Worth a second look...

It’s standard practice to select a handful of horses from a number of different races when reviewing a weekend program such as Flemington last Saturday. However, the Makybe Diva Stakes was such a compelling event, all the horses we discuss in this week’s column are from just the one race. The others can be left to another time.

Incentivise couldn't have done too much more on Group 1 debut last Saturday, picture Racing Photos

Queenslander INCENTIVISE came, saw and conquered, coming through his biggest test to date with a 9.9-out-of-10. 

Never tested at anything like Saturday’s level beforehand, the immensely progressive son of Shamus Award could have easily passed his first test with an admirable second or close-up third, but showed the fight of a truly top-class racehorse despite his lack of exposure in such elite company.

The only conclusion to draw from his Makybe Diva Stakes victory is that Incentivise is the real deal and that only natural improvement in fitness and race savvy will see him the horse to beat in whichever race he takes part in this spring.

While the Cups are supposed to be his primary targets, Incentivise races like a genuine W.S. Cox Plate contender and it would come as no surprise to see him lining-up at Moonee Valley on October 23.

Saturday’s placegetters MO’UNGA (NZ) and SIR DRAGONET (IRE) didn’t do too much wrong in the Makybe Diva either and are very firmly amongst the best weight-for-age horses in this part of the world.

A gutsy winner of the Group 1 Winx Stakes over 1400m first-up from a spell, Mo’Unga would have added Flemington’s feature Group 1 mile event to his CV if it had not been for Incentivise and is already a winner (of the Rosehill Guineas) at the highest level over 2000m.

Mo’Unga has earned his place in all of the major middle-distance race to be contested over the next few months and seems certain to prove competitive in each and every one.

Written off on more than one occasion in the past, Sir Dragonet is right up ‘there’ with the best of them on his day and is clearly in great shape for his W.S. Cox Plate defence based on his narrow defeat in third.

In addition to being earmarked for another major performance in the Cox Plate, it is not to be forgotten that the son of Camelot was also a very impressive winner of the Group 1 Tancred Stakes over 2400m during the autumn in Sydney and is just as effective over the Classic trip. 

After only 18 career starts, there’s plenty of ‘mileage’ left in Sir Dragonet's legs and another noteworthy campaign is well and truly underway judging by Saturday’s effort.

The all-conquering Godolphin stable is taking all before it overseas and must be delighted with the progress COLETTE is making in this neck of the woods this campaign.

Taken right back to the tail of the field from a wide draw again on Saturday, the Group 1 Oaks winning daughter of Hallowed Crown made up a considerable amount of ground in the straight for the second time running and is gaining in race fitness each time she faces the starter.

Colette is now due to make her presence felt in an upcoming assignment and only needs a favourable barrier draw to take part in a major race finish in the coming weeks. 

With entries for five Group 1 events from the 1600 metres of the Epsom Handicap to the 3200 metres of the Melbourne Cup, the placement of Colette at her next few starts should be monitored closely.

IMAGING (GB) has now had a dozen runs in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane without a win but must be mighty close in breakthrough for his first success since March 2020.

An imported member of the Chris Waller stable, Imaging hasn’t been running poorly — it’s just that he’s been competing in the silk department and very few things have gone his way.

Like Colette who finished marginally in front of him in Saturday’s assignment, this 7-year-old son of Oasis Dream is now as ready as he’ll ever be to break back into the winning ranks and is a genuine chance of winning a very good race in the coming weeks. And especially so on a rain affected surface as a proven wet-tracker.

All things considered, Japanese import KEIAI NAUTIQUE (JPN) might have only finished seventh of 12 but arguably turned in the best performance of the race.

Found last in the field with 400 metres to race, Keiai Nautique charged home over the closing stages and ran right through the finishing line in a hugely encouraging performance for his trainer Matthew Smith and the entire’s connections.

A quick glance through his Japanese record indicates that the 7-year-old son of Deep Impact was essentially regarded as a specialist miler and has actually recorded his only three wins to date over the distance.

Warwick Farm-based Matthew Smith excelled in placing Keiai Nautique’s full-brother Fierce Impact (Jpn) to Group 1 mile success in Melbourne during his stellar career and has a ready-made replacement going on Saturday’s evidence.

Don’t write-off AEGON (NZ) going on his lacklustre effort deep in the Flemington straight as the quality son of Sacred Falls has a legitimate excuse.

Fourth turning for home and traveling with a full head of steam, Aegon appeared capable of bolting-in when making rapid progress at the top of the straight before dropping out and falling through the field in alarming fashion.

A subsequent veterinary examination showed that Aegon bleed from one nostril but not two, putting his spring campaign temporarily on hold but not totally on the shelf.

No horse was traveling better than Aegon entering the final stages of the Makybe Diva before his ‘health issue’ took its toll. Reports since suggest that connections will now look at the $7.5 million Golden Eagle (1500m) in late October and a fit and well Aegon could give it a mighty shake.