The Rating Bureau: Caulfield Cup

trb

THE RATING BUREAU

Caulfield Cup – 2400m G1 Hcp $3,000,000

 

THE TRACK

The track is forecast to be a Good 3 with the rail out 6m, which is important after we saw watering last week result in the inside section of the straight being inferior ground.

History of the 6m rail position suggests the track should play evenly, giving all horses a chance, subject to pace in the race.

 

SPEED & TACTICS

Forecasting the early speed looks problematical. The UK galloper Quest For More (8) has the early speed to set the pace, but is first emergency and is unlikely to gain a run. Complacent (10) races on pace but he’s 2nd emergency and even less likely to run.

Those two aside, Snow Sky (3) likes to race handy and produced his career peak rating when leading at a moderate speed before sprinting away to win the prestigious 2414m Hardwicke Stakes by 3.75L at Royal Ascot two starts ago. Damien Oliver may simply elect to seize control of the race here and aim to emulate a similar performance.

Volkstoknbarrell (11) is one guaranteed a start who should push also forward, while Magicool (15) looks to have the best chance of getting a good position if he presses forward.

There may also be one or two surprises in the early stages, but none of these runners have the natural style to run along at a good speed. That means we could see the pace slacken here to below average levels.

It’s natural to assume that a big field and high stakes race like the Caulfield Cup is always run strongly, but history shows that’s not the case. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen the Caulfield Cup run at a below average early speed 3 times, while 1 other time it was run in around average tempo, with faster rating sections home. Only 6 of the last 10 have been run at the “assumed” solid speed or faster.

Anything could happen once the gates open, but on the evidence available we have to assume the early speed will be somewhere between below average and average. That could make it difficult for horses to come from a long way back.

Early Pace Rating: Below Average to Average

Late Pace Rating: Above Average to Average

Best Suited: Horses in the front half of the field

 

UNDERSTANDING HANDICAP RATINGS

When assessing the ratings for handicap races, we are looking to forecast the performance each horse can achieve in the race based on its past WFA Performance Ratings and the weight it will carry in this race.

A horse with a WFA Performance rating of 104 that is handicapped with 6kg less than WFA will naturally be able to run to better than that 104 figure on the day, because of the benefit of a lighter weight. This allows the 104 horse to be competitive with a superior 107 rated horse, who for example might be handicapped with just 1kg under WFA.

If the two were to meet in a WFA race, then the 107 horse would have a clear edge. However under handicap conditions, they are much more closely matched, because of the weight differential. This is the fundamental principle of handicap racing… giving slightly inferior horses the chance to win based on the benefit of less weight carried. Our philosophy is that weight does not affect performance nearly as much as traditional theories suggest, but it is still nonetheless a relevant factor.

All rating figures quoted in our assessment below are based on past runs adjusted to reflect the weight to be carried in The Caulfield Cup. They focus on expected performance “at the weights.”

 

RACE OVERVIEW

Below are the ratings that recent Caulfield Cup winners have run to ‘at the weights.’

  • 2014 – Admire Rakti – 109
  • 2013 – Fawkner – 109.2
  • 2012 – Dunaden – 110.8
  • 2011 – Southern Speed – 106.9
  • 2010 – Descarado – 109.2
  • 2009 – Viewed – 107.6
  • 2008 – All The Good – 108.6

The composition of this year’s field and handicaps suggests that horses will need to reach at least a 107 rating to be seriously competitive and will most likely need 108 rating to win, potentially 109.

 

Runner by Runner

If you disregard his one off Melbourne Cup spike rating, his next best ratings are well below the standard needed to be competitive in this. His recent ratings from this preparation are even lower.

Appeals as the best of the overseas contenders and a great value prospect at the current price. I am more than happy to put a line through his last start failure in the G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Ascot after the jockey said he never travelled and did not like the Soft going. It’s worth noting though that he started $4 2nd favourite in that race, which is one of the most prestigious events on the British racing calendar.

What we like about him is that he comes to this race with a profile that suggests he’s a genuine 2400m horse, which is consistent with other Internationals in recent years that have either won this race or run well including Admire Rakti, Dunaden, Dandino and My Quest for Peace. He also comes into this with a very similar ratings profile to all but Dunaden in that group, who was a marginally superior horse. His ratings are just as good if not better than the others.

