The Group 1 Stella Artois Caulfield Cup is the first of the three major races during the Melbourne Spring Carnival. The $5million 2400m event is Race 8 at Caulfield on the weekend and has a full field of 18 runners plus two emergencies. We have a full runner-by-runner analysis of the race below!
Godolphin trainer Saeed Bin Suroor’s sole runner in the race. He won the race in 2008 with roughie All The Good and trained Benbatl to a first up victory last weekend in the Caulfield Stakes. This horse has had three starts for three wins this preparation, including two at Group 1 level, and all three have been over this distance. He’s now won five races at 2400m and eight in total from 21 career starts. He’ll start from barrier 15 if the two emergencies don’t gain a run and we’re likely to see him roll forward to sit handy to the speed. Regular rider Pat Cosgrave takes the ride after piloting Benbatl last weekend. Best Solution carries top weight of 57.5kg but four of the past ten winners have carried over 55kg to victory, including Admire Rakti who carried top weight in his 2014 victory. If he finds a position without being posted wide, he’s a big chance.
Aiden O’Brien’s only runner in the race to be ridden by Hugh Bowman. He ran an eye-catching race when finishing 4th behind Benbatl in the Caulfield Stakes last weekend and comes into this on the quick back-up. His second up record stands at three starts for two wins and a 2nd placing, so he looks certain to improve off that run. He’s had three starts at the distance for two minor placings, one of which was in the 2017 Epsom Derby, where he finished ahead of Cracksman. I question whether he’s quite an elite-level Group 1 horse (he’s had 10 starts at G1 level for just three minor placings) but he really does get things to suit here. I wrote last week regarding Yucatan that you can never underestimate this stable and Yucatan showed exactly why. Barrier 3 is ideal, but there has to be huge questions over Hugh Bowman’s form at the moment, especially from an inside barrier. Winx is very much on the horizon and he’s shown he’s not prepared to take many risks that might put him in danger of missing the Cox Plate.
Japanese runner who has his first run since May here. His first up record officially stands at four starts for just two minor placings, but he’s run very well on a number of occasions when he’s been freshened up. He’s had three starts at the distance for two wins and has a 2nd placing at Group 2 level over 2500m to his name. Two starts ago he was beaten 1.8L in the G1 Tenno Sho over 3200m so while he’s certainly not an A-grader (more like C-grader), the Japanese have proved in the past that their C-graders are good enough to be competitive here. A win wouldn’t shock.
Has been going fairly well this preparation, with a sound first up run in New Zealand followed by a strong performance in the Makybe Diva Stakes behind Grunt and Kings Will Dream. Last start he was beaten 4L by Winx – I tend not to pay too much attention to the form from the Winx races as it often just doesn’t work out how it should. To be competitive here, he’d need a wet track. He’s won just one race from 15 starts on Good ground, while he’s got three wins and a 2nd from five starts on wet ground. There is a chance of some rain falling on Saturday, but not enough to warrant him being considered a winning chance.
German import that comes into this first up for Australian-based trainer Mike Moroney. His biggest success was in a Group 2 over 3200m second up last preparation, but most recently ran 2nd to Best Solution in a Group 1 race over 2400m. He was beaten just 0.3L on that occasion and gets a 2kg weight swing on Best Solution for today’s race. While they are probably setting him for the Melbourne Cup, his first up record is three wins from four starts, including an easy victory (2.25L) over 2800m first up last prep. He’s more than capable of running a bottler here, just going to need some luck from barrier 14 (if emergencies don’t run).
Dual Group 1 winner that comes into this in very good shape after a 2L win in the G2 Hill Stakes (2000m) in Sydney last start. He’s had four runs back from a spell now and is ready for the step up to 2400m – his only start the distance to date was a nose defeat to Levendi in the Australian Derby back in April. He ticks plenty of boxes; he’s drawn favourably, gets firm ground and D Oliver on board. There’s a definite query over the form out of his last start – Egg Tart has done nothing to frank the form since – and whether he’s as good as some of the top line European-bred stayers in this race is a legitimate question.
THE TAJ MAHAL
Comes off a tough win in the G3 JRA Cup at Moonee Valley but that form is questionable given he beat Gallic Chieftain, who was beaten 5L in the Herbert Power Stakes last weekend. His best piece of form in Australia was his dominant victory in the G2 Zipping Classic, where he defeated Almandin by 3.5L. That was his only start over this distance in Australia and that sort of form is solid enough for a race like this but it’s whether he’s capable of reproducing that sort of form. Ben Melham, who rode him to victory last start, jumps off to ride the stablemate Homesman, so James McDonald takes the ride. That’s a strong jockey booking but from barrier 19 it’s likely they’ll send him forward and ensure the race is run at a solid tempo.
7YO who comes off a win in Listed company over 2900m back in the UK, where he started $1.80. It’s been 12 months since he’s run in a race with more than eight runners in it and his best win stretches back to this time two years ago when he won a Group 3 over 2400m at Newbury. Since then he has put in respectable efforts behind the likes of Best Solution and Marmelo and he gets a 3kg weight swing on Best Solution for a 0.8L defeat two starts back. When he won the St Simon Stakes in a field of 16 two years ago, Duretto positioned right in the middle of the field, and from barrier 1 I’d probably expect a similar position for him today (possibly a pair or two closer). I’d be surprised to see him win this.
