Now we’re talking. The big guns are beginning to come back in Sydney, and we have three Group 1 races in Melbourne to get into.
The Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400m) attracts plenty of attention each year for the Melbourne Cup implications, but this year is unusual in that we don’t have a single international raider lining up in the field of 12.
Qewy, last year’s winner, is bypassing the race in order to take on either the Moonee Valley Cup or Bendigo Cup. That was a surprise, but Godolphin are insisting it’s just about finding the right race for him, and that he’s working well.
The race has around 4-5 decent horses that aren’t going as well as they have done before, and some second-stringers testing themselves at Group level. Getting things right for a $300,000 race is a good time to find your stayer a return to form, or a new peak.
Gallic Chieftain for Darren Weir is the favourite and it’s hard to see him getting beaten. His formline is suddenly the hot one, where he was third in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) which is the same formline that saw Boom Time win the Caulfield Cup and Lord Fandango grab fourth. That’s why he’s $3 or so, and he really needs to win to hope to try and make the Melbourne Cup field from his 50kg handicap there.
Wheal Leisure notably beat Hardham last start in a restricted race that seemed perfectly against her winning. And she beat Lord Fandango before that. That’s a good formline and definitely good enough to run well here. She might be good enough for a Melbourne Cup next year for the flying Archie Alexander.
Kellstorm is a real runner of interest in that he’s a full brother to Order Of St George and was in training to Aidan O’Brien before being moved down here to go with Darren Weir. He hasn’t shown his brother’s competence in his work here, but, there are some good signs. He was third in The Bart Cummings (oddly beating Almandin and Harlem), and drawn in barrier one he won’t need to work early. Needs to win to hope to make the Melbourne Cup field.
Berisha hadn’t done a thing since returning from a tendon injury that ruined his Caulfield Cup hopes last year. Then he grabbed second in the Cranbourne Cup at $20 or longer to show big improvement. If he improves again he’ll be very hard to beat. Holds a chance of making the Melbourne Cup field.
Grey Lion was in the Cranbourne Cup too and was just gunned down by the winner and then Berisha. That was a big improvement from him as well. He was an unlucky second here last year behind Qewy. If he’s going that well again all of a sudden he’s hard to beat. Not in the Melbourne Cup field.
Lizzie L’amour is classy as but has a knock, and that’s carrying 57.5kgs without relief against horses that beat her in the Cranbourne Cup, as a mare, when she didn’t perform too well. But I think she’s good enough and suited by the distance to be a great chance at $10 or more. Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman had all the aces a few weeks ago before Bonneval hurt herself and Jon Snow disappointed, and this mare had heart fibrillation before that. She’s right now, and might be able to get things back on track but must run well to show enough to take her place in the Melbourne Cup.
Violate backs up from a win a week ago at Caulfield in a city-class event with his first go at 2400m, but looks at his limit here.
Gallante is the top-weight with the Sydney Cup win from 2016 on his resume. The knocks are obvious – only one start this prep, his first since the Melbourne Cup where he was 20th, for a last. That’s a no, but he is a Lloyd Williams-owned horse and he’s guaranteed a start in the 2017 Melbourne Cup field, so can’t be entirely dismissed.
Fanatic is the Kiwi mare by Melbourne Cup winner Shocking, that stays all day. She’ll be coming late and has Herbert Power form even if not as strong as the others.
Vengeur Masque has had a bad preparation with all kinds of wide barrier draws and has overraced. The barrier problems continue here drawing 10 but they’ve worked on settling him. Michael Moroney had the following to say to media:
“We’re leaning towards running, I’ve got to check with the owners because I did tell them that I’d wait until we drew a decent barrier before I ran him again but we’re getting towards the sticky stage of qualifying for the Melbourne Cup so we might be forced to run him,” Moroney said.
“He went forward and led in the Mornington Cup (in March) and he just got beaten and we did the same in the Sydney Cup when they ran the race that was called off and he over raced and didn’t see the two miles out
“Since then we’ve been trying to get him to relax and we’re going to put earmuffs on him for the first time in the Geelong Cup. He has worked with them all his life but we’ve never raced him in them even though I’ve always been tempted to do it.
“So we’ll see if that works, but he has just over raced in the spring which is why he hasn’t quite run as well as he should have.”
If he settles he’s capable of going much, much better. His 2016 form which saw him eighth in the Caulfield Cup, and then second behind Francis of Assisi in the Queen Elizabeth is easily good enough to win here. But we haven’t seen much of that so far.
The Tasmanian Settler’s Stone is capable, and they’ve put Damien Oliver on board. This is the right class for him but would surprise.
Kawabata is the local hope, trained by Jamie Edwards at Freshwater Creek, and runs around at $51. He won last start and that was close to if not his career best win. Backs up and hard fit over this distance. He’s a must for exotics!
Selections: I’ve taken a generous approach to many of these that need to find their form or keep rising up. I think anyone taking trifectas or first fours needs to go wide as Gallic Chieftain really should be winning on the handicaps and form we have. I’d certainly include Fanatic and Vengeur Masque if you’re brave in those exotics.
1. Gallic Chieftain
2. Lizzie L’amour
3. Wheal Leisure