More specifically, Snow Sky’s form and figures around the likes of Brown Panther, Eagle Top and Postponed in the UK really stack up well here with 58kg. In fact, 4 of his past 6 ratings put him at or just above the minimum level needed to win this. His career peak rating in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes in June (2 runs ago) puts him at a performance level of 109+ in this race, which could win comfortably. I’ve taken a conservative view of that figure as he was well suited leading at a moderate pace and some of the chances behind him were unsuited… But it was still a dominant 3.75L win in a high quality race that the likes of Dunaden, Red Cadeaux and Dandino have previously been placed in prior to coming to Australia. It showed the levels Snow Sky can reach if he gets a favourable scenario and the potential lack of genuine pace in this race may give him the chance to reach somewhere near that level again.

Coming into this race fresh is no problem as we saw him defeat Brown Panther in the G2 Yorkshire Cup over 2816m off a 152 day break, in a rating that is up to the winning mark in this. That performance was backed up by a very solid speed figure to suggest he can handle a sustained staying contest first up from a break.

When you consider the strength of his form & ratings profile, the fact that he has a liking for Good ground, can race handy to the pace and has Damien Oliver riding, Snow Sky looks set to be a real force in this race. This looks more like his race to me than The Melbourne Cup and $11 appeals as a great betting opportunity.

He’s a high quality Japanese stayer who certainly has the ratings to win this race, the big question for me is whether he can produce those figures over 2400m at Caulfield in a race that doesn’t look like being run fast early.

Both on ratings profile and style he looks a horse better suited to the longer trip (3000m+) and perhaps the wide open spaces of a track like Flemington. Barrier 1 could also end up more of a hindrance than help if he gets caught on the fence at a crucial stage.

If I assess him with an allowance for the fact this is 2400m, he can certainly be thereabouts and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he won, especially if the pace ends up fast… but at the market price I have to oppose him and prefer others. One thing that seems very likely though is that he’ll be hitting the line strongly and stamping himself as clearly the horse to beat in The Melbourne Cup.

Went ahead 2L in his ratings last start when 2nd up over 2500m in the Bart Cummings., which presents him at a 103.7 rating for this, 2.2L below the minimum standard needed to be competitive.

His peak overseas ratings (from 2 x G1 wins at 2400m) measure up to a 109 performance level, so there’s no doubt he has shown the talent in the past needed to win this race.  While he may improve 3rd up here on his last start rating, It seems unlikely that he can suddenly make a big leap towards something like his career peak, especially from a likely in-run position well back in the field.

His best form over this distance overseas puts him at a level that can be very competitive in this race. The challenge is though from a wide draw he’s likely to be well back in the field or travelling wide and neither are ideal for him to produce something like those overseas ratings in this race. If they were to go faster than expected up front then he could storm home, but that aside he may lack the dash needed to make up a lot of ground at the end of 2400m.

He’s the horse to beat in this race. Going back to his 3YO season he won the NZ Derby over 2400m in February, then headed over to the Sydney Autumn Carnival where he failed in the 2000m Rosehill Guineas, but then rebounded to run a new peak rating in the 2400m ATC Derby… equivalent to a 105 rating at the weights in this race.

His preparation this Spring has been flawless. He improved from a 101.5 rating fist up to 104 second up and then took another big step forward last week over 2000m in the Caulfield Stakes, running to a 107.6 performance level.

That rating from last week has additional merit when you consider that he was following Pornichet in the race and ended up stuck behind him from the 800m mark to 300m mark with nowhere to go. At the 800m he was 2 lengths in front of the race winner Criterion, but by the time Mongolian Khan got clear at about the 250m mark he was 1.2L behind Criterion. He ran the winner to 0.6 lengths at the finish and arguably may have won the race if clear from the 600m.

On that alone we can conservatively push his forecast performance for this race to 108.2 and then consider the prospect that he improve further in what has been his target race all along, over the distance his peak ratings as a 3YO were produced.  He could conceivably reach 109-110 in this race, especially on a 7 day back up.

The strength of that last start rating and prospect of improvement gives him the ideal profile to win a Caulfield Cup and when you add a favourable barrier draw with the likelihood of a nice run forward of midfield, he presents with very strong credentials.

Looks a dour type stayer better suited to the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup. I would be surprised if he could produce a rating over 2400m good enough to win this.

