The Blue Diamond Stakes always proves a big hit with punters as it attracts a stellar field of talented two-year-olds. Up for grabs is a share of the $1.5 million prize purse and the enormous prestige that comes with triumphing in this Group 1 race.
It is the richest race in Australia for two-year-olds and it has seen some superstar winners in recent years, including Extreme Choice and Written By. We can expect another ferociously competitive renewal at Caulfield on 23rd February and here are five key runners to look out for:
Ciaron Maher’s filly had a debut to remember as she romped to victory in the Group 3 Chairman’s Stakes at the start of this month. That 1000m race is a key lead-up to the Blue Diamond Stakes and now Maher can dare to dream of a first victory there. “She was ultra-impressive and I couldn’t be more excited really,” he said after the race, calling her a big, raw filly with a bright future. She started the race slow, perhaps due to her size, but she discovered a fantastic turn of pace to usurp stablemate Bella Rosa and clinch victory by half a length.
Loving Gaby will go to the Blue Diamond without another run and it will be fascinating to see how she gets on. You will see her as the early favourite in the Blue Diamond Stakes betting odds, but the step up in class will be huge for this race. Yet she should enjoy the slightly longer trip of 1200m after finishing strong in the Chairman’s Stakes.
I Am Immortal
That final 200m could make all the difference if it comes down to a battle between Loving Gaby and I Am Immortal, who seized the colts’ Group 2 Blue Diamond Prelude on Saturday. He started strong, but he was tiring towards the end and only just about clung on for victory. He may struggle to thrive over a longer distance and that leaves huge question marks over his chances at the Blue Diamond, despite his status as an unbeaten and exciting two-year-old.
Yet his stable feels that run could have taken the edge off him, allowing him to run a more relaxed race next time around. He is not to be discounted, although some punters might be more inclined to back Shotmaker for the Blue Diamond, after he almost reeled I Am Immortal at the death of that prelude. Jockey Ben Melham has decided to ride I Am Immortal instead of Brooklyn Hustle for the race, so he clearly has confidence in this impressive colt.
The fillies’ Blue Diamond Prelude was billed as the race at which one of the vaunted trio of Athiri, Brooklyn Hustle or Catch Me would be anointed as the favourite for the Blue Diamond Stakes. However, Lyre left them all in her wake and surged to victory with a fantastic spring down the straight. That saw her defy odds of $26 and handle a huge step up in class with aplomb, so the price on her seizing glory at the Blue Diamond has since shortened considerably. Anthony Freedman trains both I Am Immortal and Lyre, so he will have a very strong hand indeed for this race and Lyre looks like an intriguing prospect.
Gai Waterhouse’s filly led for all but the final 50m of the prelude, only to be overhauled by Lyre as the finish line loomed large. Yet trainer Gai Waterhouse was extremely pleased with what she saw, vindicating her decision to skip the yearling sale in Sydney on Monday in order to watch her Blue Diamond contender in action. Waterhouse likened Vinicunca to the celebrated Overreach, hailing her as a tough and classy runner with a great attitude. She believes this filly can kick on in time for the Blue Diamond and she is likely to prove popular with punters.
Jason Warren’s filly burst onto the scene in December with a stylish win over Yes Yes Yes at a 1000m showdown at The Valley. That catapulted her to Blue Diamond favouritism, and she was among the leading lights to gather for the prelude.
However, she finished three lengths behind Lyre in a surprisingly sluggish showing, tempering predictions of her romping to victory in the big race. Yet Warner insists that the Blue Diamond has always been trained for the Blue Diamond as her grand final this year, and he believes she will display a considerable improvement on 23rd February. She will be reunited with jockey Beau Mertens, with Melham piloting I Am Immortal, and Warner hailed that as a dream team ahead of the big race. If Brooklyn Hustle can recapture the sort of form that saw her blitz the field on 1st December then she will take some stopping in the Blue Diamond.