It’s not the Cup. It’s the other one.
It’s the Caulfield Cup, the history-steeped 2400m handicap test that’s not just the most important lead-up to the first Tuesday of November, but a fantastic, engrossing race in its own right.
Since 1879 the Caulfield Cup has been a must-watch, an event littered with some of the great names and most ripping yarns of the turf.
And this year the $5 million, 2400m contest looks every bit as engrossing as ever.
The 18-horse field may contain just two Group 1 winners – Melbourne Cup hero Gold Trip and the $3.4 million mare Montefilia – but has an array of stayers from here and abroad poised to take their next steps towards stardom, the likes of West Wind Blows, Without A Fight, Soulcombe and the Japanese raider Breakup.
It’s an open affair, with five runners below double figure odds headed by Gold Trip, the favourite at around the $5 mark with BlueBet. One of the most expensive Europeans imported to Australia – he was bought from Europe for $2.3 million last year – he more than recouped that outlay in winning the Melbourne Cup, and has hit top form again with his last start victory in the Turnbull Stakes over 2000m, always a key lead-up to this.
But breathing down his neck come English raider West Wind Blows ($6.50), who turned in a huge run when second at his Australian debut in the Turnbull, and two former Englanders imported here in Chris Waller’s Soulcombe ($6.50) and Without A Fight ($7.50), for the father-and-son training team of Anthony and Sam Freedman.
And then there’s the dark horse of the field in Breakup ($8.50). Japan can produce a very tough stayer or two, and have won this race twice in its past nine runnings. Breakup is one of the leading fancies for the Melbourne Cup as well, and may be better suited to that longer trip, but wouldn’t spring a huge surprise if he can collect this on the way through.
The weather should be fine and the track good for one of the great days on the Australian turf, with three G2s and three G3s on the undercard. So here’s your ultimate guide to Caulfield Cup day.
WHAT IS IT?
The Group 1 Caulfield Cup. A handicap for three-year-olds and upwards over 2400m, or a mile-and-a-half. A key lead up for Australia’s greatest race, the 3200m Melbourne Cup, 17 days later.
Though 800m shorter, Caulfield’s annual highlight is pretty gruelling itself, demanding stamina, toughness, and a finishing dash. There’s a short-ish, frenetic 300m run from the start at the top of the straight to the first of Caulfield’s three corners, so horses with wide starting gates will want to get across to save ground. (Despite this perceived wisdom, 12 of the past 35 winners started from barrier 10 or wider).
After passing the winning post the first time, the field turns left heading up the back of the course, where they’re tested by an uphill run, before turning down the Railway Side when the runs start coming, before the real heat’s poured on rounding the home turn.
A capacity field of 18 has been announced, plus one emergency in case anyone pulls out.
WHAT’S IT WORTH?
$5 million. The winner takes home $3 million, and even 10th place earns $120k.
WHEN’S IT ON?
Race 9 of 10 on the Caulfield card on Saturday, at 5:15pm AEDT.
WHERE CAN YOU WATCH IT?
At the course, on Channel 7, Racing.com, or Sky Racing. Foxsports.com.au will have live news and updates, including video soon after the race.
Gold Trip is clearly a highly talented seven-year-old stallion. That’s why his owners made him one of the most expensive horses ever imported here. And he’s lived up to the rating. He ran second in this race last year in his fourth Australian start, when only collared late by the winner. Then, after a ninth place in the Cox Plate that was better than it sounds, the punters largely abandoned him for the Melbourne Cup. But after drifting to start at $21, he brained ‘em, under a hefty 57.5kg topweight, to win by two lengths.
He then went missing a bit during the Sydney autumn carnival, with three pretty ordinary runs, but at Flemington at his last start, in his second run of the spring, he unleashed another supremely powerful finish to win the Turnbull Stakes by almost two lengths. He’s entered for next Saturday’s Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup again, and could just be about to become a superstar.
But West Wind Blows might also be about to hit the big time. Like a typical unsung English raider, the five-year-old gelding (still four by northern hemisphere time) arrived with only two Group 3 wins in France to boast about, but produced an enormous run under adversity when second in the Turnbull. He has barrier two for this race, so should gain a sweet passage from which to draw vengeance against Gold Trip.
We could bill it as Gold Trip v West Wind Blows II, and say “this time it’s personal” or one of those boxing type of things, but there’s a few others in the mix.
The only mare in the field, Montefilia – winner of four Group 1s and bought earlier this year as a future broodmare prospect for $3.4 million by the burgeoning, China-backed Yulong racing and breeding empire – is right in this, as she strives to emulate the great Verry Elleegant in 2020 with a win for females.
