The countdown has begun for the Grade 1 Blue Diamond Stakes and several leading two-year-olds are in contention for the richest juvenile’s race of the autumn. A cool $1.5 million is on offer for this contest and it has attracted an extremely strong field after the third declaration stage. They are bidding to follow in the footsteps of recent winners like Catchy, Extreme Choice and Pride of Dubai, and whoever seizes the win will be catapulted to superstardom. Here are the leading contenders for glory:
The James Cummings-trained Plague Stone is still seeking his maiden victory, but he has impressed in finishing second in both career starts so far. He finished just behind Secret Lady in the $150,000 Golden Gift (1100m) at Rosehill on November 25, and was runner-up to Written By in the Blue Diamond Prelude at Caulfield on Saturday. But it is his form in a barrier trial that has really excited punters: he displayed a great turn of pace as he won by five lengths. “He’s a fascinating horse,” said Cummings. “You’d swear he was a five-year-old gelding the way he's so relaxed around the stable but when the gates open he switches straight on and wants to utilise his speed.” Plague Stone is currently the $8 joint favourite in the horse racing betting markets.
Jockey Craig Williams likened Kinky Boom to last year’s Blue Diamond Stakes winner, Catchy, after she secured an impressive debut victory in the $250,000 Inglis Premier over 1200m at Caulfield earlier this month. Williams was aboard Catchy last year and said Kinky Boom is another special horse blessed with fantastic acceleration. “She’s a major contender for the Blue Diamond,” he said. “Like Catchy last year, she showed she can come from off the speed and use her acceleration.” That win caused Kinky Boom to drop from $17 all the way down to $8 for the Blue Diamond, leaving her level with Plague Stone in the betting.
Written By has also seen his odds plummet in the past few days after beating Plague Stone to win the Blue Diamond Prelude at Caulfield on Saturday. That firmed him from $17 to $8.50 for the big race, which takes place on February 24. He won the Cameron Thurley Bucks Day 2YO Plate over 1000m on his debut at Sandown, but required barrier education after emerging as a bit of a rogue in that department. Trainer Grahame Beggs believes he is now on top of those issues, and Written By responded with a devastating win in the Prelude, finish half a length ahead of favourite Plague Stone and a length and a half in front of Native Soldier. It is great news for Beggs, who trained 12 Group 1 winners in Sydney, before moving to Mornington Peninsula to rejuvenate his career. He now has his first Blue Diamond Stakes runner and Written By looks a great bet right now as he is in superb form and still has vast untapped potential.
Another Tony McEvoy charge, Oohood, has placed three times in three races so far and put in an eye-catching performance to finish third in the Blue Diamond Preview. She went off as 3/1 favourite, but was held up and had to weave through heavy traffic before finishing strong and almost winning it. If she gets a better ride in the Blue Diamond she will be hard to beat. McEvoy has a strong hand for the Blue Diamond, with Kinky Boom, Oohood, Run Naan and Roobena all looking dangerous.
David Hayes’ Long Leaf has only been seen once, but it was an impressive run as he beat Oohood to the Blue Diamond Preview back in November. Hayes holds the record for the most Blue Diamond Stakes wins of all-time after Catchy gave him his sixth victory last year. It is common for his runners to only make a single appearance before the Blue Diamond, and Long Leaf should enjoy the step up in trip later this month.
This promising colt secured a strong debut win in a Listed Blue Diamond Preview, which left him among the early favourites. However, he flopped at the weekend, finishing 10th of 13 runners in the Blue Diamond Prelude, well behind the likes of Written By and Plague Stone. His odds have since drifted out to $11, but he remains sixth in the betting thanks to the strength of his earlier showing.
The field is deep and stacked full of talent, and it will not be properly whittled down until final acceptances are made later this month. The field and barrier draw will be released on the Tuesday before the race. There are plenty of interesting runners in the mix right now, including Ennis Hill, Seabrook, Native River and Stratosphere. Favourites have a decent record in the Blue Diamond Stakes, but taste defeat more often than success, so it is worth looking for value further down the card.