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The Caulfield Cup (2400m) this year may be below average but it is still the primary lead up to the Melbourne Cup.

Just Horse Racing’s Andrew Hawkins has compiled this preview for readers:

1. MIGHTY HIGH (1)

Trainer: John Moore
Jockey: Darren Beadman

Hong Kong galloper who won the Group 1 Champions and Chater Cup (2400m) in May this year. That day, he beat last year’s sixth placegetter Mr Medici narrowly. He has had two lead up races, when third to Extra Zero in a 1700m open handicap and fourth to Descarado in the Caulfield Stakes. He has raced like the 2400m will suit, and he has been the subject of good support this week – he is likely to start the second or third favourite. A bigger field should suit too. I’m just concerned about where he’ll end up from the barrier. Beadman is a top jockey, but his hand may be forced from the gate and he may have to sit on the speed to make sure he doesn’t face too much trouble. I’m also not sure of his class. Nevertheless, he’s one of a host of chances.

2. DRUNKEN SAILOR (14)

Trainer: Luca Cumani
Jockey: Dwayne Dunn

He was widely expected to win last year’s Geelong Cup, but punters invested in the wrong import, with Americain getting home. He also ran a poor race in the Queen’s Cup, otherwise known as the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, over the Melbourne Cup Carnival. There is no doubt, however, that he is a different horse this time around. He was barely a Listed class horse last year, whereas he has been competitive in Group 2 races this year. He won the Glorious Stakes during the Glorious Goodwood carnival, a race previously won by the likes of Mamool, Purple Moon and Illustrious Blue. The barrier makes it hard for him, and I think he’ll either have to be ridden upside down or he’ll find himself too far back. Also, I’m not sure he’s suited to Australian conditions. Not for me.

3. MANIGHAR (4)

Trainer: Luca Cumani
Jockey: Damien Oliver

English import who ran well without success last spring. Damien Oliver said he’d improve with a better track, and with a dead surface likely for today, he should get his chance. He was fifth last year in what was a considerably stronger Caulfield Cup, and his form this year has been similar to last year. However, he has been running over further – he has not run over a distance shorter than a mile and six furlongs (2800m) this year. But he has been racing in better company and acquitting himself very well. I reckon he’ll appreciate a strong 2400m, which he should get here. Couldn’t quite believe the price they were offering earlier this week, there is no way he is a 40/1 shot. He is now into a more reasonable quote, but I still believe he has a very good chance.

4. UNUSUAL SUSPECT (6)

Trainer: Michael Kent
Jockey: Nash Rawiller

An American Group 1 winner who has been targeted at our Cups since November last year. He was good first up in the Dato Tan Chin Nam, but he was a definite flop in last week’s Cranbourne Cup. Things didn’t quite go right for him, however, and the bigger field should suit. Has drawn nicely and should race further forward than last week. If there’s any pace in the race, he’ll be suited. Probably hard to see him winning, but I expect him to run a nice race as he heads to the Melbourne Cup. Place chance.

5. LUCAS CRANACH (2)

Trainer: Anthony Freedman
Jockey: Corey Brown

Highly touted German import who is without a doubt the most intriguing runner in this year’s Cup. There’s been a lot written about him, so I thought I’d look at the facts. He’s lightly raced, but has shown plenty of promise. His sectional times are outstanding, he has raced at the tail in slowly run races and picked them up in a couple of strides. This was most evident two starts ago in a German Group 2. You wouldn’t see many easier wins. He then carried 6.5kg more than Danedream in the Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Berlin (2400m), when she raced handy on a slow speed and demolished the field. Lucas Cranach finished 5.5L away in fifth after coming from last. Danedream won the Arc in incredible fashion, and So You Think finished further away! So the form stands up, no doubt. He’s had hoof issues this week, which may hinder him, and I think he’ll be much more suited at Flemington in the Melbourne Cup. Nevertheless he’s a chance. Don’t be surprised, however, if he is the runner with the “flashing light” on his head – there is one every year.

6. PRECEDENCE (16)

Trainer: Bart Cummings
Jockey: Steven Arnold

The formula of Bart with a Zabeel should equal spring success. Precedence had a good spring last year and has shown some good form since. His last run was rather disappointing, but Viewed did the same thing before he won the Caulfield Cup in 2009. I still reckon the Melbourne Cup is his likely target, but a victory today wouldn’t surprise. Cannot be overlooked.

7. HAWK ISLAND (10)

Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Glyn Schofield

One of Chris Waller’s imports, he was one of the cheapest buys for the stable. It is incredible to think that he is now lining up a live chance in the Caulfield Cup. I really liked his Metropolitan run, it showed he was ready to record a win shortly. His preparation has been perfectly prepared for this race. He has shown his best form on slow and heavy tracks, so it is a bit of a shame for connections that he is likely to strike a dead track today. Nevertheless, he looks like a live chance and must rate highly. Definite hope.

8. SHOOTOFF (12)

Trainer: Graeme Rogerson
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy

I don’t like this horse. I don’t know why, but he’s not a horse to whom I’ve ever warmed. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it pains me to say that he has a chance in an open Caulfield Cup. He had done absolutely nothing this preparation before a good second to My Kingdom of Fife last start. I reckon My Kingdom of Fife would be single figures here, so that automatically gives Shootoff a chance. He also has an interesting habit of holding his form once he hits it. I still think he’s a slight query at 2400m – he only just lasted to win the Queensland Derby. No substantive form is yet to emerge from that Derby, so he’s still a query for mine. He could win, but given my personal feelings about the horse I reckon he’s a rough place chance at best.

