This Saturday will see the 2011 renewal of the Caulfield Cup, the world’s richest 1½ mile handicap horse race and one of the second most prestigious in the Australian horse racing calendar behind the Melbourne Cup.
Hot favourite ahead of the race is the Mark Kavanagh trained, December Draw, winner last week of the Group One Turnbull Stakes over ten furlongs at his home track, Flemington Park, a win that has also earned the five year old joint favouritism for the Melbourne Cup next month. Formerly with William Knight in England, the Irish bred son of Medecis has now raced six times for his Australian trainer, winning five of those, with four coming at Flemington, a course he is clearly at home on.
There is clearly no doubts concerning his form, but there are some questions as to whether or not he will stay the 12 furlongs of the Caulfield Cup as he has never raced beyond ten furlongs. These doubts are dismissed by Kavanagh however, who firmly believes that December Draw is progressing all the time and the 12 furlongs at Flemington will present no difficulty. He will be well in with the weights when compared to his leading rivals to win the race, At First Sight and Midas Touch. He will also be sufficiently well weighted to have regular jockey, Michael Rodd on board.
Currently top weight for the race is 2010 Melbourne Cup winner, Americain, trained in France by Alain De Royer-Dupre but “Down Under” for a tilt a winning back-to-back Cups. He is scheduled to carry 58 kg for the ‘Caulfield’, but it is almost certain that he will not run, meaning that Midas Touch will be raised to 57kg which is the minimum top weight for the race. This would also mean that December Draw will also be raised but only to 54kg, a weight that Kavanagh believes he will handle comfortably.
De Royer-Dupre will make a final decision as to Americain’s entry this week but the likelihood is that he will be saved for a shot at the Moonee Valley Cup, in a couple of weeks time.
At First Sight is expected by his trainer, Robert Hicknott, to improve on his second place behind December Draw in the Group 3 Naturalism Handicap over ten furlongs in mid-September. Hicknott is confident that his horse can reverse that form, particularly over 12 furlongs a distance which saw him produce his best performance to date, second place behind Workforce in the 2010 Epsom Derby. He can be backed currently with odds of 10/1 which looks a very attractive price for each way backers.
Also with odds of 10/1 is Hicknott’s other big fancy, Midas Touch, formerly a stablemate of At First Sight at the Aidan O’Brien Ballydoyle stables in Ireland and now a stablemate with him at the Hicknott stable. Like At First Sight, Midas Touch has yet to finish in the winners enclosure in Australia but nonetheless, he is a horse with proven class, well equipped to travel the 12 furlongs comfortably and again like At First Sight, has a second place in a Derby on his record; coming in the 2010 Irish Derby, where he finished ½ length behind Cape Blanco who has since gone on to achieve great things in America.
The three principles should certainly have the race between them but preference is given to At First Sight as he has shown the better form in Australia of the two Hicknott entries; he also appears to have settled into his new surroundings much more comfortably and can reverse form with December Draw.