Saturday’s G1 Caulfield Cup brings together a cosmopolitan line-up of high class middle distance performers with two of the visitors, New Zealand’s Mongolian Khan and Japan’s Fame Game high in the market order after yesterday’s barrier draw for the 2400 metres Handicap.
Dual Derby winner Mongolian Khan, trained by Murray Baker is the favourite for the race after drawing barrier nine and following his excellent lead-up third in last Saturday’s G1 Caulfield Stakes. Mongolian Khan will jump from gate 6 if the reserve runners do not gain a start.
Fame Game, runner-up to Gold Ship in May’s G1 Tenno Sho Spring and to be ridden by Zac Purton for trainer Yoshitada Munakata, is equal third pick after drawing barrier one.
Last year, of course, the Caulfield Cup went to Japan’s Admire Rakti who carried the same weight and Purton. However, the Hong Kong based jockey is a little less bullish about his prospects this time around.
“When I went and galloped Admire Rakti last year, I got off him and immediately thought he was a real chance to win the Caulfield Cup, that's how well he worked,” Purton said. “He was sharp around the turns, handled the track well and gave me a really good feel.”
“Fame Game also gave me a really good feel but he didn't handle the corners as well and he has a bit more of a stayer's stride on him. He needs to go through his gears that little bit more. I think Caulfield is going to test him, and Flemington will suit him a bit more,” Purton said after flying in to ride the horse in work on Monday morning at Werribee.
This year’s Cup includes Mongolian Khan and Volkstok’n’barrell from New Zealand; Fame Game and Hokko Brave from Japan; Snow Sky, Trip To Paris and Quest For More (the first reserve) from the UK. Last year’s German bred and trained Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist is also there but he’s now trained locally by Kris Lees.
As usual, there were the familiar laments post barrier draw - from the connections of those drawn wide - but the reality is that four of the past six Cup winners came from double figure draws including Dunaden (18) and Descarado (15).
The best fancied of the Australian trained runners are Godolphin’s Hauraki - runner-up to Mongolian Khan in the G1 ATC Derby - and last year’s G1 VRC Oaks winner Set Square. Set Square is weighted to get her chance with just 112lb. She’s prepared by Ciaron Maher, a rising star among the training ranks, and will be ridden by Kerrin McEvoy who won the race in 2008 on Godolphin’s All The Good.
“She’s in great order and she’s the best chance I’ve had so far in the race,” Maher said of the four-year-old Set Square.
Chad Schofield, like Purton, flies in from Hong Kong and he takes the ride on the one other four-year-old mare in the race, last season’s G1 ATC Oaks winner Gust Of Wind. Trainer John Sargent expects her to run well despite a lack lustre gallop on Tuesday morning. “She didn't have her blinkers on for that work and she is a lazy trackworker,” Sargent said. “She will be ready on Saturday with her blinkers on and will run a huge race.”
The Caulfield Cup spoils have been evenly split in recent years. The visitors All The Good (2008), Dunaden (2012) and Admire Rakti (2014) have won - each without a lead up run in Australia - while four locally trained horses have won since 2008 when All The Good broke a ten year drought for the internationals.
As a result of a change of race order, The Hong Kong Jockey Club will simulcast the Moonga Stakes (G3 1400m) and the Tristarc Stakes (G2 1400m) on 17 October instead of the David Jones Cup and the Caulfield Sprint as announced earlier. Starting time of the first race on Caulfield Cup Day remains the same at 1:20pm.