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Daily News | 22nd February 2018
Damning Texts Exposed in Aquanita ScandalThursday, 22nd February 2018Melbourne's Herald Sun yesterday published explosive text messages relating to the alleged Aquanita doping scandal. In its exclusive piece, the Herald Sun claims that racing figures doped champion horses in some of Australia's biggest races - possibly even the Melbourne Cup. Among the text messages is a communication between high profile trainer Robert Smerdon and Aquanita staff member Greg Nelligan that discusses "topping up" former star filly Mosheen before the 2011 Group 1 Thousand Guineas in Melbourne. Mosheen finished second to champion filly Atlantic Jewel in the race. The term "top-up" is believed to be a euphemism for the race-day administration of an illegal substance, in this case sodium bicarbonate. Commonly known as baking soda, sodium bicarbonate is a performance enhancing substance that is known in racing circles as a "milkshake" or "bicarb". It enhances performance by increasing blood CO2 levels, which in turn triggers the expulsion of lactic acid from the muscles thus enabling a horse to run for longer without feeling fatigued. News of the Aquanita scandal broke in January when Racing Victoria sensationally charged eight licensed persons affiliated with the organisation formerly known as Aquanita Racing (now operating under the new name of Neerim Lodge) for alleged raceday treatment extending back to 2010.
QLD Give Birchley Green LightThursday, 22nd February 2018Meanwhile, the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) says Liam Birchley, one of the trainers implicated in the Aquanita or Lovani investigation, can continue training in Queensland pending the outcome of the inquiry. "In relation to the decision about whether Mr Birchley should be allowed to continue to train in Queensland, senior thoroughbred stewarding staff have reviewed the evidence and they have come to the view that Mr Birchley should be allowed to continue to train here for the time being, but it remains a fluid situation, " Commissioner Ross Barnett said in a statement. "That decision was based in part on the fact that there has been no offence detected in Queensland. Mr Birchley retains the presumption of innocence and he has declared he’ll be pleading not guilty to all charges." Mr Barnett added: "I’d also add that at this stage, there is no information that any races in Queensland have been compromised but for the integrity of the sport across the country, the information that is coming to light is very concerning."
Sunlight Ready for Sydney DebutThursday, 22nd February 2018Brilliant Victorian filly Sunlight kicks off her Golden Slipper campaign when she makes her Sydney debut in Saturday's Gr2 Silver Slipper Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill. The Tony McEvoy-trained Sunlight is the $6 TAB favourite for the Gr1 Golden Slipper after stringing together three outstanding wins on the Gold Coast, including a dominant win in the Magic Millions 2YO Classic in January. McEvoy told Sky Sport Radio that the daughter of Zoustar was ready to continue on her winning ways. "She’s great. She’s settled into her routine up here really nicely," McEvoy said. "She’s very professional and she’s got such a winning, can-do attitude." Sunlight faces six quality rivals on Saturday including boom filly Estijaab and fellow Zoustar youngster Zousain from the Chris Waller yard.
Oakleigh Plate Out for ChautauquaThursday, 22nd February 2018Star sprinter Chautauqua (Encosta de Lago-Lovely Jubly, by Lion Hunter) will miss Saturday's Gr1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield, reports racing.com. Chautauqua's withdrawal means weights for the $500,000 sprint feature will rise 1.5 kilograms, with Flamberge the new top weight with 57kg (up from 55.5kg). Team Hawkes said Chautauqua is now likely to make his seasonal reappearance in the Gr1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Royal Randwick on 10 March.
Snitty Kitty Primed for PlateThursday, 22nd February 2018Trainer Henry Dwyer says Snitty Kitty has improved significantly leading into Saturday's Gr1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield. Snitty Kitty, who was unbeaten in the spring winning her only two starts, including the Gr2 Caulfield Sprint (1000m) in Melbourne, was narrowly denied when resuming with a close second to Lady Esprit in the Listed W.J. Adams Stakes (1000m) at Caulfield on 3 February. "She was always going to need the run first up and I probably just underestimated how much she would need the run," Dwyer told ANZ Bloodstock News. "We’ve just had to probably do a bit more in that three-week period than we thought we would have at the time. I think fitness-wise she’s pretty close to the mark now." Snitty Kitty is rated a $9.50 chance with TAB behind race favourite Russian Revolution at $4.60.
Snitty Kitty (image: Mark Gatt)
Hartnell Primed for More SuccessThursday, 22nd February 2018Godolphin trainer James Cummings sees no reason why stable star Hartnell cannot continue on his winning way in Saturday's Gr2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield. The UK-bred import maintained his excellent first-up record when resuming with a slashing win in the weight-for-age Gr1 CF Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield two weeks ago. "He's done even better than I expected. Having him in the rural environment at Osborne Park has suited him perfectly," Cummings told Godolphin.com. "Running him at Caulfield on Saturday will keep him in touch with the other horses and then we'll be taking him back to Sydney and coming back again for the Flemington race." Cummings added: "After that we'll have a think about some Group 1s in Sydney like the Ranvet Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth." Hartnell (Authorized-Debonnaire, by Anabaa) is the current $3.50 TAB favourite for the Peter Young ahead of fellow imported galloper Gailo Chop at $3.60.
