December Draw held his place as Caulfield Cup favourite and moved to equal favouritism for the Melbourne Cup with a hard fought win in the Group One Turnbull Stakes at Flemington.
The European import has had six starts for trainer Mark Kavanagh for five wins, four of them on his home track of Flemington, and a second at Moonee Valley.
The six-year-old gelding stepped up to Group One level for the first time in the Turnbull and proved equal to the task in the 2000m set weights plus penalties feature.
Ridden by Michael Rodd, the $2.15 favourite settled off race leader Glass Harmonium ($8) and when Extra Zero went around him at the 1000m he enjoyed a nice trail.
December Draw wore down Glass Harmonium to score by a short-head with Playing God ($16) working home well to be two lengths away third.
While December Draw hasn’t raced beyond 2000m going into the 2400m Caulfield Cup, Kavanagh he gave every indication he would run it out strongly.
“Off a fast clip today he was a sitting shot really I thought, they went pretty strong but he held on good, he had the weight advantage,” Kavanagh said.
“That one will bring him right on. It was a pretty tough run.
“He’s only just starting to come right now so it’s just keeping him right, that’s what we have got to do.
Owners Richard Pegum and Gary Towzell were on hand to celebrate the victory which followed Pegum’s win with the Chris Waller-trained My Kingdom Of Fife in the Group Three Craven Plate at Randwick on Saturday.
“It looks like we’ve got a Caulfield Cup horse (December Draw) and a Cox Plate horse (My Kingdom Of Fife) and it looks like a Melbourne Cup horse (December Draw) as well,” said Sydney hedge fund manager Pegum.
December Draw is the $3 Caulfield Cup favourite with TAB Sportsbet and looks set to start the shortest price in the race since New Zealand galloper Suleiman ran third at $2.50 in 1975.
He firmed to $9 equal favourite with Lion Tamer for the Melbourne Cup.
“Kav (Kavanagh) has been saying I’ve been getting to the front too soon on him so I came into the straight and I sat up on him, thinking I had them really well covered because when you give him a squeeze he gives you four or five lengths really quickly,” Rodd said.
“But when I came around the turn he just completely switched off and I really had to wake him up, he knew he was going to be in for a fight.
“But it was like he lost his momentum and I had to get him going again.”
Rodd said the gelding would appreciate the pace a bigger field would generate in the Caulfield Cup and he would be more conservative as long as he could ride him.
Rodd is banking on Americain coming out of the Caulfield Cup, forcing weights to be raised to within his range.