Runner by Runner: Northerly Stakes

1. Zaaki (59kg)

Trainer: Annabel Neasham
Jockey: James McDonald
Barrier: 10

Like Overpass last week he’s the clear cut starting point when assessing the race. Since arriving in Australia in 2021 he has amassed an incredible CV which includes the 3x Hollindale Stakes (1800m), Doomben Cup (2000m), Q22 (2200m), 2x Tramway Stakes (1400), Underwood Stakes (1800), 2x Mackinnon Stakes (2000) and an All Star Mile (1600). This preparation he looks to be going as well as ever having finished third behind Fangirl in the Winx Stakes first-up at 1400m, second behind Think It Over at a mile second-up (turning the tables on Fangirl) and then has finished 1.5L off Romantic Warrior, Mr Brightside and Alligator Blood in a Cox Plate and 2L off Atishu in the Champions Stakes. He has won races in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria; can he add a Northerly Stakes to his trophy cabinet and WA to the list of States he has conquered? Absolutely.

2. Trix Of The Trade (59kg)

Trainer: Colin Webster
Jockey: Troy Turner
Barrier: 7

He’s back to his best and that’s an exciting thing for WA racing fans. After winning the 2022 Railway Stakes with 53kg he proceeded on the traditional pathway towards the WFA 1800 of the Northerly Stakes and ran a really solid sixth beaten 2.3L behind Amelia’s Jewel, Ironclad, Steinem, Cascadian and Bustler. 12 months later and he probably should have finished right in the money in the Railway Stakes after being afforded no luck at all in the home straight – he looked to be bolting behind heels with plenty to offer but the gaps just never appeared for horse or rider. With the right run and an ounce of luck he can be one of the first WA horses past the post. Would be some sort of fairytale if he could somehow win Mr Webster another Group One!

3. Zoumon (59kg)

Trainer: Gai Waterhouse & Adria Bott
Jockey: Damien Oliver
Barrier: 15

Is he here for the Northerly Stakes or is he here for the WFA Van Heemst / Perth Cup? That’s the question a few have been asking over the last week or so as we start to put together all the pieces of the third Group One of the Pinnacles. Obviously as a m108 the WFA Van Heemst will be a super race for him over 2100m and then he’d need to carry a big weight impost in the Perth Cup (potentially turning it into a Quality Handicap) but regardless when you look at his career record you quickly realise that apart from his 1212m maiden win as a 3 year old he’s then gone on to win 7 races being over 1900m, 4x 2000m, 2x 2400m. A McKell Cup, a Caloundra Cup, a Grafton Cup…it’s Cups form! He attacks the Northerly Stakes third-up after being beaten 5.4L over 1500m at Randwick and then improving sharply to finish a narrow second to Unspoken in the Five Diamonds at Rosehill over 1800m. If they turn it into a true staying test it brings him into it.

4. Marocchino (59kg)

Trainer: Lou Luciani
Jockey: Jason Whiting
Barrier: 3

We all know and love Marocchino (although it took a while for the penny to drop!). Even as a 4 year old in 2021 at Bunbury the Stewards report read “Rider reported the gelding reacted to the crowd noise and raced keenly”. He’s always been quirky and he’s always been a big baby but funnily enough only a month after that day at Bunbury he really started to put to all together and began his assent from a m76 rater winning the 2021 Albany Cup to where he is now as a m111 rater who even this calendar year alone has added a Detonator Stakes and an Asian Beau to his career credentials. He gets a weight pull on every single horse he raced in the Railway Stakes and the Ascot 1800 is a unique starting point where he’s tasted success on multiple occasions. Likely to get conditions to suit and doesn’t know how to run a bad race.

5. Dom To Shoot (59kg)

Trainer: Sean & Jake Casey
Jockey: Jarrad Noske
Barrier: 1

Has returned in excellent order yet again. Sean & Jake Casey have done a wonderful job with this horse and in two runs back this campaign he has finished second to Valour Road at WFA over 1400m when sitting three deep throughout the entire and then was working home late in the Railway Stakes when third behind Bustler and Alsephina. Continues to run above expectation and better than his SP profile and again on Saturday will jump a big double figure price for a horse in good enough form to make his presence felt. Sectionally he was outstanding in the Railway: fastest L1200, 1000, 800, 600, 400 & 200 of the race. He’s airborne.

