Bart’s Melbourne Cup dream alive

Precedence has given himself a chance of becoming legendary trainer Bart Cummings’ 88th Melbourne Cup starter, as well as his co-trainer and grandson James’ first, after winning today’s $250,000 Group 2 Drake International Cup (2500m) at Moonee Valley.

Sitting in 45th position in the Melbourne Cup order of entry as of Thursday, the eight-year-old needed a win today to become eligible for a weight penalty that could potentially help his chances of gaining a start on the first Tuesday in November.

Despite finishing eighth in 2010 Melbourne Cup, 11th in 2011 and ninth in 2012, James Cummings said it would be foolish to write off the son of Zabeel’s chances of providing Bart Cummings with a 13th win in the race that stops a nation.

“There is plenty of fight left in this old boy so don’t count him out.” Cummings said.

“He’s by Zabeel and it’s a great pedigree for horses that get better with age but don’t forget that when Bart struck with Comic Court it was his third go at a Melbourne Cup so it can be done.

“Someone should tell Greg Carpenter that if he gives this horse a penalty and he gets a run in the Cup then Bart will be there on Cup day to cheer him on.”

Settling in a midfield position, Craig Williams eased Precedence ($7.50) into the clear approaching the home turn before surging to a two length lead at the top of the home straight.

Despite a late challenge from Shoreham ($5), Precedence finished full of running to hold him off by a length-and-a-half, with the same margin back to Gotta Take Care ($7) in third.

Joe Agresta, who has been a part of the Cummings team in Melbourne for decades and regularly partners Precedence in his work, said he went into today’s race full of confidence.

“Reg (Fleming, Melbourne foreman) has changed a few things with him and he’s been an absolute angel to work and he hasn’t been pulling and every time he doesn’t pull in his work he races best. I was very confident he could win today,” Agresta.

“He is there every year for us and he’s always been a bit of a backstop for us.”

“We’ve gone through a few changes over the last few months and James is here now and I hope Bart is watching from home because it would make him proud.”

Today’s triumph was the second Moonee Valley Cup success in four seasons for Precedence who also claimed the 2010 edition.

A decision on whether he receives a Melbourne Cup penalty will be announced by Racing Victoria General Manager – Racing Greg Carpenter on Monday.

Story by Ben Asgari


Buffering finally banks Group 1

Australian racing needs a new Group 1 bridesmaid after Buffering shed the tag in the Sportingbet Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley.

At his 18th start in a Group 1 race, the Robert Heathcote-trained warrior finally broke through in the $1 million event that is feature of the Sportingbet Cox Plate Carnival.

The six-year-old son of Mossman scored a narrow win over Lucky Nine and bring a big smile to the face of trainer Robert Heathcote.

“What a way to break the drought,” Heathcote said. “Eighteen goes at a Group 1 and he gets the job done tonight in a $1 million race. That’s something special.

“They say this is the place where legends are made and he’s a legend for me.”

Heathcote’s relief was understandable. In 10 of his 17 previous Group 1 starts Buffering finished in the placings including six trips to the runner-up stall.

Included in those seconds were the 2011 VRC Classic (former Patinack Farm Classic) – behind Black Caviar – the 2012 Newmarket Handicap, when nosed out by Hay List, the past two Stradbroke Handicaps (with 58kg) and in last month’s Moir Stakes in the lead-up to the Manikato Stakes.

He turned in a typically tenacious effort to register the 13th win of his 36-start career and lifted his earnings beyond $3.2 million.

He worked across from barrier 10 to take up the lead, clear of visiting Hong Kong star Lucky Nine, and set the pace at a moderate tempo.

Buffering fans would have been happy with themselves entering the straight, when he’d seen off a brief challenge by Shamexpress, Lucky Nine was under pressure and Samaready was a long way back and in traffic.

But Lucky Nine found top gear once into the straight and issued another challenge. He charged at Buffering over the final 50m, but the Queensland bulldog fought on to score by a short-half-head.

