Since 1887, the Railway Stakes has been an integral part of the West Australian racing calendar. Run over a mile, the race has alternated through the warmer months in November, December and January at various times throughout its history.
A race for the purists of the sport, many equine champions, including Beaufine, Asian Beau, Better Loosen Up, Northerly and Scales Of Justice, decorate the honour roll.
As exciting as it is to have Group 1 racing back in Perth, there are eight other quality contests – including three more stakes races – to digest on Saturday, with some promising opportunities for value littered throughout the card.
Here’s my assessment of a stacked meeting out in the wild west of racing.
Race 1: Crystal Slipper (1100 metres)
The first of our feature two-year-old races for the season and a very hard race to kick off the meeting with. I won’t dwell on it, but Brave Halo could’ve made it four on the bounce quite comfortably here.
We have plenty of juveniles seeing the starter for the first time, including Platinum Shot, who really impressed me in her trial. She sat outside the leader on that occasion and held second (beaten a lip) under fairly light riding by William Pike. He sticks for the official debut, and I think she can go on with it.
The other one that impressed me from the trials is Home James, a well-bred gelding who made some nice ground down the middle of the Lark Hill track late. Given his trial and the barrier, I expect him to go back and charge late, so keep an eye out for him in the final furlong.
I’m On possesses a second to Brave Halo on her resume, albeit five lengths adrift. The jockey-trainer combo of Holly Watson and Dion Luciani must be respected, with Dion in particular absolutely airborne at the moment.
Charlie Jane won her trial by a space, but she faced only one rival on that occasion, so if that horse isn’t all that, where does that leave her? I’m not saying she can’t win, but be wary of her being overbet off the margin. Special Street and Lucky Trade have both been pass marks in their respective barrier trials.
Tip: Platinum Shot win $5.50.
Race 2: RTG 66+ (2200 metres)
These mid-tier staying races can be tough nuts to crack, but after the way Zadar Rock won earlier this prep, he looks to be the one. He retains the apprentice claim of Kesh Dhurun, who will look to roll forward from the wide draw and dictate in a similar fashion to last start.
Truly Inspired was excellent last time and shouldn’t have a problem with the distance. He’s gone up under the odds in my estimation.
Never Sober steps up sharply in trip for the white-hot Ash Maley yard. He is on trial at the trip, but he can win without surprising.
Coolth won’t know himself in this company, but questions remain over his genuineness. Barend Vorster gets to have a spin around the track, and I’ll be interested to see what the market does with him on race day. He’s a Lucky Lad is proven at a big weight, but it’s a horror draw. Roch Legacy will relish the distance and could make it an early double for the Pearce brothers.
Tip: Zadar Rock win $10.
Race 3: RTG 72+ (1000 metres)
There’s plenty of speed here. There are plenty of angles you can take with this race, but I’m prepared to take Cash Awat resuming. He looks to be on an upward spiral, and although he steps from graduation to 72+, there’s a fair bit of potential still to come. He was desperately close to State of Power in 66 company last prep, beating home Pixie Chix, who goes around here.
Flying Missile is another horse we haven’t seen the best of, and her form throughout last year’s carnival was excellent. I won’t be counting her out.
Acromantula is as tough as they come, but he has a big weight to contend with, as does River Beau. I would not be dismissing Olga Louisa in a 1000-metre scamper, but the barrier does her no favours. The best of Beads is good enough.
Tip: Cash Away win $7.
Race 4: RTG 66+ (1400 metres)
This set-up looks ideal for Trade War, who comes in off a big run two weeks ago and gets a nice drop in weight. This race is harder on paper, but I have big questions over how well some of these are going.
Real Danger was given a 10/10 on Saturday and goes on the quick backup. The booking of the visiting Lachie Neindorf is a fascinating one, but losing Chris Parnham to Trade War is a big blow.
Zephyra was backed as if she’d won last start, but she looked to plug to the line with no clear excuses. Trust the stable to have her back to her best.
Alsephina is probably the best horse in the race, but it looks like a tricky map, and she is not a proven weight carrier. I’m prepared to risk her at the setup. Written Matter is airborne this campaign and can win again and has come up a little short for my liking.
Tip: Trade War win $9.
Race 5: Listed Jungle Mist Classic (1200 metres)
Great race. Baby Paris was a grim watch in the mounting yard if you were on her in all-in markets (trust me, I know) and was sensationally scratched from the Placid Ark last week. Importantly, the horse is okay, and she must be showing no signs of issues to be taking on the older horses in listed company. She gets the red carpet treatment at weight for age, and you can expect Knuckey to hunt forward from the draw to make the most of it.
