The G2 Perth Cup at Ascot boasts a capacity field to do battle over the tough 2400m, however weight could be the deciding factor in the outcome of Western Australia's feature race...
First run in 1887 over two miles, the race has not been without controversy, 1987 winner Rocket Racer immediately coming to mind. Several leading trainers from the East, Bart Cummings a prime example quite often targeted the race with his "two milers". In fact Bart sent two time Melbourne Cup winner Think Big over for the 1975 renewal finishing third behind Runyon.
Rogan Josh winner of the 1999 Melbourne Cup was second in the 1999 renewal and Rising Fear another Melbourne Cup placegetter was second in 1989. In 2009 the distance of the race was changed from 3200m to 2400m and the race's influence on feature staying events in the east has diminished as a result.
However this afternoon's field does contain gallopers who have raced well in Melbourne at various stages of their careers such as Playing God, God Has Spoken and Ranger and when adding recent Sydney Christmas Cup winner Cantonese into the mix, the depth in this year's renewal profiles stronger than in recent years.
An alarming statistic for those runners at the head of the weights is the highest winning weight since 1913 when Artesian carried 60.5kgs has been just 55.5 kgs and in that period just two horses have carried it to victory, Lords Ransom (2010) and England's Dust (1961). That augers well for the top Timeform weight adjusted rated runner, the Sydneysider Cantonese who is the "new blood" in the race.
Trained by emerging talent Bjorn Baker at Warwick Farm, Cantonese Timeform rated 108 has had a long campaign but holds his form well. After working his way through restricted class in Sydney, he stepped up to the Listed Christmas Cup over 2400m and with new rider Jimmy Cassidy in the saddle, led throughout to win as he liked by six lengths.
That was Cantonese's fourteenth run this preparation in a campaign that started at Kembla Grange back in mid June taking his Timeform rating from 75 to 108 in the process. The 2400m should hold no fear for the son of Redoute's Choice with the only query being whether he has come to the end of his improvement this preparation.
Cantonese has also made the long journey across the Nullabor Plain to tackle today's race but if he reproduces his Sydney form he will certainly take some running down. Given the history is against top weights, weight adjusted Timeform ratings suggest the danger to Cantonese will come from the lowly weighted Pop Culture.
The lightly raced mare and winner of the WA Oaks over today's course and trip has been given an excellent preparation winning three of her last five starts, including her last run as odds on favourite in the Listed WA St Leger over 2100m ten days ago. On that occasion she showed she was looking for further running on stoutly in the closing stages for a comfortable win.
The daughter of VRC Derby winner Blackfriars is Timeform rated 108 and showed she is well up to this company with an eye catching fourth to Luckygray in the G1 Kingston Town Stakes under weight for age conditions two runs back. On direct weight comparisons from that race she meets top weight Mr Moet three and a half kilos better for just under a length defeat - quite a substantial turnaround for today's assignment.
If there is any chink in the armour of Cantonese, Pop Culture is the one to expose it. The form pattern exhibited by 2010 renewal winner Lords Ransom suggests he could be ready to produce a peak rating effort this afternoon.
The now nine-year-old has raced three times since a spell and while his runs look disappointing on paper he is on an upward ratings spiral and is ready to improve again this afternoon. And his record fourth run back from a spell is potent - four starts for three wins in that state.
It is also worth remembering that at the back end of his last preparation he did score impressive victories in both the Pinjarra and Bunbury Cups. A repeat of that form would see him well placed today. It is a long time since Ranger has won a race, 423 days in fact, but this might just be his opportunity to break the drought.
He has been improved by recent racing and did start second favourite in the G1 Railway Stakes over 1600m when resuming only to have a interrupted run in the straight beaten less than two lengths behind Mr Moet. Ranger failed next time out in the Kingston Town when second up but then finished third to Mr Moet in the Cox Stakes. He too has a weight pull off that galloper this afternoon of 3.5kgs.
Ranger failed as a four-year-old behind Guest Wing in the 2011 Perth Cup but is worth considering again.
Shamardashing looms as the "knock out" horse. Owned by the troubled Patinack Farm group, this fellow has been given a solid staying preparation by trainer John Thompson. When last in work he showed good staying ability during the Brisbane winter Carnival finishing fourth in the Premiers Cup and Tatt's Cup behind handy stayers before taking the G3 Grafton Cup over 2300m in a stout staying performance.
After kicking off this campaign in Melbourne, Thompson has given the gelding three good runs in Perth, the last behind Mr Moet in the Cox Stakes where he settled last early but was making good ground late. To carry the limit weight of 53kgs, Shamardashing is a genuine improver who will run the 2400m out better than most. A definite chance at good odds and one to consider for the multiples.
Enjoy another Perth Cup renewal.
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