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Mark Kavanagh’s crack imported stayer December Draw on Saturday earned a ballot-free ride into the Caulfield Cup 2011 field by winning the $125,000 Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield, a victory which will attract a Cup penalty.
Prior to Saturday’s Underwood Stakes Day meeting, Medecis five-year-old December Draw was yet to pass the first elimination clause for either the $2.5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15 or the famous 2011 Melbourne Cup, which trainer Kavanagh hopes to win for a second time following the success of the since-retired Shocking in 2009.
Having won three of their four starts in Australia since May, December Draw was still well liked in the futures betting at Luxbet for the $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) and was the Caulfield Cup favourite despite being yet to qualify.
On Saturday December Draw ($1.55) took to Caulfield for the first time and was once again impressive as jockey Michael Rodd guided them to a strong half-length win over the Robert Hickmott-trained At First Sight (9), an easy margin that could have been more had Rodd not taken the gas off over the final 100 metres, with Lucky Eighty Eight ($10) a further one and three quarter lengths away for third.
For the Caulfield Cup December Draw has now firmed from $7.50 into the short-priced $4 futures betting favourite at Luxbet and is also co-favourite for Flemington’s Melbourne Cup at a quote of $9 – equal with Saturday’s Underwood Stakes winner Lion Tamer.
Kavanagh may be a former Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup winning trainer, but the Caulfield Cup has so far eluded the master horseman.
He came devastatingly close in 2007 when that year’s raging favourite Maldivian was scratched pre-race after a freak head injury in the barriers.
“I don’t think anyone would begrudge me that,” Kavanagh said when asked about winning a Caulfield Cup.
Rodd, aboard for December Draw’s three most recent runs, will only get to retain the ride on the star import for the Caulfield Cup if the horse’s weight is raised from 50kg to at least 53kg – Rodd’s minimum.
“Realistically I have to see him around 53 (kilograms),” Rodd said.
“I’m not going to be silly about it, I’m not much good any lighter than that.”
There is a chance that December Draw will only gain a 1 – 2 kilogram penalty from Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper Greg Carpenter today, with former Naturalism Stakes winners Zipping (2006) and Red Lord (2009) rehandicapped only one kilo more for their Caulfield Cup bids.
If Caulfield Cup topweight, reigning Melbourne Cup winner Americain (58kg), does not accept the weights would have to be lifted by 2kg as the next heaviest-weighted hopeful is the Robert Hickmott-trained Midas Touch (55kg), two kilos under the Caulfield Cup minimum topweight (57kg).
December Draw, who raced 16 times for three wins in Europe before joining Kavanagh’s Victorian operation, will seek their fourth Flemington win in the penalty-free $500,000 Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) on Sunday, October 2.
“I suppose we’ve got to have one more run before hand and we probably need it about two weeks before, so we’ll look and try and find a non-penalty race,” Kavanagh confirmed.
“It’ll probably be the Turnbull or something like that.
“He likes 2000 (metres), he likes Flemington, so maybe we’ll go there.”
Now is the time to get behind December Draw for their spring cups starts before they firm further in the markets at Luxbet.
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2011 Naturalism Stakes Results & Finishing Order
|1||9||DECEMBER DRAW (IRE)||Mark Kavanagh||Michael Rodd||–||1||54kg||$1.55F|
|2||3||AT FIRST SIGHT (IRE)||Robert Hickmott||Steven King||0.5L||11||56kg||$9|
|3||13||LUCKY EIGHTY EIGHT||Mathew Ellerton & Simon Zahra||Ms Michelle Payne||2.25L||3||53kg||$10|
|4||12||ABOVE AVERAGE (IRE)||Anthony Freedman||Ms Lisa Cropp||2.75L||7||53kg||$26|
|5||6||LIGHT VISION (NZ)||Robert Smerdon||Chris Symons||2.85L||8||54.5kg||$51|
|6||5||DREAM PEDLAR||Troy Blacker||Craig Newitt||3.35L||4||54.5kg||$71|
|7||7||NIWOT||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||Dean Yendall||4.35L||10||54.5kg||$21|
|8||16||I’M JAKE (NZ)||David Brideoake & David Feek||Dwayne Dunn||5.1L||2||53kg||$26|
|9||8||BLACK AND BENT||Robert Smerdon||Glen Boss||5.2L||15||54kg||$14|
|10||2||HERCULIAN PRINCE (NZ)||Gai Waterhouse||Ben Melham||5.3L||13||56.5kg||$31|
|11||10||MY BENTLEY (NZ)||Michael Kent||James McDonald (a)||6.05L||16||53.5kg||$21|
|12||14||GUEST WING||Shane A Edwards||Michael Walker||6.35L||5||53kg (cd 53.5kg)||$101|
|13||1||HARRIS TWEED (NZ)||Murray Baker||Brad Rawiller||8.35L||12||58kg||$26|
|14||4||ONCE WERE WILD||Gai Waterhouse||Damien Oliver||8.75L||14||55.5kg||$21|
|15||11||EXCEPTIONALLY (NZ)||Terry & Karina O’Sullivan||Danny Nikolic||10L||6||53kg (cd 53.5kg)||$61|
|16||17e||MONTAHLIA (NZ)||Michael Kent||Ibrahim Gundogdu (a)||12L||9||53kg||$101|
|–||18e||ANUDJAWUN (NZ)||Shaun Dwyer||–||–||0||–||–|
|–||15||ZAGREB||David Hayes||James Winks||–||0||–||–|
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