Gary Crispe takes a look at the contenders for the Rosehill Guineas...
So far this Autumn the local three-year-olds have not dominated against the older horses or their kiwi counterparts thereby giving a lead to this afternoon's Rosehill Guineas and a push for Puccini.
The form around recent New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Puccini looks very strong, the colt earning a Timeform rating of 121+ from that impressive performance 28 days ago, making him the highest rated winner of the event in recent times.
Often the New Zealand Derby form holds up very well in the Autumn but Puccini comes here a level above some of the recent visitors from across the Tasman. He rates as the horse to beat, and should he be successful will emulate the deeds of Jimmy Choux in 2011.
Unlike Jimmy Choux, Puccini will not have raced for 28 days since winning the NZ Derby (Jimmy Choux came off 21 days) but I do not see that as a negative, the colt has won off similar breaks previously.
Puccini's win in the NZ Derby was his third in succession after equally impressive victories in the G1 Waikato Guineas (2000m) and G1 Avondale Guineas (2100m) but his Derby win was a sensational performance.
Puccini normally travels handy in his races but after missing the start in the Derby, Michael Walker was left with no option but to ride for luck settling down near the rear.
Walker started to make a long run on the colt from the 1500m improving out deep but was forced even wider at the 1000m before getting alongside the leader on the home turn.
The dazzling turn of foot Puccini showed from that point saw him quickly clinch victory striding clear at the 400m and running out an easy winner.
If he brings that level of form to Rosehill this afternoon, the locals will have a real task on their hands to contain him.
The best of the local gallopers are Shamus Award and Dissident who bring good form lines to the race.
Surprise G1 2013 Cox Plate winner Shamus Award has a master Timeform rating of 124 of that win but currently sits at the same level as Puccini on 121 courtesy of his all the way win in the G1 Australian Guineas over 1600m at Flemington two starts back.
The free going Shamus Award will be fourth up from a spell today, his Australian Guineas win coming second run back after finishing third upon resumption in the G1 Orr Stakes over 1400m behind Moment Of Change.
Shamus Award's Australian Guineas win was a strong effort, setting a solid tempo throughout and then holding out all challengers up the long Flemington straight to defeat Criterion and Thunder Fantasy, both of whom oppose him again today.
Last start Shamus Award backed up quickly in seven days after his Guineas win to take on the older more seasoned horses in the G1 Australian Cup over 2000m which proved his downfall. After leading to the 200m, h was claimed late by Fiorente and company, eventually finishing sixth just over three lengths from the winner.
Given 21 days to recover, Shamus Award should return to somewhere near his top form and prove a genuine rival for Puccini.
While the Australian Guineas has been a good guide for the Rosehill Guineas, no horse has been able to capture the double since the Australian Guineas was first run in 1986 and some talented three-year-olds have tried and failed.
In 1992 Naturalism was second at Flemington before winning at Rosehill and in 1997 Tarnpir Lane was third before winning the Guineas. More recently Australian Guineas winners Rock Classic (2010) and Shamrocker (2011) could manage only placings in their respective Rosehill Guineas renewals.
That said Shamus Award is no stranger to creating history already being the first maiden to win the Cox Plate and the first three-year-old to take the Cox Plate - Australian Guineas double.
However he will not be the first three-year-old to have won the Cox Plate - Rosehill Guineas, the mighty Octagonal already has that record safely in the locker, achieved in 1996.
There is no doubting the courage of G1 Randwick Guineas winner Dissident and with Jim Cassidy in the saddle the colt is sure to be in the picture for a long way.
After winning the G2 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) two starts back, Dissident captured his first major prize in the Randwick Guineas after leading throughout then fighting off a challenge by kiwi El Roca over the final 200m to prevail by a nose.
That effort also earned Dissident a Timeform rating of 121 but the step up in distance to 2000m could be an issue as he attempts a trip past 1600m for the first time.
That said, Dissident will race handy today and should "tag" Shamus Award not allowing that colt to get too much of a break, something that could leave them both at the mercy of Puccini.
Last year's Rosehill Guineas winner It's A Dundeel is the only horse to have taken both the Randwick and Rosehill Guineas double since the introduction of the Randwick Guineas in 2006.
Savvy Nature (Timeform rated 116) and Thunder Fantasy (117) will also be popular with some punters, the pair also on a path that leads to the ATC Australian Derby.
Savvy Nature has always shown plenty of potential but has been costly for punters, seldom delivering when in the market.
The son of Savabeel has started twice since a spell and although disappointing last time out in the Randwick Guineas he is deserving of another chance with that run under his belt.
Third up last campaign he ran the promising Complacent to a head in the G2 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) at Rosehill before finishing third to the same horse in the G1 Spring Champion Stakes over 2000m at Randwick and winning The Vase over 2040m at Moonee Valley.
Third placed in the Victoria Derby last spring, Thunder Fantasy resumed this campaign with an impressive win in the Autumn Stakes over 1400m then followed that up with a third to Shamus Award in the Australian Guineas before a fading eighth in the Australian Cup.
Like Shamus Award, Thunder Fantasy will appreciate the drop back to his own age group and must be considered one of the better chances at odds to cause an upset.
Enjoy the clash of the locals versus the kiwis.
Off Time: 05.40 BST
Back Puccini @ $5.00