Two Group One races are running at Flemington this Saturday, including the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m), which has attracted a top-class field of 16 middle-distance runners.
Headlining the field is Kris Lees’ newest stable star Protectionist, who enjoyed an impressive four length win in the Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) back in November. The five-year-old horse resumed in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) on February 28 but he was never expected to dominate the distance.
Protectionist finished four lengths off winner Mourinho in sixth place and jockey Craig Williams reported he was not suited to the Caulfield circuit. The horse will enjoy a return to Flemington on Saturday and the extra distance of the trip is sure to benefit him as he jumps from barrier three.
The Peter Young Stakes winner Mourinho is also set to tackle the 2015 Australian Cup but will have to overcome a wide start from barrier 13. The seven-year-old gelding has had a cracking campaign thus far, winning the Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m) first up followed by a minor placing in the Group 1 CF Orr Stakes (1400m) and another win on February 28.
Although he has found recent success over sprint-mile distances, the Peter Gelagotis-trained gelding is more of a middle-distance runner, enjoying four wins and three minor placings from 11 starts over 2000 metres.
Speaking of Protectionist’s past rivals, Flemington will play host to Red Cadeaux’s first Australian start outside of the Melbourne Cup this Saturday. The nine-year-old gelding has been runner-up in the ‘race that stops the nation’ a record three times and was last seen running two and three-quarter lengths away from the winner in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m) on December 14.
The Ed Dunlop-trained gelding will jump from barrier 14 with Hugh Bowman as jockey.
Team Hawkes’ Entirely Platinum will enjoy the inside jump from barrier one with Dwayne Dunn to ride. The five-year-old gelding was a fast finishing runner-up in the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) back in September and again in the CF Orr Stakes on February 14.
The 2015 Australian Cup will mark the return of cult favourite The Cleaner to Melbourne, who ran third in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) at the end of spring.
The Cleaner resumed in the Listed George Adams Plate (1600m) in his hometown of Launceston on February 25, leading right up until the final 100 metres but unable to beat Admiral to the line.
The Mick Burles-trained gelding is bigger, stronger, and better than he’s ever been and ready to win his first Group One race. He will jump from barrier nine in the Australian Cup with Steven Arnold to ride.
Damien Oliver will vie to win back-to-back trophies in the race, partnering Happy Trails 12 months after winning with Fiorente.
The Paul Beshara-trained gelding is a Flemington specialist, with all three of his Group One victories coming at the track including the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) on November 1.
Happy Trails is at his peak performance third-up after finishing less than one length off Mourinho in the Peter Young Stakes two weeks ago. He will have an advantage over his rival, set to jump from barrier four.
David Hayes & Tom Dabernig will deliver a dual-pronged attack on the 2015 Australian Cup with a last-start winner over the trip Extra Zero and Spillway.
Peter Moody will also double his chances at winning the race, running both Lidari and Au Revoir.
Check out the complete final field and barrier draw below.
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2015 Australian Cup Field & Barrier Draw
|No||Last 10||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Hcp Rating|
|1||4x60x4726x||RED CADEAUX (GB)||Ed Dunlop||Hugh Bowman||14||59kg||111|
|2||1x221141x6||PROTECTIONIST (GER)||Kris Lees||Craig Williams||3||59kg||116|
|3||5820561×62||HAPPY TRAILS||Paul Beshara||Damien Oliver||4||59kg||113|
|4||x431850x96||FORETELLER (GB)||Chris Waller||Glen Boss||5||59kg||113|
|5||3232212282||EXTRA ZERO||David Hayes & Tom Dabernig||Damian Lane||16||59kg||95|
|6||x12317x131||MOURINHO||Peter Gelagotis||Vlad Duric||13||59kg||110|
|7||12111939×2||THE CLEANER||Mick Burles||Steven Arnold||9||59kg||109|
|8||x418127318||PUCCINI (NZ)||Peter & Jacob McKay||Craig Newitt||2||59kg||105|
|9||x544260x90||LIDARI (FR)||Peter G Moody||Luke Nolen||6||59kg||105|
|10||2145×52553||AKZAR (IRE)||Darren Weir||Brad Rawiller||11||59kg||103|
|11||426x4381x5||AU REVOIR (IRE)||Peter G Moody||Ben Melham||10||59kg||107|
|12||x281023x43||BIG MEMORY (FR)||Tony McEvoy||Mark Zahra||15||59kg||102|
|13||1211x18x00||SONNTAG||Henry Dwyer||Chris Symons||7||59kg||102|
|14||14x1828x24||ENTIRELY PLATINUM (NZ)||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||Dwayne Dunn||1||59kg||104|
|15||x247844x54||SPILLWAY (GB)||David Hayes & Tom Dabernig||Michael Walker||8||59kg||103|
|16||x22x310x71||GREATWOOD (GB)||Gai Waterhouse||Chad Schofield||12||59kg||101|