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The Ex-Factor with Nathan Exelby - Stradbroke edition

Thu 9 June 2022

Well-known Queensland media man Nathan Exelby is a constant at the track and has all the inside information as we head into TAB Stradbroke Handicap Raceday. 

 

PLENTY TO UNPACK IN STRADBROKE

THERE are few more challenging races on the calendar for punters to confront than the TAB Stradbroke.

And Saturday’s rendition lives up to that billing, with ELEVEN ELEVEN and AYRTON ($5) heading a market that comprises six horses at $12 or shorter and 11 at $18 or shorter.

Since BLACK PIRANHA won for favourite backers in 2009, TREKKING remains the only public elect to salute and even he was marked at $7.

Adding to the narrative, SINCERO ($7.50) in 2011 is the only other winner to have started at single figures since 2009.

So, 10 double figure winners in 12 years underlines what a monster it is for punters, with the standouts being Mid Summer Music ($31), Linton ($26), River Lad ($31) and Impending ($20).

Given the depth of the market this year and the slim margins through both of the key lead-ups a fortnight ago, I would think you are entitled to trade at better than $5 for both Eleven Eleven and Ayrton and the price makes little appeal to me.

Both can win, but so can a host of others…

I’m going with ALLIGATOR BLOOD as my top selection.

I think he’s the one that can go to a higher level based on what we saw in the lead-ups.

While most of the others in the BRC Sprint and Kingsford Smith Cup ran to near their peaks that day, Alligator Blood still has more in the locker.

It was his first go for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott and the numbers of respected ratings analysts Timeform and Daniel O’Sullivan’s BetSmart both say there’s more to give.

O’Sullivan’s WPR numbers have Alligator Blood going 103.2 (at the weights) in the BRC Sprint.

In his great autumn run of 2020, he notched figures of 104.7, 107.5, 106.7 and 105.2.

The only other horse in the race with figures that can better those is Rothfire from the Atkins (107.6) and Run to the Rose (111.1), but his best this season is the last start 103.4.

Timeform assessed AB’s first up run at 118 – his equal best figure since his halcyon three-year-old campaign, where he reached 123 in the Australian Guineas.

That first up rating is (at the weights) the equal best last 50-day figure in the race.

So, if Waterhouse and Bott can extract a little more from him 14 days later – a reasonable assumption given he hadn’t raced for 161 days – it puts him in an incredibly good spot for this race.

He brings the same formline as last year’s winner Tofane, having carried a big weight into second in the BRC Sprint and dropping in weight for the Stradbroke.

The barrier is not ideal, but the history of the race says a wide marble is hardly insurmountable – half the winners in the past 30 years came from double digits and the most successful barriers in the race in that time have been 4 and 18 – both with four winners each.

I see him getting a similar run to the BRC Sprint and with less weight and potential improvement, I’m sure he’s in the finish here.

 

BEWARE OF GOLLAN’S GUN MARE

THE wildcard is ISOTOPE.

She has been below her best in three runs since dominating the Magic Millions Sprint in January.

Wet tracks were blamed for the first two flops but the expected improvement in the Kingsford Smith Cup didn’t eventuate.

Tony Gollan has since revealed he found an issue across the mare’s back, which has since been treated with physio.

His assessment is that Isotope now has an entirely different demeanour.

When weights were released, I felt she was the horse in the field with the most attractive impost.

There’s a chance she’s not at her best on the Eagle Farm surface, but just knowing she has more to give and that a genuine excuse can be given for the Kingsford Smith, I feel she’s the one to be wary of – particularly as she gets the sweetest of runs from the draw.

WHERE TO TURN FOR JJ ATKINS WINNER

THE BRC Sires or the The Phoenix?

That’s the question punters are asking ahead of the G1 J.J. Atkins as SHEEZA BELTER takes on POLITICAL DEBATE and SHARP ‘N’ SMART.

Ordinarily, there’s no comparison between the two races, with The Phoenix (LR) normally a consolation prize in between the two bigger prizemoney events.

But Political Debate’s hand was forced by missing the run in the Sires and turns out he struck a very good Kiwi in The Phoenix to set up a great re-match.

But it would be out of the ordinary for last week to play a part here.

Excluding Rothfire’s year where the Sires wasn’t run, every J.J. Atkins since 2001 has been won by a two-year-old coming out of either the Sires or a last start run in Sydney.

Adding that to the fact some of those close up last week were coming off lesser races, I’m happy to stick with the formula.

Sheeza Belter was superb in the Sires and her finishing burst would suggest 1600m holds no fears.

She’s clearly the one to beat for mine.

I also liked the run of BRERETON in the Sires. He was entitled to sky the towel, but he kept toiling away after a tough run. He’s from the family of Caulfield Guineas winner In Top Swing and he gives the impression the trip won’t be a problem.

From the gate I would expect he’s allowed to slide forward this time in search of a more economical run.

At the odds, I’m backing both.

LETHAL COMBO CAN STRIKE AGAIN

CHRIS WALLER and James McDonald had a day out last week and the early markets are telling us they are poised for more of the same on Saturday.

RANCH HAND looks well placed against the older horses.

I don’t think he would be out of place in the Stradbroke, but with him unlikely to secure a run, I think Waller has found the right race to earn some more black type.

He relished the Eagle Farm surface 28 days back and that time between runs should enable him to freshen up sufficiently to take on this 1200m event.

AGE SHALL NOT WEARY VETERAN STAYER

IF HE wasn’t a 10-year-old, what price would SWEET THOMAS be in the Brisbane Cup?

It was a stunning Cup trial two weeks ago when he was the best thing beaten you could imagine to see.

He did an amazing job to get as close as he did to SPLENDIFEROUS and now goes to 3200m, which has proven no problem for him in the past.

With Splendiferous a risk at the trip, THROUGH IRISH EYES coming off a 2800m jumps trial and IRISH SEQUEL new to the trip, there’s enough queries on the others to side with Matt Smith’s veteran here.

BEST BETS

  • Robusto: Race 1 - $4.80
  • Ranch Hand: Race 5 - $3.80
  • Alligator Blood: Race 8 - $10