Kiwi galloper Lion Tamer may be racing in a Caulfield Cup ballot exemption offer race on Saturday, but connections have named the 2011 Cox Plate as a possible spring target for the reigning Victoria Derby winner should they show form in the weight-for-age Underwood Stakes 2011.
Storming Home four-year-old Lion Tamer is one of 14 horses still in contention for the $350,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield this Saturday after the early scratching of #4 Maluckyday, last year’s Melbourne Cup runner-up to miss another shot at the world’s richest handicap having been spelled to treat a virus.
Drawn in barrier six and due to be ridden by champion jockey Michael Rodd, the Murray Baker-trained Lion Tamer is currently rated a generous $17 shot in the 2011 Underwood Stakes odds at Luxbet.
With a star-studded field of rivals including the Peter Moody-trained mare Lights Of Heaven ($4.40), sensational Kiwi mare Scarlett Lady ($6) and Michael Moroney’s talented import Glass Harmonium ($4.60), the Underwood Stakes is certainly going to be a hotly contested affair.
Still, at a drifting double-figure price in the Underwood Stakes betting markets, Lion Tamer has genuine claims of an upset.
Connections don’t necessarily need Lion Tamer to win, however, they just want to see him race competitively under weight-for-age conditions to help them decide whether to press onto the $2.5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15 or give the galloper their chance in the prestigious $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 22.
“It’s not a given that he’ll run in the Caulfield Cup,” Baker said.
“We’re looking to see if he measures up at weight-for-age and if he does we’ll run him in the Cox Plate.”
A winner of five of their 12 starts to date, Lion Tamer has already amassed over $1 million in prize money thanks to their Victoria Derby success during the Melbourne Cup Carnival last year.
While the Slow track conditions at Flemington that day certainly helped attribute to Lion Tamer’s commanding six and a half length annihilation of his rivals in the Derby, he showed that as a four-year-old on firmer ground he could be equally competitive when resuming with a close first-up fourth to Mufhasa in the Group 1 Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Hastings in New Zealand.
“His effort at Hastings was very good as he’s not a 1400-metre horse but it suggested he could measure up,” Baker said.
They make their Caulfield debut tomorrow in the Underwood and Baker is confident they can give a good show under WFA with 58 kg as they carried 58.5kg last start.
“We think he’ll run a good race on Saturday although it might be a bit short but we’re happy with him,” Baker said.
Lion Tamer has had just one attempt over the 1800 metres when finishing a distant seventh behind Retrieve in the Group 3 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) at Rosehill 12 months ago, but better suited to the Melbourne way of running and having come on since then should see a nicer result on Saturday.
Following Saturday’s run Baker named the $500,000 Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Sunday October 2 as Lion Tamer’s next-up start.
One thing that has eased Baker’s mind heading into the spring majors is that Lion Tamer is already assured of a start in the spring cups, including the $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 1.
“We’ve the luxury of picking our way through the spring in many ways, but now is not a good time to put in a less-than-satisfactory run,” Baker commented.
“I’d like to think that he could make it to a Cox Plate and then go to a Melbourne Cup.
“That progression wouldn’t worry me because he’s a real stayer.”
Lion Tamer is rated a $26 chance in the Caulfield Cup 2011 odds at Luxbet while for the 2011 Cox Plate he is at a slightly shorter price of $21.
In Melbourne Cup 2011 betting futures Lion Tamer is much shorter sitting at $15.
He trails only $12 Melbourne Cup favourite Shamrocker, December Draw ($14) and Scarlett Lady ($14).
Scarlett Lady and Shamrocker are both Underwood Stakes rivals tomorrow while the yet-to-qualify Cups hopeful December Draw will seek their way to a ballot pass in the $125,000 Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Saturday’s Caulfield meeting.
A good run tomorrow over the 1800 metres will see Lion Tamer firm dramatically in their spring futures betting prices, making now the time to get behind them through Australia’s leading online bookmaker Luxbet.
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