The formula to find the Caulfield Cup winner, at least on paper, looks straight-forward argues Steve.
A locally trained Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) winner is more than likely to have run in the Turnbull Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m). The past five Australian trained winners have done so. It might have run in the Group One lead-up at 2000 metres, the Caulfield Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m).
Alternatively the winner will be overseas trained and having its first run in Australia of the campaign. We’ve had three of those, of no fixed form-line, since 2008. Two winners and a further four placegetters, from this category, in the past five years virtually demands the inclusion of the international runners.
We had a deviation from the standard immediately before the first of those three ‘visiting’ winners, All The Good (Diesis) in 2008 with two Metropolitan winners and a Herbert Power (Gr 2, 2400m) winner completing the double. It was business as usual before that with 12 of the previous winners coming through either the Turnbull Stakes or Caulfield Stakes.
Contemporary history is always the most salient and the breakdown profile of the 18 horses to finish first three in the past six Caulfield Cups is this: six visitors; five four-year-old mares; six via the Turnbull Stakes and two through the Caulfield Stakes.
So, where does that leave us? Let’s begin with the internationals. For starters, if you’re playing trifectas, the recent history simply says the three visitors must be included even if Marmelo (Duke Of Marmalade) might be perceived as a Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) horse and even though Wicklow Brave (Beat Hollow) wouldn’t appear to be going well enough on recent form.
The Aidan O’Brien–trained Johannes Vermeer (Galileo) was outstanding in last week’s Caulfield Stakes and a repeat performance would, almost undoubtedly, see him win the Caulfield Cup. He’s on the quick back-up, unusually for an Irish–trained stayer and outside the usual international recipe, but that is the only possible query.
Jon Snow (Iffraaj), courtesy of his Caulfield Stakes form behind Johannes Vermeer could be entertained – especially if the track has softened – while the horse best placed to upset O’Brien’s favourite is, for me, Ventura Storm (Zoffany) who’s had the perfect preparation and has the requisite Turnbull Stakes lead-up. With 54 kilograms to carry he also profiles well given that only four ‘local’ winners, in the past 30 years, have carried more than 55 kilograms.
Lord Fandango (Lord Of England) was sound enough winning the Herbert Power last weekend but 37 winners of that race have contested the Cup in the past 50 years for just two wins.
The four-year-old mares, this year, are represented by the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Bonneval (Makfi) who’d have been challenging for favouritism had she finished a length or two closer last week in the Caulfield Stakes. Even so, she is unbeaten at the trip – on soft ground. Such ground now seems unlikely.
On a good rated track, I’m happy to bet principally with Ventura Storm and Johannes Vermeer with Marmelo the query runner. The best at odds are Inference (So You Think), Boom Time (Flying Spur) and Abbey Marie (Redoute’s Choice).
Yes, I said there’d be no more tips but I’m incorrigible. Take the box trifecta 2, 3, 7, 9, 13, 14.
Murray Baker, the man we now see as having the midas touch, had his first Caulfield Cup runner in 1989 and finished third with The Phantom (Noble Bijou).
The kiwi trainer now has 21 Group One wins on Australian soil but apparently was not always so blessed.
Newspapers reported this in the lead-up to The Phantom’s Caulfield Cup bid: “Baker has not had much luck with his horses on previous trips to Australia but all that could change today.” The Phantom was to have been his first Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) runner the year before but hurt his back a few days before the race and had to be scratched.
Baker’s next Caulfield Cup placing came with Nom Du Jeu (Montjeu), who ran second in 2008. And then Harris Tweed, another by Montjeu (Sadler’s Wells), was second in 2010 before Mongolian Khan (Holy Roman Emperor) won in 2015. (The Phantom was also placed in 1993 but he was not then trained by Baker).
David Hayes had his first Caulfield Cup runner the year after Baker’s debut and was second with Water Boatman (Main Reef). He was second again the next year with Ivory Way (Sir Ivor) and broke through with Fraar (Topsider) in 1993. His one other podium was Tawqeet’s (Kingmambo) victory in 2006. (Tony McEvoy trained Fields Of Omagh when second in 2002 and Donna Logan had Rising Romance when second in 2014).
Mick Kent’s most recent Caulfield Cup runner was Absolutely (Redoute’s Choice), 11th in 2011, and this year he saddles up her sister, Abbey Marie.
It would be some story if she were to win. Kent was left with her, after paying $300,000 at the Sydney Inglis Easter Sales, when she ‘went in the wind’ a couple of months after the sales.
He wore the debt with the support of Inglis before he could comfortably enlist some owners to race the troubled, if extremely well-bred, filly.
Throat surgery followed and several training preparations – some much less than encouraging – before he could, in all conscience, suggest that clients Peter Anastasiou, Greg Fagan, Craig Williams, John O’Rourke, Errol Campbell and Ken Biddick might like to get involved. Ownership was finalised just weeks before she won on debut in March 2016 and six weeks later she was an unbeaten Group One winner of the Australasian Oaks (2000m).
Everything seemed ‘roses’ but she then endured a life-threatening colic attack, midway through 2016, which ruled her out of spring competition that year. And most of the shareholdings were uninsured!
Archie Alexander might trump them all should he win with Lord Fandango and topple the likes of former employers Aidan O’Brien and Lloyd Williams. Alexander worked for Williams when Fawkner (Reset) won the Caulfield Cup in 2013.
He than had his first runner the following year, Renew (Dansili) but that was in name only as the horse was transferred to him in the week before the Cup. This one he has well and truly trained!