2023 Caulfield Cup: runner-by-runner preview

18 OCTOBER 2023



The Caulfield Cup is one of the traditional big four of Australian racing, alongside the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Golden Slipper, although it must now be considered a big five given the increased prominence of The Everest.

The Caulfield Cup is a jewel in the crown of the Melbourne spring carnival, and racing fans get excited with every edition. The field is set, and the barrier draw has been done. Let’s get stuck into our preview.


Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Jockey: Ben Melham

Career highlights: 1st Melbourne Cup, Turnbull Stakes, 2nd Caulfield Cup, Prix Ganay, 3rd Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, Grand Prix de Paris

The handicap clearly shows that Gold Trip is the best horse in the Caulfield Cup, giving a minimum of 3kg’s away to the rest of the field. The measure of the horse, particularly his rate of improvement, is that he is still a live chance, and he only has to carry 1kg more than he did in the race last year when the narrowest of seconds.

Since last year’s Caulfield Cup, Gold Trip was won the Melbourne Cup, and his last start win in the Turnbull Stakes when whistling past the entire field from last was one of the most impressive victories that race has ever seen.

Looking back now, last year’s Caulfield Cup was a weak affair with no internationals and this year there are a dangerous handful. It might be enough to be against Gold Trip.


Trainer: Anthony & Sam Freedman

Jockey: Mark Zahra

Career highlights: 1st Q22, 1st Lord Mayor’s Cup, 1st Silver Cup Stakes

Without A Fight started at $12 in last year’s Melbourne Cup when running 13th behind Gold Trip, but has been hard in Caulfield Cup markets ever since a Queensland campaign saw him win two from two in dominant style against more-than-handy opposition.

He comes into the Caulfield Cup off one run only, when sixth in the Underwood Stakes, but he did more than enough given he recorded the quickest closing sectionals of the entire race. The form from the Underwood has held up, with Alligator Blood winning again, Attrition taking out the Toorak, and horses like Duais and Soulcombe running very well again.

He’s been a bit out of sight, out of mind with only one run this campaign, but has drawn beautifully to have an impact.


Trainer: Tatsuya Yoshioka

Jockey: Damian Lane

Career highlights: 1st Copa Republica Argentina

Japanese horses are always held in high esteem when saddling up in Australian staying races, albeit Breakup arrives here without the resume of some of the other gallopers from his homeland. His last year or so has been very good though.

In the last 12 months, Breakup has won races at 2400m and 2500m, as well as running well enough at some longer trips in strong races. He was last seen over 2200m, finishing 12th behind Equinox, who is regarded by many including official ratings as the best horse in the world. How does a seven length defeat in that sort of class translate to a Caulfield Cup?

Talk from the camp is that he will improve out of this race into the Melbourne Cup, and the question is whether the Japanese can win a Caulfield Cup with a horse that isn’t fully wound up.


Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: Nash Rawiller

Career highlights: 1st Ranvet Stakes, Metropolitan Handicap, Spring Champion Stakes, Flight Stakes, 2nd Tancred Stakes, Ranvet Stakes, 3rd Rosehill Guineas, VRC Oaks

What a high class mare Montefilia has been, competitive at Group 1 level for her fourth season in row, and always at her best at the 2000m-2400m trips. She has run 4th in the past two Caulfield Cups, once with 52kg’s when beaten by a powerful stayer in Incentivize, and once with 55.5kg’s when unlucky and arguably should have won after being beaten by a length in a blanket finish.

Montefilia has been building her form throughout this campaign, finally breaking through for a win last start in the Hill Stakes when she accelerated impressively to finish over the top of them. She’s actually not badly in at the weights for a mare of her quality, and is ever-consistent once she hits top form.

From a middle barrier, Nash Rawiller will have options, and she is well positioned to run her usual honest race.


Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: James McDonald

Career highlights: 1st Moonee Valley Cup, 2nd Bart Cummings

Francesco Guardi is something of an old-fashioned stayer, and Bart Cummings would be proud of how Chris Waller is training him to the minute to peak for the Melbourne Cup on the 7th of November.

All three runs this campaign have been very good with a view to 3200m, but haven’t been screaming that he is ready to win a Caulfield Cup over 2400m.


Trainer: Simon & Ed Crisford

Jockey: Jamie Spencer

Career highlights: 1st La Coupe, 1st Prince D’Orange, 2nd Turnbull Stakes, 3rd Eclipse Stakes

West Wind Blows has made his name mostly over 2000m in Europe and the UK, albeit he has won over 2200m and also ran respectively at 2400m as well. Traditionally speaking, that sort of profile sets up well for Australian staying races, if they can show a turn of foot from back in the field or being a tough, front-running type that can wear the opposition down.

