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By Garry Robinson

Funny how our autumn racing carnivals always start in Summer. It was so hot at Hawkesbury on January 30th that the races were called off. Was it any coincidence that the winners of the first three races were all at "hot " prices?

On January 27th we saw the first of the Blue Diamond preludes. We wonder if the prolonged drought will be having an affect on the big name runners this year with many trainers preferring to extend summer spells to race their young horses in cooler conditions. For most, however, there is no alternative but to carry on as usual and hope for the best.

We read with interest that Mick Hicks has been offered $2,000,000 for his stable star Murphy's Blu Boy. This is mainly on the strength of his win in January 27th's Blue Diamond prelude where he blitzed the field be several lengths in smart time. I for one, reckon he should take the money and run. There have been many potential champions unearthed at this time of the year that go on to do little or nothing just a few months on. I've watched the video several times and although he exploded away from the others from the top of the straight, there is no guarantee that he can keep it up against top opposition over 1200 metres. If he can't, he's worth almost nothing.

Wins like Murphy's Blu Boy are seen reasonably often at this time of the year and in all classes. Is it simply a matter of a horse in superior form and fitness against a field of 2yos whose ability at a longer distance is yet to be determined? Only time will tell.

Northerly, a proven champion from last year, should be able to repeat many of last year's triumphs. His trainer Fred Kearsley has proved to one and all that he knows how to get the best from this fabulous racehorse. As a gelding, there is no rush to retire and Northerly will continue to thrill racegoers for as long as he is able to remain competitive.

As usual you would expect Northerly to take one or two runs to reach his peak and these runs will be in February, although, whether these will be in Sydney or Melbourne, is yet to be decided. We are finding it hard to see where the threats to Northerly will come from, once he hits peak form at 2000 metres and more. Will the second Sydney Cup favourite, Republic Lass, be fit enough to even compete when and if she meets him again?

On the Sydney Cup. Is it a case of the same old, same old? Apart from Republic lass, and possibly Platinum Scissors, the Sydney Cup is dominated by old stagers like Mr Prudent. Even Freemason is to go around again. There is perhaps more interest in the Doncaster where there are several guranteed quality horses like Lonhro, Defier and the upcoming Thorn Park, along with Excellerator if he can maintain his new found form.

No doubt the autumn will yield some new found stars and it is this that makes it start to be a little exciting. As fixed price betting markets become available we will keep you up to date. Perhaps there will be another surprise like Media Puzzle, the Melbourne Cup winner that was backed by many at 80/1 and better just weeks before the event.

For now, let's look at the current markets for the Doncaster and Sydney Cup.

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