2012 Caulfield Cup: Preview, top tips
Can Americain win the 2012 Caulfield Cup? Slattery Images.
Saturday’s Caulfield Cup (2400m, Group One, handicap, 4:05pm AEDT) is the first of four majors on the Australian racing calendar.
The 2012 renewal has brought together a high quality line-up from Australia and Europe.
The $2.5m Caulfield feature not only combines with the Cox Plate (2040m, Group One, weight-for-age), Melbourne Cup (3200m, Group One, handicap) and Golden Slipper (1200m, Group One, two-year olds) to form the Grand Slam of Australian horse racing, but is perhaps the most proven pointer to Flemington success.
1. Americain (Barrier 19, Weight 58kgs, Trainer: Alain de Royer Dupre, Country: France, Odds $18)
For: Americain is proven in Victoria. He boasts victories in the Melbourne Cup (2010), Zipping Classic (2011), Moonee Valley Cup (2011) and Geelong Cup (2010). He was fantastic when fourth with 58kgs in his Flemington defence last season and was closing in third place in this year’s Australian Cup. Demands respect.
Against: Americain’s 2012 form is a little uninspiring. He hasn’t won this year and was sent packing from David Hayes’ stables after a winless autumn campaign. Back in the care of de Royer Dupre in France, he was sixth of seven in the Kergolay in August – a race he won on the way to his 2010 Cup success. Flemington is his grand final. Now eight, are his best days over?
2. Dunaden (22, 58kgs, Mikel Delzangles, France, $8)
For: The defending Melbourne Cup winner is yet to peak. He followed Flemington success with a good win in the internationally-billed Hong Kong Cup in December. Took two runs to get going this season but was fantastic when second in a good Hardwicke on Black Caviar Day at Royal Ascot. Was then a strong sixth, when ridden too close, in a classic King George. He is world class.
Against: Upon arrival in Australia Dunaden suffered a hoof problem that threatened to rule him out of this race. On Monday, trainer Delzangles told the media that Dunaden is a week behind where he should be. As soon as I heard that, I didn’t want a bar of this bloke. From the gate, with 58kgs and at 2400m, he is going to need a stack of luck. I’ll take him on.
3. Jakkalberry (13, 55.5kgs, Marco Botti, Italy, $19)
For: Jakkalberry will be the first Euro home in my view. He was pretty average behind Dunaden in the Hardwicke. But that run was sandwiched by a super third in a great Sheema Classic in Dubai and a dominant victory in the US St Leger. He’s a proven traveller and has settled in well. I wasn’t sure at first but I think 2400m is his go.
Against: I don’t think Jakkalberry’s well weighted. Meets Voila Ici (who was third) 2.5kgs worse than when second in 2011 Milan meeting that was won by Sneak A Peek (also engaged here). And in this race, he gives away Caulfield experience and race fitness to Voila Ici and Sneak A Peek. I think Jakkalberry will finish in the top eight.
4. Winchester (16, 55.5kgs, John Sadler, Australia, Imported? Yes, $31)
For: Multiple Group One winner over this distance in the US. Since being imported from the States, he’s raced twice in Australia (ninth both times) and scored pass marks on each occasion. The step-up from 2000m to 2400m suits.
Against: I’m not sure he’s ready to win. Came from the back to be five lengths away last time in the Turnbull and the wide gate ensures he gives away a start again. Not overly keen on his chances but he should finish in the top half. Winchester will be running on late and maybe a horse to follow for Flemington.
5. December Draw (12, 55.5kgs, Mark Kavanagh, Australia, Imported? Yes, $7.5)
For: Warming to this bloke. I think he’ll be in the finish. Was favourite last year after winning the Turnbull but sustained a serious leg injury here. Has improved in three runs since lay-off this spring and was good again in the Turnbull, when third, carrying 3kgs more than last year. Against those he met last time, he is well handicapped. Yet to hit peak.
Against: I took him on last year because I wasn’t sure he’d run a strong 2400m at his first attempt. Hasn’t been to the trip since but is stronger and more seasoned now. The distance is still his biggest issue but he’s otherwise bombproof. This is grand final day. Can win.
6. Voila Ici (17, 55kgs, Peter Moody, Australia, Imported? Yes, $17)
For: Hasn’t disappointed in three Aussie starts since flying to Australia with Black Caviar in July. Gets to 2400m and will relish it. His biggest win in the 2011 Gran Premio Di Milano came at this trip. Caulfield is now his home track and he’s performed well in both runs at the venue. Will race near to the lead.