West Wind Blows seems to be the latter after his outstanding Turnbull Stakes run when second to a dynamic Gold Trip, after leading the field along at a brutal tempo. Almost every other one of the first nine horses home in the Turnbull were swoopers, yet he was still able to hold on for second in a mighty performance.

If West Wind Blows hasn’t been flattened by that tough run, bearing in mind that his races are usually well spaced, he is almost the horse to beat given he has drawn to absolute perfection. He should sit in the second or third pair from an inside gate, depending on the early speed out wide.


Trainer: Grahame Begg

Jockey: Harry Coffey

Career highlights: 1st Blamey Stakes, Naturalism Stakes, Coongy Handicap, Alastair Clark Stakes, 2nd Caulfield Cup, Caulfield Stakes

Nonconformist is a tough horse to place, having only won one race in the last two years, and two in the last three. Like Montefilia, he has run in the last two Caulfield Cups – last year he finished 10th albeit only beaten less than three lengths, while the year before he ran second to Incentivize.

He’s been running well in the Group 1 lead-ups, without catching the eye like other horses have been. Most of his career best runs have been at Caulfield, so he does have an affinity for this track, but it’s hard to see him breaking through here.


Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: Craig Williams

Career highlights: 1st Queen Elizabeth Stakes, 3rd Turnbull Stakes

Soulcombe is absolutely flying this preparation, and comes into the Caulfield Cup as a genuine threat. He stamped himself as a Cups contender last spring when bolting in over 2600m at Flemington on the last Saturday in Melbourne Cup week, but seems to have a returned a better horse this spring.

His win first-up in the Heatherlie showed an electric turn of foot over 1700m, and he’s been just as good when taking on the A-graders in the Underwood and Turnbull at 1800m and 2000m respectively, finishing top four in both. And now he gets to a distance where he should be even more suited to show his best, and drops to the lowest weight he’s carried in Australia.

From barrier six, Craig Williams will no doubt look to settle him in a midfield position, or perhaps just worse, and with even luck it’s hard to see him finishing outside the top five.


Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Jockey: John Allen

Career highlights: 1st Kilternan Stakes, Eyrefield Stakes

Duke De Sessa is one of the under-the-radar imports racing in this year’s Caulfield Cup. He’s only had three runs in Australia, all at Group 1 level, including the Doncaster back in the autumn, and the Memsie Stakes and Turnbull Stakes this preparation.

His only two goes at 2400m in Europe resulted in two wins, so his ability to run a strong race isn’t in question, and he’s been ticking over nicely enough in the lead-ups, but the question is whether he has a big peak performance in him now stepping up in distance. He’s certainly in the right training operation to produce it.


Trainer: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott

Jockey: Tim Clark

Career highlights: 1st March Stakes, 2nd Epsom Derby

Hoo Ya Mal was a bit of a streetcorner tip in last year’s Melbourne Cup, backed from $21 into $13 on the day, but never firing a shot with a well-beaten midfield finish. Gai Waterhouse was quite vocal in saying that he was nowhere near the finished product at that stage, being a young northern hemisphere horse of only 10 starts.

After a nice long 10 month spell, he has been very competitive in weight-for-age races up in Sydney, with his last start being his best – he hit the front early in the Hill Stakes and looked the winner for much of the straight, before the high class mare Montefilia finished over the top of him. Hoo Ya Mal will meet her 3.5kg’s better for that narrow defeat, and it’s possible that he may prove to be a stronger 2400m horse than her too.

He looks a nice each-way play for those chasing a bit of value, especially given he has drawn well to cross the field and take up the lead without doing too much work for Tim Clark.


Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Jockey: Michael Dee

Career highlights: 1st Mornington Cup

Right You Are booked his ticket into the Caulfield Cup with a strong win in the Mornington Cup back in April, which was one of six wins for this So You Think gelding during that lengthy campaign. He was the classic Maher/Eustace stayer that just kept improving and winning.

He was fantastic first-up with a big weight, and just as good second-up at WFA in the Underwood, but failed to make any impression at all in the Turnbull Stakes last start. It wasn’t the ideal lead-up, given how good many of his fancied rivals here were that day, and he has a few lengths to make up now. Still, if you can forgive him one bad run, he might not be the worst at big odds.


Trainer: Mike Moroney

Jockey: Jye McNeil

Career highlights: 1st Geelong Cup, 2nd Melbourne Cup

Like many horses from the Moroney stables, Emissary usually mixes his form and finds it hard to run consistently. The quality is clearly there, especially at a staying trip given his excellent second-placing in the Melbourne Cup last year, and that race topped off a fine spring where he won another two races besides.

