Tough Caulfield Debut for Cox Plate Hope Dan Excel

Hong Kong galloper Dan Excel faces a tough debut down under this weekend in Melbourne after the 2014 Cox Plate bound champ missed his original first-up target due to a virus.

Tommy Berry

Singapore Cup winning jockey Tommy Berry retains the ride on Dan Excel at Caulfield on Saturday. Photo: Daniel Costello.

On Saturday at Caulfield Racecourse the John Moore-trained son of Shamardal races in Australia for the first time in the $120,000 Listed APT Weekend Hussler Stakes (1400m).

Currently stabled with his expat Aussie trainer’s Sydney-based brother Gary Moore, the seven-year-old gelding hasn’t raced since May when he won the Group 1 Singapore International Cup (2000m) with Sydney-based hoop Tommy Berry in the saddle.

That was his second Group 1 victory and fourth straight start in elite level company leaving one to think racing in Listed company this weekend would be an easy assignment.

That’s not the case according to his current minder however who knows just how hard it will be to win the Weekend Hussler Stakes after early spring carnival setbacks.

His Australian debut was scheduled as the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield last month but connections had to rethink his campaign after Dan Excel had an elevated temperature.

“When he was up in Sydney with me for around two months he did really well, he worked well and he trialled well,” Moore told Racing Victoria this week.

“When he was shipped down to Melbourne he took ill. He’s missed vital training; he’s been on medication and is probably one week behind.”

The horse’s trainer then changed the rescheduled first-up run from the Group 1 Toorak Handicap over the Flemington mile last weekend to the Weekend Hussler because of the work missed.

“When you’re aiming at such a prestigious race as the Cox Plate you can’t afford to have a hiccup, he was supposed to run in the Toorak (1600m) and John switched him to the Weekend Hussler,” Moore said.

Drawn in barrier five for Saturday with his Singapore Cup winning jockey Berry retaining the ride, Dan Excel also has a hefty weight impost to overcome carrying the 63.5kg top weight.

“He’s got a lot of weight and things haven’t really gone right for the horse but taking that into consideration he’s put on body weight and he’s doing well in the stable in Melbourne,” he said.

In a 12 horse field the international raider is one of five single figure hopes in Weekend Hussler Stakes betting at paying $8.50.

He trails the likes of the rails-drawn favourite Turquoise King ($3.50) after his third win from four starts, early market mover Sistine Demon ($5.50 into $4.60) and Group 2 winner Tango’s Daughter ($6.50).

Dan Excel was bought over to target the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 25.

Despite the setbacks he’s still heading towards Australasia’s weight-for-age championship at the end of the month and pays $26 in the Cox Plate odds at Ladbrokes to win.

“I’m sure he’s going to improve from the race on Saturday,” Moore said.

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