The Melbourne Mail: Moonee Valley - 30th November 2023

It says much of the low-key nature of this Saturday's Valley meeting that the best horse on the card is Dunkel.



This is no slight at all on Dunkel, a good horse indeed, but it is something of a slight against the younger, less-established horses on the card, that I can make the above statement without much doubt. 

The lightly raced three-year-olds that head the betting in a couple of the races do so off notably poor times and, as a result, make little betting appeal. 

In the case of Dunkel, betting is made more appealing by the obvious nature of the knocks. 

Dunkel could lay claim to being Melbourne racing's Harry Houdini. 

Houdini was a man who, according to the press of the time, "seemed to thousands to be cheating the very jaws of death" and that is exactly what Dunkel has done in just about all of his six wins to date. 

He overcame terrible spots off slow tempos as an odds-on chance at both Sandown and Flemington and it seemed like connections were intent on tricking it up for him in Tasmania where he was allowed to win twice by slim margins despite a significant talent edge. 

That both wins in Tasmania were won with a timefigure of 40 - this from a horse good enough to be rated 106p - is fringing on the farcical.

What made Houdini different from other magicians at the time was that his trick wasn't simply illusion or sleight of hand. He took genuine risk, and often truly did risk life and limb - breaking plenty of them. 

One of his stunts (admittedly a very minor stunt in the grander scheme) was the ability to withstand heavy punches from the audience. When Houdini knew the punch was coming he knew how to roll with Then someone tried him out when he wasn't ready. The result, a split appendix and death. A man who had escaped being thrown from a bridge handcuffed and put upside down into a "Chinese water torture cell' came unstuck from a jab to the tummy.

This is the concern for Dunkel but surely he has had adequate warning. Defeat first up was hardly fatal for Dunkel, and punters should have seen that one coming, resuming in a tactical field he was unable to escape and was forced to settle for second.

On Saturday he faces another small field but one that, despite giving weight all around, he should deal with now that he has the run - and the warning - under his belt.

Four of the other six concede him fitness this time and that quarter are one from 23 first-up between them; and that one was Monbaher beating exposed 80-raters on heavy ground at Ballarat.

The tummy punch is Independent Road. No star but certainly hard-nosed, hard fit and likeable. 

He will be on speed; rolling along and doing it the right way. Dunkel is a better racehorse, he has a change of gear that Independent Road lacks, a trick up his sleeve, but he needs to be prepared and ready to use it or something as simple as Independent Road playing the percentages could prove lethal.

This simply sets the stage, laying out some possibilities, but as punters we are as concerned with how possible as we are with what's possible.

How often does Dunkel defy death around the Valley? How often does he fall to a straightforward jab from Independent Road? 

The best guess from the Melbourne Mail and its state-of-the-art(ish) modelling is that Dunkel escapes the chains once more around 50% of the time, Independent Road splits his appendix 20% of the time and something altogether different happens 30% of the time. 

Betting makes Dunkel a bit more likely than 40% at $2.40 and to our mind bettable in that scenario. 

As mentioned above, a couple of the favourites at the Valley are standing on shaky ground. Peace Treaty won as though above-average on debut, and won again when last seen, but the time was simply slow and powerful connections must be shouldering plenty of the load to find her inside $2.60 in the ninth.

Given the soft look at the front of betting, a chance can be taken on Jakivy, a maiden but one that arrives off a best-of-the-day closing split at Sandown last time when he was left hopelessly placed. 

It was yet another slow race but the winner takes that slow time to a spot high in the betting in race four (alongside yet more ordinary-looking times...) and the runner-up started evens at Flemington and backed his rating up in a narrow defeat there.

22-1 can undersell the chances of Jakivy in a race that might not take much winning at all.



Bet Of The Day: Race 5 #1 Dunkel @ $2.40

Each Way Play: Race 9 #4 Jakivy @ $23.00


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