Without A Fight is another former Brit who showed his class winning back-to-back races (G2 and G3) at the Brisbane winter carnival. Soulcombe was imported from England last year into the Chris Waller stable and has caught the eye in his three runs this spring.
Japanese raider Breakup rounds out the Big Five hopes according to the bookies, but there are others at longer prices who could give backers a great run for their money. They include Spirit Ridge, a $34 chance and likely leader who firmed in the market after Wednesday’s barrier draw, plus Irish visitor Valiant King at around $17, the imports Francesco Guardi ($18) and Hoo Ya Mal ($15), and Nonconformist ($41). Don’t forget, Boom Time won this race at $51 in 2017.
As always, the Caulfield Cup will be watched closely for key pointers to the Melbourne Cup – not just among the first few home but from those behind them perhaps surging to the line, or sneaking along more quietly.
Newminster, in 1879
Durston, at $18, who flew home under his postage stamp impost of 51.5kg.
Eurythmic (1920), Amounis (1930), Rising Fast (1954, 1955), Tulloch (1957), Galilee (1966), Ming Dynasty (1977, 1980), Let’s Elope (1991), Might And Power (1997), Northerly (2002), Verry Elleegant (2020).
CAULFIELD-MELBOURNE CUPS DOUBLE WINNERS
Poseidon (1906), The Trump (1937), Rivette (1939), Rising Fast (1954), Even Stevens (1962), Galilee (1966), Gurner’s Lane (1982), Let’s Elope (1991), Doriemus (1995), Might And Power (1997), Ethereal (2001).
BEST BARRIERS: In the past 32 years, gates three, seven and nine have won bragging rights, with each hatching four winners.
WORST BARRIER: Perverse as it sounds, it’s No.1, which hasn’t had a win since barrier stalls were brought in at Caulfield, in 1947.
FAVOURITES: Six of nine favourites won between 1999 and 2007, but then only four of 14 since. Favourites won in 2021 and 2022 though, although Boom Time did get up at $50 in 2017.
MAJOR RACES ON THE UNDERCARD
Caulfield Classic – 3yos, G3, 2000m, Race 2 at 12.50pm, featuring VRC Derby hopefuls.
Ethereal Stakes – 3yo fillies, G3, 2000m, race 3 at 1:25pm, featuring several VRC Oaks hopefuls.
Thousand Guineas Prelude – 3yo fillies, G2, 1400m, race 5 at 2.35pm, featuring fillies heading towards the G1 Thousand Guineas later in the spring.
Caulfield Sprint – G2, 1000m, race 6 at 3.15pm, a short sprint for all comers.
Tristarc Stakes – G2, 1400m, race 7 at 3.50pm, a sprint for mares, named after a former good one, the Caulfield Cup winner of 1985.
Moonga Stakes – G3, 1400m, race 8 at 4.30pm, a longer sprint for all comers.
Gold Trip storms home in Turnbull stakes | 00:47
THE CAULFIELD CUP FIELD
Race 9, 5.15pm, 2400m
FOR: After joining the all-powerful Maher-Eustace stable in 2022, he’s shaping as a potential superstar, having come second in this race last year, winning the Melbourne Cup, then blitzing them last start in the Turnbull Stakes over 2000m. Experienced jockey Ben Melham rides, from a decent middle barrier. He’ll likely settle in the back half, getting reasonably close to the rail, and fly home. AGAINST: Not a huge amount. There is a very slight doubt about him running, but trainers say he most likely will. Biggest obstacle is probably his handicap. He’s carrying three kilos more than the next heaviest weight in the field, and giving five or eight kilos to some lightweight hopes. That doesn’t sound a lot for a half-tonne horse, but it makes a difference, particularly in a high-pressure mile-and-a-half race like this. But then again, he had no trouble humping just a kilo less to his Melbourne Cup victory, and had 58kg last start in the Turnbull. Top chance.
2. WITHOUT A FIGHT (7) 55.5kg, $7.50/$2.65.
FOR: Another classy ex-European stayer. Like many Brits in their first Australian run, he struggled from a wide gate in last year’s Melbourne Cup, but showed his worth with two powerful wins against good opposition in stakes (black type) grade in Brisbane’s winter carnival. Tuned up for this with an eye-catching sixth in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes over 1800m at Caulfield on Sept 23. He made strong ground from the back, had to wait to be eased wide to get clear running in the first 100m of the straight, while others got on a roll, and was beaten by only two lengths. That’s what you want to see when rising in distance next start like he is. Top jockey Mark Zahra could have ridden this bloke or Gold Trip, and chose this bloke, who has a handy three kilos less weight. Great barrier. AGAINST: Tends to get back in the field, so from barrier seven he might have to get through some traffic in the home straight. Going from 1800m to 2400m could be a test since he’s second-up from a spell, and a horse will often come down from their first-up run in their second run of a campaign. Each-way.
