A fantastic edition of the Caulfield Cup will be run and won this Saturday with Kiwi galloper Mongolian Khan the early favourite at $4.00. If successful he will be the first favourite since Paddy O’Reilly saluted for Danny O’Brien in 2007. Since then, only one horse, Southern Speed, has started at a single figure price (9/1) and with only three horses under the $10 mark in early markets for Saturday’s race, chances are high that record could be extended further come Saturday. As was the case last year when he booted home Admire Rakti to victory, jockey Zac Purton is on Japanese runner that is rated a $10 chance in Fame Game – current favourite in Melbourne Cup markets at $8.00. Fellow Japanese galloper Hokko Brave ($13) will give Jockey Craig William his third Caulfield Cup in the past five years if successful. Wide draws haven’t been as much an obstacle as anticipated in recent years with four of the past six winners coming from gate ten or wider – Descarado (2010) and Dunaden (2012) from 15 and 18 respectively.
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1. PROTECTIONIST – B Avdulla (12) 58kgs
Ok first two runs back from a spell over the unsuitable distances of the G2 Tramway (1400m) and G1 George Main (1600m) before stepping up to the 2000m at his most recent start, the G1 Turnbull Stakes. The reigning Melbourne Cup champ was scrubbed up as the field rounded the bend and battled in the straight to maintain his position, finishing thirteenth (3.8 lengths). Another 400m will suit and be only the second time since winning the Cup he’ll get beyond 2000m however, would’ve liked to have seen him hit the line better than he did in the Turnbull to be a leading hope here.
2. SNOW SKY – D Oliver (2) 58kgs
A progressive and lightly raced son of Nayef, he is the winner of five of his fifteen starts, including two victories from only three outings this year. He scored in the G2 Yorkshire Cup (2816m) first up off a five month spell defeating Brown Panther (eighth in the 2003 Melbourne Cup), before comfortably winning the G2 Hardwicke Stakes (2414m) by 3.8 lengths – the same race Fiorente finished sixth in prior to running second in his first Melbourne Cup. His most recent start saw him unplaced in the G1 King George 1V and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2414m) when assigned 60.5kgs and competing on a soft rated track.
3. FAME GAME – Z Purton (1) 57kgs
Big things can then be expected of 6yo stallion Fame Game whose form in comparison to previous Japanese runners Pop Rock and Delta Blues – the quinella in the 2006 Melbourne Cup, appears to stronger again. Winner of five of his sixteen starts, including two G3 victories over 3400m, he shot to the top of current Cup markets with a sensational second in Japan’s premiers staying race, the Tenno Sho (3200m), at his most recent start in May of this year. This means his preparation for the Cup closely mirrors that Admire Rakti, who finished thirteenth in his Tenno Sho prior to his Australian visit. Jockey Zac Purton commented on his mount during the week after trackwork – “I think it’s going to be too short for him, especially with the feel he gave me this morning and what I’ve seen of the horse before,”
4. OUR IVANHOWE – B Melham (17) 56kgs
The German galloper has been with the Freedman stable since landing in Australia at the start of the year but has only had the three starts during that time – one earlier in the year and two in the past month, the most recent of the pair being an encouraging second to Let’s Make Adeal in the G3 Bart Cummings (2520m) at Flemington. The 6yo was winding up nicely over the final stages from his midfield position and got to within 1.3 lengths of the winner on the line, who he was giving 6kgs to. Will improve again here but will be giving most a start turning for home and not sure being a big striding horse, he’ll be able to pick them up in the Caulfield Straight.
5. HOKKO BRAVE – C Williams (19) 55.5kgs
A seasoned stayer with twenty-nine runs under his belt, this 8yo has been a leading player in Japan’s feature distance races over recent years having ran third (long neck) in last year’s Tenno Sho (3200m) and finishing a close up sixth (1.8 lengths) in this year’s edition at his most recent outing back in May. You have to go back to October 2013 – nine well-spaced starts ago, to find his most recent victory and only one of his five career wins have been beyond 2400m however, given his performances in Japan and strong form references around Fame Game, he’s sure to create his share of interest though.