9. DECEMBER DRAW (9)

Trainer: Mark Kavanagh
Jockey: Michael Rodd

Set to run as the shortest priced favourite since Tobin Bronze in 1967. I guess that, in itself, is karma given Mark Kavanagh trained Maldivian. That horse, of course, was set to start at an even shorter quote than December Draw but was a scratching at the barrier after a controversial incident. He’s deserved his spot at the top of the market, without a doubt. He has won the Naturalism Stakes and the Turnbull Stakes at his last two starts. The big query is, will he run 2400m? And is he as good at Caulfield as he is at Flemington? I personally believe he may have an issue with the 2400m – his last two times at 2000m he has won convincingly enough but I’m not sure how much was left in the tank. He was my early Caulfield Cup tip, back in July and August, so I don’t know why I’m turning from him now. Nevertheless, I think he is a chance but he needs everything to go right. Too short for my liking. Can win but looking elsewhere.

10. SAPTAPADI (5)

Trainer: Brian Ellison
Jockey: Mark Zahra

British import with a poor strike rate but good form. I tipped him in the Herbert Power last week, and I thought he was disappointing at first. But having watched the race again, I’ve come to a few conclusions. The gate was no help – he had to go back, he was caught wide and consequently he didn’t settle well at all. It was a similar case to his last few starts, where he had drawn wide and was forced to cover ground, all the while not settling for his rider. From gate 5, there are no excuses. Surely he should settle well this week, with cover. For mine, he is the best roughie in the race and I think he’ll have benefited from last week’s run. At big odds, well worth an each way ticket.

11. TULLAMORE (11)

Trainer: Gai Waterhouse
Jockey: Craig Newitt

A typical Gai Waterhouse runner. He was outstanding first up, but slightly disappointing at his next two runs. I expect him to press on and lead, and I think that will allow him to have every opportunity. The question is, how good is he? Is he up to this class? If you look at his Brisbane Cup run, he beat Turnbull Stakes runner up Glass Harmonium by 1.3L and you’d say that should be good form for here. But I still think he’s not quite up to this class. Today will tell the tale, but I think he’s more a place chance at best.

12. ABSOLUTELY (18)

Trainer: Michael Kent
Jockey: Brad Rawiller

She’s won only one race in her career – but what a race to win. It was the AJC Oaks. That was on a bog track and she streeted away. Outside of that, her form has been very good without winning. She ran second to Lights of Heaven in the Australasian Oaks, Southern Speed was third. She’s also been quite good this preparation, despite a seemingly average formline. I think the outside barrier makes it hard, and I reckon she’d need it wet to be a genuine winning hope. But I think she can place.

13. DREAM PEDLAR (15)

Trainer: Troy Blacker
Jockey: Chris Symons

Tasmanian galloper who won the Bendigo Cup last year and the Devonport Cup earlier this year. Never raced beyond Group 3 level, but is a last start winner of the JRA Cup. It was a weak JRA Cup, however, and I doubt that form will stand up here. The barrier only makes it that much harder. Will give his trainer and owners a thrill but I’m happy to overlook.

14. NIWOT (17)

Trainer: Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes
Jockey: Dean Yendall

I reckon this horse has improved this preparation. He gives the impression of being a horse who is slowly reaching peak form and hsi last run was very nice. Probably can’t win the race, but he’s a nice place chance at big odds.

15. DOMESKY (7)

Trainer: Michael Kent
Jockey: Brenton Avdulla

A horse who has always promised a lot but never really delivered. He has shown absolutely nothing to suggest he’ll be any chance in this race. No.

16. GREEN MOON (13)

Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Nicholas Hall

Hasn’t raced since the Newcastle Cup four weeks ago, but the superlatives were flying after that performance. He was very, very wide heading out of the straight the first time, and then he pressed forward and led. How he won is beyond me. Now, this is a much tougher race, but I haven’t seen many more impressive Newcastle Cup wins. The fact that Lloyd Williams has decided this will be his sole Caulfield Cup runner is a good pointer to his chances. That said, this is a step up in grade and I’m not sure where he’ll get in the run. He’s a chance.

17. MACEDONIAN (8)

Trainer: Peter Moody
Jockey: Luke Nolen

One of the most dour horses in Australia. He’d be the perfect type for the 4350m race over the Royal Ascot carnival. I think I’d have him in my top four if this race was another lap, but given the distance, I think he’ll finish well back. Not for me.

18. SOUTHERN SPEED (3)

Trainer: Leon Macdonald and Andrew Gluyas
Jockey: Craig Williams

South Australian mare who burst on to the scene with her win in The Vanity over 1400m at Flemington in February. She was unbeaten until that point, but she hasn’t won a race since. However, she has been placed in the Australasian Oaks at Morphettville, as well as the Underwood Stakes. She has slowly worked into form this preparation and is peaking at the right time. Unlike many of her rivals, she is not entered for the Melbourne Cup and this may be her grand final. It is her first time at 2400m, but she has drawn perfectly and looks to get a beautiful run. Must come into calculations.

SUMMARY

What an open, open Caulfield Cup. As I articulated the other day, I still do think it is pretty weak. That said, having done the form, now I’m starting to feel like it is the Caulfield Cup now. As for my selections, I’ve put MANIGHAR on top. He was crazy odds when I started tipping him at the end of last week, with as much as 50-1 available. It was pretty clear then that there would be a lack of depth in this year’s edition, and for a horse that ran fifth last year in what was rather strong, that was ridiculous! He’s now into a much more reasonable quote and I think he can win. HAWK ISLAND I think may be the main danger. He is a tough horse and I think he’s racing in tremendous form. He’ll run well. SAPTAPADI is a stupid quote and will be much improved for his run last week, while SOUTHERN SPEED maps well and looks to get a good run. Next best Green Moon and Lucas Cranach.

NUMBERS

3 – MANIGHAR
7 – HAWK ISLAND
10 – SAPTAPADI
18 – SOUTHERN SPEED

 
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