Saturday saw the launch of the Spring Carnival majors with the running of the Group 1 Yalumba Stakes. Outstanding galloper Whobegotyou claimed a remarkable three-quarters of a length victory, beating home Heart Of Dreams, who ran the fastest final 200m section of the race, to the finish.
The win was jockey Damien Oliver’s 2000th career victory and his 86th at Group 1 level. Oliver’s masterful ridding has now ensured that Whobegotyou sits firmly as the Cox Plate favourite at odds as low as $2.80. Heart Of Dreams is second favourite at $7.50. If Whobegotyou succeeds in the Cox Plate, he will be only the 14th horse in history to complete the Yalumba-Cox Plate double, Northerly in 2001 being the most recent.
Vision And Power ridden by Hugh Bowman finished a respectable third just ahead of fourth-placegetter Master O’Reilly.
Other Melbourne and Caulfield Cup trials held over the weekend included the Group 1 Toorak Handicap. The Bart Cummings-trained Allez Wonder won the race after starting as a $41 longshot, finishing a neck ahead of Gold Salute with Rock Kingdom a close third. It was the first Group 1 win for jockey Michelle Payne and the Cup’s King’s 255th Group 1 success. Allez Wonder is one of two horses trained by Cummings due to run in the $2.5million Caulfield Cup next Saturday. Allez Wonder is aiming to be the first horse since Cole Diesel in 1989 to take out the Toorak-Caulfield Cup double.
Up-and-coming colt Starspangledbanner was another local galloper stealing the show from the interstate invaders at Caulfield on Saturday. With ace hoop Dan Nikolic aboard, who is making his return to the Victorian tracks, Starspagledbanner won the $1million Caulfield Guineas (1600m) by a two and three-quarter lengths ahead Carrara, another local, and Manhattan Rain.
And emerging stayer Alcopop has zipped into Melbourne Cup contention, after an effortless win in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield on Saturday. After connections forgot to pay his second acceptance for the Caulfield Cup, Alcopop is now aimed at the feature race of the year at Flemington on November 3. The Adelaide gelding destroyed his competition finishing ahead of Shocking by an easy three and a quarter lengths, with Hissing Sid third. Nearly unheard of a few weeks ago, Alcopop has emerged as one of the best distant gallopers in the country and bookmakers have acted accordingly slashing his price in the ante-post betting markets for the Melbourne Cup from $17 to $7, now second favourite behind Efficient at $6.
In other news, the final five international horses have arrived for the Spring Carnival in Melbourne. Changingoftheguard, Warringah, Munsef along with stablemates Mourilyan and Bankable are now all settled in at the Sandwon quarantine centre after arriving in the country late Saturday.