A FOOT abscess may have put last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden in doubt for next month’s Caulfield Cup.
The abscess, which appeared about two weeks ago, has restricted the French galloper’s workload and he will be given a searching gallop at Newmarket in England this week before boarding a plane bound for Melbourne at the end of the week, according to Racing Victoria’s website.
Connections have rated Dunaden’s chances of making it to the $2.5 million Caulfield feature in four weeks as a "50-50" possibility. But bookmakers are taking the setback seriously, with most offering as much as $35 for the horse to win the Caulfield Cup - more than double his price of a week ago.
The doubt on Dunaden running in the Caulfield Cup - the race he was being aimed at for his first run back in this country - has meant that leading group 1 jockey Craig Williams could be back in the running for the Caulfield Cup ride on defending champion Southern Speed or last year’s runner-up Green Moon.
Dunaden, along with 2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain, as well as this year’s early Melbourne Cup favourite Mount Athos, will arrive on Saturday as part of the first wave of international raiders.
Southern Speed’s co-trainer Leon Macdonald said he had taken the Cox Plate off the agenda and refocused on the Caulfield Cup after Southern Speed was caught a little flat-footed before running on impressively to finish just behind the placegetters in the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday.
Macdonald is due to talk with Williams about the possibility of him riding the mare in both the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington on October6 and the Caulfield Cup a fortnight later.
But the jockey also has to talk to owner Lloyd Williams about the prospect of riding Green Moon in the Turnbull after partnering the import at his first two runs this campaign.
Meanwhile, Mosheen’s trainer Robert Smerdon says he has not given up on his four-time group1 winner making it through to the Cox Plate after confirming that she will back up into Sunday’s group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield.
The four-year-old, who began the spring as the Cox Plate favourite, has been unplaced in both her runs this campaign, including on Saturday when fifth over 1200 metres at Caulfield. While Smerdon described that performance as "just fair", he said he intended to press on with the mare.
"That [throat] hiccup she had has probably put her on the back foot as far as her fitness is concerned, but there was some improvement there on Saturday and we’ll be looking for that same improvement in the Rupert Clarke," he said.
Mosheen had a minor throat operation before her first run back this spring and Smerdon said the of