Ciaron Maher says Incentivise is the horse to beat in the Caulfield Cup despite the long-time favourite for the Group 1 race drawing the extreme outside barrier.
Maher, who trains in partnership with David Eustace, will start Explosive Jack and Persan in Saturday’s race that carries prize money of $5 million at Caulfield.
Incentivise, who is unbeaten in two runs for Peter Moody, has been favourite for the 2021 Caulfield Cup from the time entries were taken in August.
The former Queensland-trained galloper will be shooting for his ninth straight win after winning six on the trot for former trainer Steve Tregea before arriving in Melbourne.
“It looks his race doesn’t it,” Maher said.
“He can sit on the speed and bowl around Caulfield and horses like that, they’re hard to catch when up on speed here most of the time.
“And he’s the best credentialled horse for the race.”
Verry Elleegant completed the Turnbull Stakes – Caulfield Cup double last year.
Incentivise however will have to overcome the widest barrier in the 20-horse field with TAB easing him out to $2.40 following Wednesday’s draw.
Drawn next to him is Delphi, the second favourite at $7, while Young Werther and Nonconformist share the next line at $11 after drawing eight and 16 respectively.
Explosive Jack, barrier 1 and a $15 chance and Persan, gate 11 and at $31, have enjoyed trouble free preparations and Maher said the pair would not be troubled by a wet track on Saturday.
Anywhere up to 60mm of rain has been predicted at Caulfield on Saturday.
“Explosive Jack loves it wet and Persan doesn’t mind it either,” Maher said.
“They’ve both had a smooth prep, a different one.
“They did their last piece of work on Saturday, they galloped well, had a good hit-out and will have a roll around tomorrow and are pretty right to go.”
Grahame Begg, the trainer of Nonconformist, said the gelding had “ticked all the boxes” in his preparation for Saturday’s race, but does not want the track too wet.
“He handles the ground OK, but I don’t want it too wet,” Begg said.
“But I’d rather be going onto a wet track with 51.5kg than with a bigger weight.”