Aidan O’Brien won’t be in Melbourne for the first great race of the Spring Carnival on Saturday, but much of the focus at the Caulfield Cup will be firmly on the world’s number one trainer - not that it ever really leaves him these days.
The master of Ballydoyle has only ever had one winner in Australia - Adelaide in the 2014 Cox Plate, but he has the favourite for this weekend’s A$3 million contest. Victory for the Galileo 5-year-old Johannes Vermeer would be his 25th G1 of the year, equalling Bobby Frankel’s world record haul.
O’Brien, of course, will be on the other side of the world at Ascot for British Champions Day, where his team will be taking dead aim at another four Group 1s altogether.
It could all be coming right for Johannes Vermeer, a G1 winner in France as a 2-year-old, whose career has been plagued by setbacks. After an encouraging season in Europe, he looked to be somewhere near his best in his first run down under last Saturday, when narrowly beaten by the ex-French Gailo Chop in the G1 Ladbrokes Stakes over 2,000 metres (ten furlongs) at Caulfield.
As the video above shows, Johannes Vermeer, ridden by the world’s highest-ranked female jockey, Katelyn Mallyon, just failed to catch Gailo Chop but finished well clear of the rest of the field, which included some of the biggest names in Australia and New Zealand, including Godolphin’s Hartnell and the Kiwi stars Bonneval and Jon Snow, who are both scheduled to take him on again on Saturday (although Bonneval is to examined today because of suspicions she may be slightly lame).
Mallyon’s effort, coupled with victory aboard Super Cash in a Caulfield Group 2 just two hours after the Ladbrokes Stakes, meant an eight-point week-on-week gain and sends her rocketing 39 places up the jockeys’ standings to a career high #128. She is replaced by Ben Melham on Johannes Vermeer on Saturday but will ride the horse’s former Ballydoyle stablemate, Sir Isaac Newton, who represents the same ownership group in the race and is in the care of last year’s winning Melbourne Cup trainer, Robert Hickmott.
Sir Isaac Newton has drawn barrier 17 on outside of the field, which has left him virtually friendless in the betting market, but Johannes Vermeer is drawn 2 on the favoured inside. The extra 400 metres is also likely to play to his strengths.
Caulfield Cup runners (in odds order)
Odds courtesy of racenet.com.au
Points to note
Mallyon’s eight-point gain in the rankings is matched this week by another young rider in the field, 18-year-old Ben Allen, who rode the horse he’ll be aboard in the Caulfield Cup, Lord Fandango, to a G2 victory on the track last Saturday. Allen rises 71 places to #197 and is now just two points outside the list of the world’s top 25 young riders highlighted here last Thursday.
The biggest climber of the week, however, on the back of a striking 16-point gain, is the OTI Racing group, which owns not only Lord Fandango but also Gailo Chop and another G1 winner on last Saturday’s Caulfield card, Aloisia. The mighty treble means OTI is now ranked 83 in the owners’ standings - up 386 places.
Mallyon is one of two female jockeys in Caulfield Cup line-up. The other is 31-year-old New South Wales-born Kathy O’Hara, who at #192 is second only to Mallyon in the world standings. She rides Single Gaze.
The training team of David Hayes, son Ben and Tom Dabernig has four representatives in Saturday’s race, with the well-drawn pair Harlem and Ventura Storm the best backed according to the latest odds.
- Galileo (Johannes Vermeer and Sir Isaac Newton) and Redoute’s Choice (Abbey Marie and Hardham) are both responsible for two contenders.
The top two jockeys in the field on world rankings - Hugh Bowman and Joao Moreira - have both been booked for Europeans (there are three European contenders on Saturday, the other being Johannes Vermeer).
World #2 Bowman rides Marmelo, trained by Hughie Morrison in England and winner of the 3,000-metre G2 Prix Kergorlay at Deauville in August. He is drawn 10.
Moreira, who narrowly lost the Melbourne Cup on Heartbreak City for Irish trainer Tony Martin last year, teams up with another Irishman on Saturday in what is a real celebrity partnership. The renowned world #9 rides Wicklow Brave, one of the most popular and versatile horses anywhere, for Ireland’s champion jumps trainer, Willie Mullins.
That Mullins is ranked as high as 146 in the trainers’ standings is remarkable considering how few runners he has on the flat. If we had a global jumps trainers’ classification, he would undoubtedly have been world #1 for some years.
TRC Global Rankings stats, allied to the barrier draw, certainly highlight the chance of Johannes Vermeer. The figures are also particularly encouraging for supporters of Humidor, Ventura Storm and Marmelo.
Click here for a list of last week’s biggest TRC Global Rankings points gainers.
Click here for a list of the week’s Group and Graded winners.