A trio of lightly-raced colts expected to clash in last juvenile Group One race of the season
The Kris Lees-trained Graff met the previously unraced Mickey Blue Eyes in Saturday’s Clarendon Stakes (1300m) at Hawkesbury with Graff holding off his Lindsay Park-trained rival to score by a half-neck in a race that featured fast closing sectional times.
While The Autumn Sun, a colt from the Chris Waller stable, made a most impressive winning debut in taking out the Armistice Plate (1200m) for two-year-old colts and geldings at Randwick on Anzac Day, in fast time.
Graff had won his only prior start, a two-year-old maiden (1100m) at Rosehill on 2 April and on Saturday he again did not show much early pace, settled back in fifth place in the seven-horse field, tracking a moderate tempo.
The pace picked up markedly from the 600 metres, which saw the next 400 metres covered in a fast 22.34 (11.51, 10.83) and that resulted in Kerrin McEvoy needing to urge Graff to keep in touch.
The colt remained under pressure until responding with a late surge on passing the 100 metres before grabbing a good win, albeit narrowly, from the late-closing Mickey Blue Eyes, who came with a strong finish from the tail of the seven-horse field.
Both returned fast closing sectional times, Graff clocking 33.55 for his last 600 metres while Mickey Blue Eyes was timed to run his last 600 metres in 33.43.
Both Mickey Blue Eyes and especially Graff look suited to stepping up in distance, plus a more genuine tempo, and a race like the J J Atkins Stakes at Doomben on 9 June now looks well within their capabilities.
Their rematch will be interesting while The Autumn Sun may yet prove the better of the three talented colts.
A stylish colt, a $700,000 2017 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale purchase, really took the eye of On The Watch in his debut win.
He settled back in eighth place, before fanning deep on turning for home, showed a great turn of foot to take the lead at the 100 metres and then went on to score easily in the fast time of 1:08.61.
That time was 0.58 outside of the 1200 metre course record, established only five days earlier by Anatola (More Than Ready), and as reported in this column previously, under the remarkably fast track conditions that are currently prevailing at Randwick.
Even taking that into account, The Autumn Sun’s effort on debut was noteworthy to say the least, as too his fast closing sectionals that saw him clock 54.74 (last 1000m), 44.71 (last 800m), 33.37 (last 600m) and 22.30 for his final 400 metres.
In addition to the aforementioned Hawkesbury race, that club’s successful standalone Saturday TAB meeting saw a number of other smart performances on the day.
One of the surprisingly good wins was that of the progressive Richard Freedman-trained Roman Son (Roman Emperor) who took out the last of nine races, the Provincial Stayers’ Handicap (2100m).
A four-year-old gelding, Roman Son is now the winner of five of 12 starts and while he only advanced to win a Benchmark 84 handicap, the manner in which he did so, supported by strong times, suggests that he is likely to progress to better things.
He remained back in eighth place before Tye Angland brought him with a well-timed run to score comfortably by two and a quarter lengths in a time of 2:07.85 for the 2100 metre journey.
That represents a 200 metre rate of 12.17, a quick rate for a race of that distance and that was confirmed by an analysis of the sectional times.
From the 2000 metre point, the leaders produced a strong 200 metre breakdown that saw the first 1200 metres clocked in 1:10.95 while the final 800 metres was timed in 48.16 – the last 2000 metres of the 2100 metre race clocking a fast 1:59.11.
Another good performance on the watch at Hawkesbury was the effort of the former Godolphin-raced mare Pecans (Skilled), now in the Joe Pride stable, and she impressed in fighting on to win the Godolphin Crown (Gr 3, 1300m).
Pecans was having her first start since taking out the Belle Of The Turf Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) at Gosford in December and after racing outside the leader White Moss (Mossman) at a strong tempo, the four-year-old mare showed determination in fighting back to score by a neck.
Time for the 1300 metre distance was a quick 1:16.00, which is a 200 metre rate of 11.69, equivalent to 1400 metres in 1:21.84.
A breakdown of the sectional times demonstrated what a good effort Pecans staged in scoring after going at a fast early pace, that saw the first 600 metres (from the 1200m point) clocked in 33.30.
The final 600 metres was still quick, not as fast as the early section, but a time of 34.81 was still smart and that resulted in the final 1200 metres of the race being run in 1:08.40.
Joe Pride was so taken by Pecans performance that he subsequently announced that the mare would now progress to the Queensland Winter Carnival, considering that the Stradbroke Handicap (Gr 1, 1350m) at Doomben on 9 June would be a suitable target with an anticipated light weight.