Unless a $2 million scramble for green two-year-olds in the Inglis Millenium or a small but intriguing Eskimo Prince field at Royal Randwick appeals, the Orr Stakes, the first group 1 of 2024, at Caulfield holds pride of place on Saturday.
Yes, the Sydney offering isn’t strong but the Orr Stakes looks vintage with arguably our best miler, Mr Brightside, the hot favourite, taking on, amongst others, rising three-year-old Veight, handled by Damian Lane.
With champion Damian Oliver recently departed from the local scene, Lane is being touted down south as Australia’s the top jockey which, no doubt, gets opposition from James McDonald supporters.
J-Mac is currently sidelined with an ankle injury while accomplished Sydney hoops Nash Rawiller, Tyler Schiller and Rachel King are also absent from Randwick, while Lane takes on the leading Melbourne premiership six in the weight-for-age sprint.
Surely none are performing better than Mark Zahra, booked by Godolphin for Pericles, while Blake Shinn, a topliner in any hemisphere, will navigate Munhamek, previously Ollie’s last and epic ride in Perth.
The rise of Lane is another example of how the saddle talent, in the more recent decades, hails from the West. Once the nursery was Queensland producing champions and greats, highlighted by George Moore, Neville Sellwood, Mick Dittman, Mel Schumacher, Larry Olson, Darby McCarthy and Chris Munce.
Unwanted in Western Australia, Zahra has become a major influence since moving east: consider his two Melbourne Cup triumphs. Also from that territory, Steven Parnham will partner an Orr candidate, the Perth eight-year-old Bustler for his father Neville Parnham.
Thus Jamie Kah (Ayrton), Michael Dee (Atishu), Celine Gaudray (Buffalo River) and Declan Bates (Pride Of Jenni) makes the Orr a stimulating contest with the race gaining pizzazz due to the tearaway front-running of Pride Of Jenni, out to emulate Vo Rogue who won three Orr Stakes.
Obviously, a battle of tactics should eventuate, a situation Craig Williams on Mr Brightside relishes. Now a six-year-old, Mr Brightside has the figures, scoring at three out of three over Saturday’s course and distance (1400 metres). The only question arises whether, at his vintage, he has lost a sprinting edge. Anyway Veight will require all the assistance Lane, successful in the event on Jacquinot last year, can give him.
- For more: Elrisala website and for social networking, you can follow us on Facebook
- Source of information and images “brisbanetimes”“