Star sprinters on show in Standish
History could be made in the time-honoured Standish Handicap at Flemington on Saturday.
The Flemington straight-six track record was set in the 2001 edition of the Group 3 Standish Handicap (1200m) by Iglesia, who scorched the turf in a time of 1:07:16.
That record is unlikely to be broken on Saturday, but there is another record that could tumble.
The Griffiths & De Kock trained sprinter Halvorsen is aiming to become the first horse ever to win three Standish Handicap’s, having taken out the race in 2020 and 2022, missing the 2021 edition due to injury.
No horse in history has ever won three Standish Handicap’s, with the race dating back to 1884.
Super Impressive (03/05), Grandoise (89/91), Rooney (78/80) Ungar (50/51) David’s Last (45/46), Manrico (39/41) Blue Cross (20/21) Berry Consols (12/13) Miss Bobby (07/08) all won two.
Halvorsen is the definition of a Flemington specialist, with five of his nine career wins coming at the track, and remarkably, since his first win down the straight in November 2019, he’s never tasted success elsewhere.
“Matt (De Kock) was pleased with his gallop Monday morning as was Reid Balfour who rides him so we’re hoping that a turnaround in a better preparation into Flemington being a Standish winner twice before, all equals a return to form,” co-trainer Robbie Griffiths said.
This year has attracted a select field of eleven, with a distinct Western Australian theme to the race.
Western Empire, a winner of the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) at Ascot will have his first run for new stable John Leek Jr, who has remarkably saddled up eight winners from his past eleven runners.
While he may find the straight-six a touch sharp, a familiar Flemington face from Western Australia will also be lining up.
Indian Pacific, who ran second to Zoutori in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) of 2021, returns to Melbourne having placed at Group 3 level at Ascot twice this preparation.
Narrowly holding favouritism is another straight-six specialist, with the Grahame Begg trained Rose Quartz holding the call. Unbeaten from two starts over the Flemington 1200m, she will be looking to run a peak performance third up from a spell.
Summer Sprint Series
The Standish Handicap is once again part of the $1 million Summer Sprint Series, which also included the Listed Kensington Stakes (1000m) won by Ashford Street and has found its new home in mid-January, rather than New Year’s Day.
The winner of the Standish Handicap also gains automatic entry into the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m), and given how close Indian Pacific came in 2021, expect a fierce contest on the track with that ticket up for grabs.
Racegoers can purchase tickets at Ticketmaster with prices starting at just $20 per person. Children under 12 and accompanied by an adult are admitted free to Flemington all year round.