Almandin (Image: Racing Photos)
Almandin in the first, Hartnell in the last
There's no better reason to get yourself to Caulfield for the entire day's racing than the above. Oh, actually, the quality smashed in between is up there too. The #1 saddlecloths on the nine-race card have won a collective 10 Group 1s, and Tosen Stardom, Long Leaf and Flamberge could yet add to that statistic. He might be past his best, but 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin resumes in the Listed Mornington Cup Prelude (2000m). The 'big boy' Hartnell, as Matt Hill brilliantly called winning in the C.F. Orr, had never won first-up prior to this season, but the seven-year-old has since done so twice. The horse that beat him second-up in the spring, Humidor, isn't in the Peter Young but the Futurity. However, looming as his main rival in the 1800m weight-for-age race is Gailo Chop. The head-to-head reads: Hartnell 4, Gailo Chop 1. Gailo Chop's only time to date beating Hartnell in a race was in his Caulfield Stakes win in the spring, while Hartnell had his measure in each of the Underwood Stakes, Makybe Diva and P.B. Lawrence in the spring (as well as the 2015 Cox Plate). Game on, yet again.
Another classic Oakleigh Plate line-up
There are chances aplenty from the top of the formbook to the bottom in race eight, the time-honoured handicap. Flamberge, a three-time Group 1 winner, won this race as a 58kg topweight in 2016, and approaching his third crack at it, has the 57kg topweight again after Chautauqua was not accepted for. Flamberge is one of four runners for the Flemington stable of Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra, joined by fellow Contract Racing horse Sword Of Light, as well as Rock 'N' Gold and Booker. Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign has it all to do from barrier 17, drawn the outside of fellow filly Booker, and the inside of speedy mare Snitty Kitty. In fact, female equines have drawn the outermost five barriers in the race - and seven of the outer nine.
Even Blue Diamond field assembled
The market is pretty well spread across several fancies, and with five of the 16 horses guaranteed a start going in unbeaten, it should prove to be a thrilling finale one way or another. Usual suspects David Hayes and Tony McEvoy are prominent with their babies atop the market, but there are some clear fairytale stories in the likes of the Tim Hughes-trained Crossing The Abbey, or Greg Eurell's unwanted filly Lady Horseowner, being a chance to claim the $1.5m feature.
Weir wields strong Futurity hand
It was pretty rare to see a Melbourne Group 1 without any Darren Weir runners in recent times as the Black Caviar Lightning went around without a stable representative. But that hasn't lasted long - as he saddles up three serious horses for the $500,000 Futurity - Tosen Stardom, Humidor and Brave Smash. They take on the likes of three-year-olds Mighty Boss and Showtime in the weight-for-age contest.