Three year old middle distance horses 2023

Am I missing something in what I am about to say? I am really struggling to get my head around why BANK MAUR and especially VIRTUOUS CIRCLE are $15 and $26 respectively to win the Australian Cup on the weekend

I know times are hardly ‘the be all and end al’l of form analysis but it’s something I at least like to contemplate in regard to their ability against the older horses they may oppose. In this respect we can look at the times posted over 1600m in the Australian Guineas and Blamey Stakes on March 4. Yes there is a significant difference there between 1.36.34 (34.92) last 600m) and 1.35.53 (35.03) BUT the Blamey winner Non Conformist carried 55kg and now rises to 59kg. BM and VC actually drop in weight 2.5kg so on that example there is a turn around of 6.5kg which more than compensates for the time difference that day. In no way am I knocking Non Conformist here because he looks the benchmark runner out of that race and is going to improve fitness wise and (possibly) with the rise in distance Against that though he has to overcome a wide barrier.

To take the time comparison further we can go back to Cox Plate day in November where Anamoe won the Cox Plate in a time of 2.10.17 (37.24) and Berkeley Square won the 3yo Vase in 2.10.35 (36.82). Those times were almost identical and quite surprising. VC was beaten less than a length in the Vase (had to come wide on turn) and was spelled thereafter. He was also probably the run of the race outside the winner in that recent Australian Guineas. Jacquinot was favoured to win that race as he had beaten the older horses prior in the CF ORR Stakes albeit at 1400m. He could do no better than sixth, although beaten less than two lengths.

In New Zealand this Summer/Autumn we have seen the VRC Derby runner up Sharp ‘N’ Smart beating up on the older horses with his female 3yo counterpart Prowess in respective races. Both have done it at WFA over there with a direct formline through Campionessa (emergency in this race) and SNS through Defibrillate also. The latter is hardly a WFA star here, but he was in winning form over there, and was only beaten 1.7 lengths in the 2021 edition of this race. Quite a handy horse on his day. LEGARTO has already franked the NZ formline (through SNS and Prowess) by winning the Australian Guineas.

So all indications are that this three year old crop in Australasia are very competitive against our older horses. I guess you could mount an argument that both Ellipitical and Mr Maestro failed in the Mackinnon over this distance in the Spring against their older peers, but their beaten margins weren’t great (3.55/5.65 lengths) and they were probably at the end of their preparations at the time. Mr Maestro in particular does seem to be a few lengths shy of our better three year olds at 2000m.

The two favourites Cascadian and Mo’unga have their negatives, both backing up with no wins in that context. Track conditions probably won’t suit Cascadian as much as a wet track would and Mo’unga has a suspect 1/8 record at 2000m, and is changing states within a week.

VIRTUOUS CIRCLE is the three year old I prefer going on his run in the Australian Guineas. He was making up a lot of ground late, whereas Bank Maur was holding his. Perhaps the one negative is that he might be one run short coming in. This is his launching pad into the Australian Derby next week though so surely he has to run well here (and be fit enough) to be competitive in that race at 2400m?

FULL OF SINCERITY does look a pretty solid bet in the Tulloch Stakes R3 Randwick on Saturday. This really has been a lock race for the NZ three year olds coming through the NZ Derby in recent years and his last start placing against the current Australian Derby favourite Sharp ‘N’ Smart does look very strong credentials for this.


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