Melbourne Cup carnival hots up at Caulfield

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Alastair Bull

October 12th, 2017

The Melbourne Cup carnival hots up this weekend with Caulfield Stakes (G1) day Oct. 14 at Caulfield racetrack, including three races that will be important guides to the big races to come.

The 1-1/4 mile Caulfield Stakes (G1), run at weight for-age conditions, is often a good guide to the Cox Plate (G1) over the same distance at Moonee Valley. But with Winx likely to scare off most of the top horses in the Cox Plate, it may not be such a good guide this year.

What it is likely to be is a guide to the $A3 million Caulfield Cup (G1) over 1 ½-miles Oct. 21, with some of the leading fancies are having their final warm-up in the Caulfield Stakes.

New Zealand trainer Murray Baker holds a strong hand with the favorite Bonneval and third favorite Jon Snow.

Winner of her last six, Bonneval is a proven 1 ½ mile stayer, having taken out the Australian Oaks (G1), and this term she’s won the 1-mile Feehan Stakes (G2) and the 1 1/8-mile Underwood Stakes (G1).

In the latter she beat Hartnell, who has been Winx’s shadow for much of the last year. Like Bonneval he’s still a Caulfield Cup contender, and he should be improving.

Jon Snow is a little more dour than his stablemate, but he won the JRA Cup (G3) at his last start. He should run well but is likely to be better over more ground in the Caulfield Cup.

There is another trainer with two runners – Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien. Johannes Vermeer and Taj Mahal – renamed The Taj Mahal in Australia – make their Australian debuts. The latter, who finished second in the Secretariat Stakes (G1) at Arlington Park and fifth in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) looks the best of them. Also from Ireland is Willie Mullins’ Riven Light.

The 1 ½-mile Herbert Power Stakes (G2) was once a good Caulfield Cup guide, but these days it’s a better prep for the 2-mile Melbourne Cup Nov. 7. Like most staying races in Australia, it’s dominated by European imports – seven of the 11 runners were bred in Europe, and two are trained there: Wall of Fire and Kidmenever.

Three of the imports are trained by Robert Hickmott for ownership teams including five-time Melbourne Cup winner Lloyd Williams. Foundry won the Metropolitan Stakes (G1) at his previous start, but he could have trouble against stablemate Aloft, third to another Williams-Hickmott horse, 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin, upon resuming last month.

The other major race at Caulfield is the one mile Toorak Handicap (G1), in which Winx’s trainer Chris Waller has the two favorites, the dual grade one winner Egg Tart and the Epsom Handicap runner-up Tom Melbourne.