Imported stayer Gris Caro earnt himself as place in the 2014 Caulfield Cup with a tough victory in the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield this afternoon.
Jockey Ben Melham was riding Gris Caro for the first time and was very positive on the With Approval entire in the early stages of the race and settled him in second position behind the early leader Bonfire.
Gris Caro hit the front at the 250 metre mark and ground his way to the line in a tough staying performance to record a narrow win from the fast-finishing Entirely Platinum and Bonfire, while pre-race favourite Spillway was never able to get out and finished in the middle of the field.
Melham said that Gris Caro had been a little bit difficult to handle in the lead-up to the Naturalism Stakes, but believes that the imported galloper will continue to improve as he gets further into his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign.
“He got a bit fired up today, Jake had him pretty well,” Melham said.
“He travelled quiet solidly, especially when the leader put the tempo up in the middle stages, and he raced hard on the bridle.
“He didn’t track the home corner too well, but he showed plenty of fight at the finish.
“Jake had him pretty well and he is a bit above himself, but there is plenty of improvement ahead of him and he is a good staying talent.”
Gris Caro joined the stable of Jake Stephens at the end of 2012 and took out the Listed Balaklava Cup (1600m) in his Australian racing debut, but missed the 2014 Autumn Racing Carnival due to injury.
Stephens has put a great deal of work into returning Gris Caro to peak fitness, but he still believes that the five-year-old still has plenty of improvement left in him heading into the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield on October 18.
“Last start we sort of knew that he would come on from that and the trip over,” Stephens said.
“He has been a handful out the back this morning and we sort of knew that he was going to run well, but with that draw I was a little bit worried.
“Ben has done a great job and it was a great ride to get that spot there.
“I actually think he has more improvement in him, I had him at about 95 percent for this one.
“We will have to have a look because I have been taking it one race at a time.
“We will decide obviously.”
The winner of the Naturalism Stakes receives ballot exempt entry into the Caulfield Cup and Stephens will be having his first runner in the race since Alcopop finished second behind Dunaden in 2012.
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2014 Naturalism Stakes Results
|1||11||GRIS CARO (GB)||Jake Stephens||Ben Melham||–||11||54kg (cd 54.5kg)||$16|
|2||3||ENTIRELY PLATINUM (NZ)||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||Dwayne Dunn||0.1L||6||57kg||$7.50|
|3||5||BONFIRE (GB)||Gai Waterhouse||Craig Williams||1.1L||9||56kg||$5|
|4||12||ALBONETTI||Sue Jaensch||Dean Yendall||1.2L||7||54kg||$61|
|5||2||IBICENCO (GER)||Peter G Moody||Brad Rawiller||1.3L||5||57.5kg||$31|
|6||7||ARALDO (GB)||Michael Moroney||Glen Boss||1.7L||1||55kg||$16|
|7||1||SPILLWAY (GB)||David Hayes & Tom Dabernig||Damien Oliver||2.2L||4||58kg||$2.70F|
|8||4||OUR VOODOO PRINCE (GB)||Chris Waller||James Winks||2.3L||10||56.5kg||$7|
|9||6||FOUNDRY (IRE)||Robert Hickmott||Chad Schofield||2.4L||3||55.5kg||$26|
|10||10||LET’S MAKE ADEAL||Nigel Blackiston||Craig Newitt||3.65L||8||54kg||$12|
|11||8||KINCAPLE (NZ)||Mark Webb||Damian Lane||7.4L||2||54.5kg||$151|