2023 Autumn Carnival top performers
The Autumn Racing Carnival is another great chance to see some of the best racing talent across Australia, as well as this year internationally, race against each other and compete for the riches the Group One contest has to offer.
In particular where talk of the Spring Carnival evokes thoughts of Melbourne Racing, the Straight Six at Flemington as well as the premier races the state has to offer. The Autumn Carnival presents a chance to showcase its talents for hosting black type racing and the pageantry that goes along with that.
Royal Randwick and Rosehill Gardens play host to some of the biggest races on the Australian Racing Calendar through the Autumn Months with the Golden Slipper, Randwick Guineas, TJ Smith Stakes, Doncaster Handicap and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes all attracting high calibre fields.
Within this year's fields we have seen some extremely talented runners from both home and abroad contest the riches the Autumn Racing Carnival has to offer. We take a look through those who over achieved and those who might be worth a punt in the future.
2023 Autumn Carnival Top Performers
Dubai Honour - William Haggas
This was one of the first times we had seen William Haggas on Australian shores during the Autumn Racing Carnival and it’s highly likely he’ll have enjoyed his time down under once again having seen Dubai Honour win another Queen Elizabeth II Stakes this year.
During his time in Australia Haggas went on record that him and fellow British trainer Andrew Balding were looking for a base in the country from which to compete with their runners on a more regular basis and it’s no surprise given he has now won 3 out of the past 4 editions of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
After Addeyyb Haggas would have known what was needed to win the big races in Sydney and he certainly got it right once again with Dubai Honour who smashed the Ranvet Stakes field before claiming the feature race of the Carnival, the $5m ATC Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Dubai Honour could have possibly gone down as one of the top performers for the Autumn on his Ranvet Stakes win alone where he defeated a talented field by over 4 lengths at Randwick. It was an absolute demolition job and a performance which put the racing community on notice that the Northern Hemisphere horses weren’t here to mess about.
This run would tee up a super showdown with Anamoe where Dubai Honour would come out on top, once again dominating the field to win by 2.5 lengths. What was more impressive is that from two runs down under Dubai Honour would win his first and second up runs dominating the Group One middle distance division while in Australia.
Giga Kick - Clayton Douglas
What a season this three year old runner from the Clayton Douglas stable is having. He’d already claimed the Everest in the Spring and was on the hunt in Autumn for his maiden Group One title and he wasn’t likely to be leaving empty handed having become renowned as one of the best racing talents in Australia.
Giga Kick returned to the track for the first time in March where he went up against a stacked field in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes. On that occasion he would jump awkwardly from the start and then rattle home quickly, reeling in the leaders but falling just short in the 1000m Sprint.
There were a lot of positives to take from that run in the G2 Challenge and there was much excitement when Giga Kick would be sent on to the TJ Smith Stakes and aim to stop Nature Strip winning a fourth consecutive title.
Despite jumping well Giga Kick was unable to win again despite another improved run over the 1200m. Despite Nature Strip not being able to sustain his run on this occasion it would be I Wish I Win who would prove to strong for the three year old. However again there was strong improvement and Giga Kick looked ready to break through.
Stepping into the unknown Giga Kick and Douglas would try one last throw at the stumps in the Group One all Aged Stakes at the end of The Championships and it would prove to be the right gamble.
Perhaps it was the plan the whole way to move Giga Kick further up in distance but it proved to be a master stoke by trainer Clayton Douglas who would see his 3 year old Gelding fly from a wide position on the bend and win his maiden Group One by nearly two lengths.
As a three year old Giga Kick has now amassed an amazing $8.6m in prize money and continues to improve each time he steps onto the track.
Aft Cabin - James Cummings
It's beginning to feel like there's a conveyor belt of superstars flying out of Agnes Bank in New South Wales at the moment. In recent months we’ve seen Anamoe, In Secret, Golden Mile, Pericles and Paulele all win Black Type races including a number of Group One titles for the Royal Blue.
However our focus is on the impressive Aft Cabin who goes down as one of our top performers for Autumn having claimed a pair of Black Type titles in impressive fashion.
Aft Cabin burst onto the scene when winning the Caulfield Guineas Prelude back in the spring. After that run however he was subsequently suspended from racing after he was found to have bled after the race.
