Having already claimed more than a third of the Group 1 races on offer thus far this season (four from eleven), trainer Chris Waller looks set to build on that impressive strike rate with Kermadec in this Saturday’s Caulfield Stakes. Fresh off victory in the G1 George Main Stakes, Kermadec is the $2.80 favourite and if successful, will emulate the feat of the great Lonhro who won the George Main/Caulfield Stakes double back 2003. Also out to put his name alongside that of Lonhro as a two-time winner of this race is Fawkner, who narrowly defeated Criterion ($10) in last year’s edition. The Caulfield stakes has been a good race for favourite in recent years with four of the past six popular elects saluting. The Underwood Stakes has been the best form reference during that time with again, four of the past six winners of the Caulfield Stakes coming out of that race, with Ocean Park (2012) and the mighty So You Think (2010), winning both.
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1. CRITERION – M Walker (7)
The Hayes/Dabernig stallion has raced in Hong Kong (once) and UK (twice) since winning the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick during this year’s autumn carnival. He hasn’t raced since finishing fifth of six in the G1 Juddmonte Stakes (2092m) to Arabian Queen but it was off a similar break when he produced a good third behind Designs On Rome in the G1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m). He has finished in the money each of his past three Group 1 races in Australia and should go well here.
2. FAWKNER – C Williams (4)
Ridden a treat from a wide barrier when resuming in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) and toughed out a narrow victory over Rising Romance before starting the favourite for last fortnight’s Underwood Stakes (1800m). He again got a lovely run in transit but being second up, just took a while to get going when the pace picked up inside the 600m, before warming up strongly the final furlong to just miss picking up Mourinho, finishing a narrow second. Two runs back have been first class and the 2000m trip now – at a track he hasn’t finished worse than second from four starts, is perfect. Hard to beat.
3. HAPPY TRIALS – M Zahra (6)
The old campaigner hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck at his two most recent outings this campaign. He was caught three deep throughout but fought on tenaciously regardless of the run, to finish within a length of winner Fawkner in the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) before getting no room in last Sunday’s Turnbull Stakes. He settled just worse than midfield on the fence last start but couldn’t find a run when he needed it and went to the line largely untested. Quick back up some concern but going better than his recent form would suggest on paper.
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4. CONTRIBUTER – B Shinn (1)
He had his chance first up in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) first up from a spell but as a short-priced favourite, disappointed in not being able to fill a place behind The Cleaner. Settled just worse than midfield on the fence when trying to make amends in the G1 Underwood Stakes (1800m), getting to the outside and with clear room at the top of the straight. He closed steadily in the run home to finish sixth (2.3 lengths) behind Mourinho, doing himself no favours with an inclination to lay-in the final furlong. Last start favoured those closer to the speed and third up now over 2000m is ideal for him. Will be left with no excuses come Saturday.
5. PORNICHET – K McEvoy (3)
Excellent first up behind Royal Descent in the G2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) before being caught a little deep and hanging in during the run home, cost him in the Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) where he was favourite and finishing sixth behind Complacent. Took up the running in his only run since, the G1 George Main Stakes (1600m), and it took two very good and very much in-from galloper in the shape of Kermadec and Royal Descent to reel him in, and only in the final stages. Likely to lead again here too I would image and could give plenty of cheek.
6. ENTIRELY PLATINUM – D Dunn (5)
Caught in the last few bounds by the in-form Boban when finishing a narrow second first up in the G1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield, and was good again when third (long neck) in the G1 Makybe Diva (1600m) at his next start, where he again took up an on-pace position. Given three weeks off after that run before lining up in last week’s Epsom Handicap (1600m) where he took up the lead position and although he was joined and headed, soon after he topped the Randwick Rise, the Hawkes Racing runner battled on better than expected, finishing fifth (3.5 lengths) behind Winx. Only one win from his seven starts beyond 1600m and at this level, combined with the quick back-up and trip back to Victoria, would have to be producing a big effort to win.
7. KERMADEC – G Boss (8)
All three runs this time in from Chris Waller’s 4yo have been very good with the most recent resulting in him overcoming a difficult run in transit to secure the G1 George Main Stakes (1600m) over Randwick, defeating stable-mate Royal Descent who was gallant in running second in last Sunday’s Turnbull Stakes since. Getting better with each run this campaign and has given the impression at each of those runs, that the 2000m trip will be ideal. If he doesn’t win, he’ll be a close second.
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8. MONGOLIAN KHAN – O Bosson (2)
Settled in the one/one when resuming from a spell in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) two runs back and although he didn’t have the acceleration to go with the leaders at the top of the straight, they never got away from him either. He then did his best work inside the final furlong when fourth (1.7 lengths) in the G1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at his most recent start, in a race that favoured those closer to the speed. Last four wins have all been over 2000m or further and he’ll appreciate getting to this distance now however, with a small field to contest, the pace of the race may not be in his favour.
RACE OVERVIEW –
Pornichet leads the way here from Entirely Platinum and Fawkner who’ll both be handy. Only a small field but it’ll be interesting to see just where Boss settles Kermadec from the outside draw. The 4yo has raced all campaign as though 2000m and no matter where he comes from should be hard to beat. Fawkner was very good last start second up. Will have taken great benefit from that run, loves Caulfield, last year’s winner going just as will this time in; represents great value in early markets.
4. HAPPY TRIALS