Like it or not it wouldn’t be a Spring carnival without them. They’ve become as much a part of the Melbourne Spring as Bart Cummings or Damien Oliver. And they’re back again this year in droves. I’m talking of course about the “International raiders”. The contingent of Northern Hemisphere trainers, owners, horses and jockeys that now target our major Spring races. They’ve become pretty good at winning them too – Dunaden, Americain, Delta Blues, All the Good.. I won’t go on because listing them all could take some time.
This weekend we have Guest Of Honour kicking off his Australian campaign in the Toorak handicap over 1600 metres. He’s a little different to some of the typical overseas raiders in that he’s a true miler. He’s won 5 races in his career and 4 of those wins have been around the mile. The other was 1738 metres. He’s trainer by Marco Botti who knows what’s required to be competitive in Melbourne at this time of year – he trained Dandino to run second in last year’s Caulfield Cup behind Fawkner.
The Group 1 Toorak Handicap is set to jump at 4:30pm (AEDT). Tune in to Sky Racing for comprehensive coverage!
What also appeals is the engagement of Damien Oliver and a perfect barrier. The class is of course the question. Guest Of Honour has won up to Group 2 level in England and meets some classy, in form locals in the Toorak. But his appearance has certainly injected some intrigue into the race. Guest of Honour is currently $12 with TAB.com.au.
Arabian Gold ($5.50) will do a great job holding the fort for the Aussies this weekend. She returned with a stunning win in the Golden Pendant at Rosehill beating top mare Catkins and could even take further improvement from the run. I also like that the grey mare has been to Caulfield before – she won the Ethereal Stakes there around this time last year. Perhaps that experience at the course will help to offset the tricky barrier position she has been dealt.
Trust in a Gust ($5.50) has been a real find over the last few months and continues his climb to the top. He went from winning an open handicap to winning a Group 1 last start in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes and in doing so defeated one of the leading Cox plate chances in Dissident. It seems every time his trainer Darren Weir raises the bar for Trust in a Gust he answers in a very positive way.
Check out the the full TAB.com.au market for the Toorak Handicap here.
Don’t give up on class mare Commanding Jewel ($6.50) in the Toorak. She has had so many injury problems throughout her career it’s a miracle she is still racing at all. Corey Brown replaces her regular hoop Damien Oliver this week and the pair will be looking to slot into a nice spot just off the leaders which look to be Solicit, Atlante and Recite. Before she encountered numerous injury woes Commanding Jewel beat Dear Demi in the Thousand Guineas here at Caulfield. That was 2 years ago!
Good luck to the first of the overseas contingent to race in Melbourne this weekend but hopefully the overseas raiders will leave a few of the major trophies for the locals!!
Another highlight at Caulfield this weekend is the rematch of Fawkner and Dissident in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes over 2000 metres. The pair staged a battle royale last time they met in the Makybe Diva Stakes with the two going to the line locked together. Eventually Dissident got the judges verdict but Fawkner lost no admirers with his fighting spirit. Fawkner went up $5.00 & Dissident $4.80 with TAB.com.au. When markets first opened on Wednesday.
Check out the the full TAB.com.au market for the Caulfield Stakes here.
Happy Trails ($8.00) is looking to bounce back after last week’s luckless run in the Turnbull stakes behind Lucia Valentina, where he was held up for most of the straight. He is a proven WFA performer who won last year’s Turnbull Stakes before finishing a close second to Shamus Award in the Cox Plate. He looks to get the gun run this time from barrier six. Damien Oliver jumps back aboard – the last time they partnered up Happy Trails took out the Group 1 Emirates Stakes back in 2012.
The Caulfield Stakes is set to jump at 3:55pm (AEDT). Make sure you're tuned in to Sky Racing to catch all the action!
Dear Demi ($8.00) has returned in career best form this preparation highlighted by her drought breaking win last start in the Group 2 Stocks Stakes which was her first win since May 2013. Jim Cassidy will travel down to Melbourne to partner the gutsy mare. With Clarry Conners still recovering from injuries he sustained when kicked by a horse in the Hawkesbury mounting yard late last month. No one will begrudge Clarry a Group 1 get well present!
With four Group 1 races at Caulfield & the Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick it will be a super day of Spring racing. We'll have a full review of the days racing on Racing Retro at 9am (AEDT) Sunday morning. I hope you can tune in!