Canberra's feature days ahead this weekend

With the 50th running of the Black Opal Stakes coming up on Sunday, Racing and Sports' Jaike Altieri takes a look back at the preview races held on Canberra Mile day.

The Group 3 Black Opal Stakes (1200m) is just around the corner and a brilliant entrée was served on Canberra Mile Day back on February 24.

The Anthony Cummings-trained Caesars Palace took top spot in the feature event, seeing he and For Valour gain ballot exemption into the Listed Canberra Cup (2000m) on March 13.

The son of Casino Prince put the writing on the wall the start prior, running a peak rating with Racing and Sports at Randwick-Kensington.

The gelding is yet to race at 1 1⁄4 m but is a two-time winner over 1800m.

He looks the most likely to take the next step and looks a chance in the Canberra Cup as he has the right racing style to do so.

Only three horses have won the preview and gone on to race in the Canberra Cup since 2015, but two of those have placed in Coolcat Prince (2017) and Off The Rails (2016).

It's fair to say that Caesars Palace is a better horse than both of those, which holds him in good stead heading into the 1 1⁄4 m feature event.

Heading over to the Black Opal Preview and it's a similar story. 

Legolas held off the odds-on favourite Allaboutella after getting beat by the filly at their previous outing.

The gelding by Capitalist rates down on the previous two years which were won by Sweet Ride and Pretty Woman, but is above average for winners of the race since 2015.

Interestingly, Legolas has produced the same rating as former locally trained mare Sizzling Belle, both running to 94 according to Racing and Sports, both at their third race start.

Much like Caesars Palace, Legolas will have to take another step to win the Group 3 Black Opal Stakes, but improvement is expected with extra fitness and experience on his side. He can be in the finish.

Sticking to the first day of the Canberra Racing Carnival and the Listed National Sprint (1200m) serves as a brilliant lead-up in readiness for the feature of the day.

The preview this year was taken out by the locally-trained Super Helpful and ran the best Racing and Sports rating since 2017 in doing so.

Nat King Cu is the only horse to run a better rating in the lead-up since 2015, but he was already a well-established galloper, whereas Super Helpful still appears to have room for improvement.

He carried 130lbs in the preview and ran over the top to score by just under a length, but was first-up with improvement to come.

The son of Super One was victorious in the Snake Gully Cup at Gundagai in November last year and returned with a new career peak rating in his first-up effort.

With his benchmark on the lower end of the scale, it's expected the gelding will go around on the minimum weight in the National Sprint. 

He'll need to improve again heading into the Listed feature, but the Racing and Sports team believe he can.

Unfortunately for the Canberra Guineas preview, it's hard to get excited about their prospects heading towards the three-year-old feature on Canberra Cup Day.

A slow tempo out in front saw the five-horse field finish within 1-1/2 lengths of each other, with the first three across the line only separated by a nose.

If you are looking for a horse to follow out of the preview, the Keith Dryden prepared Offspring looks the one to follow. 

Assessing her prior form, the half-sister to Canberra's champion mare Single Gaze performs best when there is a genuine tempo in the race, which she did not get in the Guineas Preview.

Despite that, she still showed good ability to knuckle down along the inside to only be beaten in a tight photo finish.

The filly by Zoustar holds nominations for the Group 1 ATC Oaks (2400m)and Group 1 Queen Of The Turf (1600m) during Sydney's Autumn carnival, highlighting the opinion the local barn have of her.

She'll want a genuine pace come the Listed Canberra Guineas (1400m), but with the Sydney stables likely to bring a few horses down, she should see a better tempo than what was on offer in the preview.

Offspring is probably not a horse that could win the Canberra Guineas based on her exposed form, but she's a horse we may be able to make some money out of this preparation. 

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