Craig Williams has declared his mount Dunaden as the horse to beat in the 2012 Caulfield Cup this month, the ace Australian hoop believing the French-trained stayer could actually be more suited to the mile and a half classic than the two miles of the Melbourne Cup.
Last spring the Mikel Delzangels-trained Nicobar stallion travelled down under and stole the show when winning the Geelong Cup – Melbourne Cup double in Melbourne, the same two races fellow French champion Americain saluted in the year before.
From there Dunaden travelled to Hong Kong to take out the Group 1 HK Vase over 2400m, but they have remained winless since.
The now seven-year-old has raced four times this year, their best result being a second to Sea Moon in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2414m) at Ascot back in June.
Williams, who was aboard Dunaden for their Geelong Cup victory but who missed the historical Melbourne Cup mount due to suspension, travelled over to Britain for the horse’s most recent run in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2414m) on July 21.
The duo failed to reproduce their Hong Kong winning form however with Dunaden weakening inside the final furlong to run three and a half lengths away sixth to Danedream.
This spring connections have decided to not only send Dunaden to the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) on the first Tuesday of November to defend their title, but to chase the coveted spring cups double with the $2.65 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 20 also on the agenda.
Yesterday Dunaden was one of 41 stayers making up the 2012 Caulfield Cup third declarations, and while originally skeptical over whether the Caulfield Cup was the right first-up race for the champ, Williams is now brimming with confidence after partnering the progressive galloper in a hitout at Werribee on Tuesday.
“My feeling is that the Caulfield Cup will be more suitable than the Melbourne Cup,” Williams said on Tuesday.
“There’s no doubt that the way that he’s going now, because the weights are so compressed, he can definitely win the Caulfield Cup with his 58 kilos.
“I’d say the way the Caulfield Cup is usually run, it’s going to be more to his liking.
“He’s a lot bigger and stronger than last year.
“Because his physique changed, they were much happier to run with the 58 kilos.
“When I rode him in Europe, I thought he was a different horse and a lot sharper.
“He felt like a mile and a half horse, not a two mile horse and it was the same this morning.”
The Tuesday gallop over 1400m, the last 600m of which was done in 37 seconds, was Dunaden’s first since arriving back in Australia and Williams believes they have plenty of improvement in them from now until Caulfield Cup Day.
“I was happy with what he did today and I know he’s got improvement in him,” Williams said.
“When we started to canter off he really came to life and I really had to hang on to him.
“His trainer Mikel Delzangles flies in next Sunday and I’ll be back to ride him in a gallop next Monday and I expect there to be plenty of improvement.
“I’m looking forward to seeing his progress on Monday.”
In the latest Caulfield Cup odds at bookmaker.com.au Duanden is the $14 fourth favourite following Gai Waterhouse’s The Metropolitan winner Glencadam Gold ($4.60), last year’s beaten favourite December Draw ($9) and the Robert Hickmott-trained Seville ($11) who caught the eye when a close second to Green Moon in the Turnbull Stakes last Saturday.
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