6. MONGOLIAN KHAN – Opie Bosson (9) 55kgs
The New Zealand galloper just didn’t have the acceleration required first up to take advantage of his forward position when seventh (1.6 lengths) in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) before closing steadily for fourth (1.7 lengths) in the G1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) – a leader dominated race. Final hit-out was in last week’s Caulfield Stakes (2000m) where he closed strongly to finish within a half-length of Criterion – a distance specialist. He looks to have had the perfect preparation and peaking now, fourth run back under handicap conditions. Barrier nine should see him with the right run throughout and will be right in the mix.
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7. TRIP TO PARIS – T Berry (5) 55kgs
Trainer Ed Dunlop has a great Melbourne Cup barometer in Red Cadeaux, with his popular galloper having finished second in the big race three of his four attempts, so it’ll pay to closely monitor his 5yo gelding Trip To Paris here. He continued his sharp and recent rise through the ranks this year by claiming the G1 Ascot Gold Cup (4023m) in June – his fourth win from six starts at that point in time. Two runs since have seen him close steadily for a long neck third to Big Orange in the G2 Goodwood Cup (3219m) before, three weeks later, finishing a well-beaten fifth in Max Dynamite’s Lonsdale Cup (3299m) last month under the steadier of 60.5kgs. Running well in some of the traditional European lead-up races for the Cup, and although the two mile at Flemington will be more to his liking, could also run a cheeky race here from a good draw with a light weight.
8. WHO SHOT THEBARMAN – B Shinn (21) 54.4kg
As good as he could be first up over 1400m in the Chelmsford Stakes when seventh (3.5 lengths) behind Complacent, Kermadec and Royal Descent – great form race, before being better again closing well along the fence from the back of the field to run fifth (1.4 lengths) to Preferment in the G2 Hill Stakes (2000m). Settled well back in the Turnbull and was last as they entered the final 200m but was working home well under hands and heels from Jockey Blake Shinn. The 7yo carries 1.5kg more than he did in last year’s race when thirteenth behind Admire Rakti but found trouble on turn and in the straight on that occasion. Unfortunately though, he’ll have plenty of traffic to again negotiate this year too given he’s drawn so poorly.
9. GRAND MARSHAL – J Cassidy (6) 53.5kgs
The year’s Sydney Cup winner has been working home solidly at each of his three runs back from a winter spell, the most recent seeing him finishing fifth (5.9 lengths) behind Complacent in the G3 Craven Plate. The longer they go, or harder they go in front, the better it is for this 6yo gelding who has done a majority of racing in the past two years under the care of Chris Waller. Carried 59kgs in each run this campaign and drops to an attractive 53.5kg here, 1.5kgs more than he carried to victory in the Sydney Cup when edging our Who Shot Thebarman. Won’t have the early speed to take advantage of his inside gate but will be again doing his best work late. The two mile on a bigger Flemington track more appealing again.
10. ROYAL DESCENT – G Boss (22) 53.5kgs
Continued her stellar form this campaign when shaded by stable-mate Preferment in last fortnight’s Turnbull Stakes at Flemington. It made it six consecutive runs that the 6yo mare has finished in the money – four of which have been Group 1 races. She finished eleventh in the Turnbull Stakes of 2013 before running a great fifth to Fawkner in the Caulfield Cup and this year, carries 0.5kgs less than on that occasion and her form is just as if not slightly more, stronger. Doesn’t venture past 2000m very often but would think she needed to get a soft run to see out the 2400m strongly and chances of her getting that from gate 22 are of a concern.
