The Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield is traditionally considered the start of the Melbourne spring carnival.
The race was first run in 1924 at Werribee racecourse, before it moved to Caulfield in 1948.
Some of the greats of the Australian turf are listed on the honour roll of winners, including Phar Lap, Ajax, Lord, Aquanita, Tobin Bronze, Rain Lover, Bonecrusher, Octagonal, Northerly and So You Think.
This year’s race looks to be a competitive renewal, with a number of horses heading towards the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate.
Among the runners is a Melbourne Cup winner, a Caulfield Cup winner, an Irish Derby runner up, two VRC Derby winners, an AJC Derby winner, two Australian Guineas winners, a VRC Oaks winner, an Australasian Oaks winner, a Kingston Town Classic winner, a Moonee Valley Cup winner and a VRC St Leger winner.
Just Horse Racing’s Andrew Hawkins has looked at each runner individually and compiled this preview for our readers:
1. EFFICIENT (8)
A grand old horse making a return to the track. He is a last start Group 1 winner – but that last run was in the 2009 Turnbull Stakes. I think, at his best, he has the potential to win a Cox Plate, even at eight years old. Can’t back him, but I’ll cheer him home.
2. MASTER O’REILLY (1)
3. HEART OF DREAMS (14)
If he’s going to win a race this spring, it will be this race. Won over the course and distance in the autumn. But I can’t get the nagging thought out of my mind, he tends to find one better every time. Barrier makes it harder. Place chance at best for mine.
4. MALUCKYDAY (9)
5. MIDAS TOUCH (2)
I really like this horse. He has improved greatly with every run and will appreciate the 1800m. I don’t know if he’ll be able to match the likes of Glass Harmonium but I have him in the mix. I can’t wait until he gets out over even further though! Still, there is no doubt he can win today.
6. PRECEDENCE (10)
The blinkers go back on Precedence here. It was at this trip he began to find his feet last spring, and his 1800m stats are good. Think he’ll be better third up but keep an eye on him. Possibly a place.
7. GLASS HARMONIUM (12)
This horse has been so honest – he’s yet to miss a place in Australia. First up run was outstanding. Will race near the pace which I think will be an advantage. Stepping up in trip will suit too. Top pick.
8. LION TAMER (6)
Is it just me or is this horse – a VRC Derby winner no less – underrated? Ran very similar to Scarlett Lady in the Makfi, finished in front of her, and yet he’s three times the price. Go figure. Has the ability to sit handy, which could suit. Winning hope.
9. PLAYING GOD (15)
10. RIGHT OF REFUSAL (11)
I have a soft spot for this horse, I don’t know why. I doubt he’ll win today, although his closing sectionals first up were outstanding. I think he is a live Cups chance though. And if there is to be a fly in the ointment, it could be this bloke. Probably a rough place chance at best but bears close watching at 150-1.
11. SHAMROCKER (5)
12. BRAZILIAN PULSE (8)
13. SCARLETT LADY (7)
One of the best backed runners so far for this race. She returned with a pleasing seventh in the Makfi Challenge Stakes. Lion Tamer was fourth, yet is three times her price! I think she can win, but I do think she’ll be better next start over 2000m, hopefully at Flemington.
14. LIGHTS OF HEAVEN (3)
Odds on favourite in the Makybe Diva Stakes when she looked to be disappointing. Perhaps that was a little harsh though. Every horse is allowed one bad performance, and she wasn’t even that bad! Still, she needs to step up today. Definitely a chance at her best.
15. SOUTHERN SPEED (13)
I’m expecting the Makybe Diva Stakes form to prevail here. I have to go for GLASS HARMONIUM here. A lot of people were on the bandwagon quickly after the Brisbane winter carnival, dismissing the likes of Glass Harmonium and My Kingdom of Fife as potential spring horses. I think they are wrong. Glass Harmonium was outstanding first up and I think he almost should have won the Doomben Cup second up last preparation. He’s the horse to beat. LION TAMER is underrated by many, and dismissed as a wet tracker by almost everyone. I reckon he can dispel that myth today, and he’s the best each way bet in the race. MIDAS TOUCH was also outstanding in the Makybe Diva and will improve even further out to 2000m and 2400m. Likely to lead and may prove hard to catch. For fourth, go with PLAYING GOD, who is a Group 1 winner at the distance.
7 – GLASS HARMONIUM
8 – LION TAMER
5 – MIDAS TOUCH
9 – PLAYING GOD
Written by Andrew Hawkins