After the notable non-acceptance of The United States in Saturday’s Naturalism Stakes 2016 field the early betting markets on the Caulfield Cup lead-up are firmly led by the Lee & Anthony Freedman-trained Tom Melbourne.
Connections of the Robert Hickmott-trained The United States opted not to run the galloper second-up in the $150,000 Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield Racecourse this weekend – the race run as the MRC Foundation Cup.
That has paved the way for improving and well-weighted import Tom Melbourne to open favourite in the Naturalism Stakes betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $4.20 and firming to win the race offering first-past-the-post a ballot exemption for the $3 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15.
The Naturalism Stakes field is at capacity this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival with a full 16 starters plus four emergencies awaiting a scratching to make the race day line-up.
Drawn barrier two with Glen Boss booked for the ride is Dylan Thomas six-year-old Tom Melbourne.
Winner of the Albany Cup over this distance in the autumn, he comes off a first-up second behind Great Esteem in the Listed Heatherlie Handicap (1700m).
That was his first run at Caulfield and he should be improving second-up having had a look around the track now, Tom Melbourne also appreciating the drop back from 55.5kg that day to the 54kg minimum on the weekend.
Despite the size of the field just two other runners are currently under $10 in the Naturalism Stakes odds with the rails-drawn Jameka ($5.50) and the Darren Weir-trained Perth Cup winning mare Real Love ($9).
As a three-year-old last Melbourne Cup Carnival, Ciaron Maher’s daughter of Myboycharlie Jameka won the Group 1 Crown Oaks (2500m) at Flemington.
She more than stacked up against the boys in the autumn including a Rosehill Guineas third to Tarzino and the ATC Derby second behind Tavago in Sydney before her ATC Oaks fourth to Kiwi visitor Sofia Rosa.
Her two runs this time in have both been back in Melbourne including a last start seventh to Awesome Rock in the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley that she is tipped to improve on over more metres this weekend.
Jameka carries 55.5kg with Nicholas Hall aboard in the Naturalism Stakes, 1.5kg better off in the weights than Weir’s six-year-old daughter of Desert King Real Love.
She boasts winning form up to 2600m and comes off a first-up second in the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes as a $31 roughie, Brad Rawiller replacing Chris Parnham in the saddle on Saturday.
Weir has accepted for seven runners in the Naturalism Stakes but just three are assured of a run with Zanteca, Manndawi and Master Zephyr all emergencies.
Along with Real Love his other confirmed starters are Taiyoo ($34) and Tall Ship ($71) both at roughies’ prices.
Outside of the single-figure chances the next best in the Naturalism markets are Great Esteem ($10), Second Bullet ($10) and Excess Knowledge ($11).
The Stuart Webb-trained Heatherlie Handicap winner at the track last time out Great Esteem is also accepted for a run at against Winx at Royal Randwick on Saturday in the weight-for-age $500,000 Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m).
Second Bullet is prepared by Flemington’s Danny O’Brien and comes off a fifth in the Heatherlie beaten under four lengths.
He hasn’t won a race since mid-January and Saturday is the six-year-old’s first ever Group assignment at career start number 32.
Excess Knowledge represents Tulloch Lodge team Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott, the Monsun stallion a dual runner-up form four previous Caulfield runs.
He has been out over 2000m twice for two thirds and is out to improve on his ninth when resuming in the Dato’.
Last October he won the Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m) earning a Melbourne Cup run and was far from disgraced crossing only three lengths back for seventh behind Prince Of Penzance in the two mile classic.
Check out the full Naturalism Stakes 2016 field, barriers, jockeys, weights and current Fixed Win odds provided by Ladbrokes.com.au who are offering a great George Main Stakes offer for Sydney this weekend.