Orr Stakes Change of fortune

Luke Nolen and Moment of Change celebrated a triumphant return to the Group 1 winner’s stall today at Caulfield.

The three-time Victorian Metropolitan Jockeys’ Premiership winner and consistent gelding both broke frustrating elite-level droughts with their victory in the $400,000 Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m).

It was Nolen’s first Group 1 since partnering Black Caviar to victory at her final racetrack appearance, in the T.J. Smith Stakes at Randwick last April, and Moment of Change’s first since his Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes win the previous September.

The five-year-old son of Barely A Moment survived a late charge from Eurozone score narrowly and provide Nolen, who only recently returned from a five-week freshen up, with his 34th Group 1 success.

“It’s been pretty well-publicised that I took a bit of time just to gather the thoughts – it probably was a good time to step away for a bit – so it was good to bounce back with a winner on a Group 1 day,” Nolen said.

It was the fourth time in the past five years Nolen has partnered a Moody-trained runner to Orr Stakes success, following back-to-back wins with Typhoon Tracy in 2010/11 and Black Caviar’s win two years ago.

Moment of Change deservedly joined them on the honour roll after a consistent run that saw him register seven top-four finishes at Group 1 level in between elite-level victories.

The Orr Stakes was the first time he’d started beyond 1200m since the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes and Moody was pleased to see that result in breakthrough win.

“He’s had three runs at seven furlongs here now and he’s undefeated, so that probably speaks for itself,” Moody said.

“It has been a frustrating 12 months, when you get beat 10 times in Group 1s, but the horse has always returned a cheque and always done us very proud and to have him back here at home under these conditions today, it was good to see him salute.”

Moment of Change, who led at a solid tempo, scored by a short-half-head from Eurozone, narrowly denying Bart and James Cummings their maiden Group 1 success together with Shamus Award half-a-length back third.

The Cox Plate winner trailed Moment of Change in the run and did his chances no favours by hanging in in the straight but the colt’s trainer Danny O’Brien was satisfied with the effort.

“He probably just peaked a little bit late, which you’d expect when you’ve done all that work up on the speed,” O’Brien said.

“His target is the Guineas. He’s in great order for it now and he’ll more than likely go straight into that race now. He has had a tough run today, so three weeks into the Guineas will probably be perfect for him.”

The $500,000 Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) is at Flemington on 1 March, while Moment of Change will next be seen in the $500,000 Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) back at Caulfield seven days earlier.

The Orr Stakes success was part of a running double to close out the day for Moody and Nolen, who later combined to win the $150,000 Group 3 Routley’s Bakery Bellmaine Stakes (1200m) with A Time For Julia.

That victory completed a winning treble for Moody, who earlier produced underrated mare Spirits Dance to notch a winning hat-trick in the $135,000 Group 3 Kevin Hayes Stakes (1200m).

Story by Brad Bishop

Courtesy www.racingvictoria.net.au

Diamond gems stand tall

Mike Symons didn’t have a whole lot to smile about midway through this week, but the Melbourne Racing Club chairman was sporting a huge grin with good reason today at Caulfield.

The Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes meeting that appeared in jeopardy due to predicted temperatures of 40 degrees proceeded – from the earlier start time of 11am – without incident and the two most important horses, from the Blue Diamond marketers’ perspective at least, both won.

Boom Sydney youngsters Rubick and Earthquake both justified the hype with victory in their respective $150,000 Group 3 Sportingbet Blue Diamond Preludes.

The efforts have the MRC understandably excited about the two weeks leading up to the $1 million Group 1 Sportingbet Blue Diamond Stakes on 22 February.

“It is exciting and I reckon we’re in for an absolute vintage Blue Diamond,” Symons said. “The two-year-old depth this season is just phenomenal.

“I think we’ll look back at 2014 and say yeah, ‘that was a vintage year’. It certainly feels like a vintage year, anyway.”

Rubick and Earthquake, who were both having their first start in Melbourne after brilliant Sydney debut wins either side of Christmas, were contrasting in their efforts but equally as impressive.

