Here's my Auckland Cup preview.
Auckland Cup preview: Passchendaele out to emulate history
Oh, how times have changed with the Auckland Cup!!!
Now New Zealand’s only Group 1 race at 3200m, the winner and placegetters used to be considered New Zealand’s best chances to win Australasia’s greatest race, the Melbourne Cup.
This is despite the fact that only one horse has done the double – Jezabeel in 1998.
However, the last three Auckland Cup winners – Prize Lady, Spin Around and Zavite – have lined up in the Melbourne Cup in the same year only to run 17th, 20th and 22nd respectively.
In the past, Auckland Cup winners like Senator, Castletown and Beau Vite ran good races in the Melbourne Cup without winning.
This edition of the Auckland Cup, while perhaps not the strongest running of the race, features some classy types who may be Melbourne Cup-bound come November.
So who does Just Horse Racing writer Andrew Hawkins believe may be a chance in November – after winning here first, of course?
Read on to read Andrew’s Auckland Cup preview:
1. Capecover – probably the most proven at 3200m in the field. Has had 6 starts at 3200m for a win in the Adelaide Cup, 4ths in the Sandown Cup, Sydney Cup and New Zealand Cup, a 9th in the 2009 Auckland Cup and 17th to Shocking in the Melbourne Cup (where he was simply outclassed). Has had three lead up runs for this in a preparation that seems slightly rushed. At his best, he can win this. But he’ll need to be at his best with a 57kg topweight. Place chance appears best.
2. Tinseltown – his best is probably behind him and every time he’s been tried at 3200m, he’s seemed to struggle with the last 300m or so. Won the Counties Cup (2100m) very nicely four starts back but it has been downhill from there – so much so that it looks like his best distance is around 2200m. Although once a huge fan, I can’t have him here. And the barrier just makes it harder. Passing.
3. Mr Tipsy – one time Sydney Cup placegetter who is in pretty poor form. Was beaten narrowly by Pergola last start in the Moonee Valley Night Cup, but I reckon Pergola wouldn’t get warm here. It was an okay run from Mr Tipsy, but I doubt it was good enough for here. Could perhaps, with luck, find his way into the placings. But from a very wide barrier, luck probably won’t find him. Not for me.
4. Six O’Clock News – this son of Zabeel was once in the top few in betting for the Melbourne Cup, but after a number of poor runs he didn’t make the field. His run in the Wellington Cup was reminiscent of the Six O’Clock News of old, but he was slightly disappointing in the Avondale Cup. It depends which Six O’Clock News turns up – as with many of the horses near the top of the weights, on his best he can win it. Probably a better chance than the three above him, but he also has a wide gate. Place.
5. Titch – so we may be used to seeing European horses like Vintage Crop and Purple Moon turn their jumping careers into successful staying careers on the flat. But in New Zealand? Rarely does it happen. But this horse has been racing in fantastic heart. He won the Houlahan Hurdle at Sandown in August, then returned in October with a win over 1600m at Wanganui. Incredibly he almost won the G3 New Zealand Cup (3200m), only just defeated by Auckland Cup second favourite Showcause. Last start, he was beaten by a nose over 2200m by Solid Billing, who meets him 3.5kg better at the weights. No stamina queries with him, don’t know if he’s classy enough but there’s no doubt he’s one of the more intriguing horses in the race. Place.
6. Solid Billing – a real interesting runner. Was completely out of form until last start, when he beat Titch by a nose. He meets him 3.5kg better at the weights. Has won his only start at 3200m, by 3L in last year’s Listed Queensland Cup (although second was Dave The Dude, who is struggling in weak Melbourne staying races). Also won Randwick’s Summer Cup in 2009. On his day, he goes okay – probably not as classy as some in the field, but he’s a definite stayer. Could be one at odds.
7. Showcause – has probably been the most improved horse in New Zealand since October, when he was struggling in restricted races. Was a surprise winner of the G3 New Zealand Cup (3200m), then has mixed his form since – highlighted by two wins here over 2400m at Ellerslie in the G2 City of Auckland Cup and the G2 Avondale Cup. He ran pretty poorly when 9th in the G2 Wellington Cup. Seems to like Ellerslie. Well bred, and if he can stay 3200m, he’ll be right in the mix. Barrier does make it a bit difficult though. Chance nevertheless.
8. Passchendaele – there was much devastation in New Zealand when this mare suffered a hairline fracture of her cannon bone on the eve of this race last year. She was Auckland Cup favourite after fantastic lead up runs, but instead was sent for a long spell – so much so, that one writer declared that New Zealand had lost their best chance to win the 2010 Melbourne Cup (in March!!!!). This year, she’s back – and arguably coming off a better run than last year. She was 3rd at weight for age to Red Ruler and Booming last start. If she runs 3200m, which she is bred to do, she should win. She is favourite for a reason. And perhaps, this year, she’ll finally get a chance to go for Melbourne Cup glory. Top chance.
