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Ad Berkshire Breeze was dominant when winning the RDAV Sally Francis Plate (2520m) on VRC Community Race Day. (Ross Holburt/Racing Photos)

Flemington Finals Race Day – not just a finale

4 July 2024 Written by Adam Blencowe – Racing & Sports Senior Handicapper

Finals Day at Flemington is cast as an end, a finale, but for many it is a means to a different end; one further down the line – when the clouds floating above Flemington are cumulus rather than ominous, furs are replaced by fascinators, coats by cravats, and its famous roses bloom.

Those roses bloom as a result of pruning and tuning through the winter months – as much a product of nurture as of nature.

Here are the five to follow from Flemington Finals Race Day and forwards, into the spring:

I Found You

Dean Waugh played first-class cricket for New South Wales. Must have been a damn fine cricketer then! Unless you have a little bit more information. Dean Waugh, brother of icons Mark and Steve, played only one game of first-class cricket. Rather than being in the top 1% of cricketers worldwide Dean is cast as the worst cricketer in his family. 

Flemington Finals Race Day starts with one now cast in the Dean Waugh role. I Found You will do well to live up to her older brothers Deep Field and Shooting To Win – rated 120 and 119 respectively – but a winning-rating of 95+ on debut shows to be a talent above and beyond the norm.

Above the norm and more importantly above the other runners in the Next Generation Sprinters Series Final (1200m) for which she looks a likely winner. It wasn’t just the debut win and rating but the way in which she did it, much of the power packed into the final 400m which stands her in good stead for the Flemington straight which so often rewards those who and coil up and accelerate.

Berkshire Breeze

Berkshire Breeze (Ross Holburt/Racing Photos)

"And now for a horse; we might try one

Of those that are bred on the place.

But I fancy it's better to buy one,

A horse that has proved he can race.

Let us send down to Sydney to Skinner,

A thorough good judge who can ride,

And ask him to buy us a spinner

To clean out the whole country-side."

Banjo Paterson

 

The journey to buy a ‘spinner’ is longer than it was in Banjo’s day. Ciaron Maher had to look beyond Sydney to the UK to find Berkshire Breeze but he found one that has taken just four starts to go from a spinner looking to clean out the countryside to a Finals Day favourite and spring-time hopeful.

Ciaron Maher, in partnership with David Eustace, won the Banjo Paterson Series Final (2600m) back-to-back in 2020 and 2021 with Lord Belvedere and Grand Promenade. The latter would go on to win the Bart Cummings and run sixth in the 2022 Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m). The former was high in the betting in The Bart Cummings (2500m) but was beaten by his stablemate Persan, himself a Finals Day winner who went on and ran fifth in the Cup.

Maher also won back in 2014 with Marksmanship who would go on to be second in both The Bart Cummings and the Geelong Cup.

Berkshire Breeze came to Australia as a horse that had ‘proved that he can race’ – he had hammered Crystal Delight at home with that one having gone on to post a pair of smart wins himself in 2024 – and his latest win was a step forward on his UK form, leaving him better equipped than any of the stables three previous winners going into the Banjo Paterson Series Final.

That bodes well for his chance not just on Finals Day but into the spring where he his profile will catch the eye of many thorough good judges. 

Piggyback

The two aforementioned runners may be horses for the spring, but bookmakers are unlikely to afford punters much juice in the here-and-now which leaves this article as little more than hot air.

But it is winners not wind that most will want, so we cast bad analogies to one side for a moment and put one up that can pay on the day – or so we hope.

What is soon apparent when looking at the Mahogany Challenge Final (2500m) is that Aztec State fits both the form and the figure of Persan and First Immortal – two previously set similar weight-carrying tasks over which they prevailed and two that went on to success in the spring. 

This resemblance leaves the race looking both similar and surmountable. The standard is clear and so is the runway - all aboard Piggyback!

Piggyback has improved her rating with each of five starts, each over further than the last, and each rating better than the last. Her Randwick win saw her all but match smart, established horses that competed in the Lord Mayor’s Cup on the same card and she wasn’t stopping at the finish. While she is by a sprinter in Trapeze Artist her dam ran her best race winning a Group 3 over this trip and was out of a Zabeel mare herself.

Steel Run is the ‘weight horse’ and things hardly panned out for Eliud last time, but it’s the one we haven’t seen in the series, the one piggybacking into the Final, that appeals.

Duke De Sessa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duke De Sessa (George Sal/Racing Photos)

We have already seen Duke De Sessa in the springtime, five times in fact, and now he takes to the winter stage with a ticket back to the sunshine on the line.

Duke De Sessa has run six times in Australia, from 1400m to 2600m, and has run near enough the same rating each time. Dependable or disappointing?

Certainly versatile. His form overseas said he was one for further than this but in Australia he has been as effective at a mile as he has been over ground. 

His Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) run at the trip is in line with what is expected to win here and his Turnbull run at the track a touch better again.

We could take some confidence from his less-talented stablemate, and fellow Irishman, Charterhouse running second here last year. Though that confidence is quickly dented when considering that Charterhouse lost for having been set far too much to do. Duke De Sessa draws out for John Allen. That recipe in the spring saw him settle 16th.....

Pharari

Pharari (Pat Scala/Racing Photos)

Flemington Finals Race Day ends with what might be its most interesting clash in the Listed Creswick Sprint Series Final (1200m) a race that has been won by Gytrash, Passive Aggressive and Nature Strip in recent times.

Bossy Nic and Fleetwood back up from last week where the former got everything so right and the latter so wrong.

They draw together and little splits them on paper either, but if there is one tucked in here that with the scope and the sparkle to join that table of top winners then it is Pharari, who pitches up alongside that pair on both the map and the model.

The model in question is the ratings model used at Racing and Sports, which takes winning margins of eight and thirteen this campaign and translates them into a rating of 101 – on the heels of the 103-rated Bossy Nic and 102-rated Fleetwood.

It is not just what she has achieved but how, running away and racing the wind for the final 400m at Ballarat last time and shaping as though 1000m was holding her back rather than holding her together.

Further should be better. Pharari is by American Pharoah from the dam of Aramayo and Tupac Amaru, both Derby horses down under. Abroad, her granddam produced High Hawk – high class over a mile-and-a-half for Andre Fabre in France.

It might be that 1200m is short of her trip in time but it’s the times that she has been running that are of most interest this weekend as she looks to finish Finals Day with a flourish.