Caulfield Cup preview

16 October 2009

Written by: Lawrie Zion

The Caulfield Cup is the first of leg of the treble of the three major spring races (the other two are the Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup) and is widely regarded as the best and toughest 2400 metre handicap in the world.  

First run in 1879, when it was won by Newminster, the race  has an honour roll that features many of the sport’s greatest names. The list of winners includes greats such as Poseidon, Amounis, Tranquil Star, Rising Fast, Tulloch, Tobin Bronze, Let’s Elope, Might and Power and Northerly. Only two horses have ever won back to back Caulfield Cups, Poseidon in 1906/07 and Rising Fast in 1954/55.

In what looms as one of the hardest Caulfield Cups to pick in years; now Melbourne’s weather  has only makes things harder. It’s as unpredictable as ever and the track could genuinely be rated anywhere between good to heavy come tomorrow. The forecast is for more showers over the next couple of days and cold maximum temperatures, so I reckon that there will be at least a little bit more cut out of the ground than last week.

THE FIELD

VIEWED – The 2008 Melbourne Cup winner trained by the master in Bart Cummings has come back this spring in better form than the last, in which he ran a credible mid-field in the Caulfield Cup before going on to win the Melbourne Cup. His run in the Turnbull was outstanding and he is now getting to a trip where he can be effective. Despite carrying the top weight of 57kgs he isn’t that badly in and he is just as effective on top of the ground as on a wet track. Will most likely start from barrier thirteen after the emergencies come out and will settle well back in the field. Despite the apparent lack of pace in the race he has the quality to be considered a major threat.

KIRKLEES – From the powerful Godolphin stable who won this race last year with All the Good and boasts arguably better lead up form than that horse. Is an on pace runner which definitely suits and has drawn ideally. Always a bit of guesswork involved when trying to line up the international form but has to considered one of the main chances.

C’EST LA GUERRE – 2008 NZ Derby winner and third placegetter in last year’s Melbourne Cup who needs 2400+ to show his best. Was a good run in the Turnbull where he was doing his best work late. 55.5kg is the lightest weight he has carried since last year’s Melbourne Cup and he will come into barrier eleven, although will probably get back worse than midfield anyway. Loves soft ground, and in my opinion is the best value runner in the race. Opened at $21 and was into $18 on Thursday.

CIMA DE TRIOMPHE – From the stable of esteemed UK-based trainer Luca Cumani who has had awful luck in Melbourne the past couple of years running close seconds in the last two Melbourne Cups. This horse boasts a fourth behind See the Stars, who is the best horse in the world. He also has beaten a horse called Conduit who has great form lines through See the Stars. Has never won past 2200 metres however he has drawn nicely to take up a position mid-field with cover. The trainer and jockey (Damien Oliver) combination alone is enough to declare it a chance, add to that the quality of its form, and it goes in as my top pick in the race.

FIUMICINO – AJC Derby winner and this year’s BMW winner. That last sentence alone should mean that this horse must be considered a huge threat. It’s not. Both of those wins were on bottomless tracks. Unless the track is rated a Heavy 9-10 he has no hope of winning.

MASTER O’REILLY – 2007 Caulfield Cup winner who has been racing very well in weight-for-age this preparation. Only carried 50.5kg when he won the race two years ago and has to carry 55kg this year. Will be forced a long way back from the barrier and is a place chance at best for mine.

ROMAN EMPEROR – This year’s AJC Derby winner who is trained by none other than Bart Cummings. Drawn well so that he could take up a position should Hugh Bowman choose to do so. Doesn’t mind a slow track and can race handy to the speed, which are both positives. I can’t see him winning the race however I have learnt  it is wise not to discount anything trained by Bart Cummings.

SARRERA – Raced well in NZ his last three starts where he ran second to Daffodil two starts ago.  Loves a wet track and has drawn a barrier that should allow him to settle mid field with cover. During the autumn he raced exceptionally well in Sydney and then Singapore. I suspect his nine years of age are just starting to catch up with him; however it wouldn’t completely surprise me to see him run in the first four. 

PREDATORY PRICER – My original Caulfield Cup selection in August and a horse that has been plagued by bad luck throughout its short career. All but won the Turnbull Stakes last start before Efficient came from nowhere to nab him on the line. At his only start over this distance he ran third in this year’s AJC Derby where with any luck in running he would have won. Has drawn poorly however can race both on the speed and settle well back. If the track is good to dead he is one the top picks, slow or worse and I don’t think he can win as he races best on top of the ground.