Against: Before his last race in the Turnbull, he didn’t want to go to the start. Any antics on Saturday almost make the task impossible for this Italian stallion because majors aren’t won unless everything goes right. Meets December Draw 2kgs worse after finishing alongside him at Flemington two weeks back. His wide barrier draw isn’t ideal either. Top five for sure.
7. Southern Speed (14, 54.5kgs, Leon Macdonald, Australia, Imported? No, $21)
For: The reigning champion attempts her defence after the worst finish in her career (15th) but she was in fantastic form prior. Jockey Glen Boss said she felt lame after the Turnbull (vet tests found no issue) so perhaps we can forgive her run on firm ground. Has big-race experience.
Against: The wide alley could rule out a repeat of last year when she enjoyed all the favours. I’ve gone cold on her. She’s not a natural stayer so the distance, if things don’t go her way, is a bit of a query for me. Only two weeks ago, I predicted her as the winner of this race but I want to take it back. Take on trust.
8. Sanagas (3, 54kgs, Bart Cummings, Australia, Imported? Yes, $61)
For: Bart trains him. Brought to the US from Europe and last year progressed to Group One success in same race Unusual Suspect (sixth Caulfield Cup 2011) won in 2010.
Against: Four starts in 2012 have been woeful. Was horrible last week when tailed off in the Caulfield Stakes. If the bookies were fair dinkum, they’d have him at 600/1.
9. Glencadam Gold (21, 53.5kgs, Gai Waterhouse, Australia, Imported? Yes, $4.6)
For: Undefeated in four Australian starts after coming from the UK and has improved on each occasion. There’s a bit of depth to this horse – he can make multiple efforts in a race and can accelerate off a slow tempo. He’s an exciting type. Can win.
Against: The barrier. He’s drawn in the marquee! Will push forward and use petrol. If he can somehow get across without burning too much energy, Glencadam Gold is going to be mighty hard to beat. This is his toughest assignment to date. Shades of 1997 winner Might And Power with this horse. In (jockey) Jim Cassidy we trust.
10. My Quest For Peace (2, 53.5kgs, Luca Cumani, England, $12)
For: Comes to Australia in winning form after claiming the Glorious and March Stakes in the English summer, both at Goodwood and in much lesser grade than this. Did beat Gatewood (second emergency here with plenty of admirers) in the Glorious. Will go forward and is drawn to have sweet run. Firm ground suits.
Against: I don’t like the chances of My Quest For Peace. He was poor against Dunaden and Jakkalberry in his stiffest test in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot. Then he had all the favours in the Glorious when he got the softest lead to win over 2400m in 2:42 (pedestrian time) on good ground. Apart from maiden victory, he’s only ever beaten small fields. Big handicaps (like a Caulfield Cup) are a different kettle of fish to what he likes. Not for me but respect Cumani.
11. Niwot (6, 53.5kgs, Team Hawkes, Australia, Imported? No, $31)
For: From the same stable as last week’s Caulfield Guineas winner All Too Hard and they say he’s never gone better. Niwot will be strong at the distance.
Against: You have to respect a bullish Hawkes camp but I’m not so sure he’s travelling better than the autumn when he was close-up at weight-for-age on numerous occasions. I think he needs rain (and lots of it) to be competitive in a Caulfield Cup. If he runs top six, watch out for Flemington where two miles is more his go.
12. Lights Of Heaven (8, 53kg, Peter Moody, Australia, Imported? No, $12)
For: Quality mare, proven at the distance, racing at her home track and prepared by a hungry Moody stable that is chasing its maiden major. Thought she put the writing on the wall in the Hill Stakes at Randwick a month ago. Tends to hold form.
Against: She hasn’t raced for four weeks and that’s usually a negative with an Aussie conditioner in command but Moody thinks she goes better fresh so perhaps this isn’t ‘against’ her. Don’t worry about her first two runs this preparation – she wasn’t ‘wound up’ fresh and had respiratory issues second-up. In the mix.
13. Secret Admirer (11, 53kg, Grahame Begg, Australia, Imported? No, $26)
For: Was superb in the Epsom at Randwick when only one of a few to make ground from midfield. High-class, multiple Group One-winning mare. Favourably handicapped.
Against: The distance obviously. She’s never come across as a stayer to me (or anyone I guess) but she lands at 2400m for the first time in the Caulfield Cup with all her best form over a mile. In my opinion, she can only win if it rains but I wouldn’t be shocked to see her finish top six. The query runner.
14. Sneak A Peek (10, 53kg, Peter Moody, Australia, Imported? Yes, $17)
For: After his second-up performance in the Dato Tan Chin Nam at Moonee Valley, he loomed as a big Caulfield Cup player but his next run in the Turnbull was just okay. He boasts a win over key chances Jakkalberry and Voila Ici and still hasn’t reached his career peak.
