1. Baker right up there with the best
With him somewhat hidden away in New Zealand, it can be easy to forget what Murray Baker has achieved and is capable of achieving as a conditioner of stayers. He has an almost freakish ability to perfect a programme for his charge and time its peak performance for the day it’s most needed. Mongolian Khan’s Caulfield Cup win was just another example in a long list of successful Baker prepared gallopers that have won their grand final and his recent successes in Australia should make racing fans realise that Baker is arguably the greatest trainer of stayers in this part of the world – without delving into every single one of those highlights, names like Prized Gem (Brisbane Cup), Dowry (SA Oaks), Lion Tamer (Vic Derby), Nom Du Jeu (Aust Derby), and It’s a Dundeel (Aust Derby/QE Stks) of recent times, and My Eagle Eye (Sydney Cup) and The Phantom (Underwood Stks) earlier in his career are testament to that, as well as his many triumphs in NZ. But what he’s done with Mongalian Khan might go down as his best accomplishment yet – he peaked him twice, six weeks apart, in basically his first preparation to win his native Derby as well as our best Derby. Then he meticulously went about having him peak for the race which he was always going to be most suited in – The Caulfield Cup. The style in which he won? Well he simply outstayed them – something Baker has them doing in their sleep.
2. MRC not justified in their process
You only have to look at the finishing order to understand why the MRC are wrong in the way in which runners can make the field for the Caulfield Cup. The two horses who had the biggest question marks over them as far as them being in front of others with better chances were Magnapal and Magicool – they finished 14th and 17th respectively – no shock, that was always going to be the case and having them in the field was a waste of time and just making up the numbers. It was widely discussed all of last week and surely the powers that be will just lose their egos about this and take a long look at the way in which horses can qualify for the field, and specifically the list of races in which you can become ballot exempt. To not have a single race from Australia’s biggest city on that list is a disgrace and reeks of selfishness and lack of foresight. It has to be fixed for the betterment of the sport, and quite frankly, for the betterment of their own race.
3. Clarry finds another Oaks filly
She may not be in the same class as his previous Oaks heroines, but Dawnie Perfect can stay and perhaps the biggest plus she has going for her is the fact she’s being prepared by Clarry Conners – because when Clarry finds an Oaks filly they generally get the job done. He’ll be aiming for his fourth win in Victoria’s fillies classic after Dear Demi, with Dawnie Perfect’s jockey Jim Cassidy in the saddle won three years ago, Arborea in 1993 and the great Research in 1988. But this filly is definitely a different type to all those – for starters she showed very little as a juvenile whereas those other three were all quality stakeswinning two year olds, and it’s taken her to get to a staying trip to show that she’s up to group level (or up to winning a race). One of the biggest reason Conners has had success in the Oaks (and young horses in general) has been because he’s not afraid to race them – whether he has a classy two year old or a potential quality stayer he finds out what they are, he trains them up to win the races they are suited by, and he never dies wondering – there’s no protecting their record, they are there to battle week in, week out in the best races available – he knows to strike when the iron’s hot as you never know how a horse will come back in the future. Whether Dawnie Perfect wins Thursday week or not, you can guarantee Clarry, as long as she’s physically ok, will have her ready to attack the Autumn with a full schedule that will include both the Australian Oaks and most likely Queensland as well.
4. Stratum becoming a genuine star
The effort by Stratum Star to win the Coongy on Saturday should not be underestimated – he beat a quality field, giving them all weight, over a distance that he’d only been tried over once before, and was as strong as anything on the line. He’s been in sensational form this campaign and deserves his shot at becoming a group one weight for age winner in the Mackinnon Stakes – he’ll have to step up again as the Mackinnon is fast shaping up as one of the races of the carnival – nonetheless it’s the natural progression for him now and if he happened to win that it would have truly been a lucrative campaign for him and he’d be on the cusp of stardom. He looks so versatile that he’ll have a plethora of races to aim at in the Autumn.
5. Ruling Dynasty has right form to be in Cups mix
Ruling Dynasty’s win in the Tatts Cup at Randwick on Saturday was that of a genuine stayer – he couldn’t spring when Prince Cheri hit the button coming around the turn, but when he balanced up and began to chase he was super impressive and was very strong through the line. This is no plugger – he has Derby form around Mongolian Khan and Hauraki, which looks sensational now, and is an absolute beast of an animal so the physicality on being prepared for a Melbourne Cup tilt shouldn’t be an issue. He will need to win the Hotham on Derby Day to get in the field and perhaps he is still a year away from blossoming into the best he can be, but as far as his motor goes, well, there’s a V8 in there waiting to get into top gear and it would add plenty of interest to the Cup lead up to see if he can sneak into the race.