Caulfield Guineas Day was headlined by the Sunline-Lonhro contest which followed 45 minutes later, but the 122nd running of the $1 million (Australian funds) Guineas (Aust-I) also produced a grand contest, and one in which the runner-up also deserved to share the victory dais.
The result states Helissio colt Helenus was the winner, and a deserving one, by 1 1/2 lengths from Royal Academy's southern star Bel Esprit. Pacemaker Choisir was a brave third for Danehill, racking up his fourth group I minor placing from as many attempts. The 1,600 meters was covered in 1:35.43 -- the fastest edition by 17/100ths.
Bel Esprit was unlucky not to finish much closer. The 11-4 favorite's trouble began when he drew gate 15, one from the outside. Damien Oliver elected to ride the big colt back and they had only two behind them turning for home. Bel Esprit was then stopped in his tracks as another runner hung off the turn and had to weave to get into the clear. Once there he rocketed home but the result was cast.
It settled doubts that Bel Esprit could run a mile like his dad. Now they're talking Cox Plate (Aust-I). The $9,000 yearling leapt out of Royal Academy's sixth Australian crop and was instrumental in the Nijinsky horse's return to Australia after a three-year absence. The intervening southern seasons were spent at TNT Stud in Brazil.
Somewhat appropriately on the way to Caulfield, Helenus opened his graded account less than 48 hours before the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), a race his sire won six years ago. The Bill Stutt Stakes (Aust-II) , a 3-year-old contest at 1,600 meters of Moonee Valley is a distant cry from an Arc, but the colt was on his way.
Helissio, given that his accomplishments also include a pair of Prix's Saint-Cloud (Fr-I), received poor patronage from Widden in the two years he commuted from Shadai in 1998-9. His first Australian group I winner hails from a first foal crop of 43 from 46 mares, just 34 covers in 1999 resulting in 32 foals.
Helenus was a solidly supported second elect at 13-4 for the Guineas. Steven King settled him just beyond midfield and kept him 3-wide to stay out of trouble. Choisir kicked before the 200 meters, but Helenus reeled him in easily in deep stretch.
The second foal colt from Worldwide Elsie, a Java Gold half-sister to dual graded winner Noble Damsel ,was bred by Widden and offered at last year's Australian Easter sale. Purchaser at $80,000 was Leon Corstens, a trainer who learned his craft as stable foreman for Bart Cummings. Helenus is raced by Jos and Thecla Xipell. He now goes for the $1.25 million Victoria Derby (Aust-I) on Nov 3.