There is a sense of excitement in the air and the Melbourne Spring Carnival is well and truly upon us. This week sees the running of the first of the three majors, the $3,000,000 Caulfield Cup.
The 2400m handicap is one of the richest on the Australian racing calendar and has seen some superstars of the Australian turf fight out the finish.
In 2013 we saw the Lloyd Williams/Robert Hickmott combination once again team up to claim a feature race as Fawkner, ridden by Nick Hall, won in fine style. Interestingly enough, that same horse won a Group 1 last week on Caulfield Guineas Day and now holds favouritism for the Cox Plate next Saturday.
Damien Oliver rides 8 HAWKSPUR and he needs to win this to level Scobie Breasley as the most prolific jockey in Caulfield Cup history. Amazingly, his four wins came in the span of seven years but the last (Sky Heights) was some 15 years ago.
2 DANDINO ran a slashing second in this event last year which continued a superb recent record by jockey Craig Williams. In the last four years Williams has had two wins, aboard Dunaden (2012) and Southern Speed (2011), and two placings with Monaco Consul and Dandino last year.
Japanese horses are largely renowned as the best ‘stayers’ in the world and it is no surprise to see them figure prominently in the betting here. They have a good record in the Caulfield Cup with Eye Popper running second in the race in 2005 and Delta Blues and Pop Rock both running well in 2006 before running the quinella in the Melbourne Cup.
Interestingly, 4YO’s have a brilliant record in the race having won over half of the past 20. RISING ROMANCE and the commanding race favourite LUCIA VALENTINA fit the bill there.
These titbits are both helpful and interesting, but it’s very hard to tell a horse they are a statistical moral and the equine beast is one of unpredictability – so let’s try and find the 2014 winner.
The speed map is interesting. The Moody pair, BRAMBLES and LIDARI, will both hurry forward and put themselves in the firing line. Others who can be handy to the speed include JUNOOB (drawn out and has limited options from there), BIG MEMORY (again not many options from horror draw) and expect GRIS CARO to be right there from a nice draw. The speed isn’t clear cut on paper but this 2400M handicap is traditionally run at a reasonable clip and this year shouldn’t be too different.
The Japanese runners venture to our shores for the first time since 2010 when Tokai Trick ran 12th in this race. Before that, they clean swept the Cups in 2005 and although BANDE was scratched on Friday morning, they have a very strong, chance in ADMIRE RAKTI.
ADMIRE RAKTI will likely get back closer to midfield from a middle barrier. His recent work at Werribee has been very strong he was especially impressive when putting stablemate ADMIRE INAZUMA to the sword.
Darren Dance and his ATB Bloodstock operation have a dual pronged attack in last year’s runner up DANDINO and the 7YO Irish gelding SEISMOS. DANDINO jumped from barrier 16 in 2013 and this year faces an even tougher task from the outside draw. Craig WiIliams will need to be at his brilliant best to steer his mount to victory but with luck in running there is no reason to suggest he can’t again be hugely competitive.
It’s very hard to knock LUCIA VALENTINA who goes into the race a very deserving favourite. She showed an outstanding turn of foot to reel in her rival in the Turnbull Stakes over 2000m at Flemington. She has had the perfect preparation and seemingly hasn’t put a foot wrong en route to this Grand Final. She has had one try at the 2400m and simply got too far back in the ATC Oaks when a fast-finishing third to RISING ROMANCE (who also lines up in the Caulfield Cup). She has drawn nicely in barrier 12 and should enjoy an interference free run from the alley.
HAWKSPUR is tracking nicely towards the 2400m. He got a mile back over the 2000m of the Turnbull last start but reeled off the third best last 200m of the race and was certainly doing his best work on the line. Damien Oliver takes over from Jimmy Cassidy for the Crown Ale Caulfield Cup and he will ensure this Purrealist gelding gets every chance in the run. He is a proven 2400m winner having captured the Group 1 Queensland Derby as a 3YO and he was very competitive in the race last year.
Both LIDARI and BRAMBLES who race for the OTI Syndicate (Simon O’Donnell and Terry Henderson) have had brilliant campaigns. The two 6YO’s raced side by side in the Turnbull and little more than an eyelash separated them on the line. BRAMBLES is currently sweating on a run but will no doubt make his presence felt if the cards fall his way. LIDARI is a massive player here and he maps to get a beautiful run in transit. His campaign seems to be reaching a crescendo and that may well result in Caulfield Cup Glory.
WHO SHOT THEBARMAN may well be a 6YO but he is relatively inexperienced and is certainly a stayer on an upward spiral. Tainted by Sydney’s pre-eminent trainer, Chris Waller, this gelding has taken Victoria by storm with two very dominant wins over 2000M and 2520M at Flemington. Glen Boss is the man in the pigskin atop WHO SHOT THEBARMAN and it will take his very best ride to get him across the line first. He will certainly be strong at the end of 2400m but the concern is he might already be looking for the 3200m, a distance which is going to suit him right down to the ground.
A brilliant race and it is fantastic to have strong international representation. At this stage we are happy to have something each-way on LIDARI at the $13 currently. LUCIA VALENTINA is going to take a stack of beating and lines up as a rightful favourite while both HAWKSPUR and WHO SHOT THEBARMAN can run races at around $18-$19 with the latter looking a very strong Melbourne Cup chance down the track.
Caulfield Cup Selections:
2nd Lucia Valentina
3rd Admire Rakti
4th Who Shot Thebarman
Other selections on the day:
Caulfield R2 No 4 RONN’S MOSS (EW @ $21 fixed) went to Adelaide and won very well last start. Draws nicely here and the rise to 1400m really suits. Can get into a more forward position from the good gate and run a bold race at super each-way odds.
Caulfield R3 No 3 MAASTRICHT (WIN) has barely put a foot wrong in her career to date and was unlucky not to salute at Flemington last start. The step up to 2000m should pose no concerns and she is the one they have to beat here.
Caulfield R6 No 3 SWEET IDEA (WIN @ $3.20) a classy Sydney filly who has been brave at all three runs this campaign. She has had the two runs at Group 1 level in Melbourne and finds a race she can control from the front.