Playing the field

ONE of the best fields ever to contest a $3.15 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400 metres), Saturday’s 138th running provided an outstanding race but also so many chances for the Group 1 $6.2 million Melbourne Cup (3200 metres).
Victory went to Mongolian Khan – a horse bred in Tasmania, sold for $9000 as a weanling, trained in New Zealand and owned by a Chinese billionaire who keeps wolves as pets.
The Victoria Racing Club handicapper will have a say when he decides whether to penalise him for Flemington … or how much.
Owner Lang Lin is known as Mr Wolf due to his choice of pets. He made his fortune from fast food and over the past five years has set up a fledgling racing industry in Inner Mongolia.
For trainer Murray Baker it was an overdue win in one of the Australian majors.
He’s a highly-respected trainer with two Caulfield Cup seconds – Nom De Jeu (2008) and Harris Tweed (2012) – plus a third with The Phantom in 1989.
The Caulfield Cup has always been considered one of the best form guides to the Melbourne Cup, though slightly tempered now with the number of internationals who do not start here until the first Tuesday in November.
No doubt Mongolian Khan has stamped his claim but some of those behind placed themselves well and truly in the picture for Flemington.
Trip To Paris ran a great race and finished powerfully from well back on the turn.
For English trainer Ed Dunlop, it was another second in Australia, with Red Cadeaux having run three seconds in the Melbourne Cup and one in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney.
He is back for a fifth try at Flemington.
Our Ivanhowe was a great third, and Snow Sky lived up to his reputation with an impressive fifth and will be better suited by the 3200 metres.
Melbourne Cup favourite Fame Game was most eye-catching. Coming from last just before the turn he powered home to finish sixth and will certainly appreciate the extra 800 metres at Flemington.
We can all look forward with excitement for the Melbourne Cup after a wonderful carnival at Caulfield.
There is another big week ahead of us with Wednesday’s $315,000 Group 3 Geelong Cup (2400 metres) featuring several likely Melbourne Cup contenders.
Remember that Media Puzzle (2002), Americain (2010) and Dunaden (2011) won the race before their Flemington success.
Then follows the Cox Plate meeting over two days at Moonee Valley.
The first on Friday evening will include the $1,015,000 Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200 metres) which will feature some of the nation’s best sprinters and will be an exciting contest.
Saturday will see the $3,050,000 Group 1 Cox Plate (2040 metres) and what a race it is set to be.
Irish trainer Aiden O’Brien won last year with Adelaide and this year he has Highland Reel, which has raced nine times for four wins and two seconds.
At his last start he won the Secretariat Stakes (2012 metres) in Chicago by five lengths. Adelaide won the same lead-up race last year.
He has some good form around English Derby winner Golden Horn, which won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris on 4 October.
Golden Horn is an interesting form line as during his campaign in England, Criterion (sixth) was five lengths behind when Golden Horn was second in the Juddmonte International at York.
Highland Reel was less than four lengths off the star in the Irish Champion Stakes.
Criterion sealed his credentials with an impressive win in the Caulfield Stakes at his first start since York.
Following his brilliant win in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney during the autumn, he has raced in Hong Kong as well as England and looks in great shape and will be very hard to beat.
Fawkner disappointed at Caulfield but jockey Damien Oliver was not discouraged.
Other internationals Arod – to be ridden by Craig Williams – and Gailo Chop have to be respected along with locals Kermadec, Winx, Preferment, The Cleaner and Mourinho.
There is sure to be a strong pace up front so watch for horses coming from behind.