11. VOLKSTOK’N’BARRELL – C Newitt (11) 53.5kgs
Didn’t have a great deal of luck from wide barriers in either the G1 Memsie Stakes or G1 Makybe Diva Stakes at his first two runs back from a spell, and his seventh and fourteenth placing respectively were best overlooked. He had every chance though in the G1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) when holding on for fifth (2.5 lengths) behind Mourinho. He then pushed forward in the Turnbull Stakes and led the field to the final 200m before being swamped the final 100m and running ninth (2.1 lengths). Would’ve have liked to have seen more from him his past couple before adding him into numbers for this race.
12. HAURAKI – J McDonald (14) 53.5kgs
Lightly raced 4yo who returned to racing from a spell a gelding and now that his races are getting to a distance, really starting to hit his straps. Third up from a spell he hit the lead in the G3 Craven Plate before losing a hotly contested final furlong with stable-mate Complacent – who is in form and only had 1kg more, kicking back to score a narrow victory. The son of Reset – who sired 2013 winner Fawkner, will be fitter for that run again and still improving. Stable and Jockey are in rare form at the moment and a big run here wouldn’t surprise.
13. LUCIA VALENTINA – D Dunn (20) 53.5kgs
Started favourite and ran third in last year’s Caulfield Cup. First two runs back from a spell, both on soft ground, where good and saw her close strongly for sixth (1.6 lengths) and fourth (2.6 lengths) in the Tramway Stakes (1400m) and George Main Stakes (1600m) respectively. Got on to a firmer surface in the G1 Epsom (1600m) and closed nearer the fence, not the ideal place to be on the day, when eighth (3.8 lengths) to Winx. Only the one placing from her last eight starts now and the jump from a mile to 2400m also creates some concern. Would want some cut in the ground before considering her chances.
14. RISING ROMANCE – D Lane (2) 53.5kgs
Got the dream run in last year’s Caulfield Cup but was collared late by an outstanding performance from Admire Rakti after running second in the Craven Plate (Complacent/Hauraki). Form this time in has been good considering she hasn’t had a great deal of luck in any of her three starts. She found trouble in the centre of the field when resuming in the G1 Memsie Stakes (sixth, 1.7 lengths) and punched through limited room late to narrowly miss picking up Fawkner in the G1 Makybe Diva (head, second). She then drew the widest gate in a field of fifteen when contesting the Turnbull Stakes and was posted deep throughout, wider again as they straightened for run home. Forgive her that run, form is good enough to suggest that she’ll run another bold race here and gets a very good run from gate two.
Not to be overlooked.
15. MAGICOOL – J Winks (15) 52kgs
The Queensland Derby from last season was ok first couple of runs back from a spell despite finishing back in the field in the Memsie Stakes (1400m) and Makybe Diva (1600) but off of those runs, did expect to see him improve when lining up in the Underwood (1800m) and Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at his last two outings. He started to hunt forward from his midfield position in the Underwood Stakes and only holding his ground in the run home when being tightened between two runners at the 200m officially put an end to his chances (11th, 4.3 lengths), before settling on the leader’s back in the Turnbull and struggling in the straight, running second to last. Would appear to have too much improvement to make to worry the leading chances here.
16. GUST OF WIND – C Schofield (13) 51kgs
Did all she could do first up in the G2 Warwick Stakes over 1400m with ninth (4.1 lengths) to Royal Descent before winding up nicely next start over the mile and finishing within two lengths of Fawkner in the Makybe Diva Stakes. Found herself in an awkward spot, buried back on the fence in a bunched field, when contesting the Turnbull Stakes at her only run since, a position from which she experienced little luck in the run to the line and her beaten margin of 2.5 lengths, should be forgiven. Will appreciate the 2400m, reduced weight and been good enough in the right lead up races to have a live chance here at odds.
