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Can Verry Elleegant continue to reign as the nation's best racehorse? Are Zaaki and Incentivise the real deal?
Will one of this season's outstanding two-year-olds become racing's next superstar?
Is there a relatively unknown equine talent ready to turn potential into performance?
All these questions and more will be answered when the new racing season starts in four weeks and Ray Thomas has asked some of the nation's leading racing experts for their horses to follow in the spring carnival.
Channel 7 and the nation's premier sports presenter
McAvaney, the venerable authority of Australian sport, is expecting big things from rising three-year-old Anamoe, Brisbane winter carnival sensations Incentivise and Zaaki, and also has high regard for Verry Elleegant.
"Anamoe's remarkably consistent and at times unlucky campaign all came to fruition with a dominant victory in the Inglis Sires,'' McAvaney said.
"Potentially he could be aimed at anything from an Everest to a Cox Plate.
"Incentivise's rise to fame has been hard to believe. Few were around when Bernborough came out of Toowoomba but here we have another one.
"The change of trainer to Peter Moody just adds spice to what already is the most interesting current story in Australian racing.
"Zaaki's triple treat in Queensland was stunning. If he can reproduce what he did in the Cup at Doomben, then Verry Elleegant and others are going to see his backside in that final furlong at The Valley.
"But with Verry Elleegant, after eight Group 1 wins including five this season, it probably takes a lot for her to stay 'exciting' but there's nothing like the champ defending her territory.
"Last year, it was all about the Melbourne Cup after a magnificent victory in the Caulfield Cup. This year, you would think it'd be Moonee Valley and the Cox Plate. If she does that, surely the Hall of Fame beckons.''
The Sunday Telegraph's form guru
Dufficy, the "Punter's Pal", has nominated a trio of rising three-year-olds, Anamoe, Artorius and Stay Inside, along with boom galloper Ayrton as the horses that excite him most going into the new season.
"We only got a taste of Anamoe's ability in the autumn with some of his performances showing enormous talent,'' Dufficy said.
"After his soft win in the Sires', he was put away with this spring in mind. Who knows what his targets are but I'd suggest Golden Rose, Everest and even the Cox Plate won't be outside of his range.
"The Blue Diamond winner, Artorius, produced an amazing performance in this year's Golden Slipper after not handling the track at all.
"I concede he'll have to learn from the experience if he returns to Sydney but he oozes talent.
"I'm staying with the young up-and-coming talent and the Golden Slipper winner Stay Inside has to go in.
"He is probably more the sprinting type but he has a great racing 'brain' and is a real push button type. Who knows it might be another year for a three-year-old to win The TAB Everest.
"Ayrton's trainer Mick Price speaks highly of him and although he suffered his first defeat over the Brisbane winter carnival he bounced back at his next start. The Golden Eagle is a lovely target for him.''
Sky Thoroughbred Central
Jelfs, the mounting yard expert who can influence betting markets with her selections, has nominated Zaaki, Harmony Rose, Trifaccia and Artorius as horses to follow this spring.
"I fell in love with Zaaki before his parade in the Doncaster, where he was unlucky at 100/1, but his physical appearance, his strength and athleticism, and graceful action caught my eye,'' Jelfs said.
"But I didn't expect him to perform the way he did up in Queensland so I'm very excited to see him return in the spring.
"Harmony Rose has so much improvement mentally and physically. She was in only her second preparation and was twice Group 1 placed. If she develops in the break she will be winning feature races next season.
"I always like to identify horses like Trifaccia that need more time but are still performing at the top level successfully. Her turn of foot is electric.
"Artorius is a perfect combination of strength and athleticism. His strong physique and height made him look like he would grow into a smart three year old over 1400m-1600."
Racing And Sports, Timeform Australia
Crispe is one of the nation's most renowned form experts and he has nominated a couple from left field, Sword Of State and Wicklow, plus emerging duo Converge and Ayrton.
"Sword Of State is the most exciting juvenile to come out of New Zealand since Our Maizcay and has a high Timeform rating of 115, '' Crispe said.
"Wicklow falls into the 'what's he beaten' category but eight subsequent winners have finished behind him in his first three Australian wins. His closing splits point to him being a horse with much more to offer and he could be an Epsom Handicap hopeful.
"Converge continued to improve with racing, peaking to win the JJ Atkins and impressed as much as any winner of that race in recent times. He clearly stays a mile well, and looks a terrific Guineas candidate.
"Ayrton was a late-season shining light. The bare form of his Eagle Farm Group 3 success probably won't win him much, but he was good enough to run to a Timeform rating of 110 at just his second start and has run over 100 four times in five starts.
"He could develop into a smart miler and that division is wide open going into next season.''
Sky Thoroughbred Central
Joice, a respected form analyst, can't wait to see Stay Inside, Anamoe, Zaaki and Incentivise strut their stuff during the spring carnival
"Stay Inside is an excitement machine,'' Joice said.
"He made a mess of them in the Golden Slipper with his tactical pace and explosive acceleration. He's an ideal type for The Everest.
"Bad barriers cost Anamoe dearly in his two grand finals – the Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper – but his Sires' Produce win whet the appetite for the spring and he is another genuine Everest contender.
"Zaaki is a weight-for-age juggernaut and what we saw during the Queensland winter has me itching for more. An on-pace racing style with a stunning turn of foot makes this rising seven-year-old dangerous in any event he targets.
"Incentivise is the new kid on the block and he is making some serious noise. Demolished his rivals during the Queensland winter with winning margins reserved only for the elite.
"He's set to join the Peter Moody stable, a Cups path is on the agenda and he certainly looks up to the challenge.''
It's hard to argue with the expert opinion of McAvaney, Dufficy, Jelfs, Crispe and Joice but for a point of difference, I've nominated Mount Popa, Mazu, Converge and Orbisyn.
Mount Popa is a very talented imported stayer with Team Hawkes and is on the Cups trail this spring.
The Peter and Paul Snowden stable have some promising rising three-year-olds including Captivant, winner of the Group 1 Champagne Stakes, but they also prepare a lightly-raced colt called Mazu who was a luckless third to Shaquero and Tiger Of Malay in the Pago Pago Stakes and could be a surprise packet come spring.
Converge is by Frankel so his outstanding JJ Atkins win is only a portent of things to come and the David Vandyke-trained Orbisyn, undefeated in four starts, has created such a favourable impression he could be a contender for The Everest and Golden Eagle.
Online article taken from the racenet, published on Sunday, 4th July 2021, Author, Ray Thomas.