The 139th running of the Caulfield Cup takes place tomorrow with $3.15 million up for grabs in what is now the richest one-and-a-half-mile turf handicap race across the globe. There will be no cup defence from last year’s winner Jameka who put in one of the most impressive runs of the 2016 Spring carnival, however there are plenty of strong contenders amongst the field of 17 vying for glory on what is the final day of the MRC Spring Carnival.
It’s been tough going for punters over the past two weeks, so we’ve had our ear close to the ground over the past five days putting together the most insightful comments from connections and expert form analysts to help you get one over the bookies.
Trainer Darren Weir hinted towards a gear change for Humidor after running below expectations behind Winx in the Turnbull, settling for a tongue tie rather than blinkers. “I keep going back to his run in the Makybe Diva," Weir said. "He definitely didn't need them (blinkers) there and I'm treating last start as being a bit out of character.” ESPN
- Ultra impressive in the Makybe Diva Stakes but didn’t handle the battle with Winx last start in the Turnbull which has caused his drift in betting.
- Hasn’t won at Caulfield from five starts and is yet to win at the distance from two starts.
- If he can finish off like he did two starts back, he's likely to run over the top of them late.
- Should finish top six.
Hugh Bowman rode the stayer during his first week of quarantine and again last Friday before giving him his final Cup hit-out on Tuesday. "I had a pretty firm gallop with him on Friday and it did its job." Bowman said." I feel it stimulated him a bit… This morning he was much more on the bridle, much more alert with what he was up to, so I didn't do a great deal… He's here for the Melbourne Cup, and the Caulfield Cup is a good stepping stone towards that.” Wild World of Sports
- Won the Prix Kergorlay (Group Two) at his last start over 3000m in August this year.
- He’s here to win the Melbourne Cup but with Bowman on board he’s sure to be given a competitive hit out on Saturday.
- Watch him on the first Tuesday in November.
3. Johannes Vermeer
After Tuesday’s barrier draw, jockey Ben Melham was very pleased to be set up for the gun run jumping from barrier 2 - “He relaxes well and he’s the right type of horse for a Caulfield Cup. I’m pretty confident.” Melham said. “He backs up well and has very good form and now you can add a favourable draw…. He showed good speed from the gates the other day and has good change-up speed so he's an ideal Caulfield Cup horse." Herald Sun
T.J. Comerford, O'Brien's travelling foreman, said Johannes Vermeer has bounced out of his performance in the Caulfield Stakes and is confident of another strong showing this weekend - "...he was absolutely flying .., I think since he got here his work has come on again," Comerford said. "..the jockey never knocked him about (in the Caulfield Stakes), he came out of the race so well, it was actually like a piece of work for him.” Herald Sun
- Flew home to finish a head behind Gailo Chop at his first run in Australia in the G1 Caulfield Stakes 2000m.
- Comes to Australia with solid international form with a win in the G3 International Stakes (2000m WFA) and second in the G3 Ballyroan Stakes (2400m) carrying 62kgs.
- Gun draw, exciting lead up run and arguably the world’s best trainer – he’s the one to beat for a reason.
4. Jon Snow
Murray Baker doesn’t talk in riddles when it comes to discussing his horses and he doesn’t think there’s much between Jon Snow and Bonneval, although he's hoping the heavens open before the race - “Jon Snow is a very honest horse, he doesn’t get too far off the pace, drops 3.5kg on Saturday’s placing,” Murray Baker said. “He’s a wet track horse and they tell me rains coming. From barrier six he’ll be thereabouts.” Herald Sun
- Put in a big effort two starts back to win the G3 JRA Cup over 2040m and didn’t lose any supporters after sticking on for a gallant third in the G1 Caulfield Stakes over 2000m last start.
- Rain would help but if it doesn’t come he’s still going to be there for a long time with good early speed and a favourable draw (6).
5. He's Our Rokkii
The Roc De Cambes gelding has been unplaced from four Spring Carnival runs and was never a threat last Saturday when eighth to Classic Uniform in the Group 3 $500,000 Aqualand Craven Plate (2000m) at Randwick. “He’s struggling a little bit but we saw the weather forecast and the prospects of rain,” Hayes stated. “He’s qualified in the field, so we thought we’d give him a try.” APP
6. Sir Isaac Newton
The Robert Hickmott-trained Sir Isaac Newton will have a change of tactics this Saturday with the intention to lead. Connections believe he is better rolling along than being restrained.
