Derby day at Flemington has traditionally been the race day that the purists look forward to more than any other.
With a month until the Caulfield Cup and just under seven weeks until the Melbourne Cup, now’s the time to reassess the Cups picture ahead of the Underwood Stakes and the Naturalism Stakes this weekend.
And with the Melbourne Cup weights now out, we can get a better understanding of who is likely to make the race.
First, the Caulfield Cup.
Hawkspur was promoted to favouritism on the back of his electric victory in the Chelmsford Stakes.
This may be a premature call, but Hawkspur strikes me as a similar horse to Might and Power. His turn of foot coming from behind runners the other day was something special, and yet he showed his dominance on speed during the Queensland winter.
I doubt he’s as good as Might and Power – and let’s face it, very few gallopers in the history of Australian racing are as good as him – but he looks the ideal Caulfield Cup horse and a worthy favourite at this stage.
If he gets a run, Prince Cheri will be a live chance.
Yes, he only just fell in to beat Honorius, but he’s got a tremendous will to win and I’m convinced he’s better ridden cold.
If he was to sneak into the Caulfield Cup – which will have to come off the back of a strong win in The Metropolitan if he is to make the field – I’d love to see him ridden just worse than midfield, in a similar spot to where Dom Tourneur had Alcopop last year.
To my eye, the current value lies with Manighar.
He’s lined up in the Caulfield Cup twice, finishing fifth to Descarado and fourth to Southern Speed.
He doesn’t look to be the weight for age force he was 18 months ago, but given he’s targeting the race, he looks well suited in a handicap under 56.5kg.
And although he’s relinquished favouritism, I’d be looking to avoid Jet Away in all early markets.
He’s clearly had a number of setbacks and the likelihood that he’ll line-up at Caulfield fit and well looks to be reducing by the day. He’s a definite risk.
As for the Melbourne Cup, I was left reeling after Now We Can – my early tip – was not among nominations. However, I still believe the internationals can win the Cup for the sixth time.
The Aga Khan’s Verema and godolphin’s Royal Empire look the two to my eye who will be more than competitive.
Verema was a winner of the Prix Kergorlay. She’ll appreciate firm ground, and her racing pattern looks to be well suited to a large field.
As for Royal Empire, he fits the mould of previous godolphin gallopers to run well in the Melbourne Cup.
He’s yet to race beyond 2600m, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. He looks to have the turn of foot necessary to be a force in the Melbourne Cup.
As for those to avoid, there looks a few right up in the market.
Leading Light would be a tremendous chance if Aidan O’Brien made the decision to bring the English St Leger winner down under. As a European three year old, he looks well weighted under 52.5kg, but he is more likely to target the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
And I’d be willing to overlook Super Cool and Royal Descent, as neither are likely to run a strong 3200m.
Who are you liking for the Cups at this stage?