2023 CAULFIELD CUP
I doubt the betting has got it wrong grouping a squad of high-class international stayers at the top of the market.
2023 CAULFIELD CUP
I doubt the betting has got it wrong grouping a squad of high class international stayers at the top of the market.
GOLD TRIP, second last year before going on to Melbourne Cup glory, is clearly the best stayer in an Australian stable, a rating he confirmed just two weeks ago at Flemington with his stunning burst over the last 400m to win the Turnbull Stakes (2000m).
He’s clearly as good if not better than 12 months ago and I concede he’s not badly treated with only 1kg more than last year and rising just a half kilo off his Turnbull win. However horses who have been close in his rear vision in past races (MONTEFILIA, WEST WIND BLOWS, SOULCOMBE) do have significant weight adjustments in their favour from their previous meetings.
The UK raider WEST WIND BLOWS will meet Gold Trip 3kg better from his excellent Australian debut in the Turnbull where he finished a game second after a tough run.
While yet to win at 2400m his two placings from four UK starts over the trip have been high rating performances that equate well to Caulfield Cup standard. From a soft draw he should enjoy a cosy run close to the pace.
Chris Waller is chasing his third Caulfield Cup in four years with the Sydney trainer having fine-tuned the art of having his stayers peak on the right spring day in Melbourne. This year he holds a big hand with the imported SOULCOMBE and MONTEFILIA, the multiple G1 winner who has regained her top form since joining the Waller stable earlier this year.
MONTEFILIA has finished fourth in the past two Caulfield Cups but this shapes as her best chance after overwhelming HOO YA MAL with a powerful surge to win the Hill Stakes (1900m) at Rosehill carrying 57kg under the wfa conditions. With 54.5kg she’s carrying 1kg less than last year and meets GOLD TRIP 2kg better, enough to say she can turn it around after less than a length separated them at the finish 12 months ago.
I wouldn’t dismiss Hill Stakes form as HOO YA MAL is an Epsom Derby runner-up who is yet to run over 2400m in Australia. He could easily rate through the roof dropping 6kg to only 53kg.
SOULCOMBE ticks the right boxes across the board. He’s been set for this year’s Cups double since he burst onto the local scene with a resounding win over 2600m when making his Australian debut at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day last spring and it’s hard to fault the prep Waller has given him over the last eight weeks.
He won first-up over 1700m at Caulfield on September 2 carrying 58.5kg and has since performed admirably with a fourth in the Underwood Stakes (1800m) and third in the Turnbull Stakes (2000m) where he received only 2kg from GOLD TRIP. There’s now 5kg between them and he will relish a fast run 2400m contest under handicap conditions.
Class import WITHOUT A FIGHT, the star of the Brisbane winter, is the other highly rated contender.
His prep has been unorthodox with only one lead-up for a closing sixth in the Underwood since his big wins in Brisbane in May and June, but I suspect the Freedmans have done their homework and have him pegged as a horse who responds best to a well-spaced program.
The unknown quantities are the Irish stablemates OKITA SOUSHI and VALIANT KING from the Joseph O’Brien stable and the well-performed Japanese stayer BREAKUP.
O’Brien has made a significant impact on the Melbourne spring on past visits and it would be folly to dismiss his pair as genuine lightweight threats. There is a confident push for VALIANT KING, his 50kg a luxury for a horse boasting strong 2400m form at Royal Ascot that relates well to the ratings required to win a Caulfield Cup.
BREAKUP is a strong Japanese stayer but no superstar as some pundits have described him. He has contested top grade G1 events in his homeland but is still several points below the ratings the previous Japanese-trained winners ADMIRE RAKTI and MER DE GLACE brought to this race.
SUMMARY: I’m banking with Chris Waller to have SOULCOMBE timed for a career peak performance. He’s weighted to find the necessary improvement but is sure to find WEST WIND BLOWS, GOLD TRIP, WITHOUT A FIGHT and his stablemate MONTEFILIA tough rivals in what rates as a high class edition. My value inclusions for extended exotics are HOO YA MAL and VALIANT KING.
SELECTIONS: (8) SOULCOMBE; (6) West Wind Blows; (4) Montefilia; (1) Gold Trip; (2) Without A Fight; (10) Hoo Ya Mal; (18) Valiant King