6. Forgot You (59kg)

Trainer: Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young
Jockey: Paul Harvey
Barrier: 13

Well named considering that most will have forgotten that he won a Group Two Stutt Stakes (1600) and a Group Two Vase (2040) at Moonee Valley as a 3 year old back in 2021 before contesting the Victoria Derby over 2500m. Things went wrong as a late season 3 year old and he didn’t race for over 500 days as a result. Had worked himself back into some form and won a Listed 1800m event as part of the undercard on Melbourne Cup Day in a high pressure race where the first 1200m was run 21L faster than average. That’s the kind of thing that can happen in Ascot 1800m races where the field breaks open down the back straight and they the back markers have to really sustain a run. Much more suitable for him than the Railway Stakes was but he still might be looking for even further at this stage of the preparation.

7. Casino Seventeen (59kg)

Trainer: Grant & Alana Williams
Jockey: Shaun McGruddy
Barrier: 16

Get the feeling that Team Williams are marking time until they attack the Perth Cup on New Year’s Day, especially if a horse like Zoumon was to stick around and spread the weights. Up until this point he has been on the tradition Perth Cup pathway: Northam Cup (3rd over 1600), Luckygray Stakes (luckless 4th over 1800) and AJ Scahill (2nd over 2100). Meets Be Optimistic 3kg better at the weights and could very conceivably turn the tables on her without surprising but it’s more of a stretch to start considering him a legitimate chance at WFA. Still has plenty more wins ahead of him but this looks a stepping stone to other target races.

8. Mojo Rhythym (59kg)

Trainer: Mitchell Pateman
Jockey: Holly Watson
Barrier: 4

Has been one of the real surprise packets of the Pinnacles so far. Only three starts ago he went around $26 in a 66+ ratings race when beaten 1L into fifth by Amber Glide, Penny On The Queen, Cosmic Crusader and Starring Knight. Quite remarkable how well he’s performed considering. On Day 1 of the Pinnacles he picked up a Golden Ticket into the Group One Railway Stakes when beating Alsephina in the RJ Peters and then showed he absolutely deserved his spot in the race when finishing fifth. Mitch Pateman, Holly Watson and the Ott Family can justifiably argue that they should have nearly been on the podium because he was held up from on straightening until the 100m and was doing his best through the line. This is yet another step up but he continues to raise the bar.

9. River Rubicon (59kg)

Trainer: Steve Wolfe
Jockey: Alan Kennedy
Barrier: 9

Is again on trial at the distance and is now on trial at WFA. He’s still a relatively young and lightly raced horse who may well find himself at this level in the future but for how he’s just a cog behind the best we have here in WA. In the end his best win was in the Nicopolis Stakes which is an 84+ Ratings Race and he went into it a m84 rater perfectly on the 54kg minimum. On ratings his best effort in his career was in the Asian Beau beaten 2.6L behind Marocchino and Alsephina and he now has to try and turn the tables on them meeting them worse at the weights at a distance that he’s yet to prove himself at. Awkward stage of his campaign and jumps well over 100-1.

10. Bustler (59kg)

Trainer: Neville Parnham
Jockey: Brad Parnham
Barrier: 5

4 year old Group One Railway Stakes winner who has already collected over $1.5m in Prize Money and bonus’ for his connections and yet amazingly Neville Parnham had to ring all three sons to see just who was going to ride his stable star. Steve Parnham has made the tough but understandable call to continue his partnership with WA Guineas winner Zipaway and brother Chris has elected to bypass Bustler in favour of fellow three year old A Lot Of Good Men. Enter Bradley. Favourite son tag well and truly up for grabs on Saturday and Bustler did explode away from them in the Railway in a dominant display. Can he join Better Loosen Up, Old Comrade, Modem and Sniper’s Bullet on the list of horses to win a Railway Stakes – Kingston Town/Northerly double?

11. Alsephina (57kg)

Trainer: Grant & Alana Williams
Jockey: William Pike
Barrier: 6

Turning into a carnival of what could have been for Team Williams’ gun mare. After winning the Group 3 La Trice Classic over 1800m on New Years Day it became crystal clear that the 2023 Railway Stakes was going to be her main aim. Grand Final preparations began in Autumn when she was produced for one single 950m trial at Lark Hill before having 2x 950m and 1x 1450m trial leading into her race track return in the Asian Beau Stakes. Following the race there was a change of plans which saw her head to the RJ Peters to squeeze in one more run before the Railway. Raced in blinkers for the first time in the Railway and ran another brilliant race when runner up to Bustler keeping her impeccable 100% Top 3 finishing record in tact. Blinkers immediately coming back off and she heads to WFA for the first time. Impossible to knock the way she’s going and deserves at least another feature success.

