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Horsing: Around 19/10 - 25/10

With the new Pro Group Racing site, we bring you new weekly articles, keeping you up-to-date on the latest news in the world of horse racing. Read on to see what the media had to say about it all

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Spring Watch: Django Freeman Out Through Injury

Some sad news for the hopes of one time Melbourne Cup hopeful Django Freeman as he has been ruled out for the remainder of the spring campaign through Injury.

There was original a lot of buzz around the ex German import after impressive runs across Europe including a Group 1 victory in the German Derby back in 2019. 

Racing Victoria Stewards have reported the Rob Hickmott trained runner to have “a minor knee issue and will be sent for a spell."

Hickmott has won the Melbourne Cup under the Lloyd Williams banner in recent years with runners Green Moon (2012) and Almandin (2016) and it was hoped that Django Freeman was of a similar calibre.

Django Freeman was beaten 2.7 lengths behind Verry Elleegant when finishing 11th in the Turnbull Stakes and was 3-1/2 lengths off Nonconformist in the Coongy Handicap at Caulfield last week.

To some the injury won’t come as a major surprise after sub par performances in those races and was currently 47th in Melbourne Cup order of entry. 

Stirring The Pot: UK Pundit Matt Chapman Stokes The British Australian Rivalry

UK Racing pundit Matt Chapman has said some outlandish things in the past to stir up the global racing rivalry and his streak continues taking aim at this years virtual Cox Plate. 

Having previously labelled wonder mare Winx a pensioner and having stood in front on of the media and stated she had only ever beaten average fields Chapman was quite happy to right off the Queen of the Turfs chances again in the Virtual Plate.

Keen to side with Frankel, the UK stallion once rated at 140 to be voted the worlds best racehorse Chapman fired in: 

“On the eve of one of my favourite races – the Cox Plate – Australian racing is about to be hit by a tidal wave of self-inflicted disappointment over its most prestigious prize,” Chapman told The Herald Sun from England.

“The idea to produce a virtual race that will pay homage to the history of the great event and help celebrate its 100th running is an honourable and decent one.

“But the decision to add in three horses to the virtual mix that never landed a Cox Plate – namely the awesome Frankel, US star Secretariat and Japan’s Deep Impact - is set to backfire big time and is certain to prove a monster mistake.

“Now I’m not that fussed about Secretariat and Deep Impact to be honest. Everyone knows Secretariat needs dirt so Moonee Valley will be no good for him, and Deep Impact failed to land the Arc when punted off the boards.

“But people. Frankel? I repeat Frankel with a world rating of 140. Without any doubt, to the mind of any sane observer (even Australians), the greatest horse ever to have existed – surely it only goes down as madness he is in the field.

“I mean, it’s an own goal isn’t it? You parade all these legends of Australian racing, including Winx, bless her, Kingston Town and Phar Lap and, unless there is a computer glitch which I suspect will happen, Frankel will win by a street. Whoops.”

For those unaware of Chapman, here’s a clip of his direct and condescending tone in full flow: 

Keep On Running: Waller Selects Melbourne Cup Jock For Verry Elleegant

Chris Waller has rewarded the recent runs of Mark Zahra and booked him to ride Caulfield Cup winner Verry Elleegant in the Melbourne Cup.

The announcement, made by Wallers racing manager Charlie Duckworth on Tuesday, confirmed that Zahra would be retaining the ride over regular rider James McDonald after securing Group 1 success in the Turnbull and Caulfield Cup.

A disappointment for MacDonald however not the end of his journey after he was also rewarded by being booked to ride stablemate Finche in the $8m race.

Duckworth announced both bookings in a pre prepared statement: 

"All three of our Caulfield Cup runners have come through the Caulfield Cup in good shape," Duckworth said.

"Starting with Toffee Tongue, we just feel she is not ready for a Melbourne Cup this early in her career. Mr (Jonathan) Munz is happy for us to run her in the Queen Elizabeth or Matriarch or alternatively spell her and prepare her for an autumn campaign.

"Finche, he has bounced through the run and seems to be in great order after a tough run on Saturday.

"He is all set for the Melbourne Cup now and we have been lucky enough to secure James McDonald for the ride. He is a genuine chance again this year in his third attempt at the time-honoured race and we are delighted to be represented by him again.

"Last but certainly not least, Verry Elleegant has come through the race with no problems at all and after much discussion with the ownership group we have decided that firstly we are going to push on to the Melbourne Cup and secondly that Mark Zahra will retain the ride.”

Duckworth did go on to say that when Verry Elleegant returns to Sydney in the Autumn McDonald would repartner with the mare. 

Fond Farewell: Dettori Leads Tributes To Record Breaking Enable

Trainer John Gosden and his staff at the Clarehaven stable waved farewell to super mare Enable one last time on Wednesday as she left to travel to her new home at Barnstead Manor Stud.

Enable will head to her new surroundings where she will be covered by stallion Kingman who is also owned Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms operation.

