WE'VE now passed the halfway mark in the Spring Racing Carnival and it is again proving an outstanding year.
The BMW Caulfield Cup Carnival was a top-class opening chapter forspring racing, which culminates in the 56th running of the group 2 $351,000 Sportingbet Sandown Guineas (1600 metres) at Sandown's Hillside track on November 17.
We've again seen a large influx of international performers seeking a share of the riches on offer, especially for the Melbourne Cup and its $6 million in prizemoney, plus $200,000 in trophies.
The visiting horses have already shown their influence on the carnival with Dunaden's win in the Caulfield Cup. And last Wednesday the John Gosden-trained Gatewood became the third successive international horse to win the group 3 $315,000 Geelong Cup (2400m).
Gatewood's win at Geelong will greatly enhance his chances of a start at Flemington, but with just a one-kilogram penalty he is still well down the list of qualified horses.
At the weekend, Moonee Valley took its turn with the running of the Cox Plate. This week the attention turns to Flemington. Racing purists consider this Saturday's meeting the finest day of racing on the Australasian calendar and one of the major international days. The program features four group races, two at group 2 and three at group 3.
The main event is the 158th group 1 $1.5 million AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) and the unbeaten Kiwi three year old It's A Dundeel is justifiably the favourite.
The Murray Baker-trained son of High Chaparral made it five wins from five starts when he beat Proisir in the group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick in Sydney.
However he came in second to Super Cool in Saturday's group 2 $235,000 Mitchelton Wines Vase at Moonee Valley. That said, the pace did not suit him and he will be much better at Flemington. Super Cool stamped himself as a top chance with his win.
The Peter Snowden-trained Solemn emerged as a top chance with his win in the Listed $120,000 Geelong Classic last Wednesday.
The Starlight Children's Foundation Norman Robinson Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 20 has always been a good guide to the Victoria Derby and the winner Hvasstan impressed.
Saturday also features the group 1 weight-for-age $1,002,500 Longines Mackinnon Stakes (2000m).