Western Australian mare Arcadia Queen is now the outright favourite for The All-Star Mile 2021 following today’s barrier draw at Petanque Social in Melbourne, where her jockey Willie Pike plucked gate five in the $5 million race for the three-time Group 1 winner.
The superstitious Pike, who won last year’s All-Star Mile on stablemate Regal Power, traditionally shuns barrier draws but was instructed by Arcadia Queen’s breeder-owner Bob Peters to attend today’s event on the banks of the Yarra River, and he might be a regular fixture in future following his good fortune.
Second favourite Probabeel fared less favourably after her strapper Ashley Handley pulled out barrier 10, but the wide alley should hold no great fears given that her jockey Damian Lane piloted a successful passage from gate nine when the Kiwi mare got the better of Arcadia Queen on her last start in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
Intriguingly, two fancied runners in Behemoth (trained in South Australia by David Jolly) and Danny O’Brien’s stable star Russian Camelot will eyeball one another in the starting gates at The Valley this Saturday (13 March), having been allocated barriers one and two respectively.
Damien Oliver arrived at the barrier draw fresh from galloping Russian Camelot at The Valley this morning, and the champion jockey was impressed with the feel the two-time Group 1 winner gave him ahead of his first-up run in the world’s richest mile race.
“I was very pleased with his final piece of work this morning,” said Oliver. “He stretched out really nicely, Danny’s got him looking fit and strong and he’s ready to go to the races now.
“The All-Star Mile gets better every year, it’s attracted a very strong field and is going to be an intriguing race. It’s difficult to pick out one main danger but Arcadia Queen and Probabeel have both proven themselves at the highest level, so they’re going to be very tough to beat.”
Russian Camelot’s last visit to The Valley saw him finish third in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) in October, and four of the first five horses home in the 100th edition of Australia’s weight-for-age championship – including the winner Sir Dragonet – are in the final field for the third edition of The All-Star Mile.
Sir Dragonet, aiming to become the first Victorian-trained horse to win The All-Star Mile, is set to jump from gate nine under new rider John Allen, who replaces Glen Boss in the saddle, whilst fourth placegetter Mugatoo (barrier eight) will be partnered by a man who knows every inch of The Valley’s surface in four-time Cox Plate winner Hugh Bowman.
There were contrasting fortunes for some of the interstate runners aiming to outshine their more celebrated rivals in Australia’s only fan-voted race.
Pint-sized mare Still A Star, trained in Tasmania by Bill Ryan, landed the visitor’s draw in barrier 15; but co-trainer Toby Edmonds was far happier after he drew gate seven for Queensland cult hero The Harrovian. The connections of another horse shooting for a fairytale result, South Australian raider Regalo Di Gaetano, were equally satisfied after they randomly chose gate six.
Should any of the 15 runners be withdrawn from The All-Star Mile 2021, their place and barrier will be taken by the first emergency, last year’s TAB Australian Cup (2000m) winner Fifty Stars.
His Lindsay Park stablemate So Si Bon is the second emergency, with locally-trained mares Sovereign Award (Danny O’Brien) and Affair To Remember (Dan O’Sullivan) named the third and fourth emergencies respectively.
The final field for The All-Star Mile 2021, including each horse’s trainer, jockey and barrier, is as follows: