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Caulfield Cup preview 2018

All eyes on Caulfield this week for the first of the traditional spring features.The influx of international raiders isn't quite as deep as initially feared but it still complicates proceedings heavily. There's a strong hand from the locally-owned runners but the foreign trainers have finally twigged this is a race worth attacking on its own (amazing what $5m will do!).

On with my preview...

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Stella Artois Caulfield Cup
Group 1, AUD 5,000,000, 2400m
Caulfield 1640 local, 0640 BST



Best Solution: clearly the best horse in the race on the back of multiple European Group race wins. Stablemates arrived in great form, as displayed by Benbatl last week, so no concern about first-up in Australia. Concedes weight for narrow wins this season over Duretto and Sound Check but races in a style where he rarely does more than required to win. Drawn 15 after emergencies come out, likely to push forward, may get caught on a limb and then have to work up the hill to get in. Dream scenario is a fast early pace to stretch them out going into the first bend, then able to slot in. If drawn in closer, I'd mark him single figures.

The Cliffsofmoher: impressive last week in the Caulfield Stakes, flying home from back in the field to claim fourth, after a noted betting drift. One of the many Galileo progeny who sweat profusely in the parade ring, do not be concerned about it. Has form through Roaring Lion, Crystal Ocean and Poet's Word but has never threatened in those races either. Closely aligned to Johannes Vermeer last year which means massive chance. Gate three is a concern for a horse who drops out. Has Bowman to offset that.

Chestnut Coat: the Japanese runner who has been largely ignored with most of the attention on the European visitors. Came out of restricted grade to run second in the G2 Nikkei Sho (ahead of Tosen Basil and Sole Impact), followed by a fifth, beaten 1.8L, in the G1 Tenno Sho Spring behind top class stayers in Rainbow Line and Cheval Grand. First up since May but has been here for several weeks. Japanese runners have a fantastic record here, must be right in this.

Jon Snow: in the market last year when injured in running and only finished ninth. Long break to recover and now goes into this fourth up. Condition gave out in the Turnbull, should be at his peak. Drawn wide, goes forward to camp close to the pace. Switch to Damian Lane from Steve Baxter is a plus but his dry track record of one win from 15 is big worry. Big price, could run a place with luck.

Sound Check: new arrival to Australia, having previously been trained in Germany. Good strike of seven wins from 16 starts. Has form through Best Solution, drawn out wide with him. Bigger field and more genuine tempo may suit, based on recent form in small and larger fields. Chance but looking more for him in November.

Ace High: the big locally-bred hope. Won the Vic Derby last spring and was a lip away from the Sydney equivalent. Comes through the Hill Stakes which isn't usually a strong formline but he strode clear relishing the extra distance and has targeted this race. Ideal draw, sits midfield, every chance.

The Taj Mahal: one of the many Coolmore imports now under the Lloyd Williams brand. Drawn one in from the outside rail and almost certainly goes forward to lead/sit outside the leader. How soon he gets there depends on the traffic inside, jockey James McDonald showed last week he has no fears making a mid-race swoop or sitting three-wide if that suits the horse. Won the Zipping Classic last year at same distance, the concern here is the pace. In a capacity field it is mighty hard to control the tempo and have something left when it matters. If the pressure's on, I just don't see him having enough left to hang on. Scraped in to win the JRA Cup last time, big step up in class here.

Duretto: lightly-raced 6/7yo with handy strike rate. Close up against Best Solution at Newmarket mid year, and gets 3kg off that rival here, for 0.8L. Stable is keen but the inside gate is very awkward. There's no guarantee he'll see daylight until the contenders are off and gone. Ability-wise, he's right in it but needs the breaks.

Red Verdon: the smokey tip and sentimental tip of the week, having weight relief around the other imports and the same colours and owner as Red Cadeaux, the unluckiest horse in the Melbourne Cup in recent memory. His form is all in Group races on level weights, a couple of kilos relief plus the perfect gate puts him right in this, ridden by the reigning champion of Hong Kong, Zac Purton.

Vengeur Masque: finally gets his chance to run in one of the big Cups but there's a reason why he'd never gotten in before - simply ain't good enough (and yes, I would love to own a horse of this quality but run this race 100 times and he still doesn't win).

Ventura Storm: highly rated last season and it never quite went right for him. Now he's more acclimatised to the local conditions and seems to have found his level - just below this. Wind went past him last start, but let's face it, she'd have gone past any horse in the Turnbull running those sectionals. The Hayes camp have been known to pull shocks in this race (Fraar, Tawqeet, Boom Time) so don't rule him out completely from a decent draw.

Mighty Boss: won the Caulfield Guineas last year at 100/1 and will be a similar price here. Would need Steven Bradbury luck to win this, aka not a hope in hell.

Homesman: led and stopped last week in the Caulfield Stakes in a classy affair. That was his first try at the trip this campaign (third up) so does that mean he is fitter and ready for this now, or his chances are slim at the 2400? By War Front which puts me off at the distance. Won his maiden against very limited rivals over 2300m, but carried a stone (6.5kg for the millennials) more than the winner in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot, beaten under 5L over the mile and a half. 2.5kg "well in" meaning if the weights came out today, he'd carry 55.5 rather than 53kg, based on his G1 win in the Underwood. Will go forward but probably take a sit from ideal draw. When I started this preview, I wanted to oppose him. Now I've turned full circle and rate him close to the top.

Kings Will Dream: favourite for this race since demolishing the field in the Mornington Cup, a ballot-exempt race in March. This campaign has stepped up to Group class, beaten no further than 2.5L in his last three starts, all G1s. In the Turnbull, he settled closer to the pace than usual after drawing barrier one. Drops significantly in weight from WFA/SWP to handicap conditions, perfectly suited.

Sole Impact: Japanese visitor with form through Chestnut Coat and Tosen Basil. Just four wins from 39 starts, drawn the outside rail and usually goes forward. Ridden by an apprentice who is likely to be stuck five wide on the first bend. Down in the weights but needs plenty of luck to be competitive.

Gallic Chieftain: exciting for the owners that this horse got a run but Warrnambool Cup Winners don't win Caulfield Cups. Well beaten last week in the Herbert Power last week, not even Weir-magic can get this one home.

Night's Watch: another OTIS/Weir runner, but with a much stronger chance than Gallic Chieftain. Gained a run by winning the Naturalism, running on strongly from near last on the turn. Stepped up to WFA last time, finishing under a length behind The Cliffsofmoher. Now drops 7kg on that run (Cliffs drops 2.5kg in comparison), and has won his three other starts at Caulfield. Drawn 18 with likely pace all around. Expect him to drop out, sit wide with a trail and motor home, chance with the right luck.

Youngstar: only mare in the race, made her debut less than a year ago and is the least experienced with just 11 starts to her name. Terrific run last start to only be headed by the mighty Winx. Won the Qld Oaks then third in the Derby on wet tracks, but the Turnbull run was another level again. 4yo mares have always had a great record in this race...

EMERGENCIES

Patrick Erin: won the Metropolitan which is a poor excuse for a Group 1 staying race. Ran sixth in the Sydney Cup which puts him way back in this field.

Jaameh: lightweight hope from the stable with a knack of longshot winners in this big race. Would definitely throw in my exotics if he got a run.




SUMMARY


The race to the first bend will decide the fate of quite a few. The inside runners have to push forward to retain their positions or there could be a lot of shuffling back and likely interference. Last year's race was ruined by Sir Isaac Newton going hell for leather in front, hoping for a truly run race. Homesman to get the perfect sit and push through to take the prize. Exotics to be structured around the following order. 

Homesman
Chestnut Coat
Best Solution
Red Verdon
Kings Will Dream
Nights Watch
The Cliffsofmoher
Ace High

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