After confirming his plans to race four time Group 1 champion It’s A Dundeel exclusively in Melbourne this spring carnival, New Zealand trainer Murray Baker announced he would also nominate the $2.1 million earner for the 2013 Melbourne Cup.
Lightly-raced High Chaparral colt It’s A Dundeel has won eight of their 12 starts to date, including a Group 1 quartet down under, with the crack Kiwi’s longest distanced win being over the mile and a half in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) in mid-April.
That victory was an emphatic six length effort and saw them complete the Sydney Autumn Carnival 3YO Triple Crown following their earlier successes in the Randwick Guineas and Rosehill Guineas.
Having failed to step up in distance the prep before when finishing seventh to subsequent The BMW winner Fiveandahalfstar in the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) during last year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival, they proved in the Derby they could stay.
Last seen running second to Reliable Man in an upset result in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on April 27, It’s A Dundeel is nearing a return with their likely first-up run being in the $350,000 Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on August 31.
“I’m not making excuses, It’s A Dundeel was beaten by a better horse on the day, but he might have just come to the end of it in that race,” Baker said of their Queen Elizabeth performance.
“He began in Sydney at the start of last spring, had four races there, then went down to Melbourne for two runs, before going back home to New Zealand for a spell.
“He then returned to Sydney for the autumn for another five races, so it was probably catching up with him a bit at the end.
“He just wasn’t quite as sharp as normal that day. I know it was more exalted company, Reliable Man is the highest-rated overseas horse to ever race here, but my jockey, Michael Rodd, said It’s A Dundeel was out of ‘gas’ at the 400m but stuck to it because he is such a good horse.”
From there they will stay on in Victoria with two more lead-ups in the $400,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on September 21 and the $400,000 Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) on October 12 before their shot at Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 25.
“It’s A Dundeel is going to end up in Melbourne anyway so we might as well kick off down there,” Baker said this week.
“I’m looking at starting him first-up in either the Memsie Stakes or the Makybe Diva Stakes, then he will run in the Underwood Stakes before the Caulfield Stakes and Cox Plate.
“I had him measured the other day and he has grown quite a bit. He is 15.3 hands now.
“He has been back in work about six weeks now and is coming along nicely.
“We may give him a trial or a jump-out here in the next couple of weeks before we take him to Melbourne.”
Their outstanding autumn has seen It’s A Dundeel dominate early Cox Plate betting over the past few months and they now sit top of the odds at $4 just ahead of Mark Kavanagh’s Australian Cup winner Super Cool ($4.80).
While the Cox Plate is the obvious aim as they will be well suited to the WFA conditions, Baker hasn’t ruled out the handicap features either saying they would also be nominated for the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) held on the first Tuesday of November.
“If he is in form and we are happy with how he is going we will look at the Melbourne Cup,” Baker said.
“The Cox Plate is the aim, as a colt I would like to run him in the Cox Plate, but no doubt we will nominate him for the Melbourne Cup, too.”
They may be favourite for the Cox Plate but in the pre-nomination Melbourne Cup odds It’s A Dundeel is at a more generous $21 along with three other horses.
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