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FLEMINGTON PREVIEW January 30, 2010 LIGHTNING STAKES (1000M) Race 6, 4.10pm (Melbourne time) All season, the quality of the 3YO sprinters has been mooted as being exceptional. There is no better example of the depth of this young crop when eight of the 13 horses in Saturday’s Group 1 Lightning Stakes (wfa 1000m) at Flemington are 3YOs. History shows that 22 3YOs – eight fillies – have won the Lightning since it was first run in 1955. That’s a pretty good strike rate, but if you go back through the list of 3YO winners, there are few surprises. From Schillaci in 1992, the 3YO winners are top of the tree – Keltrice (1994), Gold Ace (1996), General Nediym (1998), Isca (1999), Testa Rossa (2000), Choisir (2003), Regimental Gal (2004) and Fastnet Rock (2005). Starspangledbanner is trying to become only the second Caulfield Guineas winner to win the Lightning as a 3YO; the first was the champion filly Storm Queen (1967). Irish Lights is trying to become the second 3YO filly – joining Begonia Belle (1968) – to win the Thousand Guineas and Lightning Stakes. But whether this group of eight topflight 3YOs has the maturity and toughness to beat the seasoned, older sprinters remains to be seen. I believe the brilliant Burdekin Blues, who showed he could handle the straight with a win during the Flemington Cup carnival, has the speed, the class and the fitness edge to win the Lightning. He fits the mould of the outstanding horses to have won the past four Lightnings – Scenic Blast, Apache Cat, Miss Andretti and

SPEED MAP Predicted positions on settling

Takeover Target – three of whom went on to win at Royal Ascot. He has the pace to cross to the rail from barrier 10 – and if they come down the outside even better – and I don’t see another horse having the speed to pressure him early. It’s doubtful the connections of Starspangledbanner will want to get into a speed duel first up when they have a long, important autumn programmed for the top colt. I expect jockey Danny Nikolic will look for a sit behind Burdekin Blues. I tossed up whether to tip Nicconi. He’s a favourite horse of mine, and I rated him the best sprinter in the land before his last-start flop in the G1 Patinack Farm Classic (wfa 1200m) at Flemington on the final day of the carnival. That day, he drew wide and at no stage looked comfortable on a firm track. He jarred up badly. He will get similar conditions on Saturday and I am reluctant to tip him on a hard track until he proves me wrong. The interesting runner is the American visitor Cannonball, a muchtravelled sprinter, who ran a terrific second in the G1 Golden Jubilee Stakes (wfa 1200m) down the Royal Ascot straight last June. However, it’s hard to tip him on the strength of his Hong Kong Sprint effort when he was an outpaced 10th behind Sacred Kingdom. Wanted was competitive against the older horses at weight-for-age in the spring – 4th in the G1 Manikato Stakes, 3rd in the G2 Schillaci Stakes and 2nd in the G1 Patinack Farm Classic – and trainer Peter Moody rates him very highly. He is a serious winning chance if he can jump quickly from barrier one and hold the back of Burdekin Blues. Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) down the straight at Flemington on Derby day, but lack of early pace is a worry over the 1000m. Shellscrape is a talented young sprinter, but his best form is on tracks affected by rain.The tips: Type your tips in here.

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AND ALSO Saturday’s Flemington meeting can be summed up in two words – tricky, tricky. That’s one word actually, but repeated for emphasis. It’s also the name of the favourite in the 2YO race, the Listed Talindert Stakes (R1). Tricky Tricky is short ($2.90) for a first starter against three winners (Star Witness, Willow Creek and Namaste), but impressely won a Cranbourne trial by eight lengths on Monday. Should you jump on TT? The Corstens stable can produce a 2YO, but so can Moody (Willow Creek) and Freedman (Namaste), and O’Brien looks to have a promising son of his former fast mare Leone Chiara with Star Witness. It’s all too tricky, And Also’s one bet for the tricky day is summed up in one word, albeit a dreadfully long one – Starspangledbanner. Actually it’s three words, Star Spangled Banner, but written as one to fit in the 18-letter limit. With spaces counting as letters, stringing three words together as one is the only way it makes the cut. What nonsense! The race caller doesn’t pronounce the horse as Star Space Spangled Space Banner. Starspangledbanner probably joining Coolmore to race before going to stud is appropriate – if the deal goes through he’ll be there with Henrythenavigator, Mastercraftsman, Footstepsinthesand, etc. In the meantime, look for a bit better than $4 in tomorrow’s Group 1 Lightning Stakes (R6) ... and remember that the colt’s dad, Choisir, won the race as a 3YO in 2003. Stephen Howell

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