His form this campaign has been moderate though, and he’ll need to find his best form very quickly in order to be competitive here. He is capable on his day though.


Trainer: Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott

Jockey: Linda Meech

Career highlights: 1st Roy Higgins Quality

Goldman was one of the boom stayers coming into the spring, given he was a lightly-raced five-year-old of only seven starts, but having won five of them. Three of those wins came in a row, in his first Australian campaign earlier this year, culminating in a dominant win over fellow Cups contender Soulcombe.

However, Goldman hasn’t look the same horse this spring, and while he was winning by massive margins earlier this year, he is now losing by them. Perhaps his campaign has been a little rushed, climbing from 1600m to 2500m in the space of a month, and maybe he is finally at peak fitness now, but you could only take him on trust at this stage. Only having 52kg’s on his back may keep him in it for a long way though.


Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy

Career highlights: 3rd Irish St Leger

Beware the lightly-raced Joseph O’Brien runner, whenever he brings them to Australia. His record and strike-rate when doing so is mightily impressive, but Okita Soushi is just about as low on credentials as any he has ever travelled.

Still, the horse has won three of his last five starts, over distances ranging from 2100m to 3200m, so he clearly has versatility and stamina. He has been racing in lower class races, but carrying big weights in doing so, and will appreciate a big drop down to 51.5kg’s coming into this race. It might be that the Melbourne Cup is more his go though, but he is one international that won’t be fazed by the prospect of a firming track.


Trainer: Peter Moody & Katherine Coleman

Jockey: Craig Newitt

Career highlights: 2nd Queensland Derby

Fame suggested he might be a horse worth following this season after a superb second placing, coming from last, behind Kovalica in the Queensland Derby back in May. While that horse has gone onto prove himself competitive at weight-for-age, Fame has been hacking around without looking like he’s made the necessary improvement. He’s come up triple figure odds, and it’s hard to argue.


Trainer: Annabel Neasham

Jockey: Winona Costin

Career highlights: 1st Lord Mayors Cup

Bois D’Argent had his first run in Australia this time last year after two years in Europe, but has really made his name as a country cups horse rather than one that should be competitive in a Caulfield Cup, even with only 50.5kg’s on his back. He does have a little touch of quality about him to be fair, and he is a particularly honest type, so a 5th-10th type finish certainly isn’t beyond him.


Trainer: Annabel Neasham

Jockey: Dean Yendall

Career highlights: 2nd Metropolitan Handicap

Spirit Ridge is a hardy stayer that has had 11 starts this year for a win and eight placings, and is just the sort of horse you’d love to own. He goes forward, gives his all, and makes others beat him. He is coming off a career best run in the Metropolitan Handicap, when second to Just Fine after a two horse war down the straight, and he’ll give his backers a sight at $31 or more.


Trainer: Joseph O’Brien

Jockey: Jamie Kah

Career highlights: 2nd Ballyroan Stakes

Valiant King is the most lightly-raced horse in the field, having only had seven starts in his short career. The northern hemisphere three-year-old pattern is one that has been successful for Joseph O’Brien in the Melbourne Cup, but has yet to be really tested in a Caulfield Cup.

Two starts back he was only narrowly beaten by the current Melbourne Cup favourite Vauban, and the start before that we saw a horse called Land Legend some six lengths behind him – Land Legend came out and won the St Leger at Randwick last Saturday.

Barrier one in a big field, on a tighter track than what is traditionally seen in the UK, and a race that often sees a bit of argy-bargy, could be a question mark for such a young horse. It’s a hard stable to ignore though, when they travel one all this way.

UNITED NATIONS (1st emergency)

Trainer: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace

Jockey: Carleen Hefel

Career highlights: 2nd Herbert Power Stakes

United Nations is the first emergency, and may find himself in the field if stablemate and top weight Gold Trip doesn’t run. He’s certainly an improving type, and having already had four runs this campaign at the 2400-2500m range, there will be no fitter horse in the field. He does look to have his work cut out if making the field though, especially from barrier 17.


The main fancies look to have drawn particularly well. Goldman will almost certainly cross the field from barrier 18, stablemate Hoo Ya Mal and Spirit Ridge will also push forward from middle barriers, with West Wind Blows pushing up behind them on the rail, and the Japanese horse Breakup won’t want to be too far away from a good gate. Gold Trip will go back to find a trailing position, while Soulcombe and Without A Fight will also be searching for cover and the right back to follow.


Durston wins the 2022 Caulfield Cup, defeating Gold Trip.

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