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State of Play: Caulfield Cup (October 11)

October 11, 2012

It is incredible to think we are only nine days away from the 134th running of the Caulfield Cup, the world’s richest handicap over the classic distance of 2400m.

This year, the race is shaping up to be one of the strongest in recent years. There have been few dropouts high up in the ballot order and many horses come into the race in good form.

There is also a general sense that more horses are targeting the Caulfield Cup this year, as opposed to using it as a mere stepping stone to the Melbourne Cup.

As always, it is still impossible to predict the final make up of the field with a lot of water still to flow under the bridge.

The current top 18 in the order is as follows:

1. Southern Speed
2. Folding Gear
=3. Americain
=3. Dunaden
=5. Jakkalberry
=5. Winchester
=7. December Draw
=7. Voila Ici
=9. Lights of Heaven
=9. Secret Admirer
=11. Midas Touch
=11. Sanagas
=13. Glencadam Gold
=13. Niwot
=13. My Quest For Peace
=13. Seville
=13. Tac de Boistron
=13. Zabeelionaire

Of these, Midas Touch, Sanagas and Tac de Boistron are considered queries. The first two run in the Caulfield Stakes on Saturday with their performance to determine whether they press ahead next week, while Mick Kent is still weighing up the options for his import.

Just behind these in the order are Brigantin, Prairie Star and Sneak A Peek. Both Brigantin and Prairie Star are considered unlikely, with Sneak A Peek to run if he gets into the field.

The next line down sees Alcopop, Ironstein, Moudre, Sabrage and Tanby. Alcopop, Ironstein and Sabrage all run on Saturday in an attempt to bolster their position, while Moudre is a likely acceptor if he can make the field. Last Saturday’s Bart Cummings winner Tanby heads to Geelong.

Importantly, the winners of the Toorak Handicap, the Caulfield Stakes and the Herbert Power Stakes get ballot exemption for the Caulfield Cup.

None of the Caulfield Cup third acceptors are in the Toorak Handicap.

The Caulfield Stakes sees Alcopop and Sabrage attempting to force their way into the Caulfield Cup, in addition to Midas Touch and Sanagas (as mentioned before).

A win by Alcopop or Sabrage (both currently equal 22nd) would see them gain exemption and a path straight into the Caulfield Cup. This would put pressure on those horses currently equal 13th in the order.

If Midas Touch or Sanagas were to win, it would not affect the order of entry at all.

Perhaps the most crucial race is the Herbert Power Stakes, with 12 of the 16 runners looking for a Caulfield Cup berth: Precedence, Gatewood, Ironstein, Shahwardi, Bianmick, Dance With Her, Excluded, Mr O’Ceirin, Silent Surround, Budai, Red Eye Special and Auld Burns.

The winner gets no penalty heading into the Caulfield Cup, hence why the Herbert Power winner is always so popular in the markets. If a horse like Gatewood was to win and back up in the Caulfield Cup, expect him to start single figures next Saturday.

However, it could also be interesting if Precedence finishes in the top 3. He has not passed the first elimination clause, but a top 3 finish on Saturday would see him pass. He would therefore join Brigantin, Prairie Star and Sneak A Peek in the order and could get a run anyway.

The other big query is Maluckyday. He has not passed the first ballot clause from limited opportunities over the last 15 months. Melbourne Racing Club officials have the power to push him through anyway, but it remains to be seen whether they will use their discretion to elevate him in the order.

As it stands, Maluckyday would be among the clump of horses at 5.5kg below the benchmark weight – that’s the group at equal 13th – if the committee decided to forego the first ballot clause.

Whatever happens over the next few days, it promises to be a fascinating countdown to a great edition of one of Australia’s greatest races.

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