Guard of Honour to salute at Moonee Valley

Guard of Honour ridden by Ben E Thompson heads to the barrier before the Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield Racecourse on February 25, 2017. Ross Holburt/Racing Photos via Getty Images


Moonee Valley Race 2 No.4 Guard of Honour (Damien Oliver) - $5.50

From day one Guard of Honour has been a smart short-course galloper and when things go his way in a race he can look even better than that.

He likes two things; a dry track and no more than 1000 metres. Given both on Saturday at Moonee Valley, he has his best chance to show what he's capable of, in what looks like an extremely suitable race.

On paper, punters may see a horse that has run seventh and eighth at his two starts this preparation when well in the market, but there were genuine excuses in both. He was wide at the Sunny Coast, giving weight to all, then he lumped 64 kilos at Newcastle and just grinded late under the big impost, rather than showing his customary dash.

From a good draw, Damien Oliver will be able to give him a perfect run here, probably settling him midfield, hopefully one off the fence. I just can't get out of my head that win at Canberra earlier this year when he smashed Spending to Win, a horse that has beaten a field similar to this already this spring. If Guard of Honour gets close to that performance, he'll be winning this.


Moonee Valley Race 3 No.2 Savatiano (Kerrin McEvoy) - $2.15

Barring the bad luck that cruelled her last start, I just can't see how Savatiano will lose on Saturday. It's only the skinny quote that stopped her from being my best bet this week.

Kerrin McEvoy unfortunately ended up in a very awkward position last start and once he got out of it, the bird had flown. Invincibella was lengths clear, and although Savatiano flew the last bit, it was too late. I'm sure McEvoy will be hungry to make amends for that here.

She's obviously flying this preparation and has certainly stepped up as a group class mare. She should prove that again now and grab her second black type win this spring.

Moonee Valley Race 6 No.1 El Dorado Dreaming (Damian Lane) - $6

After a cracking first-up run in the Tranquil Star, El Dorado Dreaming put in a poor one in the Thousand Guineas on the back of some tactics that, for whatever reason they were implemented, did not pan out.

I'm not sure why she was so close there, she's a filly that has always been ridden cold. The eventual winner of the race, Amphitrite, came from well back in the field, which was understandable given the pressure applied to El Dorado Dreaming's stablemate and race favourite Smart Melody in the middle parts of the race. It was just a strange move, undertaken for no obvious reason.

Surely from the wide gate here they go back. I get that, on paper, there doesn't look to be a heap of speed engaged here, but, if Damian Lane has to make a sustained run on her approaching the side, with the extra fitness under her belt, and the class she has on the field, I think the Sires' Produce winner from the Autumn can handle it and prove too good in the end.

Randwick Race 5 No.6 Zofonic Dancer (Jeff Lloyd) - $7.50

I think this Queensland visitor is a really good galloper, who has been proven on both dry and wet surfaces. I can see Zofonic Dancer being highly competitive on Saturday with Robert Heathcote finding a suitable race for him with the blackout on in Brisbane.

Jeff Lloyd, the evergreen leading Brisbane rider, should be able to give Zafonic Dancer a perfect run behind what looks to be an average speed at best and have him ready to produce once they top the rise. His last two wins at the Sunshine Coast and Doomben have been full of merit, both hard-fought, but he displayed a solid will to win on both occasions. That should serve him well here and moving forward.


Moonee Valley Race 7 No.3 Sovereign Nation (Dwayne Dunn) - $12

He has run in good company his entire career, and although Sovereign Nation isn't a horse that wins that often, he's a quality miler. I think he's come back well this preparation and is ready to peak for Saturday's Crystal Mile.

Around this time last year, he ran two cracking races in a pair of Group Ones, when a close up fourth in the Sir Rupert Clarke and a slightly unlucky second in the Toorak. This year, they again went fresh into the Sir Rupert, but he was probably a touch too close in the run there, before they dropped him back in grade last start to a listed 1400 metre race at Flemington. Under a big weight, he didn't pick up as quick as he can, but he hit the line well late and he raced liked he wants a mile now.

He's a winner of the Stutt Stakes earlier in his career over this track and distance, his lone start here, and he gets the blinkers back on now, which he's performed well in previously. He's set to improve markedly for this and the double figure odds on offer are very appealing indeed.


Manikato Stakes - No.8 US Navy Flag (Ryan Moore) - $6.50

I am one of Sunlight's biggest fans, and I'll certainly have something on her here as well, but if US Navy Flag has recovered from his Everest outing where he failed, like many others, to handle that extremely wet surface, he is going to be awfully hard to hold out.

He has the speed to take a prominent position in running here, and from an inside draw, I can see Ryan Moore looking to potentially track Tony McEvoy's fantastic filly. I don't think he'd be wanting to let her get too far ahead of him with the big pull in the weights that she has, and if he's close enough as they turn for home, I can envisage him being too strong for her late in what looks to be a fantastic race.

Cox Plate - Straight out Trifecta No.6 Winx first, No.1 Benbatl second, No.5 D'Argento third

Sure, sit back and watch something that will never be achieved again as Winx wins a fourth straight Cox Plate, but while you're at it, you might as well have a little exotic. I think this straight out trifecta is a great play.

Benbatl is clearly a middle distance galloper of genuine world class. He's not the freak that Winx is, but he should still beat the rest of them. D'Argento is the improving type, who didn't have the best run in transit in the Caulfield Stakes, but worked home in lovely fashion, and I expect him to be finding late when some others may be floundering.

Take that 25 times and enjoy the spectacle.


Moonee Valley (Friday Night)

Leg 1 - 2,6,9

Leg 2 - 4,12,13,14

Leg 3 - 8,13,14

Leg 4 - 5,7

($100 = 138.89%)

Moonee Valley (Saturday)

Leg 1 - 1,2,3,7

Leg 2 - 1,3,6,10,13,15,17

Leg 3 - 6

Leg 4 - 1,3,4

($100 = 119.05%)


Leg 1 - 1,3,5,7

Leg 2 - 1,2,8,11

Leg 3 - 3,6,7

Leg 4 - 3,9

($100 = 104.17%)