Caulfield Cup has Italian flavour

Darren Dance needed persistence, foresight and a large bundle of cash to purchase the Italian horse he hopes will make his name in Australian racing.

Fortunately he had plenty of the first two and enough of the third to clinch the deal.

Dance is now cautiously optimistic that the rewards for his determination to buy a high-class stayer to win Melbourne’s big spring Cups will be seen at Caulfield on Saturday when Jakkalberry makes his local debut in the $2.5 million Caulfield Cup.

“The Italian guy who owned him didn’t want to sell, mainly because he’d booked a holiday to Dubai to see him race over there,” Dance said.

“So we waited and kept our interest up and eventually we got him.”

Either the Italians became fond of the Australians, or perhaps for pecuniary reasons, they later offered Dance Jakkalberry’s half-brother, Crackerjack King.

Whatever the reason, the deal has been beneficial for both sides with Jakkalberry having won the American St Leger for Dance and his partners and Crackerjack King, a winner at seven of his only 10 starts, finishing fifth in the Arlington Million on the same program in Chicago in August.

“We really were lucky to get them, just how lucky we’ll see, but so far they’ve proved to be good, sound horses with very good futures,” Dance said.

Jakkalberry comes to Australia with outstanding form in Italy and abroad, but like most Europeans, his income from racing is a comparatively miserly $1.5 million – a figure he would double if he won the Caulfield Cup.

And Dance and the horse’s jockey Colm O’Donoghue firmly believe he can.

“Ideally I’d like to end up midfield, three-wide with cover,” Dance said.

It is an ambition that O’Donoghue, an Irishman who spent a winter in Melbourne apprenticed to Lee Freedman, believes he and the horse can comfortably achieve.

” He’s very adaptable, has tactical speed, he can stop and start and he settles in his races,” O’Donoghue.

“He’s lots of pluses.”

O’Donoghue at least has the advantage of having ridden at Caulfield and he’s studied closely the patterns of the Caulfield Cup.

“You’ve got to be quick early, it can be the difference between winning and losing,” he said.

For Dance, who heads the syndication group Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock, Jakkalberry will line up to give him his biggest success in racing, having already provided one of his greatest thrills merely by making the field.

“It struck me this week when I saw the final field and my horse was in it,” he said.

“That was just fantastic.”

In what is shaping as the year of the Italians, Jakkalberry is one of three horses from that country who will be trying to do what Irish, English, Japanese and, more recently, the French have done.

The other two Italian runners, Voila Ici and Sneak A Peek, have already proved themselves worthy contenders in Australia and will line up on Saturday with solid chances.

“They are both very nice horses, this is international racing at its best,” Dance said.

But in all three cases, with Australian owners keeping the money at home.

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