The countdown to the Sydney Spring Racing...
Gai Waterhouse finally enjoyed her maiden ‘Loving Trophy’ with Fiorente in 2013 and her chances of getting another shot in the 2017 Melbourne Cup field lay with Cismontane winning the Lexus Stakes this afternoon.
The countdown to the 24 horses facing off in the famous Flemington Race 7 – the Group 1 $6.25 million Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) next Tuesday – being confirmed with the official announcement taking place this afternoon.
The predicted Melbourne Cup field will be all but locked in once the Group 3 $300,000 Lexus Stakes (2500m) takes place at 1:40pm (AEDT) with a ballot free ride into the ‘Race That Stops A Nation’ on offer to the winner if eligible.
Just two of the 10 horses aren’t chasing that final spot in the Melbourne Cup starting line-up, the Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained top weight Ecuador and the James Cummings-trained Havana Cooler.
All the rest are chasing a chance to win the world’s richest handicap three days later, including the in-form Cismontane.
“I plan to run Cismontane on Tuesday if he can win the Lexus,” Waterhouse confirmed to The Daily Telegraph.
“His form is good and if he wins [the Lexus Stakes] then he deserves to run in the Melbourne Cup.”
Shocking (2009) was the last Lexus Stakes – Melbourne Cup double winner and Brew (2000) is the only other from the past four decades.
Waterhouse became the first female Australian trainer to win the Melbourne Cup when Fiorente backed-up from a Cox Plate third to salute for the punters as the $7 favourite.
He remains the last Melbourne Cup favourite to get the job done.
Waterhouse, whose father Tommy Smith prepared dual Melbourne Cup winners with Toparoa (1955) and Just a Dash (1981), is without a confirmed starter inside the top 24 on the order of entry this spring.
She will be cheering home High Chaparral five-year-old Cismontane in the Lexus Stakes this afternoon then, the gelding on the quick back-up off a Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day run at The Valley.
Cismontane was leading setting a strong pace in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m), bravely holding on for third behind the Chris Waller-trained duo of Who Shot Thebarman (1st) and Libran (2nd).
Both the Waller horses are in the Melbourne Cup field, Who Shot Thebarman out to make history as the first nine-year-old champion.
Cismontane meanwhile has to go around again looking for his first top three finish at Flemington.
He returns to Headquarters for the first time since mid-September when running a disappointing second last (12th) behind the reigning Melbourne Cup winner Almandin in the Listed JRA Trophy (2500m).
Better next-up a month later at Randwick running third to Big Duke in Sydney’s St. Leger (2600m) on The Everest Day, Cismontane gets a final chance to get out to 3200m on Melbourne Cup Day.
“Cismontane is a very fit horse, he is training well and enjoying it, which is the main thing,” Waterhouse said.
“His form has kept improving through the spring. He ran really well in the St. Leger at Randwick and then backed that up with another good run in the Moonee Valley Cup.
“I know the Melbourne Cup is another level again but if he can win the Lexus and pulls up well, then there is no reason not run him on Tuesday.”
The bookies have Cismontane at $9 in Lexus Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au for this afternoon, but he is a $301 roughie in pre-field Melbourne Cup odds.
Waterhouse will have mixed emotions should Cismontane lose to fit stablemate Ecuador ($11) who she also rates a livewire chance this afternoon in the Lexus Stakes.
“Ecuador is not in the Melbourne Cup but his rider, Adam Hyeronimus, has been telling me this horse has been looking for further than 2000m,” she said.
“I think 2500m is as far as he wants to go but he is the class runner and that will take him a long way.”
To check out the latest Lexus Stakes odds and Melbourne Cup betting options visit Ladbrokes.com.au today.
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