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The Jewel in the Crown may be a Dundeel

 Sep 19 2013

As US Statesman Adlai Ewing Stevenson II once said…"we can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present."

Few races have the record for signalling future Spring stars like Caulfield's Group 1 Underwood Stakes, a race originally known as the Williamstown Stakes and first run in 1924.

Horses of the calibre of Phar Lap and Ajax won the Underwood at least once en-route to future Spring glory, and in recent times, Jeune, Northerly, Elvstroem, So You Think and Ocean Park have also claimed the event before nailing at least one of the big Spring majors.

The race itself is a Group One feature and while it should again provide a pointer to later riches, this year's field signals the Underwood as an outstanding race in its own right.

The super-mare Atlantic Jewel (currently $1.50 with fixed odds) is a dominant pre-post favourite, but like any athlete looking to maintain an unbeaten record, the pressure mounts each time they face the starter.

Watch the action from Caulfield LIVE on Sky Racing with Race 1 set to jump at 11:55am (AEST) and the Underwood Stakes at 4:55pm.

The fairer sex has had little luck in the Underwood…in fact, the last mare to win the race was Tristarc in 1985 and Mark Kavanagh's charge will face stiff competition from a host of top class gallopers.

The last five Underwood's have been won by four year old males, and this year, only one horse fits this profile.

The diminutive colt It's A Dundeel ($11), is a multiple Group 1 winner trained by wily Kiwi Murray Baker who prepared 2011 victor Lion Tamer, and the talented NZ galloper mimics former Underwood champions such as Sharscay, Octagonal, Tie The Knot and Weekend Hussler as a Sydney Guineas winner from the previous season.

The W.S. Cox Plate is It's A Dundeel's likely Spring Carnival 'Grand Final', however, at this stage of his preparation, the 1800m of the Underwood appeals as the perfect distance and he should provide punters with a great sight at succulent odds.

Imports have a respectable record in the Underwood and from as far back as the 1980's, Northern Hemisphere bred gallopers including Authaal, Almaraad, Runyon, Jeune and Always Aloof have also held court at The Heath.

Seven horses, or half of this year's field, were born north of the Equator including reigning Melbourne Cup champ Green Moon ($21) and current Melbourne Cup favourite, Puissance De Lune ($6.50).

Like Jeune, Puissance De Lune comes into the Underwood off a minor placing in the Makybe Diva Stakes, and third-up after a spell he is likely to show even more improvement as the countdown to his much anticipated appointment on the first Tuesday in November edges closer.

In such a high quality field, there's always the chance that a number of horses with genuine claims may be overlooked, and one of those could well be a visitor from the West.

In 2001, Northerly trekked across the Nullabor almost 12 months on from a breakthrough Group 1 in Perth's Railway Stakes, and this year, the underrated Mr Moet ($41) will tread the same path.
The Adam Durrant prepared galloper may not be in Northerly's class, but stranger things have happened in an Underwood… remember Rubiscent winning in 2007 at odds of 50/1?

I'm tipping It's a Dundeel to stage an upset over Atlantic Jewel; Puissance De Lune is too consistent to dismiss; and Mr Moet could provide plenty of value for exotic players.

The Underwood Stakes is a race with a rich past which provides a great guide to the future…I'm certain this Saturday will be a vintage renewal.

I think Mr Stevenson would have liked it!

By Angus Roland

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