14 June, 2024

Fair to say this is not a vintage Stradbroke Handicap despite the record $3 million prizemoney. There are numerous chances at value odds in Brisbane’s richest race, not the least being the first emergency (19) FREEDOM RALLY.

FREEDOM RALLY is a great chance if he secures a start as he has been given a perfect prep by Tony Gollan. Brisbane’s leading trainer is on the outside looking in as he was desperate to see the emerging 4YO make the top 18 after his excellent performance to finish fourth in the G1 Kingsford Smith Cup (1300m) at Eagle Farm where he was carrying 59kg under the weight-for-age conditions.

FREEDOM RALLY boasts a super record of five wins from seven starts at Eagle Farm including two over the Stradbroke distance and with only 51.5kg from an ideal soft draw he is clearly the weight horse in this Stradbroke field. For example he is between 3kg and 6.5kg better off against other Kingsford Smith runners BELLA NIPOTINA (2nd), MAGIC TIME (8th) and ANTINO (6th).

If FREEDOM RALLY misses out on a start it could be third time lucky for the consistent Godolphin sprinter/miler (6) VILANA after his scintillating win under 56kg in last Saturday’s G2 Moreton Cup (1200m) at this course.

VILANA, now a 5YO, has run in the last two Stradbrokes, finishing eighth in 2022 and tenth last year under 56kg. He’s gets in this year with only 53kg (how?) as he could not be re-handicapped for last Saturday’s win where he returned new peak rating figures way above his previous efforts in this race and comparable to most of the better Stradbroke winners over the last two decades.

If VILANA is ever going to win a G1 race this is his best chance. He’s gone to a new level since being gelded but there is a sobering negative as no horse has been able to win the Stradbroke after a victory in the Moreton Cup (formerly the QTC Cup) despite the latter being recognised as a key lead-up race.

Victorian pair (10) AMENABLE and (7) HERE TO SHOCK have excellent form credentials and appeal as the right types to run to their best under the handicap conditions.


AMENABLE’s G1 form under WFA conditions includes carrying 59kg when a fighting second to Stradbroke rival MAGIC TIME on a heavy track in the All-Aged Stakes (1400m) at the Randwick autumn carnival. He followed up with a nose second in the Scone Cup (1600m) under 60kg and is clearly another well weighted candidate with ratings that match the historical profile of a Stradbroke winner.

HERE TO SHOCK staked a strong Stradbroke claim with his hard finish to beat FREEDOM RALLY by a lip in in the G3 BRC Sprint over 1350m at Doomben, form that was franked by the runner up going on to finish fourth in the Kingsford Smith Cup.

While only one BRC Sprint winner has gone on to win a Stradbroke there is a good case for HERE TO SHOCK as he is a 1400m specialist with six wins over the distance including a G3 at Caulfield in April. He also has a favourable weight with 4kg less than he carried at Doomben, meets FREEDOM RALLY on 1.5kg better terms and is drawn to enjoy a cheap run from the rails barrier.

FREEDOM RALLY’s stablemate (3) ANTINO is a class act and while he will get no favours from his deep barrier he is another certain to appreciate carrying 54kg under the handicap conditions as he has carried less than 57kg only once in his last 10 starts.

This has been his winter carnival target race as he is another Eagle Farm star with five wins from seven starts at the course including two from three at 1400m. His spring form also included a G3 win over 1500m at Sandown beating HERE TO SHOCK.

Wider chances for exotic players include (8) NUGGET, proven G1 mare (4) BENEDETTA and the classy Sydney filly (19) STEFI MAGNETICA.


NUGGET has not won a race since December of 2022 but he’s been luckless in some major G1 events including two Doncaster Miles. His last start 12th under 59.5kg in the Scone Cup (after a close fourth in the Doncaster at Randwick) was a complete forgive run as he was badly blocked from the home turn and was never tested at any stage. He’s been kept fresh as he performs best with his race spaced and is another who will relish getting down in the weights.

Honest mare BENEDETTA got a deserving G1 win in the Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville last month. She’s a genuine sprinting mare suited by a fast pace but is yet to prove herself at 1400m and while she is certain to get every chance from a good gate it will be a challenge for her to win the Stradbroke with only 1kg less. It should be noted she has an important gear switch from blinkers to visors.

STEFI MAGNETICA has been G1 placed against her own sex and keeps over achieving with some excellent lead-up performances including her first-up fourth against the top older sprinters in the G1 Doomben Ten Thousand.  She’s sure to run well under 50kg as she strives to join be the first 3YO filly to win the Stradbroke since 2006.




For the Exotics: (10) Nugget; (4) Benedetta; (19) Stefi Magnetica

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