The post-race commentary from jockey Craig Williams after a battling fifth in the Underwood Stakes in Melbourne over the weekend by Kiwi galloper Volkstok’n’barrell hasn’t made the decision of whether to target the Caulfield Cup or Cox Plate 2015 this spring with the youngster any clearer for connections.
Winner of the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) as a three-year-old in March before a brave third to fellow New Zealand visitor Mongolian Khan in the Group 1 ATC Derby (2400m) in April during the autumn, the Donna Logan-trained Volkstok’n’barrell has had three runs down under again this time in.
First-up at Caulfield in late August the Tavistock gelding ran midfield when beaten under two lengths by the Chris Waller-trained Boban in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) before things went amiss and Williams rode him to a dead last when 14th behind Fawkner in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
Williams was back in the saddle with the horse returning to Caulfield last weekend for a shot at the weight-for-age Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) over more distance.
Fifth to the winner two and a half lengths away was then Logan’s Ruakaka-based Volkstok’n’barrell who Williams said was struggling on the turn and didn’t let down all that well in the straight.
“I was happy with his run, and I was happy with him going into the race, but I was very worried about him around the turn,” Williams told Racing Ahead on RSN.
“I thought I was under full pressure, and he wasn’t responding. And even when we straightened up, we were just marking time. We weren’t losing ground, and weren’t getting passed, but I was very worried that he wasn’t going anywhere at that stage.”
Now the call must be made whether to run on October 17 over the mile and a half in the $3 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) where Volkstok’n’barrell is allocated 53.5kg in the handicap classic or keep him to a shorter distance under weight-for-age conditions in the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley the following weekend.
Williams wasn’t giving connections much to go on, saying Volkstok’n’barrell stayed on well in the Underwood without really shining.
“Inside the 200m mark, I felt that he stayed on nicely,” Williams added.
“I was happy with that, but there were other horses that stayed on better than him in the last part of the race.
“I guess he’s now at that fork in the road – where they’ve got to decide now, Donna and the owners… they’ve got about three options to go with him.
“He was tested, where the Makybe Diva Stakes he wasn’t overly tested. It was a race where we had a big question mark on him, but he did work and look much better going to Saturday’s race.”
In early Caulfield Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au the young Kiwi is rated a $21 chance in markets led by Japanese raider Fame Game ($9) out to go back-to-back for Japan after the success of Admire Rakti (2014) last year.
For the Cox Plate on October 24 meanwhile Volkstok’n’barrell is at a longer $26 for an upset with the all-in betting headed by Waller’s dual Group 1 winning four-year-old Kermadec.
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