Returning in the Autumn he didn’t hang around making up for lost time when winning the Eskimo Prince Stakes at Group Three level by 1.7l. His run was an emphatic one where he was able to loop the field and burst away in the straight and ease down comfortably before the line.
That run would set tongues wagging for the remainder of the Autumn and he was backed into a heavy favourite for the Group Two Hobartville Stakes however after having to work early and getting bumped in the straight he would end up finishing 5th.
There was another horror story for Aft Cabin in the Randwick Guineas next start where the 3YO would get to far back to affect the finishing podium despite putting in a massive run to close off late and finish within two lengths of the winner.
The Arrowfield is where he would show his talents winning with confident style when sidling up to the leaders and finding another gear late to power how and collect a second title of the Autumn.
Obviously you can argue that the latest crop of Godolphin horses have won bigger and better races however Aft Cabin has had to spend the best part of 6 months on the side lines after bleeding and come back to win two from four starts and unlucky not to have more.
So impressive have his runs been that even the Godolphin team and trainer James Cummings have been discussing Ascot as the next step for this rising three year old.
Autumn Carnival Ones To Watch
Let’s be honest there are a host of runners who hold a claim for top performers of the Autumn but after picking our top three we’ve got to have a brief mention for those to look out for going forward as we enter Winter and Spring racing Carnivals.
Zaaki - Annabel Neasham
We didn’t see much of this fella through the Autumn Carnival after plans to run in the All Star Mile were scrapped at the start of the Autumn Season due to poor behaviour around the trials and stables.
It was something of a surprise to many punters as Zaaki had finished off his Spring Campaign winning the Group One Champions Mile at Flemington and not to even make it to the track when selected as top pick for the All Star Mile seemed a bold decision by trainer Annabel Neasham.
She cited he was performing well below par in training and definitely not at the level to be able to compete in the early part of Autumn.
However, Neasham now looks to be getting him back to his best. Zaaki returned in the Group One Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and while he had no chance with the winner and his stablemates late charge bumped him to third it was an encouraging first up run.
He is likely now to tread a familiar road with the Hollindale stakes, Doomben Cup and most likely the Q22 in Queensland his next targets. Given he was only first up in the QEII Stakes there should be plenty of improvement and if he can live up to his best then there should be plenty of value in his early market prices going into the Winter Carnival.
I Wish I Win - Peter Moody
Another one to follow here after an impressive Autumn Campaign saw I Wish I Win tackle three major sprint races where he would win one and place in two others.
Trainer Peter Moody rounded off I Wish i Win’s Spring campaign by winning the Golden Eagle at Rosehill and there was plenty to like about that run that meant that he would have a good Autumn however his lowest price in betting was never more than $5.
He Started the Black Caviar Lightning as an $8.50 chance, the Newmarket Handicap at $5 and when he won the TJ Smith a $10 chance.
It seems crazy really that punters and bookmakers alike didn’t like the look of I Wish I Win as his first up run in the Lightning Stakes was massive where he closed off late to finish within a head of Coolangatta.
His second up run in the Newmarket was also strong and then when returning to Sydney and racing round the bend as opposed to up the straight it all seemed to click for the 4yo as he won the TJ Smith Stakes.
If the big prices continue for I Wish I Win it’s definitely worth backing each way as he’s yet to miss a place in his last four starts including three at Group One level.
Cascadian - James Cummings
While all the focus goes on the young guns of Godolphin this old warhorse has been steadily building his reputation as a battler who turns up on the big days in weight for age grade.
Cascadian put in a huge run to finish second in the All Star Mile at Moonee Valley and was unlucky not to win the $5m contest when just missing Mr Brightside late.
He would go on to win the Group One Australian Cup over 2000m next time out at Flemington in another impressive performance where he would put on a powerful run down the middle of the track to claim another Group One title.
The 8yo Gelding was on the march once again in the All Aged Stakes when winding up late to get within 2 lengths of Giga Kick to finish third and with a bit of extra distance could have been able to roll the 3yo superstar.
A winter campaign in QLD is likely to beckon for the gelding and if Cascadian continues with this good form there should be good value about for him on his next start.