7. Ventura Storm
European import Ventura Storm ran his best race last start since joining the Lindsay Park Team when six and a half lengths second to Winx in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes over 2000m at Flemington on October 7 and Hayes said that the 2400m of the Caulfield Cup is his distance. “He had a good hard run behind Winx and needed it,” Hayes said. “He’s come through it well and he’ll love getting out to the 2400 metres… We had the winkers on there to sharpen him up and to make sure he won his way into the race… The difference with Ventura Storm was he didn't need to qualify… He is very lucky in that way, so there has been no pressure on him until now. He has genuinely been peaked for this race and the Melbourne Cup. He will run really well on Saturday and even better in the Melbourne Cup”. Brisbane Times
- Nearly won the G1 St Leger over 3000m in September last year and then won over 2400 in a G1 WFA race in Italy prior to heading to Australia.
- Ran a solid second to Winx last start and if you listen to Hayes, that was just a training run for this Saturday’s feature race.
- Big chance.
8. Wicklow Brave
Willie Mullins’ assistant trainer David Casey remains upbeat about Wicklow Brave’s prospects. “He seems in good form. He’s got Grade 1 form, this a Grade 1 race and we know it’s going to be tough,” he said. “But if things fall well, he’s going to run well. He looks great… When you look at the likes of Johannes Vermeer and those horses after running so well the other day, it gives your confidence and it gives you hope.” The Herald Sun
- Would become the oldest horse to win the race if he gets up on Saturday. But the record books look safe with poor lead up form and a horror draw (16).
The Hawkes camp remained tight lipped before the feature on Saturday, so you’re going to have to take our word for it.
- Ran home well for third in last year's VRC Derby over 2500m, took out the Randwick Guineas over 1600m earlier this year and caught the eye two starts ago in the Underwood over 1800m, when coming from a long last on the turn to finish 2L off the winner Bonneval.
- Could sneak a place with a big finish late.
10. Single Gaze
Although there’s been little support for her ride, Single Gaze’s jockey Kathy O’Hara thinks the five-year-old mare’s last two runs have been just what the horse needed leading into Saturday “All her runs this spring have been very good. She has kept improving with every start. She was run off her feet first-up then she ran well in the Makybe Diva Stakes before her two good Caulfield efforts… I thought her fourth in the Caulfield Stakes last week was a top run for a horse getting ready for a 2400m race on the quick back-up.’’ Daily Telegraph
- Previous Group 1 winner over 200m and always runs an honest race. But with no wins at the distance or track and up against so many quality long distance horses in the field, Single Gaze might find the last 200m the toughest of her career so far.
After a disappointing run in the Caulfield Stakes last start, Baker said Bonneval “seemed perfect” and he didn’t think she had a problem after stewards deemed she pulled up lame last Saturday. “She’s fit, she’s won two Oaks' at the trip and has a top class rider in Kerrin McEvoy aboard” Baker stated “I think she is going to be better over the 2400 metres and with more pressure in the race because she is just a very good stayer… It is the race we have had our eyes on from the start of the preparation.”
Bonneval’s jockey Kieran McEvoy gave the horse the green light after track work during the week. "She seems free as a bell in my opinion and was happy coming off the track," McEvoy said. "I've been happy with her, I had a canter on her yesterday and then this morning I just did some nice striding work… I'd be surprised if she is not right to take her spot in the field." Herald Sun
- The New Zealand horse of the year’s preparation was ticking along flawlessly for the Caulfield Cup taking out the Group 1 Underwood and the Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam this preparation. However the building blocks to Saturday hit a hurdle when Bonneval pulled up lame after a lackluster performance in last week’s Caulfield Stakes.
- Murray Baker is confident his gun four-year-old mare has recovered, but when you’re racing against the best you need to be at your peak and we don’t think we’ll see the best Bonneval on Saturday afternoon.
Trainer David Brideoake insists the four-year old has had a good campaign, despite being disappointed with his last-start second as odds-on favourite in a 2000m-race at Caulfield on October 1 - "On the positive side I'm just so happy with how he's done since that run," Brideoake said. "We all had a meeting and decided to give him his chance and I like horses that are on the improve… It's that time after their classic year where they are placed in a Derby or an Oaks… He's got a lightweight so I'm happy to give him his chance." Wild Word of Sports
- He was a good winner at Flemington earlier in his prep and last campaign he finished third in the ATC Derby, beaten less than a length by Jon Snow, but you just can’t pick him after his last start flop in the Inglis Cup
13. Boom Time
Jockey Cory Parish is hoping the rail can be his best friend aboard Boom Time on Saturday, and he's not short on confidence getting across the two fancied horses on his inside, Johannes Vermeer and Harlem, to find it - "Barrier three's ideal for him. It means I should be able to cross horses in barrier one and two quite easily, and there's speed outside of me so it's just a matter of what they want to do to where I can be," Parish said.
