The Oakleigh Plate run under handicap conditions is the middle leg of the Autumn sprint Crown. The Lightning Stakes and Newmarket Handicap the other two. First run in 1884 when won by Malua, several of Australia's crack sprinters have won the feature.
Champion Perth sprinter and winner of the G1 Winterbottom Stakes in December Barakey is unbeaten from 11 race starts while the emerging three-year-old sprinter Shamal Wind is yet to taste defeat in three runs. Weight adjusted Timeform ratings suggest a tight finish between the pair with Shamal Wind just having her nose in front.
A promising filly from the Robert Smerdon stable, Shamal Wind impressed greatly at her first two race starts, easily winning a 1000m maiden at Ballarat then stepping straight up to Listed company on Victorian Oaks day in the Heritage Stakes down the straight 1200m at Flemington. After tracking the speed early she was produced at the 400m mark then raced clear of an above average field of fillies to win easily by two lengths from Brave Soul. The collateral form from the race has been outstanding with five subsequent winners coming from it. Shamal Wind was assessed to have run to a Timeform rating at 116p.
Shamal Wind was then spelled and resumed at Moonee Valley against older mares in open company over 955m. Burdened with top weight of 58kgs, Shamal Wind led throughout but was seriously challenged close to the line by Chinzia before holding on for a head victory. On face value her win was disappointing running to a Timeform rating of just 103, however upon closer examination the effort was far better than it looked. Shamal Wind crawled in the early stages of the race compressing the field approaching the turn then sprinting home the last 600m in 33.99 seconds, well inside standard for the 955m dash.
Today she drops to 50.5kgs and given the record three-year-olds have in the race, I can see no reason why she will not return to her best form.
Four three-year-olds have won the Oakleigh Plate in the last 10 years but fillies often run well, Miss Kournikova (2001) and Dantelah (1999) two fillies to have won the race in recent times and Elite Falls just getting beaten last year. Those fillies came into the Oakleigh Plate with a master Timeform rating of 117, just a pound more than Shamal Wind.
It is hard to knock the form of Barakey, the five-year-old following in the footsteps of other great West Australian gallopers to perform well in the East. Fellow West Aussie Singing The Blues won the Oakleigh Plate in 1998 and of course the mighty Placid Ark before that in 1987. Barakey who wears blinkers has not raced since winning the Winterbottom Stakes but that is not a concern, the gelding having won all four races when fresh up. He has also been "tuned up" with two barrier trials at Belmont Park, winning both.
Barakey comes into the race with a Timeform rating of 121, a figure if repeated today will see him go close to winning. He can either lead of take a sit which is an advantage in an Oakleigh Plate renown as a pressure sprint around the tight turning Caulfield.
Away from the unbeaten pair, Spirit Of Boom (Timeform rated 119), Adebisi (113) and Rescue Mission (111) all come in well on weight adjusted ratings. Spirit Of Boom resumes today but last raced in Perth against Barakey finishing three-quarters of length astern that galloper and meets him a kilo better at the weights. If there is an upset Spirit Of Boom with Brett Prebble atop is likely to cause it.
Equal top weights on 58kgs are multiple G1 winning mare Ortensia and last year's winner Woorim. While both are top class, they do face a task at the weights. Everything would need to go right for them to win and history might have something to say as well. In the last 20 years just four horses have been asked to carry 58kgs in the Oakleigh Plate and none have run a place.
Furthermore no winner has carried that weight to victory since Regal Scout in 1951. Outstanding mare Dual Choice carried the same weight to win in 1972.
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