TAB Blamey Stakes presents final chance to guarantee place in world’s richest mile race
The Group 2 TAB Blamey Stakes (1600m) at Flemington tomorrow (Saturday, 5 March) provides one last opportunity for horses to guarantee a start in the $5 million Seppelt Wines All-Star Mile, with seven of the 10 acceptors set to chase a golden ticket into the world’s richest mile race.
Three of the 10 Blamey Stakes runners have already confirmed their place in the star-studded line-up at Flemington on Saturday, 19 March, with multiple Group 1 winner Zaaki (who finished third on The All-Star Mile voting leaderboard), Lindsay Park’s progressive miler Mr Brightside (fifth) and reigning TAB Cranbourne Cup (2025m) winner King Magnus (10th) having polled enough votes to secure a start.
But the remaining seven will harbour hopes of winning the race and receiving an 11th hour wildcard to compete in Australia’s only fan-voted race, which returns to its inaugural host venue in just over a fortnight’s time.
In light of his exploits last year, which culminated in victory in the Group 1 Paramount+ Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington, the Annabel Neasham-trained Zaaki is the red-hot favourite for the Blamey Stakes, where he will be ridden for the first time by Jamie Kah.
Among those leading the chase for the lion’s share of tomorrow’s $300,000 purse and the coveted All-Star Mile wildcard is high class Western Australian raider Inspirational Girl. A winner of the 2020 Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m), the former stablemate of 2020 All-Star Mile winner Regal Power will step out for the second time for Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien in the 3.40pm (AEDT) feature.
The form horse heading into the Blamey Stakes is Lindsey Smith’s Corner Pocket, who recently extended his winning sequence to eight with victory in the Listed The Elms Handicap (1400m) at Flemington, where the beaten brigade included All-Star Mile contenders Mr Brightside (third), Elephant (fifth), King Magnus (seventh) and Regalo Di Gaetano (ninth).
Another Blamey Stakes runner aiming to preserve his picket fence is Mike Moroney’s miler Bankers Choice, whose hat-trick of recent wins include a last-start success in the Group 3 Anniversary Handicap (1600m) at Trentham in his native New Zealand.
Lunar Fox (trained by Paul Preusker) came home last of the 12 runners in The Elms Handicap but if he can bounce back to form in the Blamey Stakes, he would secure a second straight appearance in The All-Star Mile having finished fourth behind Mugatoo last year at The Valley. Lunar Fox was awarded a wildcard 12 months ago off the back of his victory – at the starting price of $301 – in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m), which again headlines the action at Flemington tomorrow.
Given the impressive record of Australian Guineas winners in The All-Star Mile – Mystic Journey claimed both in stunning fashion in 2019 – the Racing Victoria (RV) and Victoria Racing Club (VRC) wildcard panel will again be paying particularly close attention to Saturday’s marquee race.
The high-class contest features a plethora of Group 1 winners including Ciaron Maher and David Eustace’s reigning Penfolds Victoria Derby (2500m) hero Hitotsu, Richard Litt’s emerging star Profondo and Captivant, the talented Team Snowden-trained three-year-old who currently sits fifth in the provisional emergency list for The All-Star Mile.
The wildcard panel will also have their eyes fixed on Randwick in Sydney tomorrow where the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) headlines proceedings and features the current sixth provisional emergency for The All-Star Mile, Converge (Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott), along with commanding favourite Anamoe, Hilal and Coastwatch among others.
The Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) will also be closely monitored at Randwick with Maher and Eustace’s All-Star Mile top 10 vote-getter Lighthouse squaring off against last spring’s Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) winner Private Eye and third placegetter Dalasan, along with 2020 All-Star Mile runner Kolding.
With 10 horses securing their place in The All-Star Mile field via the public vote, the remaining five places in the 15-horse field will be filled by wildcards.
The Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young-trained mare Sierra Sue became the 11th horse to be guaranteed a starting berth in The All-Star Mile when she claimed the first wildcard with victory in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) – a ‘win-and-you’re-in’ race – at Caulfield last Saturday.
The winner of the Blamey Stakes will be offered the second of the wildcards unless Zaaki, Mr Brightside or King Magnus are first past the post, in which case it will be left to the discretion of the panel whose wildcard selections will increase from three to four.
RV’s Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, will reveal the identity of all five confirmed wildcard runners live on Racing.com’s After The Last program from 6.30pm (AEDT) on Monday, 7 March.
Image caption: Zaaki at Flemington