Victoria emerged from a long winter on the first day of September and as if to celebrate, the Melbourne Racing Club staged the pivotal Memsie Stakes meeting.
The temperature only got as high as 17 degrees, but there was plenty of heat on the track as they raced for the $1 million prize and the spring’s early bragging rights.
Record-breaking trainer Darren Weir took the opportunity on that day at Caulfield to signal his spring intentions when Humidor claimed the season’s first group 1 in the Memsie Stakes.
That upset win by Humidor at $21 was hardly a lone shot across the bow by the trainer who each season continues to establish new levels of excellence. By the end of the meeting, he had prepared an amazing five winners and was runner-up in two more.
Weir opened the day with a win from his stayer High Church before Bellaria took the mares’ event. Night’s Watch signalled his potential to make a spring Cup field with his victory before Native Soldier showed himself a Caulfield Guineas contender when he ran away with the McNeil Stakes.
For Humidor, it was a return to the form that saw him push Winx in her third Cox Plate victory last spring.
The Valley meeting on September 8 offered the winner of the group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes a Cox Plate berth, but for Horsham galloper Magic Consol, the win in the $250,000 race was a grand final win in itself.
Instead, the day was all about speed as Nature Strip established a new 1000-metre track record at The Valley when he ran 56.95s to narrowly hold out Houtzen.
A week later and some of the country’s best three-year-olds appeared at Flemington to compliment the day’s feature, the group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes, which was taken out by the four-year-old Grunt.
Kris Lees’ unbeaten filly Smart Melody continued on her path to the Thousand Guineas with her victory in the Cap d’Antibes Stakes; unbeaten colt Brutal stepped to 1400 metres and kept his record in tact, albeit narrowly over Leonardo Da Hinchi.
The Godolphin colt Encryption put himself on a path to the Coolmore Stud Stakes when he rallied late to win the Danehill Stakes.
Godolphin were to the fore a week later when racing returned to Caulfield. But it was English trainer Charlie Appleby who supplied the winner of the main race the group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes when the imported galloper Jungle Cat won on his Australian debut.
Night’s Watch won its way into the Caulfield Cup field via the MRC Foundation Cup and the Blue Diamond Stakes winner Written By opened his spring account with an 1100-metre win.
Night racing made its grand return on AFL Grand Final eve and the mare Viddora took the opportunity to not only gain a group 1 $500,000 win, but the victory saw her elevated and take one of the few remaining slots in The Everest.
The race was also notable as Nature Strip dropped out of the race for The Everest with his unplaced effort.
Homesman won a spot in the Caulfield Cup when he landed the group 1 Underwood Stakes at the September 30 Caulfield meeting in a race that farewelled the previous year’s winner Bonneval to the breeding barn after another substandard effort.
The Caulfield Guineas and Thousand Guineas Preludes threw up no shocks as Smart Melody continued on her winning way while Native Soldier showed his cNeil Stakes win win earlier in the month was no fluke.
But, as has happened each spring in recent seasons, racing’s spotlight is never far away from Winx and she stepped into its bright beam on Turnbull Stakes day at Flemington with yet another memorable victory – her 28th in succession.
Such is her dominance and such is the expectation that Winx will win no matter the situation, it was almost as if the mare gave herself a handicap. Buried back on the rail in last position before the home turn into Flemington’s grand straight, suddenly it appeared bad luck might finally beat her.
But it wasn’t just the world’s greatest racehorse that was making news at Flemington just one month out from its legendary carnival. Among world’s largest racing and breeding operation Godolphin was making headway into their attempt to final take home Australian racing’s greatest prize.
After three times being runner-up in the Melbourne Cup over the past 20 years, Godolphin’s chances of finally snaring the race increased dramatically when the former import Avilius won a ballot-free spot in the race via his win in The Bart Cummings.
Trainer James Cummings could not contain his emotion in a post-race interview after winning the race named after his legendary grandfather. How will he be in a month’s time if Avilius finally snap Godolphin’s horror run in the race his grandfather won an amazing 12 times?
The spotlight returns to the Melbourne Racing Club on Saturday for one of the great race meetings of the season - the Caulfield Guineas meeting.
Attention then turns to Caulfield on Wednesday for the Blue Sapphire Stakes followed three days later by the $5 million Caulfield Cup.
A Cox Plate to remember follows as Winx lines up for win No. 4 and then it’s the four days at Flemington where more than 300,000 people are expected to flow through the famous gates to watch, among numerous other races, the $7.3 million Melbourne Cup.