1. Akasawa (Paul Messara, Scone): He has a record that's hard to fault and there was a shade of arrogance about his win in the Hunter & North West Championships where he was strongly supported and ridden right on the back of the pace then ambushed late. He was first-up there from a 10 week break and is another five weeks into the Final. We know he acts very well fresh. There's a potential issue with where he finds himself in the run having drawn two from the outside but it's not completely foreign to him to settle back and run home. He has some handy city form behind him and is very hard to beat.
2. Testator Silens (Luke Clarke, Braidwood): Ran seventh in this race last year after winning the South East Championships. He was runner-up in that race this time around to qualify him for the Final and it was a run that is a lot better than it looks on face value. He was clicked up early to hold a forward spot as was required on the day to be in the finish and he was being ridden along before the turn on the back of the leader and eventual winner. Managed to get within half a length on the line in a solid effort giving that horse 5kg. He's trialled since then and is no stranger to doing it tough so the barrier isn't a huge deal. Definite chance.
3. I'Ve Bean Tryin' (Matthew Kelley, Canberra): Finished midfield in the South East Championships in a forgive run after settling back and wide. Atoned with a strong performance to run down To The Nines and take the Southern Wild Card at Goulburn. He is a Randwick winner and also performed in benchmark company on the track in the late winter. His big problem is that he'll be giving away a big start if he drifts back from the outside gate as it appears he will have to. That said, he is good enough to win the race if he finds the right horse to follow home.
4. Talbragar (Cody Morgan, Tamworth): Winner of the Northern Wild Card and he really is the big 'wild card' in the race. Won five from six with the Kosciuszko his only defeat and he did a huge job to step from a 1000m win on March 6 to look strong at the finish at Scone over 1400m two weeks later. He showed good speed to offset a wide gate and didn't appear to be stopping on the line. Where does he find himself from 13? Not prepared to doubt him this time and it wouldn't surprise at all if he overcomes adversity again.
5. Sir Ravanelli (Terry Evans, Tuncurry): Perfectly ridden to win the Mid North Coast Championships sitting on the speed from a wide gate and he burst clear early in the straight. Despite that he is still a slight risk at a strong 1400m so drawing the middle will be a help to him as he looks for an economical run. There's no doubt he has an excellent turn of foot and a bit of sting out of the track is a plus for him so if he does enjoy a soft run he could easily make a dash at them.
6. Amicus Curiae (Mack Griffith, Mudgee): Expertly handled from a wide gate to win the Central Districts Championships with a touch in hand third-up from a spell. Since then he showed up at Hawkesbury a couple of weeks ago in a Benchmark 68 and was a massive drifter in betting before running fourth beaten just over a length. He loomed up there and just flattened out the last bit so should come on from it. Not sure he's coming from the strongest heat, however, and his three Randwick attempts are unplaced runs in Highways.
7. Bianco Vilano (Ron Stubbs, Albury): He's been a real surprise packet in that prior to winning the Southern Districts Championships he was a Class 1 winner and beaten in a Class 2. But his Albury win was superb, he overcame being held up early in the straight and when the gap came he sprinted sharply to put the race away. If he can replicate that kind of performance and get the breaks at the right time from the second half of the field it puts him in the conversation.
8. Our Last Cash (Donna Scott, Albury): Wins don't come any more dominant than his victory by almost seven lengths at Wagga leading into the Southern Districts Championships. He had a nice enough run in the race and hit the lead with just over 100m to go but had no answer to the winner's finish. It's probably not a surprise he couldn't match a peak performance so it might be worth being a bit wary of him improving sharply. Not sure where he lands in the run and his price is about right around the 20/1 mark.
9. Bean Foggy (Darren Graham, Murwillumbah): Speaking of horses that have come from nowhere, this four-year-old couldn't have been more impressive in winning the Northern Rivers Championships. Didn't settle the best in the run at Coffs Harbour but when he came to the outside in the straight he produced quite a turn of foot to pick them up and win. It's been six weeks since then. He's going to get a nice run from an inside gate and that will give him his best chance to figure somewhere in the finish.
10. Imatruestar (Grant Jobson, Taree): Followed the winner into the straight and did make ground on him when runner-up in the Mid North Coast Championships and backed it up with another solid effort in benchmark company at Kensington a few weeks ago. He's a better horse than last year when he narrowly missed qualifying for the Final and while he's only won two from 19 he has notched another nine placings so he's never far away. Probably not a winning hope but a placing or top five finish wouldn't shock.
11. Sizzle Minizzle (Brett Robb, Dubbo): Raced on the speed and fought on gamely to hold second in the Western Championships. The winner of that race, had he not been ruled out with injury, would have started under 20/1 here. In his favour is a soft draw which will allow him to be ridden to his usual pattern somewhere near the front but it's hard not to look at the unplaced Highway run prior where he had a perfect run and only battled. The runner-up from the WRA last year did run third in the Final so it's not impossible for him to give a sight but he's entitled to be good odds.
12. Wizard Of Oz (Warren Gavenlock, Coffs Harbour): Had a busy schedule leading into his second placing in the Northern Rivers Championships winning at Newcastle five days prior to the race. He looked to be holding his ground in third in the straight but did surge late to snatch second. He's trialled twice since then and was given a sound out in winning at Grafton on Monday. Interestingly, he was a $1.1 million yearling. The barrier makes it difficult for him.
13. De Forerunner (Dean Mirfin, Bathurst): Handy four-year-old who draws to get a perfect run just behind the speed and that's a big help to his chances. Started favourite in the Central Districts Championships and boxed on for a close third, he earned a spot here when the runner-up was ruled out of the Final. Since that race he finished alongside Amicus Curiae at Hawkesbury in a run that will bring him on. He'll win more races but might find this tough.
14. Smooth Esprit (Clint Lundholm, Dubbo): Found his way into the field when stablemate Listen To The Band was ruled out. He hit the line powerfully in that Western Championships from a long way back but he was on the fresh side which allowed him to be effective at 1400m. Is better over a little more ground so wants a brutally run race to bring him into it late.
15. Running Bear (Jan Bowen, Muswellbrook): Very much an under the radar mare and she never runs bad races. Bumped into a smart one in a Highway first-up and was game in the Hunter & North West Championships when run down late by Akasawa. Since then she's won a midweek city race at Warwick Farm in good style so she couldn't be going any better. The draw allows her to be handy and she's yet to finish worse than second in three Randwick runs. Possibly a little over the odds and a good each-way chance.
16. Kimberley Secrets (Nick Olive, Queanbeyan): The least experienced runner but she's stacked with promise. Well ridden when leading all the way in the South East Championships and while it was an advantage to be there on the day she still held them comfortably enough. Wasn't able to repeat it in the Canberra Guineas, being reeled in over the last 100m or so to run fourth. That's a small worry, but she has the draw to be wherever she wants in the run and while probably a little under the odds she shouldn't be discounted.
2 Testator Silens
15 Running Bear