December Draw is set to start the shortest-priced Caulfield Cup favourite in 45 years after drawing barrier 11 in the $2.5 million feature.
Trainer Mark Kavanagh and jockey Michael Rodd had been hoping for a middle-range barrier and the $2.40 favourite will jump from gate nine of the 18 runners on Saturday with the scratching of the four emergencies.
The last horse to start shorter than the TAB Sportsbet quote about December Draw was Tobin Bronze who was sent out the 8-11 (between $1.70 and $1.75) favourite in 1966 when sixth to Galilee.
“We can use his speed to get across and not get trapped too much if there is a lot of outside gate speed, so I’m pretty happy with that,” Kavanagh said.
“He lands there and he has the chance to quicken from there and stay out of trouble so we’ll wait and see.
“He’s got plenty of courage. He’s not the biggest bloke there and you don’t see him pushing everything out of the way, but you can see him getting into a good position from there.”
The six-year-old gelding has been in great form in Australia since being purchased in England, winning five of his six starts up to 2000m including the Group One Turnbull Stakes at Flemington.
“You can’t fault his form, he’s improved every time and he showed last time that he can really fight when in a bit of a scrap so we’re looking forward to it,” Kavanagh said.
“He pulled up the best after the Turnbull. That really brought him on and he’s gone on in leaps and bounds since then.
“I couldn’t be happier. You try to keep a lid on it but it’s pretty exciting. He has improved with every run.”
The only query is that December Draw has not raced beyond 2000m going into the world’s richest 2400m handicap.
“I believe he’ll run it. We’ll have to wait and see,” Kavanagh said.
“But looking at it on paper I just believe he’ll run it.”
Hong Kong galloper Mighty High ($12) drew barrier one, a gate that hasn’t been successful in the Cup since Velocity in 1941.
But George Moore, son of trainer John Moore, said he was very happy with the draw.
“When you draw the inside barrier with a horse which leads and has good gate speed, it’s always a positive,” Moore said.
“He usually sits third or fourth in Hong Kong but I don’t think there’s too much speed in the race and from gate one he can really sit wherever he wants.”
The Anthony Freedman-trained German import Lucas Cranach ($7), whose racing pattern is to get back, drew barrier three while AJC Australian Oaks winner Absolutely ($11) drew the outside (22) and will jump from 18 if the emergencies come out.
Newcastle Cup winner Green Moon ($13) drew wide in 17 as did Brisbane Cup winner Tullamore ($15) in 15, while Southern Speed ($18) drew nicely in four.
The Luca Cumani-trained pair Drunken Sailor ($21) and Manighar ($26), who ran fifth in last year’s Caulfield Cup, drew 18 and five respectively while the Brian Ellison-trained Saptapadi drew well in six.