RED RULER – NZ stayer who ran a good sixth in this race last year when carrying half a kilo more. He has had a good preparation and can handle all conditions. Has drawn awkwardly which means he may be trapped wide in the run should Dan Nikolic press forward. In my opinion he is just a couple of lengths off the best horses in Australia and is a place chance.

ZAVITE – On pacer who won the Launceston cup with 58.5kg this year as well as the Adelaide Cup and is the likely leader in a race that looks to lack pace. Ran a well beaten fourth behind a potential star last start and handles all conditions. Doubt he can place in this quality of field.

HARRIS TWEED – NZ stayer who finished second in this year’s AJC Derby behind Roman Emperor. Perhaps a place chance if the track is slow to heavy. If it is rated good to dead then no chance for mine on its current form.

LIGHT VISION – Honest stayer trained by the underrated trainer Robert Smerdon. Drops 6kgs on his tough win at Flemington last start.  Has drawn terribly although he will probably work forward to race in the first few. Won’t know himself with the weight but more importantly won’t know himself in this class of field. Not for mine.

DAFFODIL – 2009 AJC Oaks winner who looked super impressive two starts ago on a wet track in NZ. Was a little poor last start although connections have put that down to racing too close to the speed. Obviously then is going to get a long way back and from an inside barrier could struggle to find room in the straight. Brained them in the Oaks and although four year old mares have a great record in the race and she will only carry 51.5kg I am prepared to risk her.

READY TO LIFT – Gutsy mare who ran second to good horse Scenic Shot in this year’s Brisbane Cup. Will get back and don’t think she has the class to trouble this kind of field, despite carrying only 51.5kg.

RED LORD – He races best when ridden well off the speed which explains his absolute failure last start. It also all but rules out any chance of him winning the race as he has drawn an inside barrier and will get a long way back. Would need a dry track and then a miracle to win.

VIGOR – Was everyone’s Caulfield Cup weight special after winning the Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington and guaranteeing himself a start with only 51kgs. Ran fairly at his next start before performing poorly last start in the Turnbull where the jockey and trainer blamed the poor run on interference suffered early in the race. Only win past 2000 was against a very poor field at Flemington last summer where I suspect his ability to sprint and not stay won him the race. In my opinion his best distance is a mile. Has no weight and connections have stated they will press forward from a horror barrier draw. Will not run a place and is drastically under the odds.

ALLEZ WONDER – God (or perhaps Bart Cummings) only knows how this mare went from winning a restricted mid week mares race over 2000 to a group one mile handicap last start. Has absolutely no weight and is drawn well for jockey Michelle Payne who rode her to victory last week. Was well beaten over this distance in the Oaks last season, although she is definitely better on firm ground. She needs a dry track and if it’s wet I doubt even Bart would be able to make lightning strike twice in a week. 

Emergencies

BAUGHURST – Honest type who’s best distance may be over 2000. From a bad barrier draw even if he gets a run is going to be up against it. His best chance may be to miss this race and win Race 7 on the card which he won last year.

SHOCKING – The best roughie in the race although it is highly unlikely he will get a run. Huge run when finished second in the Queensland Derby in his first preparation. Ran a great second behind a potential staying star in Alcopop last week in the Herbert Power where he easily accounted for the rest of the field. Handles all conditions and the barrier is of little concern as he gets well back anyway.

NEWPORT – Very unlikely to get a run and can’t run a place even if he does.

MISS DARCEY – Won’t get a run but if miracles happen and she did she is no chance anyway.

SUMMARY AND SELECTIONS

I don’t expect there to be great speed in the race with Zavite probably leading from Light Vision and Vigor. Allez Wonder, Roman Emperor, Kirklees and Red Ruler should all settle just off the pace with Cima de Triomphe, Sarrera, Predatory Pricer and Harris Tweed midfield. The other runners will all get well back in the race.

I expect Kirklees, Predatory Pricer and Cima de Triomphe to all get the better of the leading bunch in the straight with Viewed and C’est La Guerre finishing hard from the rear of the field. For mine Cima de Triomphe goes on top with great form, barrier, jockey and trainer. Predatory Pricer is the main threat as long as it’s a good/dead track. C’est La Guerre is the best value runner in the race with Kirklees and Viewed the next best.

  1. CIMA DE TRIOMPHE
  2. PREDATORY PRICER (Depending on track being rated good/dead)
  3. C’EST LA GEURRE

 

For more details about the Caulfield Cup program, including details of how to get to the track, go to the Melbourne Racing Club site.

Ben Asgari is a first-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe, and upstart’s racing writer. His recently published guide to the Melbourne Spring Carnival can be found here.