Racing Victoria’s international talent scout Leigh Jordon believes last year’s Cox Plate third placegetter Highland Reel is shaping up as more of a Caulfield Cup 2016 horse if he makes a raid on the Melbourne spring features this season.
Last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival the Aidan O’Brien-trained Irish galloper travelled over for a shot at the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
The trip didn’t go unrewarded with the son of Galileo finishing a brave third behind Chris Waller’s star mare Winx in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship.
O’Brien’s stallion then headed to Sha Tin in December and won the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m) over the mile and a half.
It is that distance that Jordon thinks the five-year-old is now best suited to, opening up a possible shot at the $3 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15 this season.
“Probably not for the Cox Plate, I think he’s more a Caulfield Cup horse now, so we’ll see how he runs,” Jordon told Racing Ahead on RSN discussing the possible spring options in Australia for Highland Reel.
“The pleasing part talking with Aidan; he’s come the past couple of years.
“He won the Cox Plate with Adelaide [in 2014], he ran third last year with Highland Reel; Bondi Beach [16th], Kingfisher [19th] ran in the Melbourne Cup [last year].
“He’s comfortable with the operation at Werribee.
“He might even look at the Caulfield Cup this year.
“Why wouldn’t he? The race is worth $3 million.
“I get the feeling that’s on the radar as well. I expect to see Aidan back this year again which is great.”
Highland Reel hasn’t posted a win since his successful Hong Kong raid, but he came close last time out when runner-up to the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II-owned Dartmouth in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2414m) on June 18.
The Hardwick Stakes victory put Dubawi stallion Dartmouth in line for a possible shot at the Spring Cups in Victoria this season, but that all depends on the horse’s performance at Ascot this weekend according to Jordon.
Dartmouth jumps favourite on Saturday night in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2414m), a race named in honour of the parents of Queen Elizabeth II and an event she hasn’t won since the success of Aureole back in 1954.
Jordon said it would be fitting for Dartmouth to win this weekend for the Queen’s 90th birthday year and line-up a shot at the Caulfield Cup and $6 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) down under.
“If he does win, it obviously changes their view on where they head next,” he said.
“What a great thing it would be to have the Queen in her 90th birthday year to have a runner here in the Melbourne Cup.
“But I think a lot of it will rest on what happens on Saturday.”
Dartmouth currently pays $51 in all-in Caulfield Cup odds and is posted at the same price in pre-nomination Melbourne Cup betting for the world’s richest handicap at Flemington on Tuesday November 1, 2016.
Highland Reel meanwhile isn’t featured in the Spring Cups markets as yet, but is being kept safe in Cox Plate betting at $26 to go two better in the Valley classic on October 22 even though Jordon rates him a better Caulfield Cup type.
Highland Reel faces Dartmouth again in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes this weekend and also needs to perform well to secure a trip to Oz.
“I think he’s a chance definitely, depending on what he does on the weekend,” Jordon added.
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