It is shaping up as a typical East meets West battle of the summer gallopers in Saturday’s Group 1 $1 million James Boag’s Premium Railway Stakes (1600m) in Perth and there has been a steady trickle of money coming in for one of the local hopes Variation.
A capacity field of milers faces off in the Railway Stakes field at Ascot Racecourse on Saturday afternoon when the Group 1 racing action of the Perth Summer Racing Carnival gets underway.
On Railway Stakes Day last year the Stephen Miller-trained War Chant gelding Variation enjoyed a win in the key support act on the card taking out the Group 2 $500,000 W.A. Guineas (1600m) as a three-year-old.
Twelve months on the now four-year-old returns stepping up for his maiden elite level test in the Railway Stakes field off three nice lead-up placings.
Drawn in gate four, which could become three if the emergencies fail to gain a start, Variation has regular rider Brad Parnham aboard on the 53kg minimum.
That’s a nice drop from the 56.5kg he carried to third behind Properantes in the Group 3 $150,000 R.J. Peters Stakes (1500m) last Saturday, meaning he is on the short seven day back-up.
Last summer the Lindsey Smith-trained Scales Of Justice completed the R.J. Peters Stakes – Railway Stakes double and this season Variation is out to frank the form of the former in the Group 1 mile clash on Saturday.
A four-time winner from seven starts at the Ascot track, Variation has a consistent Place Rate of 94% that is second in the race only to the reigning champion Scales Of Justice (95%).
In the past five years there have been three single-figure winners in the Railway Stakes results, as well as two notable upsets with Mr Moet (2012) and Luckygray (2013) both jumping at 20/1 odds.
Variation opened at $13 in the Railway Stakes betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au but has since been well-backed into $10 making him the early mover.
There are three gallopers vying for top spot in the Railway Stakes odds, the battle narrowly being won by the Chris Waller-trained Tom Melbourne and last year’s winner Scales Of Justice who are the $6 co-favourites.
Waller prepared the 2015 Railway Stakes winner Good Project and his ultra-consistent, if not frustrating, Dylan Thomas seven-year-old Tom Melbourne is tipped by the bookies to salute for the ace Sydney horseman this summer.
Australian Racing’s favourite bridesmaid, Tom Melbourne has had six starts this campaign for five second place efforts including two Group 1 placings.
His latest start was at Flemington on VRC Derby Day, November 4, when narrowly beaten by stablemate Shillelagh in the Group 1 $1 million Kennedy Mile (1600m).
Tom Melbourne carried just 53.5kg that day and goes up to 55kg in the Railway Stakes weights, but from the inside barrier with Damien Oliver aboard he is a genuine winning hope to finally be second to none on the line.
The dangers are the two top weighted chances, the Darren Weir-trained Perth expat Black Heart Bart (59kg) at $6.50 and defending Railway Stakes winner Scales Of Justice (57.5kg) equal with Tom Melbourne on $6.
Black Heart Bart was formerly prepared by Vaughn Sigley in W.A. before hitting his peak with Weir in Victoria where the son of Blackfriars has won five Group 1 races.
The seven-year-old comes off an uncharacteristic losing streak not having won since February, but has been gallant in defeat in plenty of Group 1 spring clashes.
His campaign was put on hold to overcome a hoof issue following an unplaced effort on October 1 in the Group 1 $750,000 Underwood Stakes (1800m) and word from the stable is the warhorse is pain-free and ready to get back to his best despite the weight.
Punters have to go right back to Tudor Mak (1966-67) to find the last back-to-back Railway Stakes winner, Not A Single Doubt gelding Scales Of Justice looking to be the next on Saturday.
Supply And Demand ($9.50) for Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott rounds out the best in betting, the proven stayer to appreciate the step-up to a mile after back-to-back 1400m seconds this time in.
Latest betting for the 2017 Railway Stakes at Ladbrokes.com.au: $6 Scales Of Justice, $6 Tom Melbourne, $6.50 Black Heart Bart, $9.50 Supply And Demand, $10 Variation, $12 Ulmann, $15 Sovereign Nation, $16 Silverstream, $16 All Our Roads, $17 Pounamu, $20 Material Man, $21 Gatting, $1 Royal Star (second emergency), $26 Great Shot, $26 Cosmic Storm, $41 Observational, $61 Disposition, $67 Tradesman (first emergency), $151 Bollywood Blitz (third emergency), $201 Tonkatuff (fourth emergency).