winners has come from off pace and the median position in-running of winners has been third.
In the feature the early betting seems to recognise that and edges, if there are any, are fine but in the Naturalism the waters are a bit muddier and there might be a bit more potential for mistake.
One such potential mistake is the $21.00 being bet about Uncle Bryn - runner up in this race last year and every bit as good now as he was then.
Uncle Bryn has settled nowhere in two runs this time in; outpaced and outclassed in the Lawrence before going back in a slowly run Heatherlie and never having a chance to get involved. Now he draws four, he's fit, and surely the plan is to get involved, as he did last year when pressing hard at the corner only to be outmuscled by a then in-the-zone Smokin' Romans who went on and won the Turnbull.
Four runs in 2023 could be read to say that Uncle Bryn has stalled but we now see him third up and out beyond a mile for the first time in 12 months and his ratings are there to say that he retains his ability. Given a potentially positive scenario, 20-1 undersells his chances.
The race prior is the Guineas Prelude and features a clash between the McNeil and the McKenzie winner along with horses that finished well behind them last time.
Veight and Steparty are both bright prospects for the Guineas itself; the one loss in eight races between them being Veight's ATC Sires fourth in testing conditions.
Neither could be considered spectacular winners of their lead-ups but both were up to scratch historically, with that meaning slightly more in the McNeil than it does in the McKenzie.
That leaves Veight slightly ahead on deeds to date but the betting goes the other way. ** Potential Bet Klaxon **
It would be remiss not to mention that two weeks back the Melbourne Mail put up a similar case to side with Brave Mead over Steparty when the betting picked that one despite very similar profiles.
The betting was right, the Mail was wrong, but there was little between them all things considered and Veight's case and profile is stronger than Brave Meads. We go again...
THE MELBOURNE MAIL
Bet Of The Day: Race 7 #2 Veight @ $4.00 with bet365
Each Way Play: Race 8 #8 Uncle Bryn @ $21.00 with bet365
Caulfield hosts the Underwood Stakes programme on Saturday, picture Racing Photos