Geldings, mares and stallions around the country are champing at the bit, waiting to get on the track for this year’s spring carnival racing season. But there’ll be plenty of action in the social stakes as well, with some well-credentialled bubbly on show. Our man with the inside running, David Pike, has a punt on some of the more popular picks.

THEY’RE under starter’s orders. A bit of movement in barrier four. Settles, and they’re off.

Race 1: Under $10 sprint

Angus Brut, $7.99. Puckka tucker.

Minchinbury White Seal, $5.99. Light and fluffy, best when very cold and consumed quickly.

Seaview Brut, $7.99. Suits most tracks, but not one to take seriously.

Hardys Omni Brut, $8.99. Best of the bunch and a dark horse, put some serious pennies towards this.

Carrington Brut, $5.99. I would rather put my money on the greyhounds. Due for a lengthy spell

Great Western Brut Reserve, $9.99. Add orange juice and vodka, serve ice cold.

Golden Gate Passion Pop, $4.99. Ideally suited to the fillies. Bookies will offer good odds but always short of a run for the more discerning punters.

This race is run at the beginning of the carnival so it doesn’t matter if you arrive late. Most of the runners in this field will give you a nasty headache after a few lengths. The best bet is to stay with those brands that have a few wins under their belt. For my money I would be leaning heavily towards Hardys Omni Brut, which has some yeasty aromas and interesting pear flavours, complemented by a citrus lemon zing on the finish.

An honest bet and a sure thing under $10.

Race 2: Under $20 handicap

Jacobs Creek Pinot Chardonnay NV, $10.99. This will surprise a few and, given a chance and the right track conditions, will really impress.

Killawarra Brut NV, $11.99. Sentimental favourite, always a consistent performer. An each-way bet.

Seppelts Fly D Lys, $12.99. A relative unknown, but right up there in the quality stakes, worth a punt.

Cockatoo Ridge Brut NV, $10.99. Pick this one up as part of your mystery bet.

Sir James Brut NV, $11.99. Classy pedigree but not quite stud material, great odds and worth a wager.

Brown Brothers Pinot Chardonnay NV, $11.99. This has collected a prestigious London Ribbon for its outstanding qualities.

Orlando Trilogy Pinot Chardonnay NV, $14.99. Very consistent performer that won’t let you down.

Taltarni Brut Tache NV, $17.99. A vibrant filly and great galloper with a delicious tinge.

This is really a two-horse race for first place, but it will depend on the amount you are willing to wager across the field. For my money it’s between the Brown Brothers, which has depth of flavour and a racy, exciting palate, or the excellent value-for-money Jacobs Creek, with its zippy finish and youthful yet refined palate. Both these horses are exciting and will perform above expectations. For the trifecta I’d also put some money on the Taltarni Brut Tache.

Race 3: Over $20 stakes

Yarra Burn Pinot Noir Chardonnay Vintage 1999, $24.99. This has been a quiet achiever that is ready to step into the limelight.

Arras Vintage 1995, $65. Good as this is I’m not sure Australia is ready for fizz at this price. Give this one serious consideration, however, as it has the form on the board.

Veuve Cliquot NV, $70. Part of a well-credentialled foreign contingent. Loved by some but there are doubts over its ability to compete in this crowded field.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose NV, $95. Another international competitor and the odds-on favourite. This is where my money is. Fantastic value.

Bollinger NV, $70. A big, bold and beautiful stallion, there will be many who will like the look of this.

Stefano Lubiana Vintage 1995, $49. Could surprise a few, this has plenty of style and is one of the best aged gallopers. A real stayer.

Seppelts Salinger Vintage 1994, $40. Always in the running, the most consistent performer in the Aussie market.

Peter Rumble Sparkling Shiraz, $21.99. A dark horse in any field. If the stewards handicapped this flyer a little less it would challenge the traditional competitors.

Domaine Chandon Cuvee Riche, $34.99. A sweet treat that enjoys an early run. It has a loyal following and is delicious.

Starve Dog Lane Vintage Brut, $24.99. Collected medals at race meetings around the country. Could win at next outing.

In a crowded field with many choices it will come down to track conditions on the day.

Some of the foreign runners will make a late run, depending on how punters have collected. This will be the race to watch. I can’t split the classy Yarra Burn, with its zesty structured fruit, and French runner Billecart-Salmon, which has everything going for it.

The French entrant has juicy, fresh and vibrant fruit that is perfectly balanced and will easily compete over the distance.

New to the racing fizz round is the Starve Dog Lane. A no-holes barred ripper with just an outside chance.

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