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By Jack Petley | Saturday, February 13, 2021

Earlier this week Melbourne officials were welcoming the fact that thousands could attend today's major meeting at Flemington, but a lockdown overnight in Victoria will have no fans on track and jockeys to wear masks until they leave the birdcage. So disappointing, but at least racing is going ahead.

The Black Caviar has drawn a small but cracking field headed by Bivouac ($7.50) and Nature Strip ($4) and throw in September Run and Fabergino. Bivouac and Nature Strip both trialled in Sydney before heading south and both looked ready for a big performance. To me, at 1000 metres, I'm edging towards Nature Strip (Jamie Kah), but the other horse will get his measure over longer sprint distances.

Also, Iwill be watching the CS Hayes with much interest with that smart Kiwi three-year-old Brando in the field with Tye McNeil up. The son of Savabeel has won 3 of his 5 starts for Jamie Richards including the 1400 metres Uncle Remus. He is a big strong horse with a powerful finish and Flemington will suit him, but he does bump up against some smart ones including Aim, Aysar, and Tagaloa, with an inside gate this time and Trent Busuttin saying during the week to watch for a big improvement. And then there is Mo'Unga, now with Annabelle Neasham, and did that NZ bred look good in his first campaign for Chris Waller, 3 from 4. Jamie Richards said later this week that Brando had settled in well in Melbourne “He had a gallop at Pukekohe before he went over and he did some nice work. Everything has gone to plan." said Richards as the three-year-old builds to the Australian Guineas. I'm putting him in my top 3.

And what a day at Royal Randwick today with more punters on track as Sydney lifts several protocols. During the week I have been leaning towards Kolding in the Apollo after his super first up second, but with the rain around I'm now going for the mare Verry Elleegant. She can handle any type of ground and there is no doubt she is so, so classy. James McDonald rides and he has been in grand form this past week and has a brilliant book today.

McDonald rides Hungry Heart for Chris Waller in the Light Fingers with the three-year-old filly tight in the market at $3.90. Super field here with the likes of Away Game, Thermosphere and Vangelic and also the Te Akau filly Kahma Lass, winner of the Gr1 1000 Guineas at Riccarton earlier in the season. Said Jamie Richards of the Cambridge Stud owned filly, "She is ready to run well," he said with the filly having trialled lately in that trial won by Bivouac. "That was a good trial," he said adding that she had trialled well with Probabeel before heading into Sydney. He also added that he will be disappointed if she doesn't finish in the top four. I have her in my top three behind Hungry Heart and Away Game.

While Jamie Richards will have his sights set on two majors in Australia, he will be trackside to watch two of his finest Melody Belle and Avantage run at Te Rapa. Melody Belle ($1.45) will be after breaking that Sunline record today by putting together 14 Gr1 wins and it is hard to see her being beaten although watch for a big run from The Chosen One as he readies for his Sydney campaign and the Sydney Cup. Tips - Melody Belle, The Chosen One, Sinarahma.

Avantage runs in the BCD Sprint and she is going for her third on end, but I would say she will receive stern opposition from the Team Kelso sprinter Levante, who ran 3rd behind Avantage in the Railway and has won her other two for the season. I'm going her way, She is a resolute finisher.

Richards also holds a strong hand in the Fillies Classic with that smart filly Amarelinha who pressed Aegon so hard in the Karaka Million Three-Year-Ols last run. She, like her stablemates, is favourite at $2.0. Main rivals - Needle and Tread and Il Affare.

Big news from overseas is that Shadwell, one of the world’s biggest racing and breeding operations, is to wind up its interest in Australia with Shadwell chief Hamdam Al Maktoum citing his inability to be as closely involved as in former years. He has enjoyed wonderful success in Australia and has two Cups to his credit, Juene and At Talaq. Most of the horses Down Under are to be sold.

And what about this news from the US, Travis Tygart, the man responsible for exposing doping scandals this century in his role as US Anti Doping Agency chief executive, is taking over the anti-doping and medication enforcement in US racing.

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