New Zealand gallopers have dominated The Group 1 Underwood Stakes in recent years, producing three of the past four winners – Lion Tamer, Ocean Park and It’s A Dundeel, and with two legitimate chances in what presents as a very competitive edition of the Caulfield feature this Saturday, the trend could continue. Kiwi 4yo’s Mongolian Khan ($13) and Volkstok’n’barrell ($10) are well in contention in early markets with both producing good last start efforts in the Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington. Winner of the Makybe Diva was Fawkner and not surprisingly, he sits at the top of the market at the Underwood betting market at $3.40 with Contributer, who disappointed first up as a short priced favourite, on the second line at $4.60. The only other runner under double figure odds when markets first opened Wednesday afternoon was the ever-popular The Cleaner ($7.00)
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1. FAWKNER – D Oliver (2)
Drew wide when resuming from a 45 week spell in the G1 Makybe Diva (1600m) a fortnight ago but a beautiful ride from Damien Oliver had the Caulfield Cup winner three back the running line soon after the start, and in the perfect position. The 8yo toughed it out very well under hard riding over the final stages to record an impressive head victory over Rising Romance. Second up record is stronger, has an excellent record at Caulfield with two Group 1 victories and a second from three starts – has to go in.
2. DANDINO – B Melham (11)
Although he finished last of fifteen, his effort first up in the G1 Memsie over the unsuitable 1400m wasn’t bad from this import who is looking for much longer. His only run since saw him race without any luck in the straight when contesting the Makybe Diva (1600m) and he should’ve finished much closer than his eleventh (2.2 lengths). He’ll settle well back again here from another wide draw but the extra furlong and what should be a solid pace are in his favour. Recent efforts have been better than how they appear on paper.
3. SERTORIUS – R Maloney (10)
Caught deep throughout first up in the G1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) and his effort to finish tenth (2.9 lengths), in a race that favoured those closer to the speed, was an encouraging one. Form out of that race has stacked up well and the jump to 1800m, despite the month break between runs, should be in his favour. Goes well a Caulfield but at this, the very top level, generally finds a few too good for me and from eight starts in Group 1 races, has only two places.
4. THE CLEANER – N Callow (1)
The ever-popular front-running galloper was only caught in the final few stages when returning from spell, finishing second to Mourinho in the P B Lawrence Stakes He then visited his favourite Melbourne track, Moonee Valley, and dominated the G2 Dato Tan Chin Nam (1600m) defeating Bagman by 1.75 lengths. The 8yo has come back well after a decent break, Caulfield will suit his racing pattern, draws perfectly and would expect him to be in this for a long way again.
5. MOURINHO – V Duric (4)
Got the run of the race first up in the P B Lawrence but had to dig deep late to narrowly get the better of The Cleaner. The pair met again at Moonee Valley in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) where again Mourinho found the right spot in the run however, surprisingly given he was racing on his favourite track, couldn’t go with leader and eventual winner The Cleaner when pace picked up at the 400m, weakening the last 100m to run sixth (4 lengths). Won the G2 Peter Young Stakes this track/dist earlier in the year but this is a race of greater depth. Needs to improve sharply of off his last start effort but will get every chance to from gate 4.
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6. CONTRIBUTER – J McDonald (8)
After taking all before him during the autumn, punters were keen to support the Godolphin 6yo in his return to racing in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) and he was sent out the firm $2.20 favourite. He settled just off the pace from the inside draw, bullocked his way into clear room at the 400m and presented well at the top of the straight but only battled home from there and was disappointing in not being able to fill a place. Fitter and does have an outstanding overall record but will need to show sharp improvement off of his first up outing as this is an extremely competitive race, and not sure the current price is enticing enough.
7. WEARY – C Newitt (12)
Racing well this time in although winless from his three starts. The Chris Waller trained galloper made good ground late to run fourth (1.4 lengths) in the G1 Memsie Stakes – a race that favoured those closer to the speed and fence, before doing his best work late down the centre of the track in the Makybe Diva (1600m) to finish ninth and only two lengths behind winner Fawkner. Going very well at present and can match his only previous start in Australia beyond a mile, which resulted in him running second to Pornichet in the G1 Doomben Cup (2000m) earlier this year.
8. DIBAYANI – D Lane (9)
Did all expected of him in his first Australian run – his first race in ten months, when third (1.1 lengths) to Mourinho and The Cleaner in the P B Lawrence Stakes before chasing The Cleaner home again, when third in the Dato Tan Chin Nam. Will only be getting fitter with racing and gets to a distance range that saw him ran a close third (0.8 lengths) to Designs On Rome at Group 1 level in Hong Kong. Would be no surprise to see him measure up here.
9. MONGHOLIAN KHAN – O Posson (3)
Found the one/one when resuming in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) but didn’t quite have the acceleration required at the top of the straight when the runs were being made to hold his position. He fought on strongly, only feeling the pinch inside of the last 100m and finished seventh (1.6 lengths). Good effort resuming all things considered and will only be better for the run, having his first look at Caulfield a slight concern but has too good of a record be leaving out and should get the perfect trail from his draw
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10. VOLKSTOK’N’BARRELL – C Williams (7)
He raced with limited luck in the straight when resuming with a 1.9 length seventh in the G1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) and luck evaded him again in the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at his only run since. From a wider gate he pushed forward and found a spot on the leader’s back. From here he went for a narrow inside run along the fence which unfortunately for his connections and supporters, closed meaning he went to the line the final 200m untested and under a hold. With a touch of luck in either run, would’ve gone closer to at least securing a place and with a chance of fortune, can figure here.
11. MAGICOOL – J Winks (5)
Although finishing thirteenth of fifteen, the Mark Kavanagh trained galloper was warming up nicely first up in the G1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) when finishing 4.5 lengths behind Boban. He then found himself awkwardly placed as they turned for home in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at his only run since, and was desperately searching for a run behind eventual winner Fawkner in a bunched field. Crossed the line in twelfth place but only 2.3 lengths from the winner and with any luck, would’ve finished closer again.
12. HI WORLD – K McEvoy (6)
Bit of a push for the Peter Moody trained galloper when returning to racing in the G1 Memsie Stakes and although he got the right run in behind the leaders, could only manage fifth (1.5 lengths) behind Boban. He then draw wide in the Makybe Diva (1600m) and went forward to find the front passing the 1200m. The son of High Chaparral was joined by the challengers at the 250m and battled home, crossing the line. All three wins to date have been on wet tracks and would need those conditions to be given any hope.
RACE OVERVIEW –
Paid the price for doubting Fawkner first up over a mile from a wide draw in the Makybe Diva and won’t be making the same mistake twice here. Excellent second up record – and at Caulfield, and will get the perfect run from gate two with the pace sure to be on courtesy of The Cleaner and Hi World. Plenty of good runs behind Fawkner in the Makybe Diva including the NZ pair, Volkstok’n’barrell and Mongolian Khan. Both get their chance here from a midfield positions off a solid pace. Best Value in the race Dandino and Contributer – well if there’s a lesson to be learned from Fawkner’s victory it is never to underestimate a class galloper but this is considerable harder than his first up and he’ll need to have come on many lengths.
4. THE CLEANER