10/20/2012 8:44AM

Australia: Caulfield Cup victory sets up Dunaden for Melbourne Cup defense


In Europe, Dunaden is just another solid upper-tier racehorse, but take him to Australia and Dunaden shines. The 2011 Melbourne Cup winner returned from a summer in the Northern Hemisphere and impressively captured the Group 1 Caulfield Cup on Saturday in Australia, rallying from 16th to beat Alcopop by a half-length.

Dunaden, trained by Mikel Delzangles for the Pearl Bloodstock Group, had a tremendous fall and winter run last year, winning his Australian prep race before the Melbourne Cup and capturing the Hong Kong Vase after it. This summer, racing in England in France, he chalked up a pair of thirds and a second behind Sea Moon in the Hardwicke Stakes, and could only finish an even-paced sixth July 21 in Danedream’s Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Dunaden’s most recent start.

But the 6-year-old French-bred, reunited with Australian pilot Craig Williams, returned to sharp form Saturday at Caulfield. Dropped to the rear of the field after breaking from a wide draw in the 1 1/2-mile, left-handed grass race, Dunaden still raced in 16th place with about three-eighths of a mile left to run. Steered to the far outside, and losing all kinds of ground into the stretch, Dunaden began whipping past his rivals, making the front in the final half-furlong and finishing off the job with good energy.

Alcopop, a horse short on accomplishment, also rallied from the rear of the field to get second, three-quarters of a length in front of mid-pack closer Lights of Heaven, another relatively unaccomplished sort. In fourth came 2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain, who had a useful run. Former American runners Winchester and Sanagas finished ninth and 10th, respectively, while Jakkalberry, winner of the inaugural American St. Leger at Arlington in August, had a troubled trip and checked in 13th. 

Dunaden’s performance made him the favorite for a Melbourne Cup repeat, but Dunaden is expected to have to pick up considerable weight for that Nov. 6 race as a result of his victory on Saturday.