UNDERWOOD STAKES - 1800m, Caulfield R9
The Underwood Stakes has always been a serious horse race, going back 100 years. Winners like Phar Lap, Ajax, Lord, Tobin Bronze, Rain Lover, Bonecrusher, Rubiton, Octagonal, Tie The Knot, Northerly, Elvstroem, El Segundo, Weekend Hussler and So You Think among many others are proof enough of that.
This year’s field doesn’t have the depth of proven talent that we might like to see, but a capacity field and a handful of horses on the rise will make for a fascinating contest that is sure to shape the Melbourne spring carnival.
Alligator Blood must be the starting point, backing up from last week’s second in the Makybe Diva Stakes. He won this race last year, and has been chasing Mr Brightside at his first two starts this campaign – that horse is arguably the best horse in Australia right now, so getting within a length or so of him is just about the best form going around.
Without A Fight is the main danger, assuming he can replicate his feats from up in Queensland over winter. He was a very strong winner of the Lord Mayors Cup first-up over 1800m there, just as he is here, and then went on with it in the Q22 when he never looked like losing. If he is in the right condition, can get some cover from an awkward draw, and handles Caulfield in his first look at it, then he might just be the one to beat.
Outside of these main two, there look to be a handful of chances that either are good enough to win on their best form and/or may be good enough if things go their way but still have something to prove.
Tuvalu stood up as a Group 1 horse last spring, winning the Toorak Handicap and placing in the Rupert Clarke and Cantala – that latter performance saw him split Alligator Blood and Mr Brightside, which is super form. He has built his fitness in two very good runs and is ready to win now, but still has to prove himself beyond 1600m – stats say he has won at 1800m, but it was a three horse midweek winter race early in his career.
Lindermann won the Rosehill Guineas over 2000m in the autumn, but has to prove himself as a four-year-old. He pulled up coughing first-up but then had every chance in the Chelmsford when passed by a couple of outsiders. Chris Waller usually has them peaking third-up though, which gives him a chance if good enough.
Attrition has been turning heads as an early four-year-old after placing in the Australian Guineas at three. He caught the eye first-up behind Mr Brightside in the Lawrence, and then was excellent again in the Feehan when splitting the winner Pinstriped and Tuvalu. Barrier 15 is going to make it very tough though.
Mo’unga and Duais have the Group 1 WFA credentials to win a race like this, but it’s hard to see them breaking through. Duais has been ticking along well enough but hasn’t won for a year and a half, while Mo’unga just hasn’t been putting in at all up in Sydney, so perhaps a chanGe of scenery might kick his mind into gear.
Soulcombe and Right You Are also both have some sort of claims. Soulcombe was the surprise winner of the Heatherlie first-up, scything his way through the field over 1700m at Caulfield. If he can replicate that run he’ll take some beating. Right You Are had run second with a big weight in the similar race here two weeks earlier, and there is seemingly no end to his improvement. He’ll run well too.
Lindermann should be the leader here, with Alligator Blood camped right up there with him, and Tuvalu is rarely far away. They should set an even enough tempo for most horses to get their chance, but seldom does it pay to be too far away in the run at Caulfield, something which Mark Zahra on Without A Fight will know all too well.
Selections: 1.Without A Fight 2.Alligator Blood 3.Tuvalu 4.Attrition
WITHOUT A FIGHT
* Odds Correct At Time Of Posting. Check Playup Website For Latest Odds