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Cream of the crop

3 minute read

Gary Crispe, internationally acclaimed rating agency Timeform's Australian assessor, gives Sportsman readers an insight as to how he sees the early nominations.


Not many trainers in Australia know what it takes to win multiple Melbourne and Caulfield Cups. But Champion handlers Bart Cummings and Lee Freedman do, and while Bart starred last year with his 12th Melbourne Cup winner in Viewed, I think the 2009 year might just belong to Freedman. Freedman has been out of the winners list in the Cups since the great mare Makybe Diva scored her historic third Melbourne Cup win in 2005, thereby giving Freedman his fifth victory in Australia's most famous race. At Caulfield, Freedman's record is a 'little worse' capturing the famous Heath Cup on just four occasions, the last time in 2003 with the gallant Mummify.

--- Speed Gifted ---
This year a very talented ex-United Kingdom stayer, Speed Gifted, has found his way to Freedman's Rye stables, and at this early juncture looks a great prospect for both Cups with a slight preference for Caulfield. In a unique twist, Freedman who purchased six horses in the UK late last year, also picked up Speed Gifted while on that scouting trip. Speed Gifted is owned by JeanMarc Charmat who races several horses with Luca Cumani, but he decided to send this galloper to Australia for the Cups and to be trained by Freedman. The son of staying sire Montjeu, Speed Gifted has raced just nine times for three wins at 2400m, 2800m and 1620m. He was given one run in Australia in May over 1620m at Flemington, the first time he had raced under 2400m, but he treated an off-season open class field with sheer contempt, scoring easily. That win was no real surprise as Speed Gifted came to Australia with a Timeform rating of 116, certainly good enough for that class of race and with scope to go better with more racing and maturity. Speed Gifted's 2008 form in the United Kingdom reads pretty well and significantly is largely unexposed, which means he should get well treated at the weights, a bit like Bauer last year. He was third to Buccellati over 2400m at Newmarket, a horse with tremendous staying form lines this year against the likes of Tartan Bearer and Pipedreamer. Speed Gifted was also close up behind Peppertree Lane and Eastern Anthem in the Hildon Stakes at Goodwood over 2400m. I see no reason why this fellow cannot be rating close to 120 with Timeform by Cups time and that should ensure he will be very competitive.

--- Predatory Pricer ---
The Paul Murray-trained Predatory Pricer looks an ideal horse for the Caulfield Cup. The son of Street Cry is also lightly raced having won four times from just 13 runs. This fellow raced strongly in the three-year-old Autumn Classics in Sydney, such as the Phar Lap Stakes, Tulloch Stakes and AJC Derby, but did not have much luck either striking interference or wet tracks. All the same he showed enough to suggest he would come back to racing a much stronger four-year-old with scope to be more competitive against his peers. And that he did with a sterling fresh up win in the JJ Liston Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield this preparation. On that occasion he returned a new Timeform rating of 124, rising two pounds over his autumn form, with the promise of more to give. There is little doubt that the 2400m of the Caulfield Cup will hold no fears for Predatory Pricer, despite being the younger half-brother to champion global sprinter Takeover Target. Predatory Pricer was an unlucky close up third in the AJC Derby over 2400m at Randwick on rainaffected ground, before being tested at weight-for-age in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes on slow going, finishing fourth to Pompeii Ruler. Those efforts stamped him as a potential Caulfield Cup hope this season and he would not have to improve the 124 Timeform rating much to be right in the mix on Cup day. Two horses who look capable of making sharp improvement are Shocking and Vigor.

--- Shocking ---
Shocking from Mark Kavanagh's stable has been a late bloomer. Another Street Cry galloper, Shocking has raced just eight times for three wins in a short career to date, but looks a genuine improver capable of measuring up this campaign.
Once this fellow's distances began to stretch out, his obvious staying ability started to shine, culminating with a narrow defeat in the Queensland Derby (2400m) in June on a heavy track. Shocking currently has a Timeform rating of 106 plus, and although this looks well short of the five year 122 average Timeform rating required to win the Caulfield Cup, I am banking on him making rapid improvement. The same argument applies to Vigor.

--- Vigor ---
A lightly raced five-year-old, Vigor has raced just 16 times for seven wins and while the Cups were being run last year he was slowly working his way through the lesser grades, culminating in a strong win over 2520m at Flemington under 57kgs and returning a Timeform rating of 111. The Dan O'Brien-trained gelding resumed this campaign over an unsuitable 1200m at Caulfield, finishing off strongly for third and rating 110 - a clear sign there is more to give as he gets to a staying trip.

--- Red Ruler ---
Rounding out my chances for the Caulfield Cup is New Zealand stayer Red Ruler, a horse who we saw last year in the race finishing an unlucky sixth behind All The Good. It is an interesting decision to bring this fellow to Australia for his Cups campaign so early especially when there would be suitable races back home in New Zealand, such as the Kelt Stakes. Red Ruler resumed in the Liston Stakes and was far from disgraced behind Predatory Pricer running midfield. Now five, Red Ruler currently has a Timeform rating of 118 and seems much stronger this time in. He has definite claims even at this early stage.


