BLUE DIAMOND STAKES

Caulfield, VIC / 1200m / Race 7
Saturday, February 24 at 4:05pm

Blue DIAMOND STAKES:

STATISTICS

The Betting:

Knowledge & Insight

Only once in the 47 editions of the Blue Diamond have we seen joint favourites – Riva Diva (first) and Vertingly (tenth) started 9/4 each of two in 1992.

In the other 46 editions, the outright elect has prevailed on sixteen occasions (34.78%) with eight running second and six coming in third. The favourite therefore has missed a place as often as it has won – 16 times.

Six favourites have started in the red (odds-on), with two landing the prize, Sepoy (2011) and Rancher (1982), both sharing the shortest starting price at $1.40 (2/5).

Six winners have started $21 (20/1) or longer – Out of Danger (1976) and Street Café (1984) sharing the honour of the longest priced winner at 40/1.

Friday’s Verdict will compare this year’s wide open Blue Diamond betting with previous runnings – only six times previously have we witnessed a Blue Diamond market with the favourite’s SP at $4.50 (7/2) or longer.

Form Focus Verdict

Excluding 1992 when there were equal favourites at 9/4, the following numbers show how rare it is that we have a Blue Diamond favourite at each-way odds:

Odds On = 6 starts (2-1-1)
$2 to $3.30 = 23 starts (10-4-3)
$3.40 to $4.90 = 14 starts (4-3-2)
$5 or longer = 3 starts (0-0-0)

It wasn’t until 1996 (the race conducted at Flemington) to have a favourite at each-way odds with Clang starting 4/1 ($5) favourite, the winner being Paint at 13/2 ($7.50).

In 2006, Due Sasso was despatched as the $5.50 favourite, Nadeem landing the prize at $17, while the following year, Victory Chant at $6.50 became the longest-priced favourite in Diamond history, finishing last behind $8 shot Sleek Chassis.

There have been thirteen double-figure odds winners overall with six of those starting at $21 or longer, Out of Danger (1976) & Street Café (1984) sharing the honour of the longest priced winner at 40/1 ($41).

The Hayes/Dabernig colt Long Leaf holds sway as $6.50 favourite – the history of Lindsay Park-trained favourites is interesting: despite scoring nine times in the race, none of their seven outright or one equal favourites has saluted.

BARRIER POSITIONS:

Knowledge & Insight

The history of winning Blue Diamond barriers, whilst favouring those drawn low overall, has seen a marginal shift towards those drawn out in recent years.

Seven of the past dozen winners have drawn gate nine or wider, with Earthquake (2014) out of 15 and Star Witness (2010) out of 14. Extreme Choice (2016) and Catchy last year both came out of gate 11.

Twenty-two of the forty-seven winners drew from gates 1 to 6, although gate 6 boasts just the solitary win – Black Shoes (1981). Gates 7 to 12 inclusive have 18 wins, while the wider gates (13 and/or wider) have notched 7 wins overall.

Strike-rate is interesting – barrier 15 on top (15%) with 3 wins from 20 starts, then barriers 4, 5 and 7 (10.63%) with 5 wins from 47 starts.

Form Focus Verdict

A field of sixteen or more has fronted the starter in this race on 14 prior occasions with the successful barriers being: 11-15-7-4-4-13-17-6-7-3-12-2-13-11

Clearly, it’s not unfavourable to be drawn out in a capacity Diamond field; one can potentially avoid traffic and have clear galloping room.

Further, there have been a further six runnings with a field size of fifteen, the successful barriers being: 14-15-15-8-5-9.

Barrier 16 has the dubious honour of hoodoo-gate with zero wins from fourteen attempts, so all the very best to Native Soldier this year.

AGE AND SEX:

Knowledge & Insight

First run in 1971, the Blue Diamond “replaced” a 2yo event named the Merson Cooper Stakes, now conducted in the Spring. The Merson Cooper had been a useful springboard for juveniles heading to the Golden Slipper with Vain (1969), Storm Queen (1966) and Pago Pago (1963) all taking the race before subsequent success in the Slipper.

The VRC Sires Produce Stakes had traditionally been Victoria’s flagship race for two-year-olds (the three horses mentioned above all won the Sires as well), but it didn’t take long before the Blue Diamond overtook the Sires as the prestige race for juveniles in Victoria.

Fillies trail the colts and geldings by nine wins overall (19 to 28), with Bounding Away (1986) and Courtza (1989) being the only fillies to land the Diamond-Slipper double. For the boys, John’s Hope (1972), Manikato (1978) and Sepoy (2011) have been able to complete this famous double.

