There are two main form races leading into Saturday’s Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m) at Randwick with 11 of the 15 runners coming through these events.
Bookmakers have installed Quackerjack as favourite after his runner-up effort in The Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange where he was caught three deep without cover for the trip and battled on tenaciously.
I think it was the run of the race and he has plenty of upside, but that run may have taken a bit out of him and he’s drawn wide (barrier 11) on Saturday and could suffer a similar fate.
That race rated 5.1 lengths above BM and was run at a Fast to Very Fast early speed, so there wasn’t much more those runners could add to lifting the rating of that race.
I’m leaning toward the Festival Stakes (1500m) form where Ranier won going 8.1 lengths above BM after a Slow to Even early speed.
Rainier was my tip in the race, and I was obviously glad to see him salute, but he was rock-hard-fit and had an advantage over a few of those runners, and I think the tide can turn.
Live And Free and Invincible Gem are the two runners that appeal coming out of the Festival Stakes, and both are third-up and should be nearing peak fitness.
Live And Free came from behind Ranier and loomed as the winner before peaking late to be overrun by Ranier, and Live And Free only meets Ranier half a kilo better at the weights here.
Invincible Gem sat outside the lead and just faded late to be beaten two lengths, but I think she’s the one that can really spike third-up over the mile.
Three campaigns back she ran a career PB when going 10.3 lengths above BM when beaten 1.3 lengths in the Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
In her following campaign, she went 6.7 lengths above BM in the Coolmore Classic (1500m) before posting a new PB when winning the Emancipation Stakes (1500m) and going 11.4 lengths above BM – no runner in Saturday’s field has posted a figure that high.
Last preparation she again posted strong figures second-up going 9.7 lengths above BM, but she then disappointed third-up and looked beaten early in the straight and subsequently went for a break.
She resumed this campaign with an average effort in The Hunter (1300m) and then improved out of sight last start in the Festival Stakes (1500m) going 6.5 lengths above BM.
Invincible Gem now meets Ranier and Live And Free 2.5 and 2kg better at the weights respectively, and from barrier 2 with Hugh Bowman aboard, she should get every chance to improve on her last start BM rating which would see her going very close to winning.
This is an open event, but at $15 to Win and $4.40 to Place with BetEasy, Invincible Gem appeals as a value each-way hope.