Against: Off his last start, I’d say he needs to find a few lengths. Perhaps, like many, he didn’t enjoy the firm surface. If that’s the case, and his run can be forgiven, he’s pretty hard to knock. The dark horse?
15. Alcopop (9, 52.5kgs, Jake Stephens, Australia, Imported? No, $15)
For: Comes off a super Cup trial in last week’s weight-for-age Caulfield Stakes. Strangely, the three best runs of his career have come on Caulfield Guineas Day. If Alcopop repeats last week’s performance, he can win. He’s beautifully-suited at handicap conditions. A real smoky.
Against: Alcopop has more convictions than a hardened criminal. He was a big player in this race in 2010 after a similarly good run in the Caulfield Stakes but couldn’t repeat the effort on the seven-day back-up. Almost every decent run he’s had has followed a break of more than 14 days between runs. I’m prepared to risk him.
16. Moudre (5, 52.5kgs, Ciaron Maher, Australia, Imported? No, $51)
For: Easily the best roughie in the race. If you’re playing trifectas don’t leave him out. He was very good in the Makybe Diva first-up and then had shoulder issues in the Turnbull last time. If you can forgive his recent effort, then he’s a 50/1 shot with a real chance. He’s well-weighted, going to appreciate the trip and will enjoy a nice run from the draw. A proven stayer.
Against: Moudre comes off a last-place finish in the Turnbull when he pulled-up worse-for-wear. The track was pretty hard that day and the Turnbull included a few quizzical runs. If you can put a pen through his last start, you’d have to agree that he can win.
17. Folding Gear (4, 52kgs, Lee and Shannon Hope, Australia, Imported? No, $21)
For: Comes into the Caulfield Cup on a month’s break but after a good win in the Naturalism at this venue. This is his stiffest test but he’s drawn to get a good run and is improving.
Against: For mine it has to be the distance. It’s his first look at it, in the toughest 2400m race in the country. But the draw ensures he gets a nice run. Hard to knock this bloke. Genuine 20/1 chance in a tricky race to analyse. Sneaks into my top eight.
18. Zabeelionaire (1, 52kgs, Leon Corstens, Australia, Imported? No, $31)
For: Zabeelionaire’s a real 2400m horse and he’s going to get a nice run. I like the barrier too. He will need luck in running but, in recent years, so many Caulfield Cups winners coming from behind have used the inside parts of the track (Viewed 2009, Tawqeet 2006 and Diatribe 2000 come to mind). He’ll be running on too.
Against: Zabeelionaire also comes off a poor run in the Turnbull. If you can forgive the performance, his form was very encouraging prior. I suppose you have to question whether he’s good enough to win a Caulfield Cup. In any case, he’s a place chance. I don’t mind him.
19. Sabrage – Emergency 1 (20, 51kgs, Michael Moroney, Australia, Imported? No, $101)
For: His best form is around this distance and in the left-handed direction which he faces here. But he’s a genuine roughie.
Against: Sabrage needs a scratching to get a run. He’s not going well enough to win a major. He was poor in the Caulfield Stakes last week. Making up the numbers.
20. Gatewood – Emergency 2 (18, 51.5kgs, John Gosden, England, $10)
For: If Gatewood somehow got a run, he could win this race. I’ve been all over him for over four months now. His run last week in the Herbert Power at Caulfield was good when he had no luck. 2400m is his go and – with recent form through the third placegetter (Masterstroke) in this month’s Arc de Triomphe (arguably the world’s greatest race) – he’s weighted to win. He’s on the up. His presence will be felt.
Against: Gatewood is the second emergency. He requires two scratchings to make the field. I’m not sure Gosden is keen on this bloke on a seven-day break but he’s good enough to overcome it. It’s a sporting tragedy that, in all likelihood, he won’t be in the field.
21. Ibicenco – Emergency 3 (15, 51.5kgs, Luca Cumani, England)
22. Fictional Account – Emergency 4 (7, 50kgs, David Hayes, Australia, Imported? Yes, $101)
For: Struggling to find too many positives here. She’s fit and she can run the trip.
Against: Needs a miracle to get in the field. She’s eight-years old and appears to have hit her peak. She needs to improve several lengths on recent form and would probably run close to last if she made the final 18.
I’m going to leave Gatewood out of my top eight because I don’t think he will get into the field. But if he makes it, he’ll be my top selection.
1. Glencadam Gold
2. Voila Ici
3. December Draw
4. Lights Of Heaven
6. Sneak A Peek
8. Folding Gear
Keen to take on:
Americain, Dunaden, My Quest For Peace, Alcopop