The Caulfield Guineas has truly become a stallion making race in the past 20 years, with the likes of Redoute's Choice, Lonhro, Helenus, and All Too Hard all tasting success in the Group One classic for three year olds.
However this year's race seemingly lacks a true boom horse. In 2013, Pierro and All Too Hard stood out in a thrilling Caulfield Guineas but Saturday's race appears to be a different conveyance and I believe more than half the field have a genuine chance of winning. Peter Snowden won the race with Helmet in 2011 and will saddle up the favourite, Long John (currently $3.80 Fixed Odds with tab.com.au) on Saturday.
After winning the Henry Bucks at Flemington, Long John encountered a chequered passage in the Guineas Prelude before bursting through late to finish in 3rd place, less than a length from the winner Éclair Big Bang. With the Snowden polish, it's no surprise punters believe Long John can win. Prince Harada hasn't raced since finishing just outside the placings in the G1 Golden Rose at Rosehill three weeks ago, but trainer Tony Vasil told us on Racing Retro that he wants the Haradasun colt to have 'fresh legs' in the Guineas.
The last time Prince Harada raced at Caulfield he was severely checked when attempting to take a rails-hugging run in the McNeil Stakes, eventually finishing 2nd behind Fast 'n' Rocking. The barrier draw (12) on Saturday is of no concern to Vasil…in fact, he thinks it's a plus.
"I think that Prince Harada will appreciate having that little bit extra galloping room instead of being boxed up on the inside." Vasil said.
New Zealand visitor, El Roca, led for most of the Guineas Prelude when he finished runner-up, and after chatting with co-trainer Trent Busuttin, he expects another bold showing on Saturday.
On Tuesday morning I was at Caulfield to watch El Roca gallop with Dany The Fox on the course proper and their work-out was impressive on the clock.
TAB.com.au has been forced to tighten the price of El Roca (now $7.50) and the lightly raced son of Fastnet Rock has been one of the best backed commodities in early betting action.
One horse that I fancied going into the Caulfield Guineas Prelude was Mike Moroney's three year old, Marwood ($16), who entered the race with two wins from his only two starts.
In the Prelude, Marwood was always midfield and struggled to make any ground in the home straight but a post-race veterinary test showed he was suffering the effects of a virus.
The horse has since responded to treatment and race jockey, Brett Prebble, reported that Marwood felt strong in his final gallop on Tuesday.
But as always, the Guineas is a race which can throw up the unknown, and on Saturday, there are three horses in the field that are yet to win a race.
Shamus Award ($16) and Cluster are both coming off solid performances in the Bill Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley, and Cluster has had what Ron Dufficy would call a 'flashing red light' on his head since he was first-up this campaign in the G2 San Domenico Stakes.
He is a horse that promises so much, but to date, he has delivered little for punters and is yet to trouble the scorer as far as wins are concerned.
Trainer Anthony Cummings and jockey Hugh Bowman were slightly disappointed that Cluster ($18) didn't win his last start (3rd in the Stutt Stakes), but on reflection, the horse had made a long sustained run and they are hoping that he can settle closer to the leaders this week and produce a strong burst in the closing stages.
The other horse without a win is Great Esteem ($71) and trainer David Hayes has decided to replace the winkers with the blinkers after the son of Redoute's Choice raced too keenly in the Prelude.
As I mentioned, more than half the field have genuine chances in this race and horses of the ilk of Dissident, Éclair Big Bang and Divine Calling will also have their share of fans.
Will this year's Caulfield Guineas produce another future star of the breeding barn? History says it's more likely than not.
My tips are Prince Harada from Long John, Éclair Big Bang and El Roca, and you can catch all the action on Sky Racing1 (channel 519) and Sky Racing World (channel 521) with the Guineas scheduled to start at 5.45pm (AEDT).
G1 - The Bet365 Celebration Steeple Chase (class 1)
G3 - The Bet365 Gold Cup Steeple Chase (handicap) (class 1)
G1 - Aes Champion 4yo Hdle
Grade B - Setanta Sport H'cap Hdle
Grade B - Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe H'cap Chase