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Friday, October 17, 2008

Can Weekend Hussler Stay 12f and Win the Caulfield Cup?

It’s time for the $2.5 million Caulfield Cup (AUS-G1), and up to 50,000 are expected trackside to see if top-weight Weekend Hussler can rebound from his disappointing eighth-place finish in the G1 Turnbull Stakes two weeks ago. The big question is, can he stay 12 furlongs? Based on his last race, I’m tempted to say “no”, but would be pleasantly surprised if this super-horse can successfully move forward in his quest for the two-mile G1 Melbourne Cup.

Turnbull winner Littorio appears to be rounding into form, and will like the sting out of the ground (the course is currently listed as Dead, or Yielding, though with warm weather and expected sun that could change). Last year’s Caulfield winner Master O’Reilly is a serious threat to repeat, if he can handle breaking from post 13; he’s won 3 of 4 at the distance. Six-year-old Maldivian breaks from post 18, yet should hustle early to the lead, along with 7-year-old gelding Douro Valley and possibly 5-year-old Mad Rush who has the unenviable task of breaking from post 17.

In addition to the Hussler, Littorio and Master O’Reilly, the three that intrigue me most are the lightly-raced European invader Mad Rush, and the two mares Boundless and Riva San.

Premier jock Damien Oliver chose to ride Luca Cumani-trained Mad Rush over Boundless, which is certainly a promising sign. Last out Mad Rush finished second in the Prix Kergolay (FR-G2), a 1-7/8 mile race, and he’s placed in all four prior attempts at 12 furlongs so the distance shouldn’t be an issue. Never out the money in eight starts, he's also never run at this class level. Sentimentally, I like him because of his breeding, by Lemon Drop Kid out of a Sadlers Wells mare. Definitely will be my exotics—gut feeling.

Dwayne Dunn takes the ride on 4-year-old New Zealand mare Boundless; she’s won 3 of her last 6 starts, including the G1 New Zealand Oaks in March, and finished second in the G1 Australian Oaks in April, both over 12 furlongs. She’s from the first crop of Van Nistelrooy, so might be a surprise, but gets excellent post position (6) and appears to be rounding into form.

Peter Moody-trained Riva San gets Luke Nolen back in the saddle, and she’s well-weighted, dropping 7 pounds from her last three races. As a 3-year-old this past winter, she completed the G1 Queensland Oaks-G1 Queensland Derby sweep—both 12 furlongs, and only one week apart. The only concern: she appears to like a really wet track, as both her G1 wins were on a heavy and slow track respectively. Still, I’ve got another gut feeling about her, like she’s ready to spring a big race after being narrowly-denied last out against Lorne Dancer in the G3 Craven Plate. Modestly bred, she’s by Any Given Sunday, an unraced son of near-Triple Crown winner Sunday Silence, and breaks from post 9.

Scratches: Kibbutz, Newport, Red Lord and Moatize.

Post time is c. 1:05 a.m. EST in the U.S.