Parish was on board Boom Time last Saturday when he finished fourth in the Herbert Power Stakes behind Lord Fandango, and the hoop couldn't knock his run - "It was a super run from him. ..I think he can (back up well) ... he was the only horse last-start to be up on the pace and finish off well. And this way around is ideal for him." Racing.com
- Was asked to go before the turn in the Herbert Power last Saturday and still stuck on to finish 2.4L from the winner Lord Fandango.
- Drops 4.5kgs, has the gun draw in barrier 3 and may just surprise a few people on Saturday (2 wins at the track from 3 starts, including a win over 2400m).
14. Abbey Marie
The trainer said his confidence in a Caulfield Cup upset soared when Abbey Marie drew the prized barrier five on Tuesday night - "Perfect," Michael Kent stated "Finally we can get her to settle midfield. I couldn't be happier (with her prep)." he said. "I don't know if she's good enough. With Johannes Vermeer and Humidor and that other horse (Bonneval) I am not sure, but we sort of feel that we're not far behind Bonneval and if that's any indication we're giving ourselves some sort of show." Racing.com
- Untried at the distance but if she can get a cozy run from barrier five, we think she’s a chance to boost the exotics.
- You could definitely make a case for her if you look at her last 200m in the Caulfield Stakes after being last on the turn and experiencing a checkered run in straight.
Harlem gained his ticket into the Caulfield Cup with his win in the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes over 2000m at Caulfield on 23 September before running fifth to Amelie’s Star in the Group 3 Bart Cummings over 2500m at Flemington on October 7 - “He just needed the run at the 2500 metres last time,” Hayes said. “I think he loomed up and knocked up in the Bart Cummings… It was one of those races that was a gut buster, but he only got beaten a head by the Melbourne Cup favourite… They went so hard and he wasn't quite fit enough for that last start. If they run it like that on Saturday he will be fine… I have worked him in blinkers since, because when Almandin got on his outside he wasn't happy. With the blinkers, he has really responded. I have been waiting the whole prep for the right time to use the blinkers…They could be the X-factor." Brisbane Times
- Went stride for stride with Almandin in the Bart Cummings after a tough run and prior to that he won easily over 2000m in the Naturalism at this track.
- Drops 5kg to 51.5kg, blinkers go on and will get cover from barrier 1. Another light weight chance for the exotics.
16. Amelie’s Star
Craig Williams, who had done all the lead-up work on Admire Deus in quarantine at Werribee and had earlier flown to Japan to gallop the horse, was given a Caulfield Cup lifeline by Darren Weir after his mount was ruled out for the Spring. Williams replaces Michael Dee, the original jockey for Amelie’s Star - “It’s bad luck for Michael. It’s happened to me. I got a call saying I was on her if I could ride her weight,” Williams said. “She’s a great chance in the race and she’s a mare that is in form. She only needs a bit of luck in running. It looks like I’ll be eating fish and salad for the rest of the week.”The Australian
- Was impressive in the The Bart Cummings Stakes at Flemington on the seventh October winning by 2L.
- She’s fit, no concerns at the distance, carries the Weir polish, and has Williams on board. Big chance.
17. Lord Fandango
Trainer Archie Alexander has reported that Lord Fandango has come through his Herbert Power Stakes win in great shape and will now have an easy week in the lead up to the Caulfield Cup on the weekend. “He’s eaten up again overnight and looks bright and happy,” Alexander said. “He just went for a swim again today and will have a nice easy week. With 50 kilos over a long distance it’s going to be a big help but it’s obviously a Caulfield Cup and there’s a lot of good horses in there. But I think he deserves his chance.”Sydney Morning Herald
- A surprise winner of the Herbert Power after a sustained run with plenty of encouragement from the jockey.
- If you look at his previous form however and that the Caulfield Cup wasn’t part of the plan a week ago, this will be a class above him.
1. Johannes Vermeer 2. Amelie’s Star 3. Harlem