Saturday’s Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes ($1.5 million, 1200m) at Caulfield is as guaranteed to run true to form as any race can be.
In the absence of last Saturday’s highly impressive debut winner Ole Kirk (Written Tycoon) – potentially the one legitimate wildcard – this looks to be even more the case in 2020 than most years with the field and barriers declared yesterday.
Chances are, and highly probable to boot, that the Blue Diamond winner won either one of the gender split Preludes run two weeks ago which narrows the race – unsurprisingly – to the colt Hanseatic (Street Boss) and the filly Letzbeglam (Snitzel).
Furthermore, if your fancy didn’t win last start, chances are it’s not going to win today which adds only Away Game (Snitzel) and Personal (Fastnet Rock), who would both have to reach a new rating peak to win.
If your fancy is likely to lead, chances are also it’s not going to win today and that’s the possible issue for Letzbeglam, although she could hardly have been more impressive in the Prelude when three wide on the speed.
The poor record of leaders is a little surprising in a 1200-metre juvenile race but no outright leader has won the Blue Diamond since Bel Esprit in 2002.
Several winners of late have raced on speed but not led. In the past ten years, we’ve had four winners camped on the speed; three from handy-midfield and three swooping home out wide.
The issue for the strong finishing Hanseatic, some will contend, may be barrier one but the Anthony Freedman-trained colt does have more early speed than has been revealed in the circumstances of his three runs to date.
It may, I’ll concede, make or break the race for him but that will remain nothing more than conjecture until they’ve gone 300 metres and it has almost certainly served to better the price being bet against the unbeaten Godolphin-bred and raced colt.
Barriers are generally irrelevant (as is almost always the case from the Caulfield 1200-metre start) in the Blue Diamond.
What is relevant is current form with 14 of the past 20 Blue Diamond winners being last start winners (more than half having claimed a Prelude) and only two winners, in that time, having not run first or second.
The two exceptions were Undoubtedly and Nadeem which came in exceptional circumstances. Nadeem won on an unseasonal heavy 10 track while Undoubtedly’s closing win was set up by an extraordinary first 600-metre split of 33.6 seconds.
The fact that we haven’t had winners emerging from excellent lead-in thirds, fourth or fifths suggests that the notion that two-year-olds are open to rapid improvement is misleading. More often than not the truth is what you see is what you get.
The Diamond Preludes are, unsurprisingly, the key lead-up races.
Seven winners in the past decade are horses who have run first or second in either of the Preludes and invariably it is the juvenile who records the fastest final sectional in the lead-up, rather than running the quicker overall time, who prevails, which this year is Hanseatic.
Hanseatic’s closing speed was apparent via his finishing sectionals – from the 1000-metre point: 21.35 (400m), 11.66 (200m) and 21.87 (400m) to give the colt a brilliant 54.88 for his last 1000 metres.
Godolphin, trainer Freedman and jockey Luke Currie look set – barring misadventure – to repeat last year’s Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes success, with Lonhro filly Lyre.
It’s not often you get a blanket finish to the Blue Diamond Stakes. In fact you have to go back to 2010 when Star Witness (Starcraft) won and there was less than a half-length between the first three and just 2.1 lengths back to sixth who happened to be the subsequent Golden Slipper winner Crystal Lily (Stratum).
I fancy the margins will be decisive again this year with Hanseatic leading the way.
Hanseatic is the third foal and second winner out of Itameri who was purchased by Darley for $300,000 as a yearling in 2012. Itameri is out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Baltics who is a half-sister to Magnus (Flying Spur) and Helsinge (Desert Sun), the dam of Black Caviar (Bel Esprit) and All Too Hard (Casino Prince).
The in-form Freedman stable may also claim Saturday’s other Group 1 – the Futurity Stakes – with Super Seth (Dundeel). He and fellow three-year-olds Alabama Express (Redoute’s Choice) and Heart Of Puissance (Puissance De Lune) are nominated for the 1400-metre weight-for-age race (fields declared today).
Speaking of chances, it’s more than likely that the autumn dominance of the three-year-olds (over the older horses) will continue – particularly against the backdrop of the long-shot greybeard wins in modestly competitive weight-for-age races last spring.