Sessions ($20) worked home stylishly the claim third, just a neck back. Moment of Change, who missed the start, charged home for fourth, Rebel Dane (fifth) flashed home out wide, while Bel Sprinter finished strongly along the fence after being held up rounding the home turn.

Samaready, the raging $2.15 favourite, was unsuited by the tempo and racing between horses and had to settle for eighth position.

Damian Browne, who had been aboard for Buffering’s three previous Group 1 placings, said the race panned out well and was thrilled that the gelding was able to get there.

“At the furlong he really dug in and gave me a length and you know he’s always going to fight,” Browne said.

“The last couple of bounds, when Lucky Nine was coming, I was thinking, ‘geez, come on post’.

“He’s accomplished everything else he can really, but he just needed to win that Group 1 and for tonight if just terrific.”

With the Group 1 win banked, Heathcote said Buffering would now head to the $1 million VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, 9 November.

Story by Brad Bishop


Ibicenco keeps Cup dream alive

It was a case of déjà vu for OTI Racing after the Peter Moody-trained Ibicenco took out Wednesday’s $300,000 Group 3 Sportingbet Geelong Cup (2400m).

Just 12 months earlier OTI claimed the race with another imported galloper in Gatewood, who went on to miss out on an Emirates Melbourne Cup start after receiving a 1kg penalty for his Geelong Cup win.

Sitting in 42nd position in the Melbourne Cup order of entry before today’s race, Ibicenco will likely need a weight penalty to ensure his position on the first Tuesday in November, with that decision to be announced tomorrow by Racing Victoria’s Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter.

Despite the six-year-old being far from guaranteed a position in the race that stops a nation, even with a penalty, Moody said he wouldn’t be having another run before a potential Melbourne Cup start.

“He’s done a good job,” Moody said. “He’s a genuine two-miler (3200m) this horse, let’s hope Mr Carpenter was impressed enough by the horse under unsuitable conditions to get him into the Cup.

“This race has been a tremendous Melbourne Cup guide for the last decade and let’s hope it continues.

“I think the horse definitely goes better on top of the ground so it’s encouraging to see him tough it out under those conditions.”

Trapped wide going out of the straight the first time, jockey Brad Rawiller allowed Ibicenco ($5.50) to stride his way forward before settling outside of the leader Verdant ($8).

Appearing in trouble at the top of the home straight, Ibicenco responded to Rawiller’s hard riding to gradually wear down Verdant over the final 100 metres to win by a neck on the line.

Moudre ($6.50), who finished 4.6 lengths away from the winner in third, has now passed the Melbourne Cup ballot with an updated Melbourne Cup order of entry to be released tomorrow.

Rawiller, who earlier partnered the Darren Weir-trained Where’s The Bar to win the $20,000 Schweppes 0-64 Handicap (1400m), said he thought Ibicenco was in trouble at the top of the straight.

“Once he got down the hill I was happy to put some pressure on Verdant and pretty much straight away he had us beaten,” Rawiller said.

“I thought it was going to be a long way home but no sooner had we straightened he changed legs and under hard riding he kept finding.

“He’s a real two miler as he showed in the Sandown Cup last year.”

The triumph was OTI’s third Geelong Cup in five years with Bauer’s victory in 2008 preceding the wins of Gatewood and Ibicenco in the past two years.

Story by Ben Asgari


Atlantic Jewel out of Cox Plate

Just hours after Mark Kavanagh drew what he described as the ‘perfect’ barrier, star mare Atlantic Jewel is out of Saturday’s $3 million Group 1 Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m).

In a statement to the media, Kavanagh said Atlantic Jewel worked well at Flemington this morning but on cooling off was found to have some swelling in the lower sheath of a flexor tendon in her off side foreleg.

“Scans have just confirmed that there is damage in this tendon and therefore Atlantic Jewel will be scratched from Saturday’s Cox Plate,” Kavanagh said.