17. SET SQUARE – K McEvoy (16) 51kgs
The reigning VRC Oaks champion has had three runs back from a winter spell and all have been good. She was narrowly defeated first up over 1400m by Abidewithme and was then posted deep throughout when fifth (3.6 lengths) to Iggimacool (whom she gave 4kgs to) in an Open 1700m race at Flemington. It was then three weeks and a significant step up in class for her next and most recent start, the G1 Turnbull Stakes where the Reset mare found a lovely spot in transit but limited room at the top of the straight, before sticking on for a great third. Would improve again from that run and that puts here right in contention here. If successful, she’ll join the likes of Ethereal and Southern Speed as 4yo mares to have won the Cup since 2000.
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18. MAGNAPAL – D Yendall (18) 51kgs
In great form this campaign for trainers Terry and Karina O’Sullivan, winning three of his last four and narrowly missing out making it a perfect record when nosed out by a determined Escado last start in the JRA Cup (2040m) at Moonee Valley. Had every chance last time out and won’t find this an easier than his last couple however, never been in better shape and only has to carry 50kgs.
19. QUEST FOR MORE – (1st EM) T Berry (8)
This 6yo from the UK has been in great form the past twelve months, winning three of his five well-spaced runs and running second on the other occasions. Under 59kgs, he comfortably defeated Max Dynamite two runs back in the over 3237m and ran Big Orange to a neck in the Goodwood Cup (3129m), again with a big impost of 61kgs.
The son of Teofilo won’t know himself with only 53kgs to carry here, he has a good record this trip and his lead-up form couldn’t be any stronger. He hasn’t raced for eleven weeks but has performed well over distances fresh previously.
20. COMPLACENT – (2nd EM) (10)
Winner of two of his four starts this campaign – which was his first after an almost two year absence from the track, including the G2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m), where he defeated Kermadec and Royal Descent, along with the G3 Craven Plate at his most recent start. Had 59kgs last start, was clearly headed by stable-mate Hauraki but kicked back to record a narrow and hard fought win. Comes right down in the weights now, is fit and from an on-pace position, could give a very good account of himself.
21. DIBAYANI – (3rd EM) (7)
Connections couldn’t have been happier with his first two Australian runs, he first races in almost a year, when finishing third to Mourinho and The Cleaner in the G2 P B Lawrence Stakes and Dato Tan Chin Nam respectively. The 6yo form Hong Kong galloper than stepped up to 1800m in the G1 Underwood Stakes, a distance range far more to his liking, where he was home steadily from the back of the field in a leader dominated race, crossing the line ninth (3.3 lengths). He has only been beyond 2000m once in his past nine stars but that did result in him running second (2.5 lengths) to Blazing Speed in a Group 1 race in Hong Kong. A more favourable speed combined a light weight, could see him run a race better than his current price would suggest if he managed to get a start.
22. MAGIC HURRICANE – (3rd EM) 52.5kgs
Looked set to make it back-to-back victories at the 200m mark of the G2 Hill Stakes when sticking his head in front of that of Preferment but was shaded by that horse on the line, finishing a head second. Benefited from that run and confirmed the Preferment form-line, with a comfortable win in the G1 Metropolitan (2400m) last start. Tracked up behind the leader strongly as the topped the Randwick rise in the metrop and when asked for his effort, let down well to score by two lengths from Beaten Up. Third emergency unfortunately, but would love to see him get a start with only 52.5kgs on his back.
RACE OVERVIEW –
As an open market would indicate, this year’s Cup shapes up as a beauty. Mares have a great chance this year – Set Square, Gust Of Wind and Rising Romance and could support all three at their current prices but having to put one on top, will go for Rising Romance Picture her getting a lovely run from two and with any luck from the 600m, can go just as well as last year. The Japanese have a great record in Australia and both Fame Game and Hokko Brave have form that mirrors or some case betters that of previous visitors. Mongolian Khan is peaking at the right time and the drop from WFA races to Handicap is further incentive to lock him in among selections with Snow Sky the pick of the Europeans for mine.
1. RISING ROMANCE
2. MONGOLIAN KHAN
3. GUST OF WIND
4. SNOW SKY