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.
One of the surprises of the Melbourne Cup, now less than a week away, is that Godolphin might not have had a runner until we received confirmation of Hartnell’s entry on Monday.
The global operation did send down a few Cup runners from trainer Charlie Appleby, in Francis of Assisi – who won last year’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes – and Qewy, the Geelong Cup winner, Melbourne Cup fourth-place getter, and Sandown Cup winner from last year.
Francis Of Assisi suffered an injury, enough to rule him out of the spring entirely. Since then, Godolphin decided to change course with Qwey.
He was guaranteed a Cup start, and was all set to go into the Geelong Cup before Appleby decided against it. They thought about the Moonee Valley Cup, but then shifted him to today’s Bendigo Cup, just six days from the big one.
The operation surprised many by coming out to say that Qewy might not even start in the Melbourne Cup unless he performs very well in the Bendigo Cup today. They might just send him to the Sandown Cup instead.
Something’s up with Qewy, and his Melbourne Cup is in the balance.
Appleby’s travelling foreman, Chris Connett, has been talking up the horse while the operation shuffles him around.
“It’s all guns blazing for Bendigo and we’ll see where we stand after that,” Connett said. “Hopefully he goes and wins nicely at Bendigo and then that opens the door for Melbourne. If he doesn’t, then that might close the door.
“It’s nice to see him carrying some condition. We’re very positive that he’s fit and will do himself justice there at Bendigo.
“He’s bouncing. He’s just been getting better and better each day.”
These positive comments are enough to make you think he can carry 59kgs in the Bendigo Cup and win. He’s an accomplished stayer, and relished Australian tracks when he found the form of his life.
His form back home certainly wasn’t good post-Australian trip, and you’d have to believe something has been or wasn’t quite right with the horse since he’s been here. Godolphin aren’t saying that – Appleby himself said they “couldn’t be happier”, so we’ll find out today what it all means and if he just loves Australian tracks.
— Godolphin (@godolphin) October 31, 2017
He lines up in a field of seven, and will likely lead and make it a staying test. There are at least two other hot chances in the race who will put it to him.
One of those is Foundry, the Group 1 Metropolitan (2400m) winner who is currently 29th in the Melbourne Cup Order Of Entry. It’s remarkable that a recent Group 1 winner isn’t quite there yet but he was a lightweight in a fairly weak Metrop, and needs to win here to receive a weight penalty to climb high enough to make the field.
The problem is that he was fairly disappointing last start, beaten by a mile in the Herbert Power Stakes, when not all went right for him. The vets didn’t find any problems post-event, so if you can forgive a bad day when he just didn’t want to be there, Foundry’s a live chance here.
The other hot chance is Kiwia, the Darren Weir-trained, light-raced stayer who has been making his way through the grades well. He was frankly excellent in the Group 3 Coongy Cup (2000m) when he defeated Samovare after being last on the turn and did it tough out wide. Money has come and he might even be the favourite for the race by the time gates crash open.
— Racing.com (@Racing) October 21, 2017
If he brings that form against these more proven horses he’ll a) go into Melbourne Cup calculations for 2018, and b) ruin the chances of Qewy and Foundry for 2017 as well.
The others in the race don’t look up to the top three. Both Meet And Agree and Big Memory are capable horses – the former is having his first attempt at 2400m, while Big Memory is a country cups horse that hadn’t shown much until last start, where he ran a decent fourth in the Moe Cup, finishing late.
Khartoum broke his maiden at this track two starts ago, and was then fourth at Caulfield over 2400m. I couldn’t have him on that. Skulduggery has had two goes at this distance without a result and if that changes here I’d be amazed.
Plenty hinges on the performance of both Qewy and Foundry today, with the Bendigo Cup run at 4pm, local time.