Melbourne trainer Rick Hore-Lacy's dream of a Magic Millions 2YO Classic victory suffered a major setback when his unbeaten colt Clevadude draw badly in Saturday's juvenile feature on the Gold Coast.
The Magic Millions 2YO Classic first run in 1987 is one of the major form races for the G1 Golden Slipper Stakes at Rosehill during the Autumn as it represents the first opportunity to gauge juvenile form from other jurisdictions.
Champion two-year-old Dance Hero in 2004 became the first Magic Millions winner to complete the Golden Slipper Stakes double. He was quickly followed by Phelan Ready five years later also completing the double in 2009.
Originally run in two divisions, one for colts and geldings and the other for fillies, a structure that was discontinued after 1992 to the now one event comprising both sexes, the Magic Millions Classic does bring with it some sobering statistics for punters.
A staggering 17 of the least 21 renewal winners have all been last start winners going into the race while seven of the last ten winners have been fillies. That should not come as a complete surprise considering the fillies receive 2 kilos allowance under the set weight scale.
However the Magic Millions 2YO Classic has a long history of attracting quality fields but today's renewal profiles about three pounds below average, the field headed by Timeform's equal top rated two-year-old for the season Clevadude (109+) and the filly Assail also rated in the Top ten juveniles seen in action so far this season.
Although Assail receives a four pound weight pull on Clevadude, the colt did look to have the edge prior to the barrier draw. However the pendulum has now swung back slightly to the filly after she drew the coveted rails position.
Both are unbeaten from their only two racetrack appearances, neither being fully extended in those victories.
While nine of the last 10 winners have drawn inside ten barrier, historically in the last 20 years barriers 1 and 15 (Clevadude will start from 15 after the emergencies are scratched) have both registered two wins apiece.
Crack male juveniles Brave Warrior (1994) and Assertive Lad (2000) both started from barrier 1 while Mirror Mirror (2006) and Clan O"sullivan (1992) won from 15.
Statistics aside it is hard to ignore the advantage an inside barrier delivers to Assail around the tight Gold Coast track. For that reason she is the top Timeform rated selection.
It is interesting to note the last three winners of the Magic Millions Classic have all been fillies and all like Assail, came into the race undefeated.
Assail possesses plenty of early speed leading for home in both her wins to date. On debut over 1000m at Warwick Farm she was slowly away but soon railed through to lead and was never in trouble thereafter producing plenty when asked for in the straight.
Then last start coming off a 40 day break in the Magic Millions lead up race at Wyong over 1100m, she again raced handy to the speed before taking over on the turn, winning comfortably by three lengths running to a Timeform rating of 107p. I expect her to find more again this afternoon.
That is exactly the same form reference used by 2011 winner Karuta Queen.
Assail is prepared by renown trainer of two-year-olds Clarry Connors. Connors knows what it takes to prepare a Millions Classic winner having already pocketed the 2006 trophy with Mirror Mirror, his only winner from five previous runners.
Connors also prepared second placed Belle Du Jour in 2000, that filly then going on to win the Golden Slipper in spectacular style that Autumn.
With regular rider Peter Robl suspended the steering duties on Assail this afternoon rest with globetrotting rider Craig Williams, fresh from a successful stint in Japan.
No doubt Williams will use her natural early speed and although she does not necessarily have to lead, I will be surprised if she does not settle in the first three and take plenty of catching in the short Gold Coast straight.
Trainer Rick Hore-lacy has had his hands on plenty of capable horses during his career, the champion juvenile Redoute's Choice immediately coming to mind.
His latest stable star Clevadude by Black Caviar's sire Bel Esprit, has to live up to the high wraps placed on him by those close to the stable, the colt actually being compared to Redoute's Choice at the same stage of their careers.
Clevadude debuted at Cranbourne over 1000m in mid December winning with ridiculous ease in fast time.
Then stepping up to city grade he easily disposed of a small field at Moonee Valley. Opposed to three other rivals he dominated from the front over 1000m winning by over four lengths in slick time and running even sectionals.
As well as racing clockwise for the first time, Clevadude will face a much larger field than he has encountered at either of his two starts to date. With more speed predicted early in the race from those runners all drawn inside him, Clevadude will face a lot more pressure up front.
While I don't believe this will unduly affect the talented colt, it will be a totally different race scenario for him and one that has seen his pre post odds drift.
Another filly, the locally trained Missy Longstocking, (Timeform rated 104p) also undefeated in four race starts to date, rates as a huge winning chance.
Trained by Liam Birchley who almost tasted Magic Millions success in 2006 when his filly Paprika was run down the shadows of the post, Missy Longstocking ticks most of the boxes today coming through the G3 B J McLachlan Stakes at Doomben.
In that race she was ridden off the speed early but when produced in the straight easily accounted for the Gai Waterhouse-trained Sweet Idea in fast race time.
Drawn in close at five, Missy Longstocking rates as a value runner of the field and most likely will be ridden off the speed again today.
Champion trainer Gai Waterhouse looking for back to back wins in the Classic and her fifth winner overall will be represented by Sweet Idea and Certitude.
However it is hard to envisage how Sweet Idea could turn the tables on Missy Longstocking from their last meeting while Certitude has fared quite badly in the draw starting from the second outside barrier.
However both are definite chances for the multiples.
Enjoy another Magic Millions Classic.
Off Time: 05:25 GMT