Carpenter builds up young stayers

Last year he correctly predicted that the four-year-olds were the likely dominators of the spring, and Racing Victoria Limited chief handicapper Greg Carpenter was singing a similar tune at yesterday's release of the weights for the $2.5 million Caulfield Cup in October.

With three group 1-winning fillies of last season, including the Danny O'Brien-trained Shamrocker, pictured, heading the market for the race in six weeks, Carpenter said it was apparent the emerging young stayers again held the key to the race.

"This could be the year - 10 years after the last four-year-old mare - that the females could be key players in the Caulfield Cup, he said. I think this is where the real strength in the race is, in the four-year-olds, both the colts and fillies."

Carpenter has not made Shamrocker's task an easy one in the Caulfield Cup by allocating her 52 kilograms. With fellow oaks winners Lights Of Heaven and Absolutely received 51.5 and Scarlett Lady 51. Shamrocker's impost has not been carried to victory in the race by a four-year-old mare since How Now in 1976.

Last year, Carpenter warned about the possible dominance of the four-year-olds - and how right he was. Descarado won the Caulfield Cup, So You Think the Cox Plate and although six-year-old Americain won the Melbourne Cup, right behind him were four-year-olds Maluckyday and So You Think.

Carpenter said yesterday the fact that only nine of the 237 entries were handicapped above 55 reflected his theory that the true depth in the race comes from the emerging horses.

"In the last 20 years, there have only been two occasions where there has been less than nine runners handicapped at 55 or more. In 2002, there were only eight horses weighted at 55 or more, and also in 1997. Coincidently, they were two of the greatest Caulfield Cups we've seen; Northerly in 2002 and Might And Power in 1997.

"There are not quite the horses at the top end, but what we have seen this year is there is a real depth in quality in those below 55."

Americain heads the Caulfield Cup weights with 58, but his place, as well as numerous other international entries, is far from assured as connections of the French horse are contemplating taking a Cox Plate path to the Melbourne Cup.

His absence would leave a large hole in the race as the next best international, as far as the pre-post market is concerned, is former German horse Lucas Cranach, who has been sensationally backed from $101 to $26. Also considered likely to take their places are English gallopers Drunken Sailor and Manighar, and Hong Kong horse Mighty High.

Story by Andrew Eddy, to view full Age story click here

Photo By Slickpix, to view Slickpix website click here