I’ll be keeping a very close eye on her in the yard, and if she gets through it without incident looks to be the bet. If not, Sniparoochy has just built herself through ratings company after showing early promise, and there’s no reason why she can’t win here.
Buzzoom returned behind her and can improve. Express Time and Amasenus come out of the A-grade sprint form, I’m just not sure how well either is going.
Tip: Baby Paris win $3.
Race 6: Listed Carbine Club of WA Stakes (1400 metres)
While all the attention is firmly on the Railway on Saturday, they’ve quietly assembled a quality field for this listed contest. I’m making Panzdown the value of the meeting. He hit the line brilliantly on Saturday behind Hot Zed in a 78+. He hasn’t ticked the 1400 metre box quite yet, but fourth up and retaining Patty Carbery is enough for me to take the $16/$4.50 the place currently on offer.
It was a horrible watch for Devoted backers last start, starting at even money and being forced to work along the banks of the Swan River for most of the run. He’s the best horse in this race, but it’s yet another tricky gate, and I have questions about how he’ll go on the quick backup from a brutal run.
Let’s Galahvant is an absolute warrior, being beaten less than two lengths in an Asian Beau before being ever so slightly outclassed by Searchin’ Roc’s on Saturday. At the current market he’s another very good each-way opportunity.
Comes a Time is flying this campaign but the barrier is a worry. I wouldn’t talk you out of Billy Aint Silly or even Samizdat for a blowout.
Tip: Panzdown each way $16./$4.
Race 7: Group 2 WA Guineas (1600 metres)
This is as good of a three-year-old group as we’ve had in recent years, which is reflected in the strength of the Guineas. Amelia’s Jewel is the best of this talented bunch, and although the collective jaws of the state hit the floor when she missed out on the Burgess Queen, she should bounce back to winning ways. From Barrier 5, expect Carbery to sit a pair closer than what we’ve seen previously, and her turn of foot should be that little bit too brilliant.
Bustler has announced himself as a serious racehorse in the last two months and comes in undefeated after nosing out All The King’s Men last start. Both horses can win, and all three so far mentioned have ideal barriers to give them all every chance.
Upper Limits was two lengths off Bustler and All The King’s Men the last time they all tangled. He’s one for multiples and wouldn’t shock me if he won. Snowdome has got somewhat lost in the Bustler hype, but if he sees out the mile, he can be right in the finish.
Tip: Amelia’s Jewel win $2.25.
Race 8: Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600 metres)
After 11,5 long months, Group 1 racing returns to Perth. A lot has been made about the strength of this field, but while we may not have a Northerly going around this year, there’s a lot of quality lining up for the Ascot mile.
Trix of the Trade has been a fairytale so far, and while the Derby dream didn’t quite come true, I think the Railway dream will. He won carrying the grandstand first up before flying home from 12th at the 400-metre mark to miss Treasured Star by half a length. That run was absolutely enormous and coming into his grand final third up, he should be ready to produce a career peak.
Searchin’ Roc’s comes in off the backup, and given she handled what leading trainer Simon A Miller describes as the “Big Bash Series” for three-year-old fillies last year, she shouldn’t be a major concern. She draws perfectly in barrier 2 for jockey Kyra Yuill to sit handy, and she can absolutely win at a nice price.
Alaskan God wasn’t far off them in the Asian Beau and could easily come out and destroy them, but I’m just not sure he should be shorter than Trix of The Trade.
Nobody would begrudge Karli’s Karma an incredible victory, one that even three months ago would be considered impossible. Resortman must have iron-infused legs – he’s been going around for months now and keeps finding ways to win. It’s never easy to win as a topweight, but don’t be shocked if he lands Group 1 glory. Startrade almost shocked the world last start and looks to be once again overlooked by the market. Marocchino’s racing pattern will always give him a hope, ditto Buster Bash.
Tip: Trix of The Trade win $5.50.
Race 9: RTG 72+ (1600 metres)
We conclude the meeting by circling back to ratings company, with a tricky race to try to finish the day on a high. I’ve been a serial offender for underrating Big Screen, who just seems incapable of running a bad race. Even with an unfriendly barrier he should be able to dictate from the front, and I wouldn’t want to be trying to mow him down late.
Above the Peg is racing as if he will appreciate a mile, and in this company he continues to be well weighted relative to his ability.
Stay Safe often improves with a run and draws the perfect barrier to make his presence felt. Tena Koutou resumes for what could potentially eventuate as a Van Heemst/Perth Cup campaign. If that is the goal for the Adam Durrant yard, he would want to be hitting the line strongly.
Son of Bacchus is only battling this time in, but even with the top weight he doesn’t need to be at his best to beat this field.
Tip: Big Screen win $6.