ROOTS 'N' ALL
It can be beautiful and brutal. Tactical and technical. And more than often than not, it brings out and rewards the best performances from a horse and jockey as a unit.
It is 2000m racing. And it is what makes Saturday’s clash between Fiorente and It’s A Dundeel in the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill loom as a potentially defining moment of autumn.
The race also has a supporting cast that wouldn't be out of place in leading roles. They include last year’s winner Foreteller, the Queen's horse Carlton House and classy kiwi mare Silent Achiever.
The group 1 is at a distance that tests both the stamina and speed of a horse and the nous and nerve of a rider.
It builds excitement as a story unfolds on the track. There is time for drama and tension. There is time for thought and patience in the two-minute package of 2000m.
That is why the Americans call the Kentucky Derby “the most exciting two minutes in sport”. And it is what made Sunday’s Hong Kong Derby so exhilarating, as Tom Berry won on Designs Of Rome from Able Friend.
Think of the greatest moments of Australian turf and the 2000-metre trip tends to dominate.
Tulloch’s comeback in the 1960 Queen’s Plate, the duel of Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star in the 1986 Cox Plate, Lonhro overcoming difficulties to win the Australian Cup in 2004 – all at the trip.
This is why Rosehill should be full on Saturday.
But 2000m can also show the gap in talent between horses in the most honest of ways.
Think of Dulcify or Sunline in the Cox Plate, and Might And Power putting 10 lengths on his 1998 Queen Elizabeth Stakes rivals.
That will not happen on Saturday. It will be a battle between two equine stars at their peaks and two high-calibre jockeys.
The undoubted crowd appeal of the 2000-metre journey is why the Queen Elizabeth Stakes was chosen as the flagship race of The Championships in a month’s time rather than the more traditional Doncaster Mile. The only danger is that this weekend's entree might overshadow next month's big show.
The two stars on Saturday provide contrasts of racing's old and new.
Fiorente, a European import bought for more than $1 million that has excelled down under, goes up against It’s A Dundeel, retained by his New Zealand breeders and friends and syndicated to Arrowfield stud after wining five group 1s in a stallion deal valuing him at more than $10 million.
It will be the homecoming of Sydney’s first Melbourne Cup winner since Might And Power, which was beaten in the same race by Gold Guru when he came back to Sydney in 1998.
Fiorente returns to his home base and has the Gai Waterhouse factor, combined with a champion, yet controversial, jockey Damien Oliver.
The import has proved himself as the best horse in Melbourne this autumn with his two wins including the Australian Cup. Sydney could provide a stepping stone for a trip to Royal Ascot.
It’s A Dundeel will look to build on a reputation forged as a three-year-old when he won the Spring Champion Stakes and Rosehill Guineas at 2000m along with the Randwick Guineas and Australian Derby.
He is the only horse to win those four races in a classic year and added an Underwood Stakes in the spring, where he handed Atlantic Jewel her only defeat.
The team behind him is New Zealand horseman Murray Baker, a quiet man, and an emerging hoop in James McDonald.
They might not be as well known outside racing circles as Waterhouse and Oliver but they are respected and highly thought of within it.
Both teams have their horses coming to their peaks and it should be something special.
Ranvet Stakes market*
It's A Dundeel 3
Silent Achiever 9
Carlton House 12
Let's Make Adeal 81
The story Going the distance: 2000 metres the ideal stage for Fiorente and It's A Dundeel first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.