It’s time (a quote that has been mentioned once or twice this week, if you are superstitious there is a horse with the same name running at Mooney Valley tomorrow) to look forward to the weekends sporting action.
- Horse Racing – Cox Plate – Mooney Valley plays host to a huge double header with racing on both Friday night and Saturday. Friday sees the best sprinters in the land lining up at the Manikato Stakes. There are plenty of chances in this one. Lankan Rupee will be looking to turn the tables on Buffering, while Terravista has those from over the border in NSW purring after some dominant recent displays. Buffering will probably lead them into the straight and try and hold on. But there are plenty of others in the race who can win and some at very juicy odds, such as number 6 Famous Seamus, a last start winner who likes the wet.
Saturday’s feature is Australia’s premier Weight for Age race, the Cox Plate. Some have questioned the quality of the field, specifically the final few inclusions, and called for a return to the old days when it was a race reserved for only the elite, and a full field was not a necessity. But it remains a race full of quality horses and as difficult a race to predict as any. It brings together different form lines and a winning case can be made for more than half the horses in the field. Fawkner however deserves to be favourite. His preparation has been faultless and he is a proven group 1 winner. The Cleaner will be the sentimental favourite, the horse from Tasmania has captured the imagination of the public this spring. He received a hero’s send off from the Longford community and then a police escort to the Spirit of Tasmania for the crossing last night. Irish stallion Adelaide leads the international charge and the jet-setting three year old has plenty of admirers. The Kiwi born Sydney based Sacred Falls is another with a great chance. He flashed home for fourth last start after being last at the turn and will certainly be in contention. It will be key to watch how the track is running and whether back markers have a chance, if not then The Cleaner has a great chance of causing a famous upset.
Tips – As noted above, there are plenty of winning hopes and tipping the winner is no easy task. I’ll stick with Fawkner to win from The Cleaner and Sacred Falls.
SUQ – 9.5 – The only race bigger on the calendar is the Melbourne Cup. Tune in for as much of Saturday afternoon as you can afford to.
- Football – El Clasico – Real Madrid versus Barcelona – There might be other games on but they all take a back seat as El Clasico takes centre stage in La Liga this weekend. It is the most anticipated fixture on the La Liga calendar and this year it comes early in the season. Barcelona has opened a gap at the top and a win here would put them well on the way to regaining the title they lost to Athletico Madrid last season. Cristiano Ronaldo has been in phenomenal goal scoring form, averaging almost two goals a league game (15 in eight games) so far this season. For Barcelona, who are yet to concede in the league this season, all eyes will be on Lionel Messi who will be looking to break the La Liga goal scoring record. Luis Suarez will also be chomping at the bit to get his Barcelona career off to a successful start. Let’s hope he settles for sinking his teeth into football and not any of the opposition.
Tip – Real Madrid took a while to get going but they have been outstanding over the last month. Gareth Bale is under an injury cloud but even without him they have enough quality and depth to win. Real Madrid 3 – Barcelona 1.
SUQ – 9 – So many sub plots. Anything like last season’s 4-3 classic would be a treat for viewers who rarely get the chance to see such quality on the one field.
- Cricket – Australia versus Pakistan (in Dubai) – It’s been a while since cricket featured on these pages, though that is about to change with summer just around the corner. The rarely watched or talked about domestic one day competition has almost reached its finale (Western Australia will play either Queensland or NSW in the final). These days it is a competition that has a pre-season vibe, with Twenty-20 and the Sheffield Shield the primary focuses. On the international stage the first test between Australia and Pakistan is two days old and evenly poised. A slow first day was followed by a more enterprising second. Pakistan reached 454 thanks to hundreds from Sarfraz Ahmed and Younus Kahn while in reply Australia has reached none for 113, with Warner on 75. It’s a typical Dubai dust bowl of a wicket that is already taking plenty of spin. So while a draw might look likely wickets are likely to start to fall at far more regular intervals. Any chase of more than 150 on the final day will be difficult for Australia.
Tips – Australia to take a first innings lead that is big enough to allow a successful, relatively small, final innings chase.
SUQ – 5 – Worth seeing what sort of form the players are in as summer approaches but there is much better to look forward to.
The 2015 Tour de France route was unveiled in Paris on Wednesday. Unfortunately work got in the way of a good story yesterday so a comprehensive look at the route and major obstacles will have to wait a week or two. It looks like a mountainous route with almost no time trialling. A route to suit some (Quintana, Nibali, Contador, Bardet, Pinot etc.) more than others (Froome).