By Kristen Manning
Imported gallopers boast an excellent recent record in the BMW Caulfield Cup, Australia’s second biggest staying contest—a 2,400-meter group I handicap and a great stepping stone to the nation's most famed race, the Melbourne Cup (Aus-I).
In 1998 the Lady Herries-trained Taufan’s Melody won in controversial circumstances at a massive price, becoming the first British-bred horse to win this race. The race was controversial because jockey Ray Cochrane picked up a one-month ban and a £7,800 fine for careless riding. Then in 2006, Shadwell’s Saudi Arabian-bred Tawqeet—trained locally by David Hayes—was able to prevail, again at double figures, followed in 2008 by Godolphin’s Irish-bred All The Good, who took the prize at big odds.
This year’s Cup, to be run Oct. 15 and worth $2.5 million (Australian funds), may well be another for the imports although they have earned greater respect in the markets this time around with seven of the eight having already raced here.
Hot favourite, and all the more strongly fancied since drawing barrier 11, is December Draw, who has impressed Victoria race fans since his local debut in May.
“We are very happy with that (post), he can hopefully get a good position from there and stay out of trouble,” said trainer Mark Kavanagh.
A former United Kingdom galloper who won a couple of minor Northern Hemisphere stakes in 2010, December Draw has been one of those to really thrive down under. He’s been beaten only once in six starts on Australian soil—at his most recent outing an impressive taking of the group I Turnbull Stakes.
“He pulled up the best he ever has after that run,” Kavanagh enthused. “He has come ahead in leaps and bounds, and we could not be happier with him. He has had a faultless preparation.”
Also drawn well in barrier 3, fellow import Lucas Cranach has been the focus of much media attention with Anthony Freedman taking charge of the German galloper. Tickling the fancy of many is that retired champion trainer Lee Freedman, who is Anthony’s brother and the winner of four Caulfield Cups, is the talented 5-year-old’s groom. Lee Freedman handed the reins of the stable to Anthony back in August.
Big odds in early markets, Lucas Cranach has been the medium of steady support. Students of international form have become keener after the horse ran fifth in July’s Grosser Preis von Berlin Deutschland Preis (Ger-I) to winner Danedream, who raced away with the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I).
Another strongly fancied visitor is the Hong Kong star Mighty High, already a group I winner at the trip. The reaction from the George Moore stable to his inside barrier draw was all positive.
“He is a horse with good speed so the inside gate is an advantage,” said George Moore Jr.
The Caulfield Cup was one of the few features his famous grandfather, legendary jockey George Moore, did not win and so the family is keen for success and confident the son of Peintre Celebre is suited.
“He is just loving it in Australia,” Moore said, noting that Mighty High has performed admirably at his two Caulfield runs to date. “At home he tends to go off his tucker after a race, but here he puts his head straight into the bin.”
Other imports to take their place in the Caulfield Cup are the Luca Cumani-trained pair Drunken Sailor (a recent group III winner over the trip at Goodwood) and Manighar (a close up fifth last year and reportedly a more seasoned horse this time around), as well as the Brian Ellison-trained Saptapadi and the Robert Hickmott-trained/Lloyd Williams owned Green Moon, the tough last start winner of the group III Newcastle Cup.
And of special interest to American racing fans is the Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (gr. IT) winner Unusual Suspect now in the hands of respected Cranbourne trainer Michael Kent. At first wary of taking over the training of an 7-year-old veteran of 56 starts, Kent has been swayed by the horse’s good looks and the ability he has shown at track work. Unusual Suspect is a son of leading California sire Unusual Heat, out of New Zealand-bred Penpont, by Crested Wave.
Running a great race at his Australian debut—a close up fourth in the group II Dato’ Tan Chin Nam John F. Feehan Stakes at weight-for-age, Unusual Suspect unfortunately had a set back afterwards and was not at his best in last Sunday’s listed Tab Sportsbet Cranbourne Cup—finishing well back but with excuses, galloped on from behind early in the running.
Of the local contingent the most strongly fancied is Unusual Suspect’s stablemate, the Patinack Farm AJC Australian Oaks (Aus-I) heroine Absolutely. A daughter of champion stallion Redoute's Choice and owned by the breeder of superstar sprinter Black Caviar, she has improved at each run this preparation but does have the horror gate 22 to deal with.
A trainer with seven Caulfield Cups already on his mantle piece has to be respected, so Bart Cummings is one to watch. He will saddle Precedence, a slow-maturing son of Zabeel who at 6 should be at his peak. Meanwhile, last year’s winning trainer Gai Waterhouse will be represented by Australian Special Metals Brisbane Cup (Aus-II) winner Tullamore.
Visitors from other states add interest to the big race—Niwot from the strong New South Wales stables of John Hawkes, Dream Pedlar, the pride of Tasmania, whilst South Australian mare Southern Speed was very strong in the Turnbull Stakes and has drawn nicely in barrier 4.
As usual a tough and open affair, the Caulfield Cup attracts a full field every year—18 stayers to take their place with the connections of four emergencies keen for a late scratching. Whilst not a race of importance from a stud perspective, it is extremely popular with punters with good value always on offer, the differing form lines making it all the more fascinating.
$2.5 million Caulfield Cup (Aus-I, 2400m, Caulfield Racecourse, Oct. 15)
P.P., Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Weight (penalty)
1 Mighty High D. Beadman J. Moore 57 kg
2 Midnight Martini No rider M. Kavanagh 52.5 kg
3 Lucas Cranach C. Brown A. Freedman 56 kg
4 Southern Speed C. Williams Macdonald & Gluyas 52.5 kg
5 Manighar D. Oliver L. Cumani 56.5 kg
6 Saptapadi M. Zahra B. Ellison 54.5 kg (2 kg)
7 Unusual Suspect N. Rawiller M. Kent 56.5 kg
8 Lucky Eighty Eight No Rider Ellerton & Zahra 52.5 kg
9 Domesky B. Avdulla M. Kent 53 kg
10 Macedonian L. Nolen P. Moody 53 kg
11 December Draw M. Rodd M. Kavanagh 54.5 kg (2 kg)
12 Anudjawun C. Symons S. Dwyer 52.5 kg
13 Spechenka M. Walker B. Ahrens 53 kg
14 Hawk Island No Rider C. Waller 55.5 kg
15 Tullamore C. Newitt G. Waterhouse 54.5 kg (2 kg)
16 Shootoff K. McEvoy G. Rogerson 55 kg
17 Green Moon N. Hall R. Hickmott 53 kg (0.5 kg)
18 Drunken Sailor D. Dunn L. Cumani 56.5 kg
19 Dream Pedlar C. Symons T. Blacker 53.5 kg
20 Precedence S. Arnold B. Cummings 56 kg
21 Niwot D. Yendall M. Hawkes 53.5 kg
22 Absolutely B. Rawiller M. Kent 53 kg