While much of the racing world focuses on North American youngsters as they look to prove their worth in Bluegrass Derby Preps, a talented field of mostly proven champions congregate in Victoria for the Aussie Queen. Already a Hall of Famer, I OCTANE heads a field of twelve which almost certainly will prove to involve multiple Hall of Famers when all is said and done. This field boasts a plethora of young runners who are lightly race and look to be entering their prime. I OCTANE will be making his 20th career start and only STEEL CRUSADER has more lifetime starts as this will be his 24th. Half of the runners in this field already have Grade 1 wins under their belt with two more being Grade-2 champions. Of the four runners who have yet to win against graded competition, a case could be made for each of them that there time is coming, potentially this Saturday in Australia. This should be a fun one for racing fans. Let us have a look at this seemingly wide open field.
1) I OCTANE – silversun26 – 3/1
Starting in the inside post position is I OCTANE. The 5 year old Hall of Fame son of King Kamehameha is back for more. 6 of his 11 career wins have come against Grade 1 company. The Saint Cloud, World Weekly News Stakes, Big Red Stakes, the Movieland Turf Cup, the Osmunds Memorial, and The Mckinnon trophies are all in the trophy case of I OCTANE. He will look to add the Queen Aussie championship to his colorful resume while making just his 20th career start and his first of 2020. His 4 year old season saw him win 3 of 6 Grade 1 starts while finishing in the money in all 7 of his 2019 starts. His most recent start came in the King Kong Cup at the end of a heavy stretch of 6 races in just over 6 months and he finished 3rd behind MR. MAYHEM whom I OCTANE was unable to beat in two tries last year. Fortunately for the silversun stable, MR. MAYHEM is not entered in Saturday’s Aussie Queen. There figures to be plenty of speed in this race which should play well into his stalking running style. I OCTANE is the morning line favorite as it should take a big effort to beat him.
2) BRIGHTBURN – malekfarms – 5/1
I OCTANE is already a hall of famer. BRIGHTBURN, 4 year old son of Galileo, appears to be well on his way to accomplishing as much, if not more, as his rival starting directly to his inside. This will also be BRIGHTBURN’s 2020 debut after finishing 5th behind, among others, I OCTANE. They also met back in September in the Osmunds Memorial which saw BRIGHTBURN finish second to I OCTANE. That was BRIGHTBURN’s first shot against older company as a three year old and was very impressive in defeat. He was basically flawless the rest of 2019 while winning three Grade 1 contests including The Queen’s Dish and the Big Red Stakes against 3 year olds and The Coxless Stakes against older company. He enjoys a front running style and figures to have plenty of company early on in this contest. Will third time against I OCTANE be the charm? If he can keep the early fractions manageable, he could be on his way to starting a promising 2020 campaign with a bang.
3) HUSHWING DAWN – hushwing1 – 71/1
This 3 year old son of Dawn Approach is up against a tough task in this one. Will be facing older company in his 3rd start in under a month. His first try against older company came a mere two weeks before this contest where he finished 12th in the Awa Pooie Gold Cup. Has a solid pedigree but probably will need some seasoning before competing well against a group like this.
4) STEEL CRUSADER – desimster1 – 6/1
This 6 year old son of Cape Cross comes in as the oldest and most experienced runner in this race with 23 career starts to his resume. He is back for another crack in this race after finishing a game 2nd in 2019’s edition of the Queen Aussie. His last and only Grade 1 win came in November of 2018 in the McKinnon. 2019 was a frustrating year for this accomplished runner. He finished 2nd three times against Grade 1 company last year, including finishing behind rival BRIGHTBURN in the Coxless Stakes. He got in another speed dual with BRIGHTBURN again in the KING KONG Cup which resulted in him fading back to 9th at the wire. He did cruise to an tuneup win in an allowance in February to prepare for this race. Hard to look past this runner.
5) GOOFBALL BABS – barbfarms – 14/1
This 4 year old gelding son of Saddler’s Rock is taking his first stab at Grade 1 company in the Queen Aussie. Finished 3rd in his two starts this year but may benefit from the added distance. He comes with a late kick and could benefit from the early speed duel that seems inevitable in this contest. His last try at this distance came back in November in the Los Angeles Derby where he tried to go wire-to-wire but that running style proved futile as he faded back to a distant 9th. A return to a stalking running style should prove to be beneficial this time around. Could be a player at a big price here.
6) Chili Klaus – golfteam7 – 16/1
This 4 year old son of Deep Impact carries the distinction of being the only runner entering this race with a winning streak of more than one. His one and only graded stakes try came in January in the Grade 2 Marcos Footware Handicap where he passed all challengers and cruised to an easy victory. He returned to the track a month later and crushed allowance company in California before making the trek across the pond. Unproven against Grade 1 company but he should be carrying plenty of confidence heading into this one and should get plenty of early speed to chase down with his big kick. Has won at big prices his whole career and may continue that trend on Saturday.
