Mark Kavanagh’s Caulfield Cup dream is a step closer after December Draw scored an empathic win in the Group Three Naturalism Stakes at Caulfield.
The six-year-old went in to the Naturalism as the Caulfield Cup favourite and TAB Sportsbet immediately slashed his price from $6.50 to $3.80 when Saturday’s victory over 2000 metres exempted him from the ballot.
Kavanagh has had no luck in the Cup but his fortunes appear to have turned with the imported galloper who was a reject from England and probably should be unbeaten in five Australian starts.
December Draw is not a robust horse and jockey Michael Rodd said he had to earn his Naturalism win by bullocking his way through traffic.
Kavanagh welcomed the win but admitted he was always on his guard looking for a reason why the gelding became an English cast-off.
“He was a discard and he was cheap so you are always looking for something that is not quite right but so far I haven’t found it,” Kavanagh said.
December Draw is, however, a quirky horse.
He will only get saddled when he is turned around backwards in his stall and he always likes to stop and get patted when he comes out of his box at the stables.
Such idiosyncrasies have not affected his race day performances which include three wins at Flemington and a neck second to Philda at Moonee Valley.
Kavanagh admitted it was a relief December Draw had made next month’s Caulfield Cup field adding that he thought no one would begrudge him success in the race.
In 2007 he had the race favourite Maldivian who was scratched at the start after he badly gashed his neck when he reared up in the barriers.
Stablemate Shocking was a leading contender for the 2009 Caulfield Cup but failed to make the field as an emergency before he won the Melbourne Cup.
December Draw has only 50kg in the Caulfield Cup but is liable for a weight penalty for his Naturalism win.
Kavanagh said December Draw’s Caulfield Cup lead up would be the Group One Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 2.
Rodd said he was impressed with how well December Draw settled off the speed and pushed his way through.
“At the 700 metres I wasn’t happy where I was behind Dream Pedlar who was going backwards, but when that horse shifted out under pressure I was able to get up the inside of him,” Rodd said.
“I reckon just pushing through around the turn took a bit out of him (December Draw).
“He’s not used to that, he’s always got to the front before the turn and had it pretty easy and today he had to earn it.”
Rodd eased December Draw down but said the horse didn’t have much left at the finish.
“There’s still plenty of improvement in him still,” Rodd said.
Lloyd Williams-owned At First Sight stormed home from near last to go down by a half length while Lucky Eighty Eight was 1-3/4 lengths away third.
December Draw joined Saturday’s Underwood Stakes winner Lion Tamer at the top of markets for the Melbourne Cup at $9 with TAB Sportsbet.