“At this stage she will be rested and the owners will make a decision on her future over the next few weeks.”

Atlantic Jewel’s scratching means Caulfield Guineas third-placegetter Shamus Award now gets a start in the race with the Danny O’Brien-trained three-year-old drawn in barrier three for Chad Schofield.

The son of Snitzel is one of two three-year-olds in the field, with the other, Caulfield Guineas winner Long John not faring so kindly at the barrier draw coming up with gate 11.

He will start from 10 following the withdrawal of Atlantic Jewel who drew barrier seven.

The only horse to have beaten Atlantic Jewel in her 11 start career, It’s A Dundeel, will start from barrier 12 for jockey James McDonald.

Currently rated the $4 TAB fixed odds favourite, the son of High Chaparral wasn’t the only horse prominent in the market to draw a wide barrier with the Gai Waterhouse-trained Fiorente ($4.60) drawn in the outside barrier of the 14 horse field.

Of the favoured runners, Puissance De Lune ($4.40) drew favourably and will now begin from barrier seven.

Despite the loss of Atlantic Jewel, Kavanagh will still be represented in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship by Australian Cup victor Super Cool who will start from one barrier inside Fiorente in 13.

Macedon Lodge had mixed results at the barrier draw with reigning Melbourne Cup champion Green Moon to begin from gate 11, last start The Metropolitan winner Seville in 10 and high profile import Masked Marvel drawn in barrier five.

Other key barriers include gate two for last-start Turnbull Stakes winner Happy Trails, barriers one and four for internationals Side Glance and Mull Of Killough, six for 2011 Cox Plate third placegetter Rekindled Interest and nine for Makybe Diva Stakes victor Foreteller.

Click here to view the full field, form and barriers for the Sportingbet Cox Plate

Story by Ben Asgari


Fawkner Penalised 1.5kg for Melbourne Cup

Fawkner has been asked to carry 54.5kg in his quest to become the 12th horse to complete the Caulfield Cup-Emirates Melbourne Cup double after today receiving a 1.5kg penalty.

The six-year-old has been penalised for his win in Saturday’s $2.65 million BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) in which he carried 55kg to claim a maiden Caulfield Cup for Team Williams.

Racing Victoria (RV) Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, said that Fawkner deserved to be penalised given the authority of his victory at Caulfield.

“Fawkner was strong on the line in the BMW Caulfield Cup at his first run beyond 2040m and has been penalised 1.5kg in the weights for the Emirates Melbourne Cup for his Group 1 victory,” Carpenter said.

“The 1.5kg penalty is the same afforded to Descarado (2010), Master O’Reilly (2007) and Sky Heights (1999) following their wins in the BMW Caulfield Cup. In the last 20 years only Viewed (1kg in 2009) and Dunaden (1kg in 2012) have received lesser penalties.

“On the strength of his win on Saturday I see no reason why Fawkner wouldn’t be very competitive in an Emirates Melbourne Cup with 54.5kg, which is 0.5kg less weight than he carried to victory on Saturday, after weights were raised 1.5kg for that race at final acceptance time.

“Both Fawkner and the Marco Botti-trained runner-up Dandino now have 54.5kg in the Emirates Melbourne Cup with Fawkner meeting Dandino and BMW Caulfield Cup third placegetter Dear Demi 1.5kg worse for having beaten them by 1.25 lengths on Saturday.”

Carpenter explained that 90 Caulfield Cup winners have contested the Melbourne Cup with 11 completing the double, the most recent being Ethereal in 2001 when she was penalised 2kg.

The top six weighted horses in the Melbourne Cup, to be run at Flemington on 5 November, are 2011 hero Dunaden (58.5kg), defending champion Green Moon (57.5kg), Team Williams stablemate Sea Moon (56.5kg), Red Cadeaux (56.5kg), star four-year-old It’s A Dundeel (56kg) and Manighar (56kg), with second acceptances taken on 28 October 2013.