7) DEMON CHILD – crawf682 – 10/1
One of two homegrown Australians in this race, DEMON CHILD will look to make his first Grade 1 start Saturday against stiff competition. He got out to a lead all by himself in the Grade 3 Night at Exbury Stakes before getting caught in the final furlong by fellow competitor SHINE UNDERNEATH. He will get more company up front in this race and will have to improve his stamina late to have a chance at the upset in this race. He has posted consistent Speed figures that rival those posted by his competitors in this field. One of many with a real shot in this contest.
8) SHINE UNDERNEATH – xpansion2 – 10/1
This 4 year old son of Sea the Stars is entering the Aussie Queen having won 3 of his last 4 and 7 of 11 lifetime. He took a step back into the route division from the long division last time out in the Night at Exbury and won with relative ease. Another entry in this race who should benefit from a bevy of early speed, SHINE UNDERNEATH looks to have found his sweet spot at the 10 furlong distance. Has won 2 of 3 races against older company so he has proven he has graduated from the 3 year old division with class. Yet another runner in the Aussie Queen boasting an impressive resume.
9) MERCHANT OF MOGO – deyoto10 – 7/1
The second of two Australian bred runeners, this 4 year old son of Fastnet Rock had his 3 year old season plagued a bit by rival BRIGHTBURN. MERCHANT OF MOGO lost speed duels against BRIGHTBURN in both the Big Red and Coxless Stakes. At first glance it looks like he may be just not be good enough to beat his fellow 4 year old rival to his inside. What happens if we look at the more recent events? A bit of a riddle presents itself. While BRIGHTBURN and I OCTANE were on hiatus, MERCHANT OF MOGO was busy winning the Mr. Met Mile back in February. One of the runners he bested was none other than MR. MAYHEM. MR. MAYHEM seems to have the number of I OCTANE, who seems to have BRIGHTBURN’s number. It stands to reason that MERCHANT of MOGO may be the one to beat, at least among those three. He will have a tough time getting out to the early lead he likes but if he can handle the early fractions, he may come out the winner.
10) HAND OF KANE – jbcri9 – 5/1
At first glance, the fact that the morning line odds makers made this 5 year old son of Teofilo the co-second choice is a bit of a parimutuel puzzler. He has yet to win a Graded Stakes race in his lifetime and has not won in three tries since September. However a deeper look unearths some sneaky angles. He has never run at this distance before and the fact that he has come up just short in many of his starts at shorter distances with a heavy late kick point to a strong possibility that 10 furlongs may be his gig. His speed numbers have been impressive and certainly stand up to those posted by this field. This 2018 Equinics Bronze Medalist appears to be knocking on the door to a big win. Will Saturday be his day?
11) ROCK IT CADET – scoobysnak – 20/1
It is not often you will find a horse from the Cadet stables at these lofty odds. Yet here is ROCK IT CADET making his 2nd start of the year as the second longest shot on the board. His last start came in the listed Paris Cap Turf Route on a yielding turf course where he finished a distant 5th. However, it is reasonable to reasonable to put a line through that performance as his two tries on yielding turf have proven to not be his thing. He finished his 3 year old season with two breezy restricted allowance wins. He is certainly taking a big step up in class in this contest but his trainer typically knows when he’s sitting on a stud.
12) HIGHLAND EMPIRE – desertdog10 – 10/1
This 4 year old son of Highland Reel won the Grade 2 Griffen in May of last year and appeared to be well on his way to a successful 2019 campaign before running into the BRIGHTBURN buzz saw. HIGHLAND EMPIRE was bested by his Saturday rival in both the Queen’s Dish and the Big Red Stakes. He finished 2019 with a residency restricted stakes victory against older company at this distance. He then returned a month later to run a very game 3rd in the Kegasus Upper Deck Turf Extravaganza against a very tough field where the extra furlong he is getting in this contest may have been enough for him to claim his first Grade 1 victory. Will be hoping for a hot early pace to chase down late in this one.
I OCTANE – The one to beat. Should still have a few bullets to fire before his career is done.
BRIGHTBURN – If I OCTANE is in fact about to fall off the cliff, BRIGHTBURN certainly seems poised to grab the torch and run with it.
MERCHANT OF MOGO – Has the biggest win this calendar year entering this race. Coming in hot.
*Longshot Pick* CHILI KLAUS – How this horse keeps going off at huge odds is beyond me. Definitely worth a look at gaudy 16/1.