The Gong 2023
Distance: 1600m | Conditions: Handicap | Rail Position: True | Track Condition: Good 4 (at time of publish)
Kembla Grange takes center stage in NSW this Saturday for the fifth running of the $1m The Gong. There’s some rain lingering around the area which could see the track in the soft range by race start, but Kembla generally plays pretty fair so we should be in for a great race. Let’s try find the winner!
Capacity field with not a lot of natural speed makes this a very tactical race. Expect Palmetto or even Surf Dancer to take up the running from the wide draws, while Banju may have no option but to roll forward. Cepheus and Skyman should be able to settle within the first few pairs back, while Detonator Jack and Waterford should also be able to sit a little closer. Expect Osipenko to find cover midfield while the likes of Spangler and Kirwan’s Lane will be forced to the back of the pack.
1: Cepheus (4)
Has gone to a new level this campaign, racking up over Listed and Group 2 level, and a second in The Big Dance last start. Couldn’t reel in Attractable but closed off well. Has to lug a big weight again here but Nash will give him every chance from 4.
2: New Mandate (8)
Won for the first time since March last start where he seemingly relished the heavy track and was too good. If the rain lingers it enhances his chances but otherwise I’m happy to leave him out.
3: Osipenko (10)
Brings the right formlines into this after contending some big group races in Melbourne, including a 2L second to Mr Brightside in the Makybe Diva over 1600m. Was probably slightly disappointing across most of those but this is a significant class drop and gets the conditions to suit. Main danger.
4: Surf Dancer (14)
Wasn’t up to it first up in the Giga Kick Stakes. Drops back in grade for this and is better for the run. Expect an improved showing.
5: Skyman (6)
Big drifter at Hawkesbury last start but battled on well. Beaten 6L by Cepheus last time they met so hard to see him lifting enough to win, but can still run a nice race at odds.
6: Kirwan’s Lane (19)
Was knocked around at the top of the straight last time out but balanced up well and was strong late. Had a freshen up since and he generally runs better than his price suggests. Barrier is no help but he can run a race at odds.
7: Palmetto (12)
Was racing well prior to the Five Diamonds but probably didn’t see out the trip. Beat Detonator Jack in the Five Diamonds prelude, and we should see an improved effort over 1600m but still think he’s a touch out of his depth in this field.
8: Communist (5)
Did nothing in The Epsom but showed a better effort in The Golden Eagle where he raced wide and continue to find. Gets a nice gate here and boasts a solid record over the mile.
9: Detonator Jack (9)
Got into his work late in the Prelude to just miss before coming out in the Five Diamonds and putting in another brave effort over the 1800m. Gets back to his pet distance now and looks ready to peak. Will be around the mark.
10: Banju (20)
Was better in the Big Dance but isn’t up to this level. Barrier done his chances no favours.
11: Waterford (2)
Is going better than his form suggests, just needs a touch of luck. Inside barrier is a good start, has the potential to be stifled by another slow speed here but will be running on well.
12: Wild Planet (1)
Fourth in this race last year and is a last start winner in the Rosehill Cup. Nice win there but don’t love the drop back in distance for this. Can’t see him making much of an impact.
13: Spangler (17)
Raced wide in the Little Dance but proved too strong. This is harder and he has it all to do from the barrier but gets in well at the weights and while I can’t see him winning, a similar effort could see him around the mark.
14: Art Cadeau (7)
Struggling in weaker races than this. Not up to it.
15: Wicklow (3)
Will appreciate the sting out of the track and will see him better over 2000m, but don’t be surprised to see him improve off that disappointing performance in the Five Diamonds.
16: Cuban Royale (13)
Has a habit of popping up when you least expect it, but this won’t be one of them.
Osipenko brings the right form into this, happy to play him on that.
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