Flemington trainers shine on Day 1 of The Championships
Flemington once again proved its position as Australia's leading racing and training centre after the opening day of The Championships in Sydney on Saturday.
Led by Group 1 winners Mr Brightside, who took the Doncaster Mile (1600m) for Ben and JD Hayes, and Nature Strip, successful for the third time in the T J Smith Stakes (1200m) for Chris Waller, Flemington trainers won seven of the 10 races on the Randwick card.
They were joined by Mike Moroney's Nerve Not Verve, who scored a big victory in the Group 2 Chairman's Quality (2600m), and a quartet of Group 3 winners: Kindergarten Stakes (1100m) hero Semillion for Team Hawkes, Waller's Carbine Club Stakes (1600m) victor Straight Arron and Godolphin pair Honeycreeper in the Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) and Heresy in the P J Bell Stakes (1200m).
With the Country Championships Final (1400m) restricted to horses trained in regional NSW, that means that only ATC Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) winner Fireburn and Australian Derby (2400m) hero Hitotsu came from elsewhere in races in which Flemington trainees were eligible.
While the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-prepared Hitotsu is not trained at Flemington, he has made headquarters his home with stunning victories in the Penfolds Victoria Derby (2500m) and Australian Guineas (1600m) this season. In adding the Australian Derby to his record, he joined the imperious Mahogany as the only horse to claim all three races, while he became just the third horse to complete the Derby double since the Sydney blue riband moved to the autumn in 1979, joining champions Mahogany and Dulcify.
The horse he beat in the Penfolds Victoria Derby in October, Alegron, filled third, proving yet again that the $2 million headline act of the opening day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival remains one of the strongest form races for three-year-olds. Alegron may also be seen at Flemington again next month with The Andrew Ramsden (2800m), which offers ballot exemption for the $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m), a possibility.
Flemington form was also to the fore in the Doncaster Mile with the trifecta - Mr Brightside, I'm Thunderstruck and Icebath - all emerging from the world's richest mile race, the $5 million Seppelt Wines All-Star Mile last month. They finished fourth, second and ninth respectively, with winner Zaaki to step out in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick this Saturday, taking on defending Lexus Melbourne Cup champion Verry Elleegant.
The T J Smith Stakes saw Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning second and third Nature Strip and Eduardo fill the exacta, while Group 2 MSS Security Sires' Produce Stakes winner Let'srollthedice recorded a first Group 1 placing when third in the ATC equivalent.
Image caption: The Flemington-based Mr Brightside takes the Group 1 Doncaster Mile, leading home a trifecta that came out of the Seppelt Wines All-Star Mile at headquarters.