While the Caulfield Guineas is the headline race this weekend, most eyes will be on the Yalumba Stakes (2000m) as this will be the final lead up for horses heading to the Caulfield Cup and the Cox Plate.
Past winners of the Yalumba Stakes include Whobegotyou, Maldivian, El Segundo, Mummify, Lonhro, Northerly, Sky Heights and Might and Power.
Further back, legends like Bonecrusher, Kingston Town, Gunsynd, Redcraze, Rising Fast, Bernborough, Tranquil Star, Ajax, Manfred, Heroic, Eurythmic and Wakeful have won the race.
This yearâ€™s rendition promises to be one of the most exciting since Lonhro defeated Sunline in 2002.
Just Horse Racing writer Andrew Hawkins gives an in depth analysis of the six runners.
1.Â Master Oâ€™Reilly â€“ 2007 Caulfield Cup winner who is having his final run before the 2010 edition here. Heâ€™s been disappointing in his two runs this time in. It has been almost 3 years since he has won. Heâ€™s never won third up. He was in better form when he could only manage 4th to Whobegotyou in this race last year. Thereâ€™s no pace whatsoever. If that isnâ€™t enough reasons not to touch him, then go right ahead and back him. Heâ€™ll be the upset of the century if he wins here. Cannot win.
2. Whobegotyou â€“ probably Australiaâ€™s best miler, despite the fact that he hasnâ€™t been overly tested at the distance in recent times. Heâ€™s had a good preparation so far, including a 2nd to So You Think first up and a dominant win against Typhoon Tracy, Shoot Out and Zipping in the Dato Tan Chin Nam. That form was franked in the Turnbull Stakes last weekend. There has been much conjecture about his best distance. I believe he is a 1600m horse. His two wins at 2000m have big question marks on it. Last year in the Yalumba, he beat Heart of Dreams (not a 2000m horse), Vision and Power (out of form) and Master Oâ€™Reilly (stayer). He beat them narrowly. And in the AAMI Vase in 2008, he beat last weekendâ€™s Murtoa Cup winner Buffett and the enigmatic Orca. To me, if they kept him at a mile, heâ€™d win nearly every time. But against a classy type in So You Think, who flogged him in the Cox Plate last year, I donâ€™t think he can win. Running for second.
3. Red Ruler â€“ Kiwi who is yet to win over here from 14 starts, the closest he came was 2nd in the AJC Derby to Nom Du Jeu in 2008. He seems to struggle to measure up, and definitely wonâ€™t measure up in WFA class. All youâ€™d want to see is a good run to show he is on track for the Caulfield Cup (in which he ran last a year ago). Despite a promising Underwood run, I think he can be safely risked. No.
4. Empires Choice â€“ probably one of the most interesting horses to have raced in Australia in the last five years. Ran 5th in the 2006 Golden Slipper behind Miss Finland, ran 2nd in the Golden Rose to Court Command, then struggled to win maidens before improving just in time to impressively win a Rough Habit Plate and a Queensland Derby. Injured upon his return after the QLD Derby, and was retired. But Bart decided he deserved another crack, and so set him for an ambitious target â€“ the 2009 Stradbroke. 2nd up after more than a year off, he ran a creditable 9th. Then he injured himself again so Bart decided to send him to stud. But council approvals at Dato Tan Chin Namâ€™s Think Big Stud prevented him from standing as a sire, so Bart put him in a paddock. He thrived, and Bart decided to give him one more campaign. It has been very interesting â€“ there was no point to any of the above except to highlight how interesting he has been (and to demonstrate that yes, I do have a soft spot for him). He returned with a strong 7th in the Theo Marks before an incredible 3rd at WFA in the George Main Stakes behind More Joyous. He probably canâ€™t beat his youthful stablemate, but he is going very well and a strong run is to be expected.
5. Â Alcopop â€“ last yearâ€™s Melbourne Cup favourite who has only just started to show some of the form that saw him so heavily backed last year. Was 5th in the JRA Cup last start. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™d be backing Linton, Moudre or Precedence to back So You Think at WFA. Iâ€™d find it hard to entertain him here, but I wouldnâ€™t be surprised to see him produce a good Caulfield Cup trial. Rough place.
6. So You Think â€“ the horse I believe will in time be considered one of the all time greats. Yes, I am biased. Without wanting to sound biased, I backed the horse very early for the Cox Plate last year, and he pretty much has funded my entire year since. He is a stunning horse, and although he still does so many things wrong, he flogs the opposition on raw ability. And when it is so effortless, as it was in the Underwood Stakes, you just wonder â€“ how far can this horse go? I think he could have won the Prix de lâ€™Arc de Triomphe last weekend, but as I said before, Iâ€™m biased. The question is, does he win this weekend? No pace should suit, the step up to 2000m now should suit – I think the REAL question is, how far? My guess is two and a half lengths, he could win by more but I think that Bart will want him to be kept very safe with one hand on the Cox Plate and possibly another on the Melbourne Cup. Great horse, and just wins.
VERDICT â€“ So You Think is the monarch in waiting, with his coronation just two weeks away. Or perhaps it is just under four weeks away in the Melbourne Cup, with a sneak preview in the Cox Plate. I canâ€™t see him being beaten. I think Bart can quinella the race, with Empires Choice in to run second. His run was super in the George Main, and he just needs to reproduce that to run a bold race. Whobegotyou has to go in for third, I just think that he is going to get a much tougher test here than he has had at any of his 2000m wins to date. And I expect Alcopop to produce a good Cups trial, but I doubt he could win.
6 â€“ 4 â€“ 2 â€“ 5
Written by Andrew Hawkins