The Blue Diamond Stakes is the first Group 1 of the season for two-year-olds. Classy juvenile Tolerance won the first running in 1971, but since then some of Australia's best juveniles have been successful including Manikato (1978), Rancher (1982), Redoute's Choice (1999), Bel Esprit (Black Caviar's sire in 2002), Alinghi (2004 and Sepoy in 2011.
Stojakovic and Miracles of Life have formed a strong bond, the pair almost inseparable, Stojakovic having worked closely with the flashy little filly ever since she entered Daniel Clarken's stable early in her racing career. They have combined in all three wins to date, the dominance of the duo clearly obvious by their combined winning margin of almost 19 lengths. But now both horse and rider face their stiffest assignment, tackling a Group 1 for the first time.
So far this season, fillies have dominated the early lead up races, rating higher and running faster comparative times than the colts and geldings. However, the Blue Diamond assembles a number of those form lines which should finalise the "pecking" order based on Melbourne performances before the focus switches to Sydney and the Golden Slipper.
It is hard to find fault with the form of Miracles of Life. She debuted at Morphettville Park over 1000m with a five and a half lengths romp then backed that up with a ten lengths winning effort over 1050m at Morphettville, both times sitting off the speed. Last start she faced her biggest test coming to Melbourne for the Blue Diamond Preview over 1000m at Caulfield but once again sailed through the assignment winning with ease by over four lengths.
There was a lot to like about the win. Many had expected her to lead, but Stojakovic rode the filly well off the pace, settling mid-field before unleashing a devastating turn of foot in the home straight to win comfortably. The manner of the win dispelled any fears about her ability to handle the additional distance of the Blue Diamond, the filly along with the rest of the field tackling 1200m for the first time.
There was much conjecture after the race if Stojakovic would be replaced by a more experienced rider. However, much to the delight of punters, connections have shown great faith by allowing Stojakovic to retain the mount. No doubt having her first Group 1 ride will be a big occasion for Stojakovic, but the way she handled the preview ride, I cannot see anything fazing her today.
A big advantage for the duo is the inside barrier. Some may argue it could be a negative, but Miracles of Life can begin like a greyhound and with that early speed, she can easily hold a forward position, thereby negating a lot of the arguments relating to her inexperienced rider. The barrier statistics for the filly who will start either first or second favourite in the race are strong. In the last 20 years, horses in the market that draw inside barrier 10 have a strike rate of 76% versus a participation rate of 69%, clearly an advantage for any punter.
Under the set weight conditions of the race fillies have a two kilogram advantage over the colts but their overall record in the race does not match their participation rate. In the last 10 years the participation rate for fillies versus colts and geldings in the race is close to 50% each, yet fillies have won just 30% of the races, the last to do so was Samaready last year. Upon closer examination, fillies are generally dominant in the race when the performance ratings of the boys going into the race is low, as is the case this year.
Miracles of Life rated 113 last start when a comfortable winner in the Preview with the promise of more to come. She will need to take that figure to a new high this afternoon, but that seems a formality as she has made sharp rating jumps in each of her starts to date.
Another filly, the Peter Snowden-trained Guelph, rates as the main danger. She has also been a sharp ratings riser in recent runs. After an unlucky second in the Gimcrack Stakes behind Brilliant Bisc last October, Guelph was spelled resuming at Warwick farm at the end of January for an impressive victory coming from well off the speed and running to a Timeform rating of 101.
Then last start she showed her class and further improvement winning the G3 Blue Diamond Prelude at Caulfield over 1100m, sitting handy during the race then unleashing in the straight to easily run down stable mate Montsegur. That effort earned her a new Timeform rating peak of 112, a pound behind Miracles of Life.
Snowden who has previously won the Blue Diamond with champion juvenile Sepoy in 2011 will have three runners in the race, Guelph, Montsegur and Metastasio. Stable rider Kerrin McEvoy who has two wins in the feature, Sepoy (2011) and True Jewels (2001) had the choice of rides and not surprisingly selected Guelph.
Guelph has not fared that well in the barrier draw and will start from 13. As we have seen from the above statistics, well fancied horses in the Blue Diamond that start from outside barrier 10 win less than their participation rate. All the same if McEvoy can find cover on the back of the speed from 13 Guelph will be closing fast in the straight. I have no doubt she will relish the 1200m distance.
The Tony Vasil-trained Bowler is a maiden but impressed at his only race start when just held out by classy colt Kuroshio in the Blue Diamond Prelude over 1100m. On that occasion The Bowler went out hard early running quick sectionals but was still there battling hard in the finish. It was an impressive debut run and he is another likely to make further improvement. The Bowler will be out to emulate 1995 renewal winner Principality who was also a maiden at the time of his victory, having raced three previous occasions.
There is nothing wrong with the form of the unbeaten Metastasio. The filly comes through the Listed Chairman's Stakes at Caulfield three weeks back leading throughout to win comfortably from Kona Breeze. No doubt she will take further improvement from the race but she does face a different class of runner.
A very competitive Blue Diamond renewal awaits, the result of which will settle the Melbourne juvenile ratings this season.
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