From the same stable as Red Cadeaux and Trip To Paris. Trip To Paris ran 2nd in this race last year and then 4th in the Melbourne Cup. Trainer Ed Dunlop seems to think Red Verdon has a bit more speed than Trip To Paris so with that in mind, he has to be rated as some sort of chance here. He’s yet to win beyond Listed grade but he has placed in Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 races. He’s had 13 starts at the distance and has finished in the top two on eight occasions. We can tie his form in to some other runners here – he finished ahead of The Cliffsofmoher three starts ago and then ran 2nd to Mirage Dancer. Mirage Dancer finished 2nd to Best Solution, so all of that is a tick for Best Solution in this race. Red Verdon has drawn beautifully in barrier 8 (if emergencies are scratched) and gets the blinkers applied for the first time in his career here, which tells me they’ll have him tuned up to rtry and win this. Champion HK-based jockey Zac Purton has picked up the ride for both Cups. Ticks plenty of boxes.
Has a decent record at this distance but isn’t going well enough to feature in such a deep race. His best form came this time last year when he was successful in the Geelong Cup and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Flemington, but in two campaigns since then he’s done very little. Also never placed from six runs at Caulfield.
Has mixed his form since arriving in Australia. He ran 2nd to Winx last year, ran a bottler in the Group 1 Australian Cup behind Harlem back in March and also went close in the Chairman’s Handicap over 2600m at Randwick in April, but is yet to break through for a win here. Each run this preparation has been meritorious and his last run was an eye-catcher behind Winx, but he’s now had five starts at Caulfield for zero placings. On form, it wouldn’t entirely shock you to see him go close in this but I can’t have him in such a deep race, especially after no wins from 15 starts in Australia.
Won the Caulfield Guineas last year but has yet to reproduce anything close to that. Michael Walker seems to think he’ll definitely run 2400m, but he’s yet to ever run beyond 2000m and nothing has given the impression that it’s going to see him improve anyway. Pass.
Broke through for Group 1 success two starts ago in the Underwood Stakes over 1800m here, but that really did look a very suitable race for him. He went on to tackle the Caulfield Stakes last start where he led and was comfortably beaten by Benbatl. Steps up to 2400m now but his only previous attempt at the distance was a failure and that was on the back of a G3 win over 2000m, so it’s hard to be confident he’ll run the trip out, even though he broke his maiden over 2200m back in Ireland. Drawn very nicely so expect him to go forward and the handicap conditions suit him better as he drops 6kg, but I struggle to see him winning this.
KINGS WILL DREAM
Looks primed. Everything he’s done this preparation has indicated to me that the stable has just been ticking him along to have him ready to peak for this. After all, it has been his Grand Final for seven months now. He’s had four runs under weight-for-age conditions this prep and finally drops to handicap conditions now, where he will carry just 53kg. Probably couldn’t have drawn any better if they tried – he’ll start from barrier 5 if emergencies are scratched – and now gets up to 2400m. His only start at the distance was his 5L success in the Mornington Cup last preparation. Given the strength of the international brigade, I think he’s short enough at $5.50, but he really does have everything to suit him here and I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t fighting out the finish.
The second of the Japanese runners, who was last seen running 5th (beaten 1.85L) in a Group 2 over 2500m back in May. His best performance to date was a runner-up finish in Group 2 company over 2500m this time last year and you can tie him into Australian form with his 3rd placing to Fame Game over 3400m in February of this year. While he’s run well first up in the past (he’s got four placings from six starts) he’s yet to win one and I would suggest he’s probably more suited in the Melbourne Cup, especially as he’s drawn barrier 20 here with the Japanese apprentice on board. Hard to make a case for him.
Slightly disappointing last start but truth be told, he was simply outclassed by a very good horse in Yucatan. He’ll improve with that 2400m run under his belt and he’s still only fourth up this prep, which is really when Weir stayers start to come into their best form, but his biggest win has been a Listed Warrnambool Cup, which is far below the level he needs to be at to be competitive in this. Draws well and in with a light weight but I struggle to see him troubling the better horses.
Winner of the Naturalism Stakes two starts ago but outclassed by Benbatl in the Caulfield Stakes last time out. He’ll strongly benefit from dropping to handicap conditions, which sees him carry 52.5kg rather than the 59kg of WFA conditions, but barrier 18 hurts him. His record at the track is very good with last start being his first defeat in four starts here, but he’s another that tackles 2400m for the first time in his career and I’d prefer to be on the classier, more proven horses.
Has come back in great order this prep and ran 2nd to Winx in the Turnbull Stakes last start, which has proven to be a terrific lead up race for the Caulfield Cup in years gone by. Another horse that tackles 2400m for the first time in her career but she at least has a victory over 2200m to her name as a three-year-old, which was also at Group 1 level. She would probably prefer if the track was somewhere in the Soft range, but that’s not to say she’s unsuited on Good surfaces (just look at last start). Barrier 9 is ideal and Kerrin McEvoy gets down to 51.5kg to ride her. I think she’s a great chance and I expect her to run a big race, but I have a few ahead of her.
Sticking with Kings Will Dream here, who hasn’t put a foot wrong all preparation on his way to this race. The best of the internationals might be the Aiden O’Brien runner THE CLIFFSOFMOHER, who draws perfectly and should improve significantly second up. Value to be found in the likes of Best Solution, Sound Check and Red Verdon.
1ST #14 KINGS WILL DREAM
2ND THE CLIFFSOFMOHER
3RD BEST SOLUTION
4TH #5 SOUND CHECK
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