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Grafton Cup a pointer to Melbourne Cup success?

July 14, 2011

I’ve been back at uni this week, so I haven’t had so much time to focus on racing!

That said, it has been interesting reading some of the comments from trainers who have runners in today’s Grafton Cup.

The likes of Chris Waller (The Verminator), Ben Ahrens (Spechenka) and Mark Riley (Gold in Dubai) believe that, with luck, their horses may become Cups horses – as in, Melbourne Cups and Caulfield Cups.

So how likely is that?

While the initial reaction may be to scoff, the Grafton Cup had a ten year gold patch where, nearly every year, it would produce a runner in the Melbourne Cup.

One winner, Kensei, even went on to win the Melbourne Cup (thanks to a perfect ride from Larry Olsen) in 1987.

My research tells me that the last Grafton Cup runner to go on to the Melbourne Cup in the same year was Sculptor in 2007 – ironically, he ran ninth in both races.

The closest since then was Hume, who ran second in the Grafton Cup in 2009 and then was just stranded outside the Melbourne Cup field after he ran second to subsequent Cup winner Shocking in the SAAB Quality.

The last Grafton winner to run in the Flemington feature in the same year was Pacific Dancer in 2004 – he hated any rain-affected surface and he finished a well beaten 21st.

While I doubt this year will be like 1994, where all three placegetters went on to the Melbourne Cup – Oppressor (1st at Grafton) finished 12th, Major Decision (2nd) finished 13th and Oompala (3rd) finished 3rd – don’t be surprised if a couple of these measure up in the spring.

Even as late as 2008/2009, a horse that ran fifth in the Grafton Cup managed to win the George Ryder Stakes/Doncaster Handicap double – that being Vision and Power.

So how will this year’s fancied runners go?

Well, if Gold in Dubai runs in a Melbourne Cup, I will feel like a fool.

I continually backed him over sprint distances, believing he was purely a sprinter. How wrong I was.

As for Spechenka, he is the Randwick 2400m track record holder.

Obviously, on his day, he is one serious stayer.

Of all three, I reckon he may be the one who could measure up.

Interestingly, Chris Waller has said The Verminator is his stable’s best Melbourne Cup chance.

Considering the number of imports he has, that is a surprising statement.

I’m not sure how they will go, but don’t ever underestimate the Grafton Cup as a form race for bigger and better Cups down the track.

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