Star colt Helmet has taken over as favourite for the Cox Plate after he poured on the pressure and held off the gallant Manawanui in the Group One $1 million Caulfield Guineas.
The Sheikh Mohammed-owned and Peter Snowden-trained son of Exceed And Excel broke the race record, running a brilliant 1:35.36 for the 1600m to beat the old mark held by 2002 winner Helenus by 0.07 seconds.
Brilliantly ridden by Kerrin McEvoy, Helmet ($2.20 fav) settled second in the early stages behind Manawanui ($6) but, as McEvoy said, the pace wasn’t fast enough for his mount so he sped to the front.
The handsome chestnut was challenged by the Ron Leemon-trained Manawanui in the straight but he couldn’t peg him back and went down by a half-neck with Huegill ($31) 3-3/4 lengths away third.
“We were happy to take the chance to get them to run us down. You know this fellow has got great ability as we’ve seen,” McEvoy said.
“He loves this way of going. He’s getting better and better all the time.”
Snowden said Helmet put the writing on the wall to lead when he won so easily in the Guineas Prelude.
Helmet set up Saturday’s win with an impressive victory in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude (1400m) in brilliant time to emulate Anacheeva (2010), Wonderful World (2006) and Alfa (1996) who all achieved that double.
“He’s got a good turn of foot. He’s a very strong colt who just does it so easily and when he dictates races he’s always going to be hard to beat,” Snowden said.
Snowden said the Cox Plate had always been factored in but he had to talk to his team.
“We have to keep in mind his residual value and what it means to get beat or win the Cox Plate so we have to take that on board. We’ll have a talk,” the trainer said.
Helmet is now $3.50 favourite for the $3 million Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 22 following his scintillating victory in the Guineas which is a renowned sire-making race.
“It’s tremendous to win this. We are a breeding and racing operation and to get colts of the calibre of this bloke and Sepoy (both now three-time Group One winners) carries the whole place and I feel privileged to have such great horses in my stable,” Snowden said.
“These colts are going to be good stallions later on.”
The sometimes wayward Helmet, who was third at his two runs this preparation in Sydney including the Group One Golden Rose, did some jumping to help turn him around before coming to Melbourne.
“He’s just been a completely different horse altogether,” Snowden said.
Helmet will try to become the first three-year-old since Red Anchor (1984) to complete the Caulfield Guineas-Cox Plate (2040m) double.
Only four three-year-olds have achieved that feat, the others being the filly Surround (1976), Rajah Sahib (1968) and Star Affair (1965).
Jockey Glyn Schofield said Manawanui ran a fantastic race and showed his Golden Rose victory was no flash in the pan.
Smart Missile, the second pick in the betting at $3.60, finished a disappointing fifth of the eight runners.
The club’s veterinary surgeon reported that the colt had pulled up distressed and needed to to be cleared with a veterinary certificate before he raced again.