Exciting chaser Thubiaan, who is looking for a third-straight feature win since transferring to the bigger fences, heads the Steeplechase, while Fieldmaster and Beer Garden, who both dislodged their jockeys in the Galleywood Hurdle, will clash against the likes of Arch Fire and Tuscan Fire in the Hurdle.
Hot 2YO contest – Arguably the best of the nine races at Moonee Valley is the first for the two-year-olds which features five horses in Alkaashef, El Greco, Jose Wales, Net Wealthand Prestwick coming off a debut victory.
Adding further depth are the three (Kinglike, Battle Of Troy and Old Trieste) that finished behind the highly-promising Bassett at Caulfield two weeks ago and a Mark Kavanagh-trained debutant, Iron Boss, who is by Street Cry out of the Crown Oaks winner Faint Perfume and cost $475,000 as a yearling.
3YO Clash – The third race on the program features a clash between a number of promising three-year-olds on the way up versus one with the form on the board.
Interestingly, however, Price said he thought Volcanic Ash, a dominant first-up winner at Cranbourne, was the pick of his two chances in the race, which also features the Kavanagh-trained filly Fast Approaching, who is looking for a fourth-straight victory.
Queensland Oaks – The only Group 1 race in Australia this weekend is the Queensland Oaks (2200m), which will be run at Doomben this year with Eagle Farm out of action.
With last week’s dominant Doomben Roses (2020m) winner Bohemian Lily scratched due to injury, Chris Waller looks to hold the key with the favourite Winx, who goes into the race off a stunning victory in the Sunshine Coast Guineas (1600m), and Ballet Suite, who defeated Bohemian Lily in the Princess Stakes (2000m) three weeks ago.
Robert Smerdon’s Ungrateful Ellen heads the Victorian hopes which also include Caulfield winner Anaphora, Doomben Roses fourth placegetter Yulong Baby and first emergency Imperial Lass, who gains a start with the scratching of Bohemian Lily.
BETTING PICTURE (As of 4pm Friday)
Hot Favourite – Thubiaan: Has had two steeplechase starts for two 6-plus-length wins in feature races and TAB have opened him a $2.20 chance to make it three from three in Sunday’s Australian Steeplechase.
Not-so-roughie – Beauty Cash: Though there will be deductions after four early scratchings, those who took the opening price of $51 will still be getting nearly double the $21 currently on offer.
Kinglike: Hit the line powerfully behind his stable mate Bassett on debut at Caulfield and he has been backed from $4.60 into $3.20 to go one better on Saturday.
Manhattan Avenue: Second-up last preparation he defeated Firehouse Rock at Bendigo and later in the Spring he ran third in the Carbine Club. That looks impressive form for the race he tackles on Saturday and no surprise to see him backed from $4 into $3.20.
Digitalism: Trainer John Sadler labelled this son of Fastnet Rock the best chance of his strong five-horse Moonee Valley team and the punters share his confidence with the five-year-old backed from $8.50 into $5.
Jessy Belle: Four-year-old mare that has hit the line strongly at her two starts over sprint distances this preparation and the punters believe she will be suited stepping up in distance, backing her from $7.50 into $4.40.