DAN O’Sullivan will get his best guide so far as to how Tuscan Fire measures up as a Caulfield Cup prospect in the group 3 $150,000 Naturalism Stakes, 2000m, at Caulfield today.
Tuscan Fire faces a Caulfield Cup-like field in his fourth start this preparation.
The Caulfield Cup field will undoubtedly be even stronger, but a substantial number of his rivals today are also likely to line up.
Nineteen of the 20 acceptors for the Naturalism are Caulfield Cup nominations and 17 are Melbourne Cup entries.
With these types of numbers, this is likely to be one of the first true staying tests of the spring, which should suit Tuscan Fire.
What Tuscan Fire has over his rivals is that his Mornington Cup win early this year means he is guaranteed a Caulfield Cup start if O’Sullivan chooses to take up the option.
O’Sullivan has always stated that he will only line up Tuscan Fire in the Caulfield Cup if his form warrants it.
He has been pleased with each of his runs, including a first-up win at Flemington.
The seven-year-old has stepped up in distance with each run – 1410m, 1500m and 1600m.
“This race will be hot, with a lot of horses trying to qualify for the Caulfield Cup, so the pressure will be coming on early,” O’Sullivan told AAP.
“He’s in great order with improvement to come.
“He showed last prep that once he is fit, and up and racing, he can hold his form for quite a period of time.”
If Tuscan Fire wins, O’Sullivan is planning to target the group 1 $500,000 Turnbull Stakes, 2000m, at Flemington on October 5.
The $100,000 Benalla Cup, 2046m, on October 6 is an alternative.
British General is second-up for O’Sullivan in the Higgins-Dalziel Racing Handicap, 1400m.
OTHER Ballarat-trained runners at Caulfield today include:
• Bec And Credit (trained by Darren Weir): chasing four wins in a row in the Starlight Children’s Foundation Handicap, 1400m.
• Lake Sententia (Darren Weir): resumes in group 3 Sportingbet Sprint Series Stakes heat, 1200m. Winner of past two. Nominated for Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate.
• Politeness (Robert Smerdon): winner of past two engaged in the group 2 Thousand Guineas Prelude, 1400m.
• Melbourne Cup favourite Puissance de Lune (Darren Weir) clashed with unbeaten Atlantic Jewel in group 1 $400,000 Underwood Stakes, 1800m.