It was a superb day of racing at Caulfield with four Group 1's and another four Group races; the G1 Caulfield Stakes over 2000m was won in great style by the globetrotting Criterion. Ridden quietly early by Michael Walker Criterion made his move approaching the home turn and after hitting the lead halfway down the straight Criterion proved too strong for Happy Trails, Mongolian Khan and Kermadec. Criterion was having his first start since he finished down the track in the G1 Juddmonte at York in the UK in August; it was a great training performance by David Hayes and Tom Dabernig to have Criterion at his best to win such a prestigious race. If Criterion can repeat this performance in the Cox Plate he will be hard to beat.
Read more: Globetrotting Criterion Too Good In Caulfield Stakes
On Australia's biggest sporting weekend on-which Hawthorn and North Queensland Cowboys created history with their wins in the AFL and NRL Grand Finals there was also magnificent racing action. The ball started-rolling on Friday night with the very popular Buffering winning his second G1 Moir Stakes at Moonee Valley. Buffering lived in the shadow of Black Caviar for most of his career but since her retirement Buffering has racked-up four G1 victories. It was a superb meeting at Randwick on Saturday with the three G1's going to Winx in the Epsom Handicap, Speak Fondly in the Flight Stakes and Magic Hurricane in the Metropolitan. Godolphin, John O'Shea and James McDonald had a day-out combining to win five races which included Magic Hurricane and all-conquering 3-Y-O Exosphere. After training Winx to G1 success on Saturday Chris Waller provided the quinella with Preferment and Royal Descent in the G1 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington on Sunday.
Read more: Buffering, Winx & Preferment G1 Winners
8-Y-O Mourinho recorded his first G1 courtesy of his tenacious victory in the WFA Underwood Stakes over 1800m at Caulfield; Vlad Duric has had a great association with Mourinho over a long period of time and he had Mourinho in a perfect position from the start. Mourinho took the lead early in the straight and he defied all challengers to win narrowly from fellow 8-Y-O's Fawkner and The Cleaner; after serving a suspension Peter Gelagotis is now back in charge of Mourinho which will continue to be competiive if he repeats this performance. Fawkner battled-on strongly for second at his second run in just-under a year and he is right on-track for the Cox Plate. The Cleaner was typically gallant after he looked well-beaten in the straight. Mongolian Khan is ticking-over nicely while Contributer's effort was only slightly better than his lack-lustre first-up effort.
Read more: Mourinho's Underwood In Battle Of Old-Timers
Kermadec made it two Group 1 wins over the Randwick Mile with his victory in the WFA George Main Stakes; although Kermadec was not as explosive as he was winning the Doncaster Mile in April he was just as impressive wearing-down Royal Descent and Pornichet and coming-away to win by a half-length. With Glen Boss missing the ride through suspension Glyn Schofield proved an able substitute but Boss will be back on-board for Kermadec's future runs this Spring. The Chris Waller juggernaut continues; after training three of the four Group races at Newcastle on Friday including the Newcastle Cup with Beyond Thankful Waller trained another four at Randwick. Besides Kermadec Waller also trained Preferment, Sadler's Lake and Counterattack to win black-type races and he also provided the George Main quinella.
Read more: Another G1 Randwick Mile For Kermadec
Evergreen gelding Fawkner proved just too strong for his rivals in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes over 1600m at Flemington; ridden to absolute perfection by champion jockey Damien Oliver Fawkner settled in a great position from an awkward barrier before he came with a well-timed run in the straight. Eight year old Fawkner has been well looked-after over his long career by Team Williams and his win made-up for his nose-defeat by Dissident in last year's Makybe Diva. Rising Romance and Entirely Platinum battled-on very strongly for second and third while Boban, Happy Trails, Alpine Eagle and Mongolian Khan ran well but all honours go to Fawkner which was having its first start since last year's Melbourne Cup. Fawkner's next two runs will be in the Caulfield Stakes and Cox Plate and he will take beating again in both races.
Read more: Fighting Fawkner Wins Makybe Diva
The Cleaner a.k.a The Longford Lion, won his second Dato' Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley and Mick Burles' 8-Y-O produced the best performance of his illustrious career in the process; ridden to absolute perfection by Noel "King" Callow who gradually took The Cleaner to the front from where he set a strong tempo before really pouring-on the pressure approaching the home turn. The Cleaner had all his rivals off the bit chasing him and at no stage did The Cleaner look in any danger of defeat winning by just under two lengths. Bagman continued his great form with an excellent second while Dibayani battled-on well for third. Contributer's first-up task was not an easy one but he was still disappointing and he will need to improve on this effort. If the Cox Plate winner appeared in the Dato' Tan it is likely that his name is The Cleaner.
Read more: Longford Lion Cleans Up Another Dato' Tan
With victories in the Epsom Handicap, Emirates Stakes, Chipping Norton Stakes and Doomben 10,000 behind him Boban made it five Group 1's with his hard-fought win in the WFA Memsie Stakes over 1400 metres at Caulfield; Boban has forged a great association with Glyn Schofield who has ridden Boban in all five Group 1 wins and it took all of Schofield's perseverance on Boban to get-up along the rails and nail Entirely Platinum and Stratum Star. Boban did not produce his best last Spring nor at his first three runs this year so it has been another superb training performance by Chris Waller to have Boban win the Doomben 10,000, finish second to Srikandi in the Stradbroke Handicap and win the Memsie Stakes at his last three starts.
Read more: Boban's Memsie Makes It 5 Group 1's
In contrast to the sub-standard track served-up at Moonee Valley, high-quality mare Royal Descent proved far too good for her rivals on a level playing field at Randwick in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes over 1400 metres; perfectly ridden by Hugh Bowman Royal Descent was always ready to strike and she wore-down Pornichet to win by a length and a half. This was Royal Descent's first victory since her superb ten-length win in the 2013 ATC Oaks and despite Royal Descent's long break out of the winner's circle she has been competitive at the highest level since then. There were some good runs in the Warwick including Pornichet and Kermadec but Royal Descent was dominant and now that she has broken through it will be no surprise if she continues to be very competitive throughout the Spring.
Read more: Royal Descent Breaks Long Drought In Warwick
Chris Waller's Japonisme proved far too good in the Group 3 San Domenico Stakes for three year olds over 1100 metres at Rosehill; perfectly ridden by Tye Angland Japonisme followed Vancouver into the straight and quickly raced-past the $2.40 favourite. King's Troop sprinted through to take the lead but Japonisme was too strong in the run to the line. Japonisme had great credentials leading into the San Domenico and he made it four wins from four starts since being gelded; many people underestimate winter form but when horses are fit and in-form they must always be respected. Vancouver had every chance but he did lump 60kg at his first run for five months and with a long campaign in front of him it would be foolish to dismiss the Golden Slipper winner.
Read more: Japonisme Upstages Vancouver In San Domenico
The Gary Portelli-trained Sebring Sun proved too classy for his rivals in the Listed Rosebud for three year olds over 1200 metres at Randwick; ridden to perfection by Brenton Avdulla Sebring Sun came with a well-timed run to win by a length from Voilier with Let's Make It Rain close-up in third place. Sebring Sun showed some promise without winning in his first two preparations but he has returned a much better horse this preparation; at his first run from a spell Sebring Sun was an impressive winner of a Canterbury maiden and Sebring Sun was even more impressive in the Rosebud. Sebring Sun will meet far stronger opposition before too long but in his current form he is sure to be competitive.
Read more: Sebring Sun Shines In Rosebud