An ambitious Melbourne Cup 2014 campaign for Jake Stephen’s French import Gris Caro begins in Adelaide this Saturday with a first-up run in the Penny Edition Stakes at Morphettville.
Nominations for this year’s $80,000 Listed Sportingbet Penny Edition Stakes (1400m) are led by Ken Sweeney’s The Goodwood third placegetter Riziz coming off a first-up win in the Group 3 Spring Stakes (1200m) at the track from August 9.
Saturday will be the Zariz six-year-olds’ first look at further than 1200m since their disappointing 11th in the 2012 Christmas Handicap over 1400m at Morphettville and the gelding’s last run this prep before returning for another shot at the $500,000 Group 1 The Goodwood (1200m) next winter.
Another intriguing entry though comes from the Victor Harbor base of Stephens who will saddle-up With Approval stallion Gris Caro.
The striking grey has had just the three runs down under during his opening Australian campaign after Stephens and other connections bought him over from France last year.
Untested in black-type company in France where he had nine starts over 1800m – 2400m for four wins, the genuine staying type debuted down under with a win in the Listed Balaklava Cup (1600m) last September.
From there he went to Moonee Valley on September 27 and ran a close second behind Mourinho in the Group 3 JRA Cup (2040m).
Things went amiss however on Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington in November when he beat home just one other runner to finish eighth behind Salon Soldier in the Listed Victoria Plate (1800m) when forced to race wide throughout.
While not quite up to a Group 1 campaign last season, Gris Caro has taken lots of improvement over their break and is ready for a strong showing this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
He has come through a recent hit-out in good order and ran again this morning ahead of Saturday with regular rider Dom Tourneur aboard once again.
“He’s coming along well,” Stephens said.
While the 1400m is likely to be a little short of the horse’s best, his trainer is hoping the speed is on in the Penny Edition.
“It’s an interesting race on paper, there could be some speed in the race which would obviously suit him and it’s a good starting point for him,” Stephens said.
“I would have liked to go first-up at a mile, but the timing of this race suits him and we didn’t want to have to go to Melbourne first-up.”
The five-year-old is nominated for both the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup in October, and is also earmarked for an entry into the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) when nominations for Flemington’s famous feature close on September 2.
In the lead-up to that Stephens is also looking at a maiden Melbourne run for the season in the $250,000 Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 6.
Gris Caro is an $81 roughie in futures Ladbrokes.com.au markets for the $3 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 18 and is even longer at $101 for the weight-for-age $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) the following weekend at Moonee Valley.
As for the all-in Melbourne Cup betting markets, Sydney Cup winner The Offer leads the way at $13 while Gris Caro is at the same price he is to win the Caulfield Cup – $81.
Stephens though is hopeful the import can prove to be better than its spring prices suggest, the trainer having saddled-up a genuine Melbourne Cup chance back in 2009.
That year Alcopop burst onto the scene with four straight wins including the Balaklava Cup and JRA Cup.
He then put three and a half lengths on Shocking in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) before that Mark Kavanagh-trained galloper won the Melbourne Cup while Alcopop ran sixth.
While unsure of where Gris Caro stands in regards to Alcopop’s form, the early line is good.
Gris Caro will also be joined in the Penny Edition Stakes field by stablemate Extra Virgin, the Keep The Faith mare racing for the first time since a mile win at the track in the mud on June 28.
“She’s going well,” Stephens said.
“It’s been a little while between runs but she might run here and then go back for the Balaklava Cup (following a second in the race last year).”
To get behind Gris Caro this weekend in the Penny Edition Stakes and then further ahead in the upcoming Group 1s in Melbourne visit Ladbrokes.com.au where new depositing punters are being reward with bonus match bets up to $250!