Earthquake overcame being posted wide early and wobbling around the turn to dominate her rivals late, while Rubick’s put a gap on his rivals early in the straight despite working hard for the first 400m to retain a prominent position.

Remarkably, they covered the 1100 metres of their Preludes in the identical time of 1:03.71.

In most other years Rubick’s trainer Gerald Ryan, a man who celebrated Blue Diamond victory with Hurricane Sky and Paint in the mid-1990s, could start planning the victory party for Blue Diamond night.

But not this year.

“We’ve got a really good colt and a really good filly, I reckon,” Ryan said. “It’s not done and dusted yet.

“You’re never across the line, especially in a Group 1, but he got a good pass mark with plenty of ticks today. He’ll improve off it.”

Rubick ($1.55 fav), a son of Encosta de Lago who was ridden to victory by Victorian-raised, Sydney-based jockey Brenton Avdulla, scored by one length from a game Jabali ($21), while Chivalry ($14) flashed home out wide to finish three-quarters-of-a-length away third.

Earthquake had 2-3/4 lengths to spare over Eloping at the end of the fillies’ Prelude, her final 200m – which rounded out a 34.33secs last 600m – the most impressive part of her race.

Trainer Peter Snowden was thrilled with the effort given things didn’t go to plan prior to straightening and is excited about what Diamond Day might hold.

“I was a bit surprised she wanted to wobble around the corner, she had her ears pricked and wanted to lay out a bit, which surprised me because she’s been down here about three weeks,” Snowden said.

“But she’ll take a lot from today’s run. The benefit from being around here (Caulfield) will be a big plus for in a fortnight.”

Earthquake, the $4.80 Blue Diamond second favourite with the TAB prior to the Preludes, is now the $2.40 top pick with Rubick in to $2.70 from his pre-Prelude quote of $2.80.

Last week’s Chairman’s Stakes winner Nayeli, who won’t start again before the Diamond, is at $10, with Chivalry and Nostradamus, the fourth placegetter in the colts and geldings’ Prelude, sharing the $12 fourth line.

Story by Brad Bishop

Courtesy www.racingvictoria.net.au

New Racetrack Ratings

A new definition of track ratings has been released today by the Australian Racing Board (ARB) for input and comment by punters and stakeholders.

In releasing the draft track ratings, ARB CEO Peter McGauran said that an ARB Working Party of officials from Racing NSW, Racing Victoria and Racing Queensland aimed to update and modernize track ratings to meet the expectations of punters and industry participants.

“The object of the exercise was to modernise the terms applying to track ratings for the benefit of punters and the next generation of punters and racegoers whilst describing in detail the footing of the track.” Mr McGauran said.

“The ARB?s aim is to give the racing public and participants the most detailed and easily understood information possible on track conditions. The Working Party agreed that the numerical rating system should be retained as the strongest guide to the going of a track in conjunction with terms more commonly used and understood by punters,” he said.

“We want to take the revision into the marketplace and get the feedback of racing?s customers. Track ratings can be a complex and contentious issue at times and we need to update and streamline the current system whilst not losing its best features.” Mr McGauran said.

The table below summarises the number rating system and description of the numerical rating along with the existing and proposed track rating.

Present Rating – Proposed Rating – Numerical Rating – Description of Numerical Rating
Fast – Firm – 1 – Dry hard track, much firmer than a good track
Good -Firm – 2 – Firm track with a reasonable grass coverage, on the firmer side of good
Good – Good – 3 – Track with a good grass coverage and cushion. Ideal track without being too firm
Dead – Good – 4 – Track with just some give in it. Shouldn?t affect any chances although on the worse side of good
Dead – Soft – 5 – Reasonable amount of give in it, the driest category of rain affected tracks
Slow – Soft – 6 – Not a badly affected track, but will suit some horses more than others; becoming softer
Slow – Soft – 7 – More rain-affected track that will chop out; on the better side of heavy
Heavy – Heavy – 8 – Soft track that horses will get into but not necessarily too wet
Heavy – Heavy – 9 – Softer track getting into squelchy area. Genuine heavy.
Heavy – Heavy – 10 – Very soft and wet track. Heaviest category.