While the Caulfield Cup could go to an Australian-trained imported galloper, it looks as though the Melbourne Cup could again be headed to Ireland and Dermot Weld's mantelpiece. The canny Irishman has taken the Melbourne Cup from our shores twice already (Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle), but this year he will be relying on staying mare Profound Beauty.

--- Profound Beauty ---
This mare ran a creditable fifth last year behind Viewed when slightly immature, so she already has the experience of travelling and competing in Australia's great race. I was at the Curragh in June when she resumed in the Gold Cup over 2800m. She looked much stronger and dour than when I saw her last spring in Melbourne. Under 61kgs she easily accounted for her rivals that day and has since won twice again over 2800m and 2400m. Last start in the Ballyroan Stakes, over 2400m carrying 61.5kgs, she scored with ease from Mourayan and returned a Timeform rating of 116, exactly the same as she recorded in last year's Melbourne Cup. That indicates she has improved by several pounds this season and is well on track to give this year's Melbourne Cup a big shake.

--- Speed Gifted ---
See above.

--- C'est La Guerre ---
Last year's third placegetter C'est La Guerre looms large again among my early fancies. The 2008 New Zealand Derby winner showed glimpses of top staying form last year, with his best and highest Timeform rating effort of 122 coming in the Cup when a closing third to View and Bauer. Since then he has raced twice in Melbourne during the autumn in unsuitable races, but this campaign he can be expected to have just one goal - the Melbourne Cup. He carried 54kgs last year, but is sure to get a slight lift in the weights for the 2009 renewal, which means he will need to make some improvement to offset that rise. Still with a 122 rating, he is already around the five year winning Timeform rating for the race and has to be respected.

--- Changingoftheguard ---
The Aidan O'Brien-trained threeyearold Changingoftheguard is an interesting runner. A winner of two races from just six runs, the son of Montjeu has won over 2000m and 2573m and was runner-up in the prestigious Ebor Handicap (2800m) at York last start. On that occasion he was slow to jump and got held up at a vital stage of the race, in the straight, before finishing strongly to just fail. Timeform has rated the effort at 119, making him a stayer of similar ability to another three-year-old O'Brien bought out here a couple of years back, Mahler. His next start could be on the St Leger before a decision is made to bring him down for the Cup. The St Leger is the race Mahler ran second in prior to running a gallant third in the Cup to Efficient and Purple Moon in 2007.

--- Precedence ---
Bart Cummings already has 12 Melbourne Cups on the mantelpiece, but a baker's dozen could well come his way if VRC St Leger runnerup Precedence continues to make headway. A typical late developing Zabeel four-year-old, he has raced just nine times to date for one win, but shows definite staying ability, which may just take him all the way to Flemington on the first Tuesday in November. He was a rapid ratings riser last campaign reaching a Timeform figure of 106+ in the VRC St Leger over 2800m at Flemington, his only win coming over 2390m at Caulfield in open three-year-old class prior to the St Leger. It is early days yet, with plenty of lead up form and races to be run. But I will be very surprised if Lee Freedman does not play a big hand in the Carnival with Speed Gifted.


Last year's Melbourne Cup winner Viewed carried a timeform rating of 119 heading into the spring. He finished the season with a timeform rating of 121.


Horse            TFE
Whobegotyou     126
Duporth           125
Heart Of Dreams   124
Nicconi           124
Aichi             123
Metal Bender      123
Sousa            123
Mic Mac          122
Predatory Pricer   122
Rock Kingdom     122
Roman Emperor   122
Northern Meteor   122
Ortensia          122
Samantha Miss    122
Wilander         122
Youthful Jack     122
Caymans          121
Harris Tweed      121
Typhoon Tracy    121
Fist Of Fury       120
Fully Fledged      120
Time Thief        120


Horse            TFE
Weekend Hussler   129
Scenic Blast       126
Light Fantastic     125
Alamosa          123
Royal Discretion   123
Swiss Ace        123
Zagreb           123
Barbaricus        122
Cest La Guerre    122
Nom Du Jeu      122
Road To Rock     122
Triple Honour      122
Forensics         121
Moatize          121
Bank Robber      120
Guillotine        120
Littorio           120
El Cambio        118
Mad Rush        118
Red Ruler         118


Horse             TFE
Takeover Target     128
Apache Cat        126
Pompeii Ruler      126
Zipping            126
All Silent            125
Danleigh            125
Maldivian           125
Master OReilly      125
Black Piranha        124
Fiumicino          124
Niconero          124
Theseo            124
Sarrera            123
Lucky Secret       122
Typhoon Zed       122
Vision And Power   122
Danny Beau        121
Douro Valley       121
Mentality          121
Mr Baritone        121
Scenic Shot        121
Viewed           121


Article taken from The Sportsman, published on Saturday, 5th September 2009, Author, Ray Thomas, Page 6.

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