This weekend was almost the calm before the storm ahead of a massive couple of weeks in the racing world.
Yes, there were a few Group Ones in Australia, but things are really about to start cooking now.
For the jumps racing lovers, the four-day Cheltenham Festival kicks off on Tuesday, then there’s the Golden Slipper meeting at Rosehill on Saturday (featuring five majors) before the BMW Hong Kong Derby on Sunday and then the build-up begins for the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan on March 25.
The main event at Cheltenham, the Gold Cup looks a pretty open affair after early favourite Thistlecrack was ruled out with a tendon injury, leaving Cue Card, Native River and Djakadam at the top of the market.
Star Queensland filly Houtzen is now the first elect for the Slipper, taking top spot from She Will Reign and Blue Diamond winner Catchy, while Winx is $1.15 to extend her winning streak to 16 in the George Ryder Stakes when she takes on the likes of Chautauqua and Le Romain.
She's a superstar!— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) March 4, 2017
Houtzen lumps the 63kg and blows her rivals away to win Race 3 at Eagle Farm! pic.twitter.com/Ghy6EJzYdf
In the Hong Kong Derby, Rapper Dragon is trying to become the first horse to sweepthe three-year-old series and he’ll start a dominant favourite in Sunday’s HK$18 million feature, with one-time internet sensation Pakistan Star also likely to get plenty of support.
And even race fans in Japan have something to be excited about with Arima Kinen winner Satono Diamond returning in the Group Two Hanshin Daishoten on Sunday.
So whatever your flavour, there is plenty to look forward.
Looking back on the weekend’s action and there is one horse who stands out – Redkirk Warrior.
It’s an unusual double, starting favourite in a Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) and then winning a Newmarket Handicap (1,200m) at Flemington, but everything Redkirk Warrior did on Saturday defied history.
No horse had won the Group One first-up in 100 years, but there he was, sitting just off the speed before cruising away for a dominant victory in one of Australia’s biggest sprints.
Redkirk Warrior has always had ability, but bad feet ended his time at Sha Tin after five starts before being sent to the open expanses of David Hayes’ Lindsay Park operation in country Victoria.
“We’ve been telling everyone he’s the best horse in the stable, he just hasn’t had a chance to show it until now,” Hayes said after the race.
The win was also a first for likeable young hoop Regan Bayliss, who claimed his first victory at the top level.
It was the start of a massive few days for Bayliss, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Monday and also won the Adelaide Cup with Annus Mirabilis.
Redkirk Warrior will now head to the Doncaster Handicap over 1,600m – the same trip he ran over when he won his only race in Hong Kong.
The Darren Weir-trained Humidor took out the Group One Australian Cup, beating Caulfield Cup champ Jameka, who is set to head to The BMW in Sydney before a crack at the QE II Cup.
At Rosehill, Heavens Above edged out the unlucky Silent Sedition (ridden by Sam Clipperton), who was trapped wide from an outside gate, in the Group One Coolmore Classic.
Over in New Zealand and it seems Hong Kong-based jockeys can’t take a trick.
Last week, Derek Leung Ka-chun’s horse bucked at the start of the NZ Derby and on Saturday, the Auckland Cup meeting at Ellerslie was washed out after Zac Purton made the trip across the equator. The races will now be held in a twilight spot on Thursday, but the Australian won’t be a part of them.
At the very least, Purton racked up some frequent flier points and he will again this weekend when he goes to Sydney next weekend for the Slipper, where he’ll ride Teaspoon for newly appointed Hong Kong trainer Michael Freedman.
This incident from the US caught the eye and appears to belong in the “massive overreaction” box.
Silks are an important part of racing, but this was a hefty price to pay for a mix-up.
Kentucky Oaks contender Abel Tasman was taken off trainer Simon Callaghan and moved to the stable of Bob Baffert after running in the wrong colours when finishing second in the Grade Three Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita.
The China Horse Club bought 50 per cent of the filly after winning the start before, but didn’t cop the mistake well at all.
Today Abel Tasman was removed from my barn. This move happened at the insistence of co-owner "China Horse Club". Although the filly..1/3— Simon Callaghan (@simon_callaghan) March 9, 2017
..should have run in their silks in the Santa Ysabel Stks she did not due to a mix-up which was no fault of ours and we apologized for....— Simon Callaghan (@simon_callaghan) March 9, 2017
...This mistake was impossible for "China Horse Club" to accept and they took the drastic step of removing her from our care...........— Simon Callaghan (@simon_callaghan) March 9, 2017
....."China Horse Club" may have brought new money to our sport but that is all it seems.— Simon Callaghan (@simon_callaghan) March 9, 2017
But that situation pales in comparison to this horrible accident which happened during a steeplechase in France on Sunday.
Effroyable chute ce dimanche à Paray-le-Monial.Un cheval en liberté projette au sol, à pleine vitesse, 2 chevaux luttant pour la victoire. pic.twitter.com/m5ldehsNcb— Loïc Saraud (@loic_saraud) March 12, 2017
Our thoughts are with everyone affected.