Comes off a 103.1 rating two starts ago over 2000m and does have 2 x 2400m runs behind Hartnell last preparation that put him at the 107 performance level. There’s no doubt he has the talent to be competitive under these handicap conditions, the big concern is whether he can do that settling near the tail of an 18 horse field in a race that may be run at an unsuitable tempo. It would surprise me if he won, but I do expect he’ll be hitting the line well and go in to the Melbourne Cup ready to peak, like he did last year.

Best rating in this distance range is comfortably short of the standard needed to win this.

She’s very consistent and has multiple ratings over the last 12 months in the 107 to 108 range which are potentially very competitive here, but all bar one of them are over 1600m, with the one at 2000m barely reaching the 107 level in the Queen Elizabeth at Randwick in the Autumn. She was 5th beaten 1.9L behind Fawkner in 2013, but did get a better run from barrier 3 in that race than she’s likely to get here from the widest draw. She can be thereabouts, but it would surprise me if she won.

Looks more capable at the top level over 2000m than 2400m to me. Can run to 105 at this trip, but that’s comfortably short of what will be needed to win and there’s nothing to suggest he will suddenly go to a new peak.

Got the firm ground he needed last start and produced a very solid 106.2 rating when pushing Complacent all the way over 2000m in the Craven Plate at Randwick. That performance was consistent with his Tulloch win and 2nd placing to Mongolian Khan in the ATC Derby during the Autumn, so he’s very well established at that level.

He’ll need to go to a new career peak here to pass the 107 mark needed to be in the finish, but 4th up over 2400m on suitable Good ground again, it’s not too difficult to see that happening. He’s definitely among the leading chances.

3rd in this race last year, which at the weights this year puts her at a 108.7 performance which can certainly win. The issue this that she hasn’t looked the same horse so far this calendar year, peaking at a 106.2 rating in the Autumn and 103.8 2nd up this preparation over 1600m. When I also consider that she seems to now prefer the string out of the ground and is drawn to settle near the tail of the field, she looks hard to like. That said, the market is reflecting that and my price is similar.

Was very good when 2nd to Admire Rakti last year and a repeat of that run puts her at a 109 performance level in this race. Her only other Australian 2400m run was a 108.8 rating when she won the ATC Oaks last year so there is plenty to like about her prospects getting back up to 2400m here. She has since changed stables to the Hayes camp, but the stable is flying at the moment. Two starts ago she showed that she was right on track with a 104.8 rating behind Fawkner 2nd up over a mile, but was then just okay last start in the Turnbull Stakes. Given the red hot form of the Hayes stable at the moment I’m prepared to make some allowance for last start, but generally overlook it and assess her on that 104.8 with scope to improve stepping up to her peak distance of 2400m. With the prospect of a good run just off the pace here, there’s every reason to think expect her to run very well. With two from two runs at 2400m meeting a level that can win this, she’s one of the top chances and still presents a decent value edge.

Nowhere near good enough to be competitive in this.

Ran to a 102 level last start and will clearly be better suited up to 2400m here. She has the talent to be right in the finish going by her 108.4 rating win in the ATC Oaks earlier this year, but I’m not sure if she can make that leap this time. Not hopeless but hard to like.

Ran to a 104 rating last start in the Turnbull Stakes and has a 104.8 peak, neither of which are good enough to challenge for the win in this race. She may be able to improve to a new career peak, but it’s a massive challenge to improve enough so that she can match some of the better chances in this race. It’s not impossible, but the market price looks far too short and doesn’t reflect the task she faces. I have to oppose her.

Has a peak performance level of 104.5 over 2000m and his one run over 2400m in the last 12 months rated significantly lower. Unlikely to be good enough.

1st Emergency so unlikely to run. Even if he does get a start, his overseas rating in this distance range don’t look good enough.

2nd Emergency, unlikely to run.  The stable has done a great job to bring him back from almost 2 years off the scene to return to a performance level that can be competitive under these handicap conditions.

3rd emergency. It’s a shame that he is very unlikely to get a run in this, because his recent ratings of 104.3 and 106, with the scope to improve a fraction towards his peak ratings suggest he could be a competitive chance.

It’s a terrible shame that the early declaration of weights for this race and the penalty he received for winning The Metropolitan Hcp was not enough to get him into this race. He ran to a 108.2 level in that race and was set up here to run to a very similar level in this, which would be extremely competitive and capable of winning. It’s all theoretical, but he represented great value if he could have gained a start in this race.

BETTING STRATEGY

Happy to play 3 horses for a profit and finish square if Hauraki wins.

For every $100 you want to invest on the race, stake in the following ratio:

 

ratings b