10/12/2011 1:40PM

Australia: December Draw tops field in Caulfield Cup


December Draw, a stakes winner earlier this month at Flemington Racecourse, will be a strong favorite to win Saturday’s Group 1 Caulfield Cup in Australia, a key prep to next month’s Melbourne Cup.

December Draw is part of a field of 22 in the Caulfield Cup, which is run over about 1 1/2 miles and is worth approximately $2.3 million. A handicap, the race will be limited to 18 starters and has four also-eligibles. The lineup also includes Melbourne Cup future-book favorite Lucas Cranach as well as the American invader Unusual Suspect, who has started twice in Australia.

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December Draw, trained by Mark Kavanagh, won the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on Oct. 2 and is on a three-race winning streak since early September. A 5-year-old Irish-bred gelding who raced in England until summer 2010, December Draw is listed as a 10-1 chance with bookmakers for the Melbourne Cup on Nov. 1.

The Caulfield Cup will be the Australian debut of Lucas Cranach, a 4-year-old German-bred colt trained by Anthony Freedman. Lucas Cranach is the current favorite for the Melbourne Cup, which is run over about two miles.

Earlier this year, Lucas Cranach won the Group 2 Hansa Preis over 1 1/2 miles at Hamburg in June and was fifth behind Danedream in the Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Berlin in July. Danedream won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 2.

Unusual Suspect won the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup last December and was fifth in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita in January in his last start in the United States. Trained in California by Barry Abrams, Unusual Suspect is now owned by a partnership that includes Abrams.

Unusual Suspect, 7, is trained by Michael Kent in Australia. Unusual Suspect was fourth in a Group 2 over a mile at Moonee Valley Racecourse on Sept. 10 and 10th in the Cranbourne Cup over about 1 1/4 miles last Sunday.

Unusual Suspect is a 40-1 shot for the Melbourne Cup and 66-1 to win the Caulfield Cup.

The 10-race Caulfield Cup program has two Group 2 sprints – the Caulfield Sprint over 5 1/2 furlongs and the Tristarc Stakes over seven furlongs. Sepoy, who won the Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes for 2-year-olds in April, starts in the Caulfield Sprint, seeking his fifth consecutive win. More Joyous, third to Sepoy in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes over six furlongs on Sept. 30, is a top contender in the Tristarc Stakes.