A filly has been Diamond favourite or co-favourite on 18 prior occasions – Friday’s Verdict will run a detailed eye across this stat in respect of this year’s race.

Form Focus Verdict

Fillies when favourite have a useful 50% strike-rate (9 winners from 18 favourites), whereas the boys come in at 26.6% strike-rate overall.

Interestingly for the boys, the numbers do not reflect well when one of them starts favourite at $3.50 or longer – Blazing Saddles (1977) started 11/4 favourite and landed the cash for Tommy Smith, however all other 13 boys that were favourite at $3.50 (5/2) or longer, dipped out.

Over the past six years, a filly has won four times with two seconds and five thirds, so the figures do suggest an edge to the fairer sex.

Fillies have filled all placings on five previous occasions (most recent in 2012) with the boys capturing the trifecta on eight occasions (most recent in 2005).

The WEIGHTS:

Knowledge & Insight

Conducted at Set Weights, the Blue Diamond Stakes was conceived by the Victoria Amateur Turf Club (now the Melbourne Racing Club) in the wake of the increasing popularity of the STC Golden Slipper Stakes in Sydney, first run in 1957.

Worth $1.5 million this year, Blue Diamond prizemoney in 1971 totalled $13,500 and came in significantly less than the Oakleigh Plate (conducted on the same day) which was worth $20,500.

Not everyone had warmed to the developing concept of feature races for two-year-olds with then Daily Mirror columnist Pat Farrell hardly concealing his view regarding the introduction of the Blue Diamond Stakes..…….”all this pumping of stakes for two-year-old races. It’s a red herring, a glamour-glossed, money-mottled disguise of the fact Australia’s breeders want to continue breeding speedy squibs and major race-clubs are prepared to aid and abet them.”

Form Focus Verdict

It’s often said that “hindsight is flawless”, although when digesting Mr Farrell’s commentary, one could conclude that he would remain unamused re the current status of two-year-old events on the Australian Racing calendar.

A decade after the initial Blue Diamond and stake-money for the 1981 edition had multiplied almost ten-fold to $122,000. A decade further on (1991) and the race was worth $513,000. By 2001, the Diamond’s total stake was $1.012 million and seventeen years on, it has grown again to $1.5 million.


With the 1971 Golden Slipper prizemoney totalling $53,000 and subsequently being boosted to its current $3.5 million, it’s a safe bet that Mr Farrell’s opinion was not shared by the racing hierarchy, either then, or now.

One wonders what he might make of the Magic Millions concept.

Blue DIAMOND STAKES:

FORM PROFILE

LEAD UP FORM:

Knowledge & Insight

Any study of the most effective Diamond lead-up form naturally involves the Blue Diamond Preludes and Previews, with some useful trends emerging from past results.

The Preludes were introduced in 1982, with Rancher becoming the first of four horses to take the Preview-Prelude-Diamond treble in that year. The others are Sepoy (2011), Bel Esprit (2002) and Midnight Fever (1987).

The Preludes/Previews have formed an integral part in preparing a two-year-old for Diamond success and in 2018, we have all the winners of those four races engaged (Lady Horseowner being a late entry).

Form Focus Verdict

This will be the tenth time in the history of the Diamond that all four winners of the Preview/Preludes will meet.

The outcomes of the nine prior occasions that this has occurred provides good intel:

Three of the nine Diamond winners were fillies – all having won their Prelude, Bounding Away, Lady Jakeo & Alinghi.

The other six came from the colts and geldings, three of those (Zeditave, Reann, Reward for Effort), scoring in their Preview, while Bel Esprit had won both the Preview and the Prelude.

Let’s Get Physical won the Prelude in 1985, while the only year where a Prelude/Preview winner missed was 1991 when Canonise won for David Hayes.

So, this year, fillies Prelude winner Enbihaar gets a tick while colts/geldings Preview winner Long Leaf has the edge over Prelude winner Written By.

A rarity in Blue Diamond history is first-up winners. New Gleam (1973) came off a 12 week break to win his Blue Diamond, the Todman colt being undefeated in four starts during the Spring of 1972.

Once in 47 runnings is hardly a compelling return, however the fact that few stables target the race first-up tempers the one in forty-seven when looking at Qafila tackling the Diamond first-up this year.

JOCKEY:

Knowledge & Insight

Dwayne Dunn and Roy Higgins co-hold the record with four wins each, Dunn winning consecutive Diamonds from 2005 to 2008, while Higgins won the inaugural Blue Diamond on Tolerance in 1971.

A race that appears somewhat unkind to some of our current riders, two of Victoria’s top jockeys have a grand total of two wins from a combined thirty-two rides in the Blue Diamond.

