Saturday's Listed Manihi and Laelia Stakes will kick off a huge seven weeks of racing as some of the best horses in Australia start to make their way to Adelaide for the UBET Festival of Racing.
After an ultra-impressive first-up win for her new trainer Darren Weir, Whispering Brook is the $1.90 favourite with UBET in Saturday's Manihi Stakes. The four-year-old mare has five stakes victories to her name already and was only 1.2 lengths away in third place behind Global Glamour in the 2016 Group 1 Thousand Guineas. Earlier this year she moved across from Western Australia to Victoria into Darren Weir's care and her 3.25 length win in the Listed Abell Stakes at Moonee Valley gave the impression that she is in for a big campaign. Victorian hoop Dean Yendall will take the ride on Saturday after partnering her in the Abell Stakes win last month.
Last year's winner Karlovasi beat Viddora in the 2017 edition and Richard Jolly will be hoping for a repeat of last year's efforts when his gelding lines up on Saturday. Karlovasi is following the exact same formula as last year, running in this race second-up after a first-up run in the Listed Matrice Stakes. He finished two lengths, fourth in that race this year and on his best form he should be well in this race.
Second favourite in the race will be Tony McEvoy's Concealer. The mare finished second behind Demonstrate in her first-up run at Flemington and will be looking for her second career win with the in-form Jamie Kah in the saddle. McEvoy last won the race in 2015 with The Messina Nymph.
Four other local chances are all first-up on Saturday with Lope De Capio, Lord Aspen, Sudden Wealth and Invisible Girl all having their first hit-outs of their new campaigns and of those four, Lord Aspen has the best fresh record with three wins and two second placings from six runs.
We're set to have a capacity field for the Listed Laelia Stakes which historically is the first lead-up race to the Group 1 Australasian Oaks. The last two winners of this race in Kenedna and C'est Beau La Vie went on to run second and third respectively in the Oaks, so this race will be well worth watching looking ahead to the big Group 1.
This year's edition looks to be a very open affair with eight horses currently priced at $13 or under in the market with Pandemonium the early favourite at $4.20 for Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott.
Waterhouse claimed the 2015 race with Ondina and she doesn't often bring many horses to South Australia but when she does they tend to run well. Pandemonium has contested some high quality races over her career including the Group 1 Flight Stakes at Randwick. James Innes Jr is set to fly over to ride Pandemonium and she looks to be one of the many chances in this race.
Trainer of last year's winner Kenedna, Darren Weir will have two runners in the race with top-weight Pleasuring arguably being the best credentialed runner with two Listed wins to her name. She took out the Listed Strutt Stakes and Listed Tasmanian Oaks over on the Apple Isle in February and while they were both over 2100m she does have a win over 1600m to her name. Weir's other runner will be last start winner Sopressa who will be ridden by Dean Yendall.
The interesting runner in the field will be the New Zealand visitor Belle Du Nord. The grey filly from the Emma-Lee & David Browne stable in Cambridge has run second in two Group 1 races across the ditch including the Group 1 Levin Classic over 1600m. Zac Spain will take the ride on the filly who he partnered for one ride at Ellerslie in October last year.
The local hopes look to be lead by Leon Macdonald & Andrew Gluyas with Glam Guru. The filly had a great campaign last year which saw her run second in the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes at Flemington and she looks to have come back in decent form after running second to Over Exposure last month over 1250m. There is no doubt she'll be looking for further and should improve each race this campaign.