Tokai Trick, Japan's contender in Australia's (G1) Caulfield Cup Oct. 16, found himself foiled by the heavy going and was unable to manage better than a 12-place finish in the 18-strong field.
The win went to the Australian-trained Descarado, a 4-year-old gelding, who gave an elated Gai Waterhouse her first victory in the Caulfield Cup in 17 attempts. Waterhouse, who won her 100th grade I race earlier this month, is daughter to the legendary trainer Tommy Smith, who won the Caulfield Cup four times. Waterhouse fielded two runners in the Caulfield, the more popular Herculian Prince, and Descarado. Veteran rider Chris Munce was trapped wide from the No. 15 outside gate but feared Descarado would run out of fuel in the final meters. He fought on bravely, however, seeming to relish the heavy conditions that were wreaking havoc with many of the others runners and topped the field by a length.
"To his credit he stuck it right out and that's why I've got no doubt he'll run the two miles," Munce said after the Caulfield. Descarado is aimed next for the Melbourne Cup, which is run over 3,200 meters.
Descarado, who was carrying 2 kg less than Tokai Trick, four years his senior, clocked 2 minutes 35.69 seconds over the 2,400 meters of heavy turf. The High Chaparral-sired, New Zealand-bred Descarado was followed over the line by two other horses bred in New Zealand, the 5-year-old gelding Harris Tweed, a son of Montjeu, and the 4-year-old colt Monaco Consul, also sired by High Chaparral. The race favorite Shocking, who was shouldering a top weight of 57 kg, finished fourth.
Tokai Trick's jockey Shinji Fujita said Caulfield Racecourse, "compared to five years ago with Eye Popper," whom he rode to a second-place finish, "was really torn up badly." Fujita had no criticism for his mount's performance in the Caulfield. "The horse was in good condition but was losing his balance running. I'm thinking that the track at Flemington may be the same," he said, referring to the Melbourne Cup venue. "It would be good if I use this run to my advantage then," Fujita added optimistically.
Tokai Trick, racing mostly wide without cover, had to deal with some interference rounding into the stretch. Shocking, shifting out before he was clear of Mourayan, caused the latter to be taken out into Tokai Trick's path forcing Fujita to ease. A veterinary examination later revealed Tokai Trick to have suffered a minor abrasion to his left hind leg, though it was not determined when the injury was incurred.
Despite the incident at the turn, trainer Kenji Nonaka said the race couldn't have unfolded any better. "It was ideal and I thought this horse, who is very independent, would be able to handle it. He finished 12th but considering that he was suffering in the bad going and that he did quicken in the straight, I would say he didn't do all that bad. The main event is the right distance for him so I'm looking forward to it," Nonaka said referring to the Melbourne Cup scheduled for Nov. 2.
Tokai Trick, by El Condor Pasa out of the Silver Hawk mare Zoonaqua, was racing for the first time since his ninth-place finish in this year's Tenno Sho (Spring) May 2 at Kyoto.
The win of the Caulfield marked a miraculous comeback for jockey Chris Munce, who served two years in prison after being convicted in Hong Kong in 2006 for taking bribes in exchange for racing tips. The win was special for Munce. "Words can't really describe it. It means everything to me," he said. "To be able to still knuckle down and know that I'm still competitive at that level, it's very satisfying.
The Caulfield Cup is held as part of the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival and considered an important leadup to the Melbourne Cup. Along with the Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup, the Caulfield ranks as one of Australia's top three races and one of its toughest handicap races. First-place prize money for the Caulfield is 1.5 million Australian dollars (US$1.48 million)
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