The bookies are having a hard time separating the top three mares in Saturday’s Group 1 $1 million Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) with Colette, Mystic Journey and Tofane all presenting as livewire chances in the opening elite level on Derby Day.
Victoria Derby Day features four Group 1 races starting with the female gallopers facing off in the Empire Rose Stakes, the mile showdown attracting a class field of 15 in 2021.
Current top elect in the markets at Ladbrokes.com.au looking to return to Group 1 winning form is the Michael Moroney-trained Tofane.
Drawn well in gate two with Craig Williams, chasing his first victory in the race since Lyrical Bid back in 2006, the Ocean Park six-year-old presents fit fourth-up this prep.
She won Brisbane’s Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap – Tattersall’s Tiara double over the winter and has run top four in her three lead-up Melbourne runs ahead of the Empire Rose Stakes.
Among those was a close fourth only a length beaten by subsequent 3.5 length Caulfield Cup champion Incentivise, who is now set to start the shortest-priced favourite in Tuesday’s Group 1 $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) since Phar Lap in 1930, in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
After the Makybe Diva fourth, Tofane was good again in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) carrying 58kg to second behind 52kg lightweight I’m Thunderstruck.
Back against her own kind on Saturday, she looks well positioned with 57kg and is at a current quote of $3.50 and firming.
“She has run out the mile twice now,” Moroney told Racenet this week.
“Craig (Williams) was adamant she ran out the 1600m when she raced against Incentivise in the Makybe Diva Stakes, and they were just too good for her at weight-for-age.
“She gave I’m Thunderstruck 6kg in the Toorak and ran another great race.”
The Godolphin-raced Colette ($7) donning the No. 1 saddlecloth and inaugural $5 million All-Star Mile winner as a filly back in 2019 Mystic Journey ($5.50) present as the threats drawn gates eight and three respectively.
Damien Oliver partners the James Cummings-trained Colette, the Hallowed Crown mare celebrating her first victory since February’s Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) winning the Group 2 Tristarc Stakes (1400m) on Caulfield Cup Day.
Red Tracer (2013) was the last mare to complete the Tristarc Stakes – Empire Rose Stakes double, but there is money to suggest Collette can be the next especially if we get a wet track for Derby Day.
Mystic Journey meanwhile entered the history books during her three-year-old season when the daughter of Needs Further became the first Tasmanian-trained Group 1 winner in over a century taking out the 2019 Australian Guineas at this track/distance.
The first All-Star Mile race also ran at HQ that year and she won that from barrier 13 of 14 defeating the likes of Hartnell (2nd) and Alizee (3rd).
Her form since has been solid but not incredible, however back-to-back Group 2 placings at 1400m here leading up to Saturday make her a in-form threat.
Rounding out the single-figure fancies in this year’s race is the Tom Dabernig-trained Flying Mascot ($9.50) in barrier seven for hoop Blaike McDougall.
A four-year-old daughter of gun staying sire Tavistock, Flying Mascot has won tow of her last three in easier company.
She put the writing on the wall and secured her first Group 1 assignment in the last on Cox Plate Day stealing the show with a runaway 4.25 length victory in the Group 3 Tesio Stakes (1600m) at The Valley.
For value the other Tasmanian raider in the mix is Still A Star ($11) who was impressive last time out saluting in the Group 2 Rose Of Kingston Stakes (1410m) at Flemington.
Still A Star worked together with Mystic Journey at Launceston on Tuesday in their final major piece of work ahead of Saturday’s assignment, both mares putting in a strong performance.
There is an additional $1 million from the Victorian Racing Club for connections of Still A Star should she salute on Saturday, the mare having won one of 16 nominated lead-up races to qualify for the huge cash bonus.
Race favourite Tofane is also eligible for the bonus for her Tatt’s Tiara success at Eagle Farm.
The 2021 Empire Rose Stakes is scheduled as Flemington Race 5 at 3:00pm (AEDT) for Saturday.