After a solid result last week, Sydney racing takes a dip behind an exceptional Moonee Valley card.
Caulfield Cup day has arrived, and despite no international representation, a field of lightweight depth and quality has been assembled. It’s the biggest 2400m handicap in the world, and it takes a horse with a mixture of class and toughness to salute.
There are five key lead-up races, that 16 of the 18 horse field contested as their pre-Cup run. Three of these were Group 1 races – the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington and Metropolitan Handicap at Randwick two weeks ago, and the weight-for-age Might and Power Stakes at Caulfield last week.
The other two were hardy staying tests, the Bart Cummings over 2500m at Flemington a fortnight ago, and the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield over 2400m last week.
The boom horse is of course Incentivise, backed into red figures in the last week, off the back of eight wins in a row. His odds did an about-turn on Wednesday night after he drew the widest gate, and all eyes will be on Brett Prebble in the first 250m on Saturday at 5:15pm.
Incentivise has justified the boom built in the Queensland winter by winning the Makybe Diva and the Turnbull in his only two starts this prep. They were his first runs at Group 1 level, at distances shorter than the 2400m he’ll face here, and expectation is the further the race the better he’ll be.
The most pleasing part of his last two wins has been how he has lifted when challenged and then held his rivals in the last 50-100m, if not pulling away, and no horse has been stronger through the line. Let’s not forget the last time he was at this distance, he won a Group 3 by 12 lengths, beating a horse then ran third in the Caulfield Cup two years ago.
Incentivise a dominant favourite for a reason, but there’s a line-up of worthy challengers looking to take him down.
Four horses that finished behind Incentivise in the Turnbull Stakes take their place here.
Young Werther was the best of these in a fast finishing second, but he’s the only horse out of it that actually meets Incentivise worse at the weights, albeit only half a kilo. He’s a stylish young stayer that was placed in both the VRC and ATC Derbies last season, improves each time we see him, and has drawn perfectly. Wet ground shouldn’t faze him either.
Chapada usually runs at cricket score odds, and was a surprise third in the Turnbull. That was actually his fourth Group 1 placing, so he can pop up from time to time. He ran 9th in last year’s Caulfield Cup, which is about his level. He performs on all surfaces.
Explosive Jack hit the line pleasingly for fifth in the Turnbull, and meets Incentivise 2 kgs better for his four length defeat. This horse won three Derbies last season, all on soft ground, nosing out Young Werther in one of them. Their form ties together nicely, and he’s drawn to sit where he likes from one.
Persan is an old fashioned handicapper that was seventh in the Turnbull after not being able to finish off his race behind the strong tempo set by Incentivise. He’s on a Melbourne Cup campaign, and will be looking to put in a nice trial for that race.
The Metropolitan sees four runners come down from Sydney, which will be five if the first emergency Great House gets into the field.
Montefilia won that Metrop in a dogfight, showing her toughness. She actually ran fourth in the ATC Derby in the autumn, behind Explosive Jack and Young Werther, and it’s a race that has always been a good Caulfield Cup pointer. She handles wet ground okay, but her three Group 1 wins have all been on the good.
She’s Ideel beat Montefilia in the Kingston Town two starts back, but was ninth in the Metrop after being wide and at the tail, peeling eight and nine wide around the home turn – she just felt the pinch in the last 200m. She’ll relish rain more than most, and from a good draw is a chance at odds.
Quick Thinker dropped right out in the Metrop, but he’s hopeless on the good and is a genuine swimmer. The last time he saw heavy ground he won the 2020 ATC Derby, and comes into the reckoning if the track becomes bottomless.
Charms Star ran a nice race in the Metrop, and comes with the Chris Waller polish, but she does meet the others from that race worse at the weights. It’s hard to think she could have them all covered, let alone the rest of the formlines.
Delphi is the second favourite behind Incentivise, and he is on the back-up after winning the Herbert Power last Saturday. It was a great ride by Damien Oliver taking off early, and a strong win by the horse to defy all attempts to run him down.
The start prior, Delphi just failed to nail Noncomformist on the line, who is also here, and that horse ran past Zaaki in the Might and Power last week. Top weight in the Caulfield Cup this year is Homesman, and he was two lengths off Noncomformist in that race.
So, the Caulfield form in recent times all ties together, and Delphi does look the best suited in this race of all those horses, with a little weight swing as well. He is also proven at 2400m, while Noncomformist is yet to really tick that box. Homesman ran second in the Caulfield Cup three years ago, but it’s hard to think he’s going better now.
The Chosen One thundered to the line behind Delphi last week, and is one of the most consistent stayers in Australasia. He hasn’t won any of the big ones, but has finished top four in a Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Sydney Cup. He appears to be going as well or better than last year, when third in this race, and handles all conditions.
The Bart Cummings was a strong staying test, and produces three runners here, albeit unfancied.
Master of Wine was the eye-catcher there, really attacking the line late, in a way he didn’t show a fortnight earlier when ten lengths behind She’s Ideel and Montefilia. Let’s not forget he jumped $7 in this race last year after being beaten less than a length in the Turnbull. Has he recaptured that form?
Selino was fourth in the Bart Cummings, half a length behind Master of Wine. The Sydney Cup winner of earlier this year has returned in good order, but is going to be better suited in the Melbourne Cup and won’t have the class to beat this field over 2400m.
Port Guillaume ran a long last in the Bart Cummings after enduring a torrid run and pulling up lame. His prior sixth in the Naturalism suggested there might be better things to come, and he has won three times on wet ground in Europe. He’s big, big odds, but may not be hopeless.
Duais presents as the interesting runner, having won the Coongy on Wednesday and coming into this on the three-day back-up. The Queensland Oaks winner beat Flying Artist, who had been taking all before him, so has solid claims. She is a lovely stayer in the making, and doesn’t mind soft ground, but may not relish heavy.
Ocean Billy comes across from New Zealand as an Auckland Cup winner over 3200m, and has been transferred to countryman Chris Waller. He’s ticking along okay to run top ten in a Melbourne Cup, but would shock as the despised outsider in this.
Incentivise, Delphi, Quick Thinker and Homesman have all drawn barrier 13 or wider, and will be compelled to cross the field in all due haste to try and take up their positions. Persan in 11 may also want to ping the gates and find a spot on the speed. They look the likely five horses to take it up.
Most of the other horses in the race will be ridden where they are most comfortable.
Explosive Jack and She’s Ideel will be reasonably positive from nice draws, and should be around sixth or seventh in running. If the track does chop out in rain-affected going as expected, inside draws will be less friendly, and those from wider barriers may be more advantaged.
As ever, the Caulfield Cup shapes as a tactical affair as much as a staying one. Every jockey and horse is going to have to be at the top of their game.
Selections: 1.Incentivise 2.Delphi 3.She’s Ideel 4.The Chosen One