Geelong Cup Preview: French or British for Geelong?

Gatewood (left) winning at Royal Ascot this year

Head of Timeform Australia Gary Crispe takes a look at a major trial for the Melbourne Cup.

"Gatewood currently sits 41st in the Melbourne Cup Order Of Entry while Brigantin is 30th, so much hinges on their performances today to force their way into the Cup."

In recent years the French have made the G3 Geelong Cup their own winning the last two renewals before going on to take the G1 Melbourne Cup. However this year, the Andre Fabre-trained Brigantin, who aims for a hat-trick of Geelong Cups for the French, will have stiff opposition from UK-trained Gatewood, an unlucky Australian debutant from the G2 Herbert Power Handicap at Caulfield last time out.

With a start in the Melbourne Cup on the line, the John Gosden-trained Gatewood will have to run right up to his best form to prevent a French victory. Not even the punters can decisively separate the pair with early trading on Betfair showing very little between them, Brigantin $3.15 and Gatewood $3.35.

Gatewood currently sits 41st in the Melbourne Cup Order Of Entry while Brigantin is 30th, so much hinges on their performances today to force their way into the Cup.

In the case of Gatewood, the Galileo entire will require a weight penalty if he is to gain a start in the lucrative staying event at Flemington on November 6 so a win is imperative. His Australian debut was one to forget when seventh in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield. The OTI-raced four-year-old settled midfield however approaching the turn lost all chance of victory when getting shuffled back to near last. Jockey Corey Brown was unable to obtain a clear run in the straight and Gatewood worked to the line untested 5 ½ lengths behind another international raider Shahwardi.

Luck should not be a factor for Gatewood this afternoon with the Northern Hemisphere four-year-old lining up against just six rivals. The John Gosden-trained stayer is a progressive type who caught the eye over the European summer, in five starts working through the grades to group two level. After a Listed win in the Wolverhampton Stakes (2011m), Gatewood proved himself at Group level and over the Geelong Cup trip with minor placings in the Glorious Stakes (2414m) and the Prix De Deauville (2500m).

A third in the Glorious Stakes behind fellow Cup hopeful My Quest For Peace assessed at 116 is Gatewood's current master Timeform rating and if repeated should see the entire receive a desired Melbourne Cup penalty. Gatewood carries between 1.5-3kg less than his main rivals today who loom as Brigantin, Tac De Boistron and Maluckyday.

Brigantin has been well supported for both the Geelong Cup and the Group 1 Melbourne Cup, the Andre Fabre-trained stallion looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow French raiders Americain and Dunaden who won the 2010 and 2011 renewals of the Melbourne Cup. Both Dunaden and Americain have been revelations during their raids on Australian carnival riches and provided another example of that when they ran first and fourth respectively in last Saturday's Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).

Dunaden and Americain's master Timeform figures have both been achieved on Australian soil and most interestingly, each posted new peak Timeform figures when winning their respective Geelong Cups.

In Brigantin's favour, the Cozzene stallion arrives in Australia with what looks to be an upward ratings profile, especially taking a line through his last start second to the progressive Joshua Tree in the G2 Kergolay (3000m) at Deauville, a race that has become a major French lead up for the Cup.

Brigantin possesses a master Timeform rating of 116 but can race to 122, a figure he ran to with a clear cut win in the 2011 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (3100m) at Longchamp where he actually defeated Dunaden. Even carrying 1.5kg more than Gatewood, running to this figure in the Geelong Cup would see the latest French raider take plenty of beating. The five-year-old posted his current 116 figure when running a close second behind Ivory Land at Saint Cloud over 3100m during April.

While Gatewood has displayed a turn of foot during his short career to date, Brigantin's best rated efforts have all come over 3100m and beyond with the entire proving even 4000m is well within his range. With the Melbourne Cup his main goal in just under two weeks, queries have to be raised over whether the 2400m could be just a shade sharp.

Tac De Boistron arrives in Australia off a career best win when claiming the Prix Maurice De Nieuil (2800m) at Longchamp. The five-year-old could be another French raider who improves once arriving in this country. Now trained by astute Cranbourne horseman Mick Kent, Tac De Boistron brings with him form around the likes of Shahwardi and Prairie Star who have each performed well in their lone Australian runs so far this spring. He also accounted for the fourth placed Brigantin when third in the Group 3 Prix De Barbeville (3100m) on April 29.

With only a seven horse field, the Geelong Racing Club will be promoting quality over quantity with the $300,000 event attracting 2010 Melbourne Cup runner-up Maluckyday. Maluckyday hit the line well when second in The Bart Cummings (2520m) at Flemington on October 6.

The Team Hawkes-trained galloper ran just one pound shy of his master figure (118) and should be closing in on peak fitness this preparation fourth run back from a spell. Maluckyday (15th), Tac De Boistron (22nd) and Brigantin (30th) sit high in the Melbourne Cup Order Of Entry with both Maluckyday and Tac De Boistron guaranteed runs.

Brigantin's place in the Melbourne Cup is all but confirmed due to the anticipated drop off of runners above him in the ballot order through either injury or poor form.

Of the four above mentioned horses, Gatewood has the most to play for with a Melbourne Cup start on the line. That could just make the difference this afternoon.

Off Time 06:00 BST

Back Gatewood @ $3.35

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