John Harms on the Caulfield Cup

I am sitting here with my head in my hands.Why? Firstly, I got flogged at Caulfield last week (I never, ever build a day around a $1.20 favourite. I always go wide in those quaddie legs because the value is in getting it beaten). Despite the bloke I was with almost tipping the card. Secondly, I’ve got 1/110th share in a horse that we’ve been struggling to get to the track. He’s had operations and trips to the paddock, his knackers sit in a jar on someone’s mantle piece, and he finally trialled at Cranbourne on Tuesday. He was so slow the camera lens wasn’t powerful enough to get him in the shot. Thirdly, my pre-schoolers (all three of them) are in the loungeroom scooping water from the new fish-pond and distributing it around the room.And I’m here in the study trying to find the winner of the Caulfield Cup. That’s why I have my head in my hands.

This is an intellectual puzzle for which I am grossly under-equipped. Because as I look at this race I am thinking, “This is the hardest race I have ever tried to analyse in the history of mug-ness.” Even worse, I found Southern Speed last year, so I am certainly not due.

What a sensational race! And, yes, we can talk about it being a handicap, and on a track that’s hard to work out. We can talk about classy horses ‘well in’ and international visitors carrying the grandstand. We can talk about barriers and speed maps and forgotten old-timers making comebacks. But how the hell do you line that all up, and make sense of it all?

I have come to one conclusion. After a week of looking at it peripherally, taking in the titbits of information from the spruikers and analysts, and two hours of sorting it out directly, I reckon it is going to be a rough result.

Americain and Dunaden need no introduction but they have weight and they are poorly drawn. Out there with them is Glencadam Gold whose rapid improvement may well have peaked. I’d be surprised if he got across to lead and if he does he’ll be taken on by something. Southern Speed is thereabouts but not for me this year.

The English visitor Gatewood cost a lot of people dearly last Saturday as he found himself in a scrimmage that would not have been out of place at Twickenham. He’ll be better for the run now that he’s had his eyes opened up to what can happen at Caulfield where, turning for home, the ruffians and toughs and ratbags will do whatever it takes.

December Draw was hot fave for this last year and found out it was a race for the willing himself. It’s taken him a year to get over the trauma but has returned with some consistent performances without the zing.My Quest for Peace looks to be a chance on his English form although the video of that last win is not hugely impressive, in a small field. He just happened to be the one who was in front when they crossed the line.

I’ve been following Zabeelionaire since I met one of the owners at a four year old’s birthday party on Emirates Day last year, when we both hung around the TV and got in trouble from those who don’t understand. His three year old form is solid, having won the Derby in Adelaide.
Lights of Heaven has been getting plenty of mentions this week and comes off some reasonable Sydney form. She had a huge winter in the sunshine of Queensland and she’s fit now and ready to fire. P.G. Moody. Zabeel. But no, I haven’t even got near the winner yet.I’ve got a couple to go in a flexi banker trifecta, and they may even quinella the race.

Alcopop is almost forgotten. He’s an eccentric horse, if that’s possible. Or at least a maverick. You can have your line-and-lengthers but he can turn it on. He flogged Shocking one day at Caulfield. If you can forget that his last win was in a 1400 at Morphettville where they bet $10, and before that in the Kilmore Cup (consider the scheduling of that one), and that all of this happened when the Murray looked like going dry, he’s one to throw in on the back of his good second to a star of the Spring in Ocean Park. This is sort of a Peter Hudson-Alfie Langer comeback for him.

And equally forgotten is a big, strong, long-striding horse who loves Caulfield. This one will be tucked away on the fence, and will just need a little luck. But with his powerful and determined finish where he pings and then sustains his run he’s a chance. He’ll come down the Hume from Seymour, no one will take any notice of him, and he’ll be great value. He is Folding Gear.

So my Caulfield Cup trifecta:
17. Folding Gear
15. Alcopop
12. Lights of Heaven

And if that doesn’t work, back No.9 in the last. Off and Laughing. Just to keep you in good spirits.