West Wind Blows is tipped to beat home the Aussies on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival with the Simon & Ed Crisford-trained raider heading markets on the Group 1 $3 million Champions Stakes (2000m).
A small but class field of 11 weight-for-age stars faces off in this year’s Champions Stakes at Flemington and markets at Ladbrokes are firmly led by the ultra-consistent West Wind Blows at $3.
Irish jockey Jamie Spencer continues associations with the talented Teofilo gelding who comes off back-to-back seconds in elite company down under this prep behind the past two Melbourne Cup winners.
He was second at this track and trip to Gold Trip in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) before crossing just a neck second to his former stablemate Without A Fight in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).
Without A Fight went on to dominate the Melbourne Cup results over the two miles on Tuesday and the form is expected to be further franked by West Wind Blows in the Champions Stakes.
Spencer has won the Champions Stakes once before a decade back on Side Glance and believes he is on the horse to beat again 10 years on.
“I think they’re a better standard of horse now in the race,” Spencer told Racing.com.
“It’s obviously his minimum (distance over the 2000m) but the galloping track will help.
“He looks like an obvious chance; his form has worked out well. I’m looking forward to the race.”
The danger and early Champions Stakes market mover heavily backed since final acceptances in from $9 to $4.80 is Annabel Neasham’s dual defending champion Zaaki.
Jamie Kah has the mount on the evergreen nine-year-old from barrier 10 with Zaaki who is out to become the third three-time champion of the race in history.
Wakeful (1901-03) was the last to win the race three years running, while the other triple hero was Tranquil Star (1942, 1944 and 1945).
Zaaki is fourth-up and fit for his grand final having had two good Sydney runs when third in the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m) and second in the $1 million 7 Stakes (1600m) before a Cox Plate sixth.
He was only 1.5 lengths off the visiting Hong Kong star Romantic Warrior in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate over the distance, plus 40m, at The Valley on October 28 and looks every hope to finish his spring with a bang.
The other major players are the Roger James & Robert Wellwood-trained Kiwi raider Prowess in gate four with dual Melbourne Cup winning hoop Mark Zahra riding, while fellow mares Duais ($7) and Atishu ($7) are also being kept safe in the markets.
Four-year-old Prowess comes off a Group 2 Crystal Mile (1600m) win on Cox Palte Day over Antino and is after her second elite level win down under.
In the autumn she was huge winning Rosehill’s Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) by over three lengths.
She comes into the Champions Stakes undefeated over the distance (3:3-0-0) and co-trainer James believes the daughter of Proisir is up to the challenge.
“It is her biggest test to date without a doubt, but we have ticked the boxes,” he told TAB NZ.
“She has got fresh legs, it is only third up for her – tick; it is 2000m – another tick; she is in grand order – another tick; and she is well trained – that must be four ticks.”
Thursday’s VRC Oaks winning jockey James McDonald partners the Chris Waller-trained Atishu on the back of her Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) second here on Derby Day.
Edward Cummings’ multiple Group 1 winner Duais meanwhile is the final Champions Stakes ride for retiring hoop Damien Oliver and comes off an excellent prep including finishing 1.3 lengths fourth in the Cox Plate at 30/1.
The Champions Stakes runs as Race 8 at 5:10pm (AEDT) on the nine-race Flemington card for Stakes Day.
2023 Champions Stakes Field & Barriers
|No||Last 10||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Probable Weight||Penalty||Hcp Rating|
|1||41x217x326||ZAAKI (GB)||Annabel Neasham||Ms Jamie Kah||10||59kg||116|
|2||0653216×06||HUETOR (FR)||Peter & Paul Snowden||Kerrin McEvoy||11||59kg||110|
|3||746×403116||YOUNG WERTHER (NZ)||Danny O’Brien||Billy Egan||6||59kg||106|
|4||13×3123222||WEST WIND BLOWS (IRE)||Simon & Ed Crisford||Jamie Spencer||2||59kg||110|
|5||1735×45401||ZEYREK (FR)||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||Ben Melham||7||59kg||108|
|6||34113×2150||PINSTRIPED||Enver Jusufovic||Ben Allen||9||59kg||107|
|7||216x143x27||BUCKAROO (GB)||Joseph O’Brien||Blake Shinn||8||59kg||107|
|8||5229×86310||MONTEFILIA||Chris Waller||Michael Dee||1||57kg||112|
|9||0x43x79334||DUAIS||Edward Cummings||Damien Oliver||3||57kg||112|
|10||x216Px5202||ATISHU (NZ)||Chris Waller||James McDonald||5||57kg||110|
|11||3311111×21||PROWESS (NZ)||Roger James & Robert Wellwood||Mark Zahra||4||56.5kg||110|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.