9. Cassini – this mare was in very nice form and most likely would have started rather high in the markets before her last start failure in weak company. Hard to gauge where she’s at. The second from outside barrier makes it rather difficult too. Not for me.
10. Castle Heights – one time Grafton Cup winner who has a habit of mixing his form. Last run actually wasn’t too bad. Yet to run at 3200m but his trainer Donna Logan has had success with 3200m types before and he should get the distance on breeding. Can’t back him with any confidence whatsoever, but could run a place at big odds.
11. Fazza – 8yo who has only started to hit his straps in the last year. Was one of the outsiders in last year’s Auckland Cup when he ran 9th. Is in better form this time in, but still should deservedly be one of the outsiders. Not for me.
12. Roi d’Jeu – equal second favourite with Showcause. He started favourite in the New Zealand Cup, finishing a half length behind Showcause. He was a dominant winner in restricted company last Saturday with 59kg. Personally, I don’t think his form is outstanding, although the 8kg drop in weight should help. Still think he is under the odds and would be lucky to win. Maybe a place.
13. Can’t Keeper Down – ran 2nd to Jungle Rocket in the 2009 NZ Oaks (Daffodil was 4th). Was heavily backed for the Queensland Oaks, but failed to do anything behind Purple. After that, she seemed to take a long time to recover her form. However, in her last three runs, she has shown glimpses of her old form. The main query is 3200m, and it is a big concern. However, she has been consistent as of late, and therefore must be thrown into all multiples.
14. Innocent Lady – this is the mare on the up. Trained by Graeme Sanders, who trained Prize Lady to win the 2007/2008 Auckland Cups, she has only had 16 starts for 4 wins and 7 seconds. She ran a game race in the Avondale Cup, although I have to admit that it didn’t look like the run of a horse looking for 3200m. Furthermore Viking Ruler is yet to produce a winner over 3200m. However, she has next to no weight, she has some of the best (and most consistent) form in the field and must be considered.
15. Trilogy – this mare had only had one start this time last year, but since April she has had another 23 starts! She’s run some very nice races at her last two starts in the Dunedin Cup and the Avondale Cup. She produced a very nice Auckland Cup trial in the Avondale Cup. The outside gate is a real concern though, she will have to go back towards the tail of the field and I don’t know if she has the turn of foot to make up the ground she’ll lose. Perhaps a place.
16. Back in Black – has run okay races recently without being outstanding. Yet to race beyond 2400m. Will get the sweet run from the draw, but probably doesn’t have the class or the stamina to win this. Happy to risk.
17. Tin Goose – last year’s third placegetter (ran 3rd at 100-1!), he’s in worse form this time around. Might be looking for the 3200m again, so can’t rule out entirely – especially considering the fact that Zavite almost won The BMW in that same campaign while Booming is a subsequent dual G1 winner. Nevertheless, he’s only a rough place chance.
18. Zabene – ran a mighty race in the New Zealand Cup behind Showcause, but hasn’t done much since. Seems to dislike wet tracks, and was beaten a long way in last year’s Auckland Cup. I like the McKees as trainers, but this bloke is no Sunline. Plenty against him, and an outsider for a reason. Pass.
19. He’s Under The Gun (1st emergency) – up and coming stayer who mixes his form. Pretty good run in the Wellington Cup before an average run in the Avondale Cup. Still, as a son of Zabeel, he may want 3200m. If he gets a run, he’s one to include for the place.
20. Payback (2nd emergency) – outclassed. No.
21. Mr Zatopek (3rd emergency) – why waste my time? No.
SUMMARY – Not sure this is one of the strongest Auckland Cups, although I think there are some nice horses in the race. Actually, most of the nice horses are mares. It’s been 13 years since an Auckland Cup winner went on to win the Melbourne Cup – that was Jezabeel in 1998 (and she was actually one of the outsiders in her Auckland Cup). So it is may be suitable that a mare wins and goes on to tackle the Melbourne Cup. There’s only one horse in the race that I believe is capable of this, and that’s the favourite Passchendaele. So I’m going to stick with her. I’m a big fan of her, and I think she has plenty of staying ability. I just hope she can stay 3200m. And if she does win, I hope she stays sound for a tilt at the Melbourne Cup. For second, I have to throw the gutsy Showcause in. He loves Ellerslie and I think he has plenty of class. He just might run into a good one here. The up and coming mare Innocent Lady may not look like a 3200m form but she’s ultra consistent and that’s what you want to see from a horse. She’s a definite chance of running a place. For 4th, I’m going to go with Can’t Keeper Down. Don’t think she’ll run a strong 3200m but her runs in recent times have been nice. Next best are Solid Billing, Six O’Clock News and Capecover.
14. Innocent Lady
13. Can’t Keeper Down
Written by Andrew Hawkins