Saturday, 4 August 2012
: Lights, Camera, Action are appropriate terms for this afternoon's Moonee Valley race meeting.
| Philda in full stride|
Photo by Racing and Sports
It will be the first Valley meeting of the new racing season at the popular inner city Melbourne track and the first meeting since the race surface was rejuvenated some four months ago.
The meeting will also see the return to race riding in Australia, albeit only briefly, by internationally acclaimed rider Craig Williams who was called upon earlier in the week to give the new surface the thumbs up following a track gallop.
Williams has five good rides on the eight race card this afternoon but possibly none better than course specialist Philda who contests the feature McLeod Mile Handicap over 1600m.
The four-time Scobie Breasley medallist, Williams has not ridden in Australian since late April but that will not be a concern for punters who fancy Philda, Williams having already piloted the eight-year-old gelding to two wins and a placing from only four rides.
Philda who usually saves his best for the off season, has raced seven times this campaign but has yet to salute the judge in any of those runs, the closest finish being fourth two starts back over 1600m at Caulfield behind Forty Thirty.
His last start failure can be overlooked as he was totally unsuited in slow ground over 1800m at Flemington, a distance that is just too far for him.
A five time winner on the Moonee Valley course, Philda has not won a race since this time last year at the Valley where he defeated subsequent G1 winner December Draw in a strong performance.
A repeat of that effort would see him go close to victory. A natural free going galloper, there does not appear to be a lot early speed here, something that Williams is certain to make good use of.
I can see Williams dictating the pace on Philda and a return close to top form easily sees him as the top Timeform
rated runner on adjusted weight ratings.
The main dangers should come from the stable of last year's premier Melbourne trainer, Peter Moody, Cosmic Causeway and Oregon Spirit being the horses in question.
Cosmic Causway has been in top form of late winning four of his 14 race starts in the last twelve months including a courageous second at Caulfield last time out in open class over 1800m behind Lyonell.
At his start prior he and Philda met over 1600m at Caulfield where a head separated the pair in Cosmic Causeway's favour behind Forty Thirty and on adjusted weight Timeform ratings there is again little between the pair.
Chris Symons who has won on Cosmic Causeway from just one ride will be reunited with the gelding this afternoon and as a winner on the Moonee Valley course, he looms as the main danger to Philda.
Stablemate Oregon Spirit is the improver in the field and as such commands considerable respect.
A winner of four of his 19 race starts, the lightly raced five-year-old has raced twice since a spell and is now close to top form.
Fresh up he was an eye catching fourth over 1200m at Caulfield then 18 days later stepped up to 1400m at Sandown over 1400m on heavy ground only to be unluckily beaten in a close finish by Rock Princess.
That form has already been franked with that mare winning again at her following start.
Oregon Spirit has never missed a place third up from a spell, winning once and placing twice and he is yet to miss a place at Moonee Valley in five starts recording one win.
Regular rider Jason Benbow retains the mount this afternoon and I envisage him getting a lovely trail into the race from his inside barrier draw.
Stoneblack and Spacecraft round out the main hopes for the multiples.
Stoneblack can be a little unreliable but did return to winning form two back over 1800m at Sandown on heavy ground winning as he liked by over five lengths.
Last start behind Lyonell over 1800m at Caulfield he had a tough run under Thomas Sadler dropping out of contention on the home turn.
A return to a stronger senior rider in Nick Hall who is a two time winner aboard Stoneblack is a clear sign of a better showing today.
One time up–and-comer Spacecraft is on the comeback trail after 680 days without a win.
Now with David Hayes, Spacecraft third up from a spell, disappointed last time out but there were genuine excuses. His previous two runs were solid rating efforts and keep him under notice.
Enjoy the return of Craig Williams to the Valley.