This stat, along with other jockeys engaged in Saturday’s race, will be examined in Friday’s Verdict.

Form Focus Verdict

Previous Diamond winning jockeys with a mount in this year’s race:

Williams (13 rides) 1-2-1; first winner came last year on Catchy
Dunn (11 rides) 4-0-3; first 4 rides in this race were wins: 2005 to 2008
McEvoy (7 rides) 2-1-0; first ride in this race was a winner (True Jewels)
Nolen (7 rides) 1-1-1; won the 2009 edition on Reward for Effort

While it took Craig Williams awhile to nail his first Blue Diamond (Catchy last year), spare a thought for Damien Oliver, a rather notable absentee from this year’s race.

Successful on Alinghi in 2004, Oliver has really found this race a nuisance, finishing second six times and third twice from a further eighteen rides.

TRAINER:

Knowledge & Insight

Lindsay Park has been the commanding force in this race with nine victories overall.

Commencing with Lindsay Park’s founder, the late Colin Hayes prepared Out of Danger to defeat her odds-on stablemate Desirable in 1976. Son David registered his sixth Blue Diamond success (a record) in 2017 courtesy of Catchy.

Saturday’s race presents a familiar situation with multiple runners from Lindsay Park – the Verdict on Friday will unpick some interesting stats involving the stable’s history in the Diamond.

Form Focus Verdict

Of the 47 editions of the Blue Diamond, the Lindsay Park training operation (founded by the late Colin Hayes) has been represented in 40 of them.

From an overall total of 104 starters, the stable has netted nine wins, twelve seconds and seven thirds – a wonderful return that includes snaring the quinella four times and having at least one runner finish in the top three on twenty three occasions.

David Hayes prepared one-two in three consecutive years (2006, 2007, 2008), and twelve months ago in partnership with his son Ben & Tom Dabernig, Lindsay Park finished first, third and fourth from a total of six runners.

Caulfield-based Mick Price is the only other Blue Diamond winning trainer with a runner in the 2018 Diamond, Price scoring with Samaready (2012) and Extreme Choice (2016).

HORSE:

Knowledge & Insight

Conducted at Set Weights, the Blue Diamond Stakes was conceived by the Victoria Amateur Turf Club (now the Melbourne Racing Club) in the wake of the increasing popularity of the STC Golden Slipper Stakes in Sydney, first run in 1957.

Worth $1.5 million this year, Blue Diamond prizemoney in 1971 totalled $13,500 and came in significantly less than the Oakleigh Plate (conducted on the same day) which was worth $20,500.

Not everyone had warmed to the developing concept of feature races for two-year-olds with then Daily Mirror columnist Pat Farrell hardly concealing his view regarding the introduction of the Blue Diamond Stakes..…….”all this pumping of stakes for two-year-old races. It’s a red herring, a glamour-glossed, money-mottled disguise of the fact Australia’s breeders want to continue breeding speedy squibs and major race-clubs are prepared to aid and abet them.”

Form Focus Verdict

The McEvoy filly Kinky Boom does face a challenge when one considers that only a super colt such as Redoute’s Choice has been able to land the Diamond at a second raceday appearance.

The 2003 winner Kusi (also on his second outing) appears in the record books as the winner that year, however first past the post Roedean was actually having her third career start.

Both Godolphin colts Encryption & Plague Stone enter the 2018 Diamond as Maidens, while Oohood & Grand Symphony represent the fillies as Maidens.

Blue DIAMOND STAKES:

TOP THREE

Form Focus Verdict

With no standout such as a Rancher, Sepoy, Star Shower, Alinghi or Tolerance, and accordingly an open betting market, the 2018 Blue Diamond winner could be well concealed.

Form Focus has opted for the Lindsay Park yard to maintain its domination of this event via Qafila, currently quoted around the $26 mark.

The stable had a momentous year in 2017 producing first-up winners in the G1 Newmarket Handicap (Redkirk Warrior becoming the first Newmarket winner for a century to score first-up) and also in the G1 Goodwood (Vega Magic coming off a 161 day break to become the first Goodwood winner to score fresh since 1920).

With four-time winner Dwayne Dunn aboard, Qafila has the draw (mid to wide) to suit and can provide Shadwell Stud with its fourth success in the race.

Maiden filly Oohood does seem to create trouble for herself at times, but there’s no doubting her natural ability and she will appreciate getting to the 1200m.

Long Leaf looks a bomb-proof youngster and ticks many boxes, and while the historical trends are negative for a longer-priced favourite, this colt should figure prominently.

Form Focus recommends these three for the 2018 Blue Diamond and for those taking trifectas, Plague Stone & Encryption should be included.

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