Godolphin star Hartnell (image: Mark Gatt)
Kementrai To Step Up in HobartvilleThursday, 22nd February 2018Highly regarded colt Kementari (Lonhro-Yavanna, by Redoute's Choice) will be out to test his Guineas credentials when he contests the $400,000 Gr2 ATC Hobartville Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday. Kementari turned in one of the most eye-catching performances by a 3YO this season when resuming with a dashing win in the Gr3 Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m) at Warwick Farm on 10 February. The dynamic nature of the win prompted Godolphin trainer James Cummings to label the son of Lonhro "world class" and showed why the royal blue army consider him a leading contender for the $1 million Gr1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) in Sydney on 10 March. "He was well-treated under the conditions of his last race. Now he has to step up again at level weights against some very good three-year-olds in the Hobartville," Cummings told Godolphin.com. "This is all about who's the best." Cummings added: "His first-up win spoke for itself...he was able to take his first-up run very well and he's held his form nicely. He's made me eager to get him back to the races." Chief among Kementari's rivals on Saturday are Magic Millions 3YO Guineas winner Pierata, Gr1 Golden Rose winner Trapeze Artist, and Chris Waller's exciting unbeaten colt D'Argento.
Kementari (image: Steve Hart)
First Australian Winner for SiyouniThursday, 22nd February 2018Aylmerton became the first Australian winner for high-profile French sire Siyouni (Pivotal) when saluting at Canterbury yesterday. Trained by French-born trainer Jean Dubois, the 2YO Australian-bred colt was ridden by apprentice Jean Van Overmeire to score a stylish debut win in the Pluck@Vinery Handicap over 1200 metres. Aylmerton is the first foal out of the winning Smart Strike (USA) mare Aloona who was covered by Siyouni to southern hemisphere time. Aloona, herself, is a half-sister to Ireland Gr3 winner Galatee (Galileo), dam of Her Majesty The Queen's Gr2 Yorkshire Cup & Gr2 Hardwicke Stakes winner, and Gr1 Woodbine International placegetter, Dartmouth. This is also the female family of Gr1 Breeders' Cup Classic winner & Gr1 Prix d'lspahan winner Arcangues. Siyouni has quickly established himself as one of the hottest young stallions in Europe siring 19 individual stakes winners, including the Aga Khan's outstanding French 1,000 Guineas winner & Gr1 Coronation Stakes winner Ervedya and Gr1 Fillies' Mile winner Laurens. Not bad for a sire that began his career at a fee of just €7,000. Siyouni stands at The Aga Khan Studs Haras de Bonneval in Normandy, France at a fee of €75,000.
Williams To Bypass Country Final for Group 1Thursday, 22nd February 2018Danny Williams' ultimate goal for Don't Give A Damn is for him to gain a start in the $3 million Group 1 Doncaster Mile despite the promising galloper being a top contender for the $500,000 Country Championships Final on the same day. The problem Williams faces is that any horse who qualifies to run in the Country Championships Final at Randwick on day one of The Championships is required to participate in the race. Don't Give A Damn, who has marked himself as an exciting prospect with 4 wins from 5 starts, is down to run in the Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at his home track of Goulburn this Saturday, but a win, which is likely, will present a conundrum for his trainer. "I made a very early call before The Everest last year that Don't Give A Damn gave me the feel that a good race over a mile on a track like Randwick is what he was really going to be good at and logically the first race that came up was the Doncaster," Williams told racenet. "The rules are he would have to run in the Country Championship Final if he ran first or second in the qualifier." He added: "However, there has been some communication with Peter V'Landys and he suggested that if you had a horse that qualified for the Country Championships...if it was able to make the field for the Doncaster...then they'd consider allowing it to run in that race." Williams says he will see how the horse performs at his next few starts before navigating the complicated path of getting him into the time-honoured feature. "Our plan would be to see how he goes Saturday and if we were to win, and win in good style, the horse may go on to something like the Ajax Stakes," he said. "If he was to make it into the Ajax Stakes and win well then that would certainly mean we would have to put in an application to Racing NSW but there is a lot of water to go under the bridge."
Change Of Plans for BonnevalThursday, 22nd February 2018Star Kiwi mare Bonneval will now make two domestic appearances before embarking on an autumn campaign in Sydney, reports NZ Racing Desk. The reigning New Zealand Horse of the Year was originally scheduled to make her seasonal reappearance in Saturday week's Gr1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m), but instead will run in the Gr1 WFA Classic (1600m) at Hawke's Bay this Saturday followed by the Gr1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m) a fortnight later. "We're really happy with her and Matt [jockey Matt Cameron] rode her when she trialled at Taupo the other day and it was very similar to her trial there before she went to Melbourne in the spring," co-trainer Andrew Forsman said. "Taupo is a tight track and she's a big-striding mare, Hastings will suit her a lot better. Matt galloped her yesterday morning and he was really happy and said she had come on a lot." Bonneval will kick off her Sydney sojourn in the Gr1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill on 24 March. "Then there's the BMW [Gr1] and the Queen Elizabeth [Gr1]," Forsman added: "It's up to the owners and what Winx is up to, but there's a few options for her over there." Bonneval (Makfi-Imposingly, by Zabeel) had a mixed spring carnival winning the Gr1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) and Gr2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) in Melbourne, before finishing a well beaten 14th in the Caulfield Cup on 21 October.
Bonneval (image: Mark Gatt)
Improvement Expected from EmbellishThursday, 22nd February 2018Connections are predicting a vastly improved showing from Embellish in Saturday week's Gr1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington, reports NZ Racing Desk. The New Zealand 2000 Guineas winner was an encouraging sixth (beaten 2.9 lengths) when making his Australian debut in last weekend's Gr3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington, and Te Akau principal David Ellis says the colt has really benefited from the outing. "He's come through the run really well and we couldn't be happier with him," Ellis said. "There is quite a lot of improvement in him. It was his first run in Australia and he will definitely appreciate the step up to a mile." Embellish (Savabeel-Bling, by O'Reilly) was not among the first entries for the Guineas due to an administrative oversight but Ellis confirmed "he will be nominated and he will be running."