Howden Australian Guineas Preview

1 March 2024 Written by Racing & Sports

A deep field has been assembled for the Guineas with Riff Rocket out for a rare double. Only three horses in history have won the Victoria Derby and then returned in the Autumn to take out the Australian Guineas.

The first was King’s High in 1989 who preceded Mahogany by five years, the star galloper successful in 1994. We then had to wait 28 years until Hitotsu took out the Guineas first-up from his Derby win, and now might only have to wait four years to see it again.

Riff Rocket is unlikely to start the shortest of those with Mahogany sent out a 4/5 ($1.80) favourite, while Hitotsu was an $8 chance, but his chance is a good one, approximately 40% by the market’s estimate.

That seems about right. His win first up in what has clearly become the premier Guineas lead up, the Group 3 C S Hayes Stakes (1400m) was outstanding, running to the same rating he did in his Derby win- a rare feat.

He carried the full 59.5kg there and let rip late, with the 0.8 length margin not indicative of the strength of his win. It’s hard, but not impossible to see something turning the tables from that race. Naysayers would be banking on Riff Rocket putting in a flat one or not taking the required improvement.

The same could already be said of a few here that have had two runs under the belt.

King Colorado improved second-up, but only marginally, and will need to do so again to jump Riff Rocket.

Veight comes through the weight-for-age form but ran the same rating behind Mr Brightside that he did winning at Moonee Valley first up, which is negligibly better than what he’d managed when second in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m). It’s still slightly below what Riff Rocket ran first-up.

Similar story Southport Tycoon, who actually regressed slightly second-up as a short-priced favourite in the Group 2 Autumn Stakes (1400m). He was beaten by the resuming Snow Patrol there with WA raider Zipaway in third.

The Hayes clearly outrated the Autumn with the winner posting a big new peak. He’s clearly improved sharply but it is another leap to have him challenging Riff Rocket. Zipaway does have a rating at Group 1 level in Perth that says he can be competitive, and he’s a must for exotics.

If there were to be an improver from the Hayes, it might be Verdad, who like Riff Rocket, was first-up. He did well to grab third there, and out to a mile from a good gate he can be far more positive, whereas Riff Rocket is likely to still be in the second half of the field. He’s another with a strong each-way hope.

New Zealand send two over, hoping to emulate Legarto who became the first NZ trained winner of the Australian Guineas last year. They’re both rated below her, and find a stronger edition this year. The betting has favoured Quintessa in their two meetings but The Pendragon has won both. There’s not much between the pair but The Pendragon does have good speed and can give a sight.

With some creative market-making, it’s easy to put the pen few some half-hopes here and get Riff Rocket quite short. He’ll need to improve, but not by much whatsoever, and out to a mile should do that. Verdad and Zipaway can improve at each-way odds.