The move comes after the great mare failed in a bid to secure a historic Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe where she finished 6th after becoming bogged down in the heavy ground in France. 

Despite Gosden and connections remaining bullish about the horse's chances going forward the decision was made to retire the daughter of Nathanial last week reluctantly avoiding one last hurrah at Ascot or the upcoming Breeders Cup.

Even in retirement Gosden couldn’t have been more positive: “It’s wonderful to have had all that racing at two, three, four, five and six and retire her sound. Mr (Frankie) Dettori was here, popped the silks on and sat on her, like the old pictures we have in the yard.

“The ones you really love are the ones that try, give everything and want to work with you. She was the most fantastic filly for her sheer appetite and joy for training.”

“It’s like working with people, when you have someone with a positive mindset it makes it more pleasurable.”

Enjoy retirement Enable!!

Greatest Ever: Frankel Takes Out The Virtual Cox Plate

Superstar of UK racing Frankel went on to win the virtual Cox Plate in the 100th year of running the Moonee Valley show piece.

It was widely expected by many Aussies that Winx, a 4 time winner of the race or Phar Lap a darling of Australian horse racing would take out the virtual spectacle but it was former 140 rated galloper Frankel who won. 

In the race itself, Frankel beat home American Secretariat with Queen of Australian Racing finishing third. 

 While Frankel was hard in the market - with Ladbrokes actually taking bets on the race (maximum $20) - many punters thought the winner should have come from horses who actually raced in the Cox Plate.

Neither Frankel or Secretariat raced in Australia, while Winx of course won an unprecedented four Cox Plates.

One unhappy punter took to twitter: “Who was more disrespected just there? Winx for running third, Hugh Bowman randomly going around half the field to sit 3 deep, Phar Lap for running 7th or the country of Australia for everything mentioned above?”

See the full race below:

Speed Demon: New 1000m Track Record Set At The Valley

Scenes in the 6th at Moonee Valley on Friday Night as Hawkes trained filly Written Beauty broke Nature Strips 1000m time record in a dominant display.

The three year old having just a 4th start for the team showed real class when clocking an impressive 56.92 seconds to eclipse the one previously set by Waller sprinter Nature Strip.

Although a slight drifter on the evening, going from $1.55 to $1.75 at the jump she jumped well under the ride of veteran WA jockey William Pike and elected for cover on settling. 

After settling down in midfield, the daughter of Written Tycoon clearly switched off in running and was able to easily slip off heels coming into the straight. 

Rounding the bend and seeing nothing but fresh air in front the young filly exploded and put the race to bed 100m from home with a clearly excited race caller claiming “she oozes talent this one”.

With the time in no doubt being an amazing result, punters will now be looking at the levels that can be reached by Written Beauty and undoubtedly looking toward bigger group races in the future. 


Sorry State: Covid-19 Stops Fans From Attending Cup Week

The Melbourne Cup will be without fans this year due to the current pandemic being able to host an audience safely. 

Melbourne, currently in the worst lockdown almost across the globe has been subject to much scrutiny for its handling of the pandemic. As such the Victoria Racing Club has decided not to let supporters attend the famed raceday. 

VRC Chair Amanda Elliott and the VRC body had worked closely with state authorities to outline how small crowds could attend safely. 

The club said it was “now clear that none of this is possible.”

“While we are very disappointed not to be able to welcome our members and racegoers to cup week, we understand the government’s commitment to keeping our community safe. We also recognise the need for certainty and clarity for our patrons, being only six days out from Derby Day,” Elliott said.

“We are still in discussions regarding the potential return to the track for a small number of owners, as is currently permitted in regional Victoria.”

Elliott said the VRC would innovate to engage with absent audiences.

“What is certain is the Melbourne Cup carnival will go ahead with viewing audiences watching from across Australia and around the world,” she said.

“The spirit of Cup Week, the high quality racing and the 160th running of the People’s Cup will be enjoyed by millions.”

Hopes will be held that racing will hopefully return to normal next year when hundreds of thousands attend the week. 

Spring Watch: Pike and The Prince Pair For Cup Run

Top WA Hoop Willie Pike has been rewarded on his recent performances in Victoria with the ride of Steel Prince in the Melbourne Cup.

Pike was originally one of the early settlers in the race where in August he stated he would be partnering with Schabau for the big race. However with the import unlikely to making the cut Pike has elected to partner with South Australian trained Steel Prince after recently winning the Geelong Cup.

WA’s favourite son has been incredible form so far this spring riding Arcadia Queen to a Caulfield Stakes win, Ole Kirk to Caulfield Guineas triumph and all while riding a total of 4 winners on Guineas day. 

Unsurprisingly it has seen Anthony and Sam Freedman snap up the man known affectionately as ‘The wizard of the West’ for Tuesday week’s 3200m assignment.

Steel Prince is on the cusp of the Melbourne Cup field and sits 25th in ballot order following his win in the Geelong Cup last week.

He lined up in the Melbourne Cup last year, where he finished a credible ninth in the feature.

Check out more of the latest PGR news >>>

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