The Underwood Stakes (1800m) is likely to supply answers for trainer Darren Weir as to whether Black Heart Bart is a legitimate Cox Plate contender.
Despite not winning beyond 1420m, Black Heart Bart is hot favourite for Saturday’s Group 1 at Caulfield. Standing in his way is Lucia Valentina, also Cox Plate-bound. The Kris Lees-trained mare will be striving to become the first mare since Tristarc in 1985 to win the race.
PRINCE OF PENZANCE
Last year’s Melbourne Cup winner has firmed in betting from $41.
Why he can: Out to a more suitable distance and has the benefit of two runs since a spell. His latest effort saw him finish strongly from near the rear of the field to end up just behind the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) placegetters.
Why he can’t: Freshness has gone out of his legs, he could be looking for longer than 1800m now.
BLACK HEART BART
Odds: ($2.25 favourite)
This dual Group 1 winner is prepared by Darren Weir.
Why he can: Has been in career-best form this year. He resumed with a Group 1 Memsie Stakes win, before running second to Palentino in the Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington. Unbeaten in two starts at Caulfield and should race on the speed.
Why he can’t: Hit the front last start and was run down. The longest distance he has won over is 1420m, so there is a question mark on whether he can run out a strong 1800m.
OUR IVANHOWE (Scratched)
Finished third in last year’s Caulfield up. Wintered in Queensland where he won the Group 1 Doomben Cup
Why he can: Found the 1600m of the Makybe Diva too short, but there was a lot to like about the run. He could not let down as quick as others, but was strong on the line and will appreciate the extra distance here.
Why he can’t: Not many reasons why he can’t. The 1800m may still be a little short.
Two-time Group 2 Feehan Stakes winner, which is his biggest win. He finished third in this race last year.
Why he can: At his second-up run he ran his usual honest race when fifth in the Feehan Stakes. He led and was only claimed inside the last 200m. He should now be close to peak fitness.
Why he can’t: He’s won one race in two years. He looks past his best.
Nine-year-old gelding from the Hayes/Dabernig yard. Listed level winner.
Why he can: He was game last start when he faced the breeze, three and four wide for most of the Makybe Diva Stakes. He at no stage looked the winner, but battled on strongly despite the tough run.
Why he can’t: Does not produce his best beyond 1600m, especially at weight for age. He tries hard, but is just below the top level horses.
Five-year-old entire trained by Leon and Troy Corstens.
Why he can: In form and surprise last start winner ($31) of the Feehan Stakes at Moonee Valley. He comes into this race third-up, in peak fitness, after a career best win.
Why he can’t: Can be inconsistent and yet to win this track in seven attempts.
HE OR SHE
Former West Australian gelding, he has thrived under David Hayes and Tom Dabernig.
Why he can: Two runs from a spell have been sound. Latest was third to Palentino in the Makybe Diva. He lacked the turn of foot over the final 400m last start, so the step up to 1800m should suit.
Why he can’t: Yet to win beyond 1600m.
He had an outstanding three-year-old season where he won the Victoria Derby and Rosehill Guineas. Blinkers come off for this run.
Why he can: Another that will be helped by the step up to 1800m. He was in the worst part of the track, near the fence, when unplaced behind Palentino in the Makybe Diva. Two runs from a break should have him nearing peak. Trained here and has won this track.
Why he can’t: His two runs from a spell have just been average. Would have liked to see this stallion hit the line better.
Kiwi four-year-old, won the ATC Derby in April.
Why he can: Had some issues before first-up run and will have taken a lot of improvement from his 11th behind Awesome Rock in the Feehan Stakes. Extra distance is in his favour.
Why he can’t: The 1800m may still be too short, he’s bred to run two miles and his opposition may prove too slick at this stage of his preparation.
HOWARD BE THY NAME
Darren Weir-trained four-year-old entire, won the South Australian Derby in May.
Why he can: Fitter for first-up effort when always well back in Flemington Handicap (1700m). He will have taken improvement from that run and 1800m will be more to his liking.
Why he can’t: He faces a big step up in grade and his last start suggested he will be best suited in easier races around 2400m.
Three-time Group 1 winning mare, prepared at Newcastle by Kris Lees. Third in 2014 Caulfield Cup, unplaced last year. Being set for the Cox Plate, where she is rated a $15 chance.
Why she can: Turned in a terrific first-up effort when fourth to Winx in the Warwick Stakes (1400m). She was also less than a length behind runner-up Hartnell. She is second-up here and was in exact same stage of preparation when she won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) in the autumn.
Why she can’t: Caulfield may not suit her, as her two wins in Melbourne were at Flemington. A firm track would also work against her.
1. Lucia Valentina
2. Black Heart Bart
3. Awesome Rock