A strong contingent of international runners are favoured to dominate Saturday’s G1 A$ 5 million Caulfield Cup (2400m), in Melbourne, which will be simulcast by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
At least six internationals, a mix of those overseas trained and those who’ve now joined local stables, will contest the track’s flagship race with the final field of 18 announced Wednesday afternoon.
From the UK – The York Ebor Handicap winner Mustajeer, the Great Voltigeur Stakes runner-up Constantinople and Glorious Stakes second Mirage Dancer will represent Australian stables. They’re joined by in-form Japanese galloper Mer De Glace, the Ed Dunlop trained York Silver Cup winner Red Verdon and Gold Mount who comes to Australia via Hong Kong and the UK.
Most attention in the build-up to the race has focused on Mer De Glace and Mustajeer – the two last start winners among that group of six – and each worked at the Caulfield track on Tuesday morning.
The Hisashi Shimizu-trained Mer De Glace arrives in Australia after five successive wins in Japan, the past three at Group 3 level with Australian jockey Damian Lane aboard in two of those victories. Lane rides the four-year-old son of 2012 QEII Cup winner Rulership on Saturday and partnered him on Tuesday morning.
“He profiles really well for a Caulfield Cup as he’s an up-and-coming horse,” Lane said, “I’d only ridden him on race day in Japan so it was the first time being on his back in trackwork but I’m excited and looking forward to Saturday. After the second time I won on him in Japan, that’s when I mentioned a Caulfield Cup might be a good aim for him.
“It’s good that it’s all come together and he’s here. He was just out there for a look and he did have a good look around which was good and he’s well.”
Trainer Kris Lees, who’s taken over the training of Ebor winner Mustajeer, was also keen for his charge to have a look at Caulfield on Tuesday morning.
“All’s well. Look it was his first fast piece of work around the track and he had a good look around. He turned up in really good condition and he’s a very fit horse. His fitness levels are high so it wasn’t about giving him a blow-out, just a bit of experience at the track. He did have a look around but Damien (Oliver) was quite happy with him.”
“Once he let him stride up the running, he looked to lengthen nicely. I’m looking forward to Saturday with him. I think 2400 metres suits where he’s at the moment but Caulfield can be tricky for horses who haven’t seen it. Flemington might be a better track for him but I think he will react very well at the mile and a half (2400 metres),” Lees said.
UK trainer Ian Williams reports that Gold Mount, a winner of three races in Hong Kong, is ready for Saturday’s assignment en-route to the Melbourne Cup in which he’ll be ridden by Frenchman Christophe Lemaire who steered Dunaden to victory in the race in 2011. Mark Du Plessis takes the ride this weekend.
“Gold Mount has been working very nicely and we’re happy he’ll get a place in the Caulfield Cup,” Williams said.
Red Verdon, owned by former HKJC Chairman the Hon Ronald Arculli, has also pleased in his preparation according to trainer Dunlop’s assistant Robin Trevor-Jones. “He’s done well. We’re just hoping for better luck than last year,” he said in reference to the horse having luckless runs in the Caulfield Cup and in the Hong Kong Vase.
Constantinople, trained by the Hong Kong bound David Hayes in partnership with his son Ben and nephew Tom Dabernig, completes the likely line-up of “visiting” runners. The stable won last Saturday’s Group 1 Caulfield Stakes with Cape Of Good Hope at his Australian debut.
Five overseas trained horses have won the Caulfield Cup. The first was Taufan’s Melody in 1998 who was followed by All The Good (2008), Dunaden (2012), Japan’s Admire Rakti in 2014 and Best Solution last year. No overseas visitor, first time out for an Australian trainer, has won the race.