The Mounting Yard heads back to Caulfield this week for a bumper nine-race winter program.
The Caulfield Cup is one of the four majors of Australian racing, alongside the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate, and Golden Slipper.
It has a storied history as one of the two great staying handicaps of Australian racing, if not the world.
This year’s field sees six international visitors, some up-and-coming locals, a number of imported visitors on the rise in their new surrounds, and a few hardy local veterans.
Leviathan owner Lloyd Williams has a strong hand, as he often does at this time of year when the big races increase in distance. Darren Weir and Chris Waller are represented by runners right in the market.
It’s a race that usually has everything, and this edition looks no exception.
King’s Will Dream heads the market in the Caulfield Cup, as he pretty much has done since a barnstorming Mornington Cup win back in March. That victory secured his ballot-free position in this race, and also launched him to the top of betting.
His runs this time in have been a perfect (and good old-fashioned) build-up to a race like the Caulfield Cup, taking in the weight-for-age races and then finishing off with the Turnbull Stakes. He has three Group 1 placings this campaign, and now drops down to 53kg’s after carrying 59kg’s at WFA for most of his campaign.
The problem when assessing King’s Will Dream’s run in the Turnbull is that it compares unfavourably to that of Youngstar, who is Caulfield Cup second favourite.
Youngstar savaged the line in the Turnbull, in a way that King’s Will Dream didn’t. Her last 200m was significantly quicker, and she had a faster last 400m overall too. King’s Will Dream had a higher peak speed, but Youngstar was able to sustain closer to hers for longer.
Both of these horses have drawn well for their racing patterns. Youngstar will like to sit midfield with cover, if not a touch worse. King’s Will Dream will likely sit in the third pair or thereabouts, just forward of midfield if not even handier.
Ventura Storm, Jon Snow and Mighty Boss also come from the Turnbull. Ventura Storm was the best of these, but didn’t show enough to say he could turn the tables on Youngstar and King’s Will Dream, especially given they meet him much better at the weights. Jon Snow will run well as always, but it’s hard to see him beating them all. Mighty Boss isn’t going well enough.
The Caulfield Stakes is the other key Group 1 lead-up Victorian race, and those coming from it will have admirers dropping back from weight-for-age to handicap conditions.
Homesman led them along in the Caulfield Stakes, and really picked up the tempo from the 800m. He faded in the straight, but it could be considered a nice top off run heading into a Caulfield Cup.
Night’s Watch finished sixth in what wasn’t a bad run in his first WFA attempt, and he drops a massive 7kg’s into this race which will help. The question is whether he is a genuine 2400m horse given he seemed to tire over the last furlong.
The Cliffsofmoher was the eye-catcher out of the Caulfield Stakes, sitting last and seemingly struggling to keep up as they rounded the home turn, before finding the line with the quickest splits and sectionals of the race, over the last two, four and six furlongs. He’s going to be hard to beat, but does have his share of weight for a horse that hasn’t won a Group 1 race.
The Taj Mahal, Vengeur Masque and Gallic Chieftan all used different Victorian races as their hit out before the Caulfield Cup.
The Taj Mahal won the JRA Cup at Moonee Valley three weeks ago, just holding out Gallic Chieftan in doing so. It was a tough performance given he was out on his feet a fair way out, but his easy Sandown Classic win last year over good horses like Almandin and Big Duke tells us 2400m won’t be a problem.
Gallic Chieftan has had the extra run in-between, running a good fourth in the Herbert Power, but his level is one or two below this. Vengeur Masque has been running okay, but similar to Gallic Chieftan is more of a Group 2 or Group 3 stayer and will find this a bit rich.
Ace High brings a different formline to proceedings having done all of his lead-up racing in Sydney, a good grounding of four WFA runs. He’s chased Winx a couple of times, run second to Unforgotten, and last start took out the Hill Stakes. He’s a gun middle distance and staying type of horse when on top of the ground, with a record of 5: 4-1-0 on good tracks at distances between 1800m-2500m, with two Group 1 wins in there.
Then we have the internationals having their first run in Australia to round out the field.
Best Solution carries the number one saddlecloth as top weight here, in an indication of his quality. He’s won five races at 2400m in the last 12 months, three of them in a row before coming here, two of them at Group 1 level. He’s been treated unkindly with a wide draw.
Sound Check ran second to Best Solution last start, before they came over, beaten less then half a length. He meets that horse 2kgs better for the experience, which must count for something and keeps him in the game, even though he’s far less credentialed.
Duretto has also run behind Best Solution this year, beaten less than a length and also in receipt of a weight advantage over that galloper from when they last met. He was beaten by Marmelo a few starts back, and we saw that horse run sixth in the Caulfield Cup last year.
Red Verdon beat The Cliffsofmoher home back in June, which ties him into this field, and he’s being respected reasonably well in the betting accordingly. Not having a run here first makes it tough, but trainer Ed Dunlop is well versed in travelling to Australia and knows what he’s doing.
The Japanese are represented here by Chestnut Coat and Sole Impact, and their stayers must be taken seriously. Chestnut Coat is on the rise and can be expected to run well, but the Melbourne Cup is probably more his go, while Sole Impact is approaching veteran status and doesn’t appear to have a great chance.
A lot of good chances in this race have drawn well to suit their styles, particularly of those we’re familiar with. Homesman will be right near the lead if not taking it up. Ace High will look to hold a box seat position. The Taj Mahal has some work to do if he wants to slide across from a wide gate, and if so will put some speed into the race which will suit the likes of The Cliffsofmoher.
Selections: 1.Ace High 2.Youngstar 3.Red Verdon 4.The Cliffsofmoher
Elsewhere on the card, it could well be a day of good things.
Delusions looks very hard to beat in the opener after winning easily on debut. Eduardo is a bright up and comer that is due a good win, and should get it in the Caulfield Sprint. Verry Elleegant has been backed like unbeatable in the Ethereal Stakes, and probably is.
Other races look a bit more even, but still competitive. They aren’t the biggest fields, which gives us punters a chance. Good luck to all!