With the spring racing carnival in full swing in Australia, and the spring Wallaby tour about to commence, I thought I would try and combine the two. It is surprising how transferable some of the descriptions from an equine form guide can be translated to our Wallaby runners.
Below is my appraisal of how where our lads are up to in their preparations.
James O’Connor – Boom colt who has struggled with the step up in class. Did well on the Northern tracks last spring but is running out of chances and must start delivering consistent performances.
Lachie Turner – A sprinter of some promise but fails to finish off his races. Likely improver
Drew Mitchell – Struggles on wet-tracks and will be tested by the going. A poor showing last start and is unlikely to find the upcoming races any easier
Peter Hynes – Last preparation disrupted by injury but a proven performer at this level and must come into contention. Will be running on at the end from a wide barrier draw
Digby Ioane – Coming back from a spell. Yet to prove himself in this class but showed great provincial form when racing from an inside barrier rather than his usual wide alley. Expect bold showing
Rob Horne – Untried at this distance and is yet to show any sort of form. May give a sight in the lesser races but will not rate in the majors.
Adam Ashley-Cooper – Races well over all distances and barrier draws don’t seem to affect him. Goes well on Northern tracks. One of the main chances
Stirling Mortlock – Ageing stayer who looks past his best but still all class and could produce on his day. More than likely his last campaign before retirement. Cannot be dismissed but looking to others
Ryan Cross – An honest galloper who has the size to trouble others but unlikely to feature.
Berrick Barnes (vice-capt) – Can race handy to the pace or come from behind. Pulled up lame after his first Northern start last year and will be looking to atone. Recently changed stables and can never be underestimated.
Kurtley Beale – Finished his last provincial track preparation strongly and benefited from a change of barrier. Yet to see at this level but expect strong showing if the conditions suit, could feature in the finish.
Quade Cooper – Sparkled on the Italian and English tracks last year but since then has not reached the same heights. Facing tougher opposition this time around. Include as a roughie only.
Matt Giteau – Disappointed his trainer when well beaten at last start. Looks to have plenty to do this trip but will no doubt start favourite again. Might be considering full time move to the Northern tracks. Has raced most weeks since February and may need spelling.
Will Genia – Only lightly raced but has shown rapid improvement and is looking for more distance. A dark-horse but could surprise.
Luke Burgess – Hard to enthuse after recent outings. Looks to have too much improvement to make but could give a sight at long odds. Others have more appeal
Richard Kingi – Only trial form to go on but trainer has high expectations. More than likely a teaser pony to get Burgo out of his slump but could surprise if he gets a run.
Richard Brown – Spelled after a string of disappointing runs last preparation where he incurred the wrath of the stewards on more than one occasion. May need to be gelded in order to curb his flightiness
Wycliff Palu – Big hearted goer who sadly lacks staying power. Looks a capable type and could spring a surprise over short distances.
David Pocock – Returns after a few solid efforts in the winter and is knocking on the door of something bigger. Fought off the challenge from some more fancied opposition to win his place in this field and is worth following.
George Smith – Tends to get back in the field and doesn’t like to lead, something the trainer has recognised. Likes these circuits and is a proven winner over the distance. Will be doing his best work at the end of the race and is one of the more fancied.
Rocky Elsom (capt) – Did well over a long period on the heavy tracks of the North. A stayer in the true sense of the word. Looks well placed here and is the stables’ top chance. Should contest strongly
Matt Hodgson – Another who has been lightly raced. Seems to prefer to the firmer Perth tracks and may struggle in the going. A mid-week specialist at best as others seem to have his measure.
David Dennis – Unsigned to any stable for next year. First start, betting moves will be the guide with no trial form.
Mitchell Chapman – Steps up in class here but form suggests he is looking for more distance and this could suit. Untried but not the roughest.
Dean Mumm – Wins have proven hard to come by but an honest toiler who is capable of mixing it in this company and barrier draws don’t bother him. Not the worst
Mark Chisholm – Shown enough on recent outings to measure up in this field. Looked comfortable in the conditions last tour although raced sparingly. Pay to forget last start. Must come into calculations.
James Horwill – Honest galloper but tends to race off the pace. Does best work from inside barriers and doesn’t mind the rough and tumble of big races. Capable of better than current form suggests. Could surprise
Benn Robinson – Was doing his best work at the end of the winter and always a strong performer despite whatever handicap is thrown at him. Enjoys the run given by the inside barriers and expected to feature prominently in the finish.
Ben Alexander – Raced well on the Italian tracks last year but failed to go on with the job. Recent form is encouraging and cannot be ruled out. Questions remain about his form on heavy tracks but expect forward showing.
Pek Cowan – Stepped up in distance over the last few runs but not a proven performer in this company. Requires favourable barrier to be competitive. Place chance looks best.
Sekope Kepu – Long odds and trailed the field home in this event last year eventually pulling up lame. Showed some potential but first up from a spell this looks to be beyond him.
Salesi Ma’afu – Likely to need another run or two but could provide some interest in the mid-week fields. Only included due to other runners being put to pasture. Rough chance but improvement needed.
Matt Dunning – The top weight. Needs firm tracks to show his best and did a near-side fetlock in heavy going in the same event last year. Capable of a bold showing but his last performance on these tracks suggest looking to others.
Stephen Moore – A Northern specialist who cannot be ruled out of contention. Beat all favourites in his last starts on these tracks but struggled at the end of the winter. Races well fresh and improvement wouldn’t surprise.
Tatafu Polota-Nau – Doesn’t have the prettiest action but form of late is hard to fault. Yet to run the full distance but plenty to like with recent runs under his belt and will give a decent sight at longish odds.