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Ad West Wind Blows has already had a look around Flemington in the Group 1 TAB Turnbull Stakes. (George Sal/Racing Photos)

Group 1 TAB Champions Stakes Preview

10 November 2023 Written by Racing And Sports

A fascinating edition of the Champions Stakes with plenty of different form to line up.

Old marvel Zaaki has won this race two years running - once as the Mackinnon Stakes and last year in the inaugural TAB Champions Stakes.

He fronts up again this year in pretty similar form. Two years ago, he was scratched on Cox Plate morning but had won the Underwood two starts prior, running to 124 with Timeform, then running to 123 at Flemington as favourite.

Last year he ran fourth in the Cox Plate and then ran to 121 to win. This year he’s coming off a sixth in the Cox Plate but still rated 122, albeit perhaps due to the even speed and bunched finish.

That hasn’t stopped punters backing him into second favourite behind West Wind Blows, who has had two runs in Australia for two excellent second placings.

He was incredibly game at Flemington when working on a strong tempo in the Turnbull, splitting Gold Trip and Soulcombe, and again went toe-to-toe in the Caulfield Cup with Without A Fight, who then blew them away in the Melbourne Cup.

On paper, it’s incredibly strong form, and I like the three weeks between runs and back to 2000m for him from a soft draw. He should be landing on Zaaki’s back or even just popping out to sit at his hindquarters, and while his ratings might need to improve a fraction as a 120 horse, he profiles to do so, and do so comfortably.

The other international we’ve seen a bit of is Buckaroo. Midfield at Randwick behind Fangirl and Mr Brightside but third fastest late, it gives him a solid platform to improve, and getting to 2000m will suit. His overseas ratings will need to be improved upon a little bit to win, but he’s certainly in the mix.

Then we have the mares, four of them all come here over the Matriarch a bit earlier and all with some hope.

Duais was excellent in the Cox Plate without much luck, running fourth. Her closing effort prior behind Alligator Blood at Caulfield from too far back was also very good, and she does boast an outstanding Australian Cup win at this track and distance, which would go a long way to winning this.

Montefilia seems like the forgotten horse. There’s not much between her and Duais at their best and Montefilia showed she was back not far off her best winning the Hill Stakes at Rosehill two starts ago when she got her preferred race shape.

She needs a steadily run race and be able to show her sharp turn of foot, preferably over 2000m. She was well beaten by West Wind Blows in the Caulfield Cup but did start $11 and a brutally run 2400m was never going to suit her. From barrier one, she can hopefully land in front of quite a few here and if they go slowly, which looks a real possibility, she can run a big race at $21.

Atishu was good last week closing off behind Pride Of Jenni but the Matriarch, a race she won dominantly last year off the same scenario, did look hers for the taking.

Prowess was very good winning the Crystal Mile at Moonee Valley last time and can improve again third up but this is a much bigger test and I’m surprised she’s shorter than a horse like Duais who was close up in a Cox Plate last start.

West Wind Blows looks the obvious coming through the right form, Duais will take a power of beating, but Montefilia and Buckaroo present as good each-way chances.

Tickets for TAB Champions Stakes Day, featuring three $3 million championship Group 1 races to close out the 2023 Melbourne Cup Carnival, are still available for members and the general public.