3. BREAKUP (5)55kg, $8.50/$2.90.
FOR: Is a Japanese stallion and they’re notoriously tough beasts. Has won at stakes level over 2500m back home, and was a strong fourth in the prestigious G1 Tenno Sho (3200m) two starts back, before a spell. Has an ideal barrier from which he’ll likely take up a forward position. Has a good big race jockey Damian Lane aboard, who’s ridden with great success in stints in Japan, and has teamed with a couple of good Japanese horses who’ve come here and won major races, including Mer De Glace in this event in 2019. Japanese stables have a great record of bringing the right horses to Melbourne’s spring carnival. AGAINST: Considering his strong run in the 3200m Tenno Sho, this could be more a lead-up towards his main target of the Melbourne Cup over that 3200m trip, for which he’s currently the fifth-favourite. And last-start was a poor 12th in a 2200m G1 in Japan. Bit of an unknown quantity so if you’re backing him, a bit of faith is required.
4. MONTEFILIA (9)54.5kg, $13/$4.
FOR: Top class staying mare who’s won four G1s and showed she was back in form this campaign with a blistering last-start win in the G2 Hill Stakes over 1900m at Rosehill. That was her fourth run from a spell so she’s well fit and will handle the rise to 2400m no problems, especially since she ran a sterling fourth in this race last year, coming from way back on the turn. Light enough weight for a 6YO mare and should find a good spot from her middle gate. From the great Chris Waller stable and has last season’s Melbourne premiership-winning jockey Blake Shinn, who could win on the proverbial broomstick this spring, especially if that broomstick had had four runs back after a spell. AGAINST: Only four mares have won this race this century and they’ve been pretty outstanding: the champion Verry Elleegant, plus Jameka, Southern Speed and Ethereal. Montefilia is right up to the class of the latter three. Slight worry though, amongst some crack males in this field, that she didn’t beat much last start. Place best.
5. FRANCESCO GUARDI (15) 54kg, $18/$5.
FOR: Another from the Waller yard and has the superb James McDonald in the saddle. Also came from England originally, where they breed very strong stayers, and won the Moonee Valley Cup last spring by nearly four lengths. Didn’t race in the autumn, so has had a long time to freshen and be prepared for the spring, and has had two solid runs back including a seventh in the Turnbull, working home well from the back. Has a wide barrier, but gets back in his races anyway. Has a light weight, and his dad is the great Frankel. AGAINST: It’s still the wide gate. His odds doubled after the barrier draw on Wednesday night. Yes, he gets back anyway, but will have to be flying home, and you wonder if he has that sort of zip, and if it might be best to wait for the Melbourne Cup, for which he’s currently fourth favourite. Each way.
6. WEST WIND BLOWS (2)54kg, $6.50/$2.40.
FOR: Looks the likely type of visiting English stayer who could come here and plunder our spoils. Only start here was second in the Turnbull, 1.75 lengths behind Gold Trip and turned in a huge run just as good as the winner’s, after Irish jockey Jamie Spencer asked an enormous amount of him. He sat wide and without cover early, then pushed him up to race outside the leader around three-wide without cover, then sent him to the front at the top of the long Flemington straight. The horse had every right to capitulate, but kept giving and giving. From his inside gate he should have a better run in transit up near the pace. Top trainers in Simon and Ed Crisford. AGAINST: Spencer is still aboard, and it can take a lot of practice for English/Irish jockeys to get the hang of things out here. But again, from barrier two, he should be able to take up an ideal spot this time. Hard to beat.
7. NONCONFORMIST (19) 53.5kg, $41/$8.50.
FOR: Likes this track, where he’s had three wins and three seconds, including in this race two years ago, when beating all but the superb winner Incentivise. Super fit, having run second to Without A Fight in a Brisbane G2 in mid-June, before only a short spell and three runs this spring, the latest a solid-enough fourth last Saturday over 2000m G1 here. That was his fifth weight-for-age run in a row, and he’ll love being back to a handicap here, with a light weight which at least means he’s meeting Without A Fight on 2kg better terms here. Ran 10th in this race last year, which was better than it sounds since he was three-wide without cover the whole time, and wasn’t beaten far. AGAINST: The barrier draw was a big blow. He’ll jump from the widest gate, and that’s a massive ask. Last year he had gate 14 and had that tough run. This time it’s far worse. Also, possibly his best years are behind him as a seven-year-old, and he has to back up quickly having run last Saturday. And while he’s a very honest performer and one of the best of the locals, he’s up against some regal staying quality here, especially the European-breds. Has Harry Coffee on board who’s a fine rider but not known as a big race man, with just the one G1 to his name. Before the draw he was a rough place hope. Not now.
