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The Ex-Factor with Nathan Exelby - January 7

Fri 7 January 2022

Well-known Queensland media man Nathan Exelby is a constant at the track and has all the inside information as we head into another big weekend of racing in the Sunshine State.



The most telling Magic Millions story of the past decade is the prevalence of horses on the 7-day back-up winning the 2YO Classic.

For years, the prospect wouldn’t have been contemplated by most trainers, who stuck to more traditional lead-ups.

I guess it’s a similar story with the Golden Slipper, where the Todman and Reisling (a fortnight out) have a better record in providing the winner than the Pago Pago and Magic Night (one week out).

But since Kelso Wood backed up with REAL SURREAL in 2013, there’s been a remarkable pattern emerge, with six of the past nine winners running on the Saturday before.

Real Surreal won at Eagle Farm. The pre-Magic Millions meet has since been shifted to the Gold Coast and in 2015 we saw LE CHEF emerge from obscurity to win seven days out and then claim the 2YO Classic.

He started a run that now has five of the past seven Classic winners running the week before at the Coast.

He was followed by HOUTZEN (2017), SUNLIGHT (2018), EXHILARATES (2019) and finally SHAQUERO (2021), who is the only one from the set not to win the week before.

Such is the success of the week before formula, a decision was taken a couple of years back to split the 2yo race and run both a division for fillies and the colts and geldings.

Unfortunately, the field sizes have been limited to just 10 runners, which means we have emergencies for both races, but even if those horses miss out, they are still intriguing races.

Nothing will knock COOLANGATTA off her perch at the top of the market, but a standout performance could add a much-needed depth to a race that’s looking a bit thin up the pointy end.

EXO LADY aims to keep her unbeaten record intact in the Gold Pearl, but win, lose or draw, she won’t be there next week as she’s not paid up for the race series.

Fillies like MISS HELLFIRE, CORKED and STROLL all need to win to make their way into the field, while PERFECT MISSION needs more prizemoney to ensure she’s not shunted out of the field. 

In the Gold Nugget, STUPENDO brings a Flemington straight track win to the table – just as last year’s winner FINANCE TYCOON did in beating Shaquero.

HELL I AM had zero luck at his debut and is tipped to be a major player in this race from a handy draw.

SWISS EXILE gives punters a look at the Coolangatta formline from the McLachlan and has been marked a slight favourite in early markets.

I’m with Hell I Am. His effort to finish as close as he did at Wyong was very good. Stupendo has a tricky gate to overcome, while Swiss Exile to my eye was a shade disappointing in not being able to fend off Thelwell for second place last time out.


Not for the first time this summer, all eyes are on the sky over the next 48 hours as we face the prospect of another south-east Queensland deluge.

Doomben managed to evade grim weather predictions for most of the carnival, but found itself in the eye of the storm so to speak last Saturday when the track was downgraded from a Soft 5 to Heavy 10 by Race 6.

Now the Gold Coast is the focal point, with heavy rain predicted for Thursday and Friday.

With many of the predictions failing to eventuate, it has made it a difficult task for punters trying to assess what sort of surface they will be working with.

The final race at the Gold Coast is a prime example.

MASS DESTRUCTION looks superbly placed from a good gate after striking form last start at Doomben (thanks in large part to a genius James McDonald ride). Ryan Maloney won’t need to produce similar heroics from the kinder draw this week.

If the track stays in the Soft5/6 range, he looks a standout … but should it deteriorate into the Heavy range, he becomes a genuine risk and the race opens right up.

A Heavy track also plays havoc with the two-year-old races. As we saw last week, SOARING AMBITION was a touch easy in betting with the stable declaring it had genuine concerns about the filly’s ability to cope with a wet surface.

It’s just a matter of ‘wait and see’ what the weather Gods bring as we head to Saturday.



The Wave is now into its third year and it has done its job in taking the week before Magic Millions to another level. It’s now a bona fide drawcard raceday on the calendar.

The big bonuses attracted the attention of Melbourne Cup winning trainer Danny O’Brien 12 months ago and PARADEE did a job on her rivals.

The first prize of $145,000 is boosted by an additional $200,000 bonus if the winner is fully paid up for the Magic Millions series.

Paradee won this race (plus the bonus) and then backed up to win a $300,000 race on MM day a week later last year.

O’Brien is back again, this time with STARELLE, who brings eerily similar formlines to the race and is also eligible for the bonus.

Paradee had won three races leading into her Queensland summer campaign last year, whereas Starelle has just the one – but both were Group winners as three-year-olds.

Paradee placed in both the Matriarch and Lord Stakes prior to coming north last year – just as Starelle has done this time around.

The strike rate is a little concern, but she’s been attacking the line and I just feel Starelle brings clearly the strongest formlines to this race, up against Sydneysiders coming out of Benchmark races.

Wet or dry, I think she’s the one to beat here.


THE MOVE is a horse I have long had a strong affinity for, but with the weather forecast this week, I’ve gone looking elsewhere in the 900m scamper on Saturday.

The Move was okay first up behind ZOUSTYLE and the form from that race worked out strongly subsequently.

But his effort on a Heavy track earlier in the year (after he had trialled like a bomb) suggested he just isn’t at home on wet ground. It will be interesting to see how far the track has to be downgraded before Tony Gollan pulls the pin on a run here.

Instead, I’m going with another Eagle Farm trained speedster in RACECOURSE ROAD.

He has a superb fresh record since joining the Kelly Schweida stable, with the exception being the Goldmarket last August, where he was just carved up in front and had no option but to capitulate. That run clearly took a toll, as he was way below his best next time out at Doomben.

Schweida didn’t persevere and turned him straight out.

His latest trial suggests the early declaration will pay dividends this time around. He went to the front and kept expanding the margin. Runner-up was Archer’s Paradox, who has been in good form this prep, so you can put a bit of credence in the eight lengths margin.

He’s proven on this track he can take a sit and from the draw, Ben Thompson has the option to come back if need be.

He’s also proven he’s capable on wet ground at this venue, so for me, he ticks most boxes in this race.

USMANOV is one to be wary of improving second up. He didn’t finish off at Eagle Farm, but back to his pet track/trip and proven on Heavy ground, he’s a strong candidate to bounce back.


The $250,000 Rising Star events have quickly become very good races on this card.

They are only categorised as Class 4 events, but the quality of horse running in them is well beyond that level.

Yao Dash won the boys’ division last year and a few months later won a Group 3 race in Sydney.

PHOBETOR, who went on to win a Missile Stakes, is another subsequent Group winner to run in one of these.

Whether we have any Group winners in waiting this year remains to be seen, but they both look very good betting races.

BOOMNOVA was super last time out behind Mass Destruction, making him really earn the win.

She will be fitter again and give a big sight in front. But she’s another one where I’m mindful of the track becoming very wet.

Conversely, LADY OF LUXURY looks bombproof in this race.

I love the way she’s been attacking the line in Sydney and that late strength will be valuable here when others get a little tired in the going.

She has no issue with wet ground and ran well at this track last year in the MM Maiden.


  • Hell I Am - Race 3, $3.20
  • Lady Of Luxury - Race 5, $4.40
  • Starelle - Race 7, $5