12. Searchin’ Roc’s (57kg)

Trainer: JIm Taylor
Jockey: Jason Brown
Barrier: 12

Picked up a Farnley Stakes over 1400m at Belmont on a one start hit and run mission before being aimed up at the Pinnacles. Going back on that day she’s beaten Javadi, Nerodio and Ginger Baker who haven’t exactly set the world on fire since in terms of a franked form reference. In fairness to the mare she was luckless in the Asian Beau when caught three wide the trip and then just wasn’t able to sprint with them in the Railway Stakes when the big guns started to get really dinkum at the top of the straight. This will be her third consecutive Kingston Town Classic / Northerly Stakes having raced as a 3 year old in 2021, a four year old in 2022 and now a five year old in 2023. She’s a trier but she’s just a couple of lengths behind them at the elite level. Still a Starstruck / La Trice Classic on offer to finish her campaign?

13. The Velvet Queen (57kg)

Trainer: Darren McAuliffe 
Jockey: Patrick Carbery
Barrier: 11

Is the kind of mare that with the right run could actually probably bob up and surprise a few of them. Showed the in the Group 2 Lee Steere that sectionally she can match it with the best of them recording the fastest L800, 600, 400 & 200 at 1400m. In the Railway she was really only getting going over the last 200m and was starting to hit top gear as they crossed the finishing line. She’s unfortunately got a racing pattern which means that she’ll need everything little thing to work in her favour, from the barrier draw to the map to the pattern of the day to the speed of the race. She’s got a Black Type win in her one day – she’s just going to need to find the right race and the right day. With an Easterly forecast for Saturday it’s unlikely to be this year’s Northerly Stakes.

14. Be Optimistic (57kg)

Trainer: Luke Fernie
Jockey: Clint Johnston-Porter
Barrier: 2

Has had a real breakout preparation winning a Listed Kalgoorlie Cup and a Listed AJ Scahill Cup. She really let rip and went straight past Casino Seventeen in the AJ Scahill to announce herself as a genuine contender in the 2024 Perth Cup and a legitimate threat to many in the Van Heemst or ATA Stakes depending on how Luke Fernie plots his path from the Northerly Stakes on December 9th to the Perth Cup on January 1st. She’s a mare so you can appreciate why they’ve elected to go to the Group One Northerly Stakes on the same day as the much lower hanging fruit of the G.A Towton Cup (Listed 2200m) but it will take a massive career PB to reward her connections.

15. Zipaway (52kg)

Trainer: Neville Parnham
Jockey: Steven Parnham
Barrier: 14

First of the 3 year olds in this year’s edition of the Northerly Stakes and winner of the Group 2 WA Guineas over 1600m last start. The best part about his win the Guineas was that he proved that Steve Parnham can use the 52kg weight to his advantage and park him right up over the top of the speed and that he’ll both settle and produce a big kick. When you think about the long list of 3 year olds who have tasted success in WA’s 1800m WFA feature (Playing God, Ihtshymn, Perfect Reflection, Arcadia Queen, Kay Cee and Amelia’s Jewel) with the exception of Perfect Reflection, who won on a rare Heavy8 day, they’ve all been able to land in positions close handy to the speed and use the big weight pull they have over the older horses to their advantage. He fits that profile perfectly, however, he’s likely to have to work forward to find a spot.

16. A Lot Of Good Men (52kg)

Trainer: Trevor Andrews
Jockey: Chris Parnham
Barrier: 8

Was savaging the line in the WA Guineas and pulling massive late ground off Zipaway. Ran the fastest L1200, 1000, 800, 600, 400 & 200 of the race in defeat and importantly his fastest section was his final furlong suggesting that he’ll have no worries seeing out the 1800m at his first attempt. He has had the ideal preparation leading into this Group One feature – he’s slowly built up from 1000m to 1200m to 1400m to 1600m and now to 1800m for one final run before heading to the paddock. Year in year out we punters have a love association with the 3 year olds at WFA in the Kingston Town Classic / Northerly Stakes and if you’ve got Zipaway in your thoughts then you have to have A Lot Of Good Men in your thoughts because there really wasn’t that much between them in the Guineas and Investment Strategy came out last Saturday and franked the form winning the Listed 3 year old Lee Steere. It’s the right form, it’s the right race and Chris Parnham is the right jockey. Big contender.


Obviously Zaaki is the one to beat, he’s a genuine Top Liner and if he turns up at his absolute best then they may all be running for second, but taking the viewpoint that IF he’s going to be beaten it’s most likely to be by one of the three years olds with 52kg which leave us with Zipaway or A Lot Of Good Men. Watching the Guineas over and over there doesn’t seem to be that much between the pair and after the barrier draw there has to be a slight leaning towards A Lot Of Good Men on the eachway basis. Head says Zaaki wins, heart says WA 3 year olds are a sniff.

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