8. SOULCOMBE (6) 53.5kg, $6/$2.25.
FOR: Another class import by Frankel and trained by Waller, with a big race man in Craig Williams aboard. Won Flemington’s Queen Elizabeth on his Australian debut last spring, which is great because it means he was guaranteed a start in this year’s Melbourne Cup. That meant Waller could take it easy with him, with just two outings in the autumn to prepare him meticulously for the spring. And he’s had three terrific runs this campaign, a barnstorming win here first-up over 1700m under 58.kg in a handicap, a fourth, also here, over 1800m in the Underwood in his first try at G1, and a two-length third in the Turnbull, powering home from well back. Another who’ll appreciate dropping to a low weight in a handicap. AGAINST: Not a lot, but perversely it might be the inside barrier. Usually a bonus, but not so much when you get back in your races. He’ll have to likely weave through traffic in the straight, and there’ll be tiring leaders and some big chances powering home down the outside, possibly squeezing things up for him. Each way.
9. DUKE DE SESSA (14)53kg, $26/$6.00.
FOR: Another highly-rated import for the Maher-Eustace stable, who hinted at why they bought him when sixth in the Turnbull at his third Australian run, making steady ground from the back. Won twice at this distance in Ireland, and has gun Irish expat jockey John Allen in the saddle, so at least horse and rider should understand each other. Light weight. AGAINST: While last run was better, he’s still taking his time to hit his straps a bit. Could prove it was just a matter of patience by emerging on the big stage here, but you’re hoping for the penny to drop amidst the classiest field he’s met. And from a very tricky gate in 14. Place best.
10. HOO YA MAL (8)53kg, $15/$4.60.
FOR: One for the “don’t horses have weird names” brigade. Another ex Brit who’s a strong stayer, and was second in the esteemed English Derby over this trip last year. Moved here for the Melbourne Cup and didn’t flatter, running 12th, but had a light autumn and has been building up in form for this, with a last-start second at his third run back behind Montefilia in the Hill Stakes (1900m). He’s a bit of a hard one to back with confidence but is from a top and in-form stable in Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, and has a great frontrunning jockey aboard in Tim Clark. He’ll likely be up near the pace and will be in it for a long way. AGAINST: Might have liked to have seen him compete at longer than 1900m before this, as 500m up is a fair way for what’s a high pressure 2400m here. Plus, the Hill Stakes might not be the strongest form guide for a race of this quality. Outside place best.
11. RIGHT YOU ARE (13)53kg, $41/$8.50.
FOR: The Maher-Eustace touch and Michael Dee in the saddle, who won this race last year on Durston at another juicy price ($18), when he started proving himself as a big race rider. Was a form horse of last summer and autumn, working through the restricted staying grades with six wins from seven starts, ending in the Mornington Cup over 2400m which earns a start in this race. AGAINST: Looked out of his depth last start with 11th in the G1 Turnbull, fading out from the turn and beaten eight lengths. Previous start was OK when fifth first-up over 1800m in the Underwood, but he looks a little short on class compared to several rivals here, and has a tricky gate. Prefer others.
12. EMISSARY (4)52kg, $51/$13.50.
FOR: From an astute trainer of stayers in Mike Moroney, and with gun jockey Jye McNeil. English-bred stayer who showed his class when second in last year’s Melbourne Cup, after winning the Geelong Cup over this 2400m. Drops substantially in weight after carrying 59, 57.5 and 56 in his past three runs, and has an inside barrier. AGAINST: Likely better suited in the Melbourne Cup than this. Has had three pretty plain build-up runs this campaign, the latest a distant 12th in the Turnbull. Also gets back, so will likely strike traffic in the straight from his inside gate. With a view to the Big Cup, prefer to watch.
13. GOLDMAN (18) 52kg, $51/$13.50.
FOR: The Waterhouse-Bott touch, and drops a lot of weight after carrying 59, 57 and 59 in his three runs this campaign. Another import, this time from New Zealand, and showed he has ability by winning his first three Australian starts last autumn, the last one over 2600m at Flemington, beating Soulcombe into second by nearly three lengths. AGAINST: That form has seemed a long time ago this campaign, where he’s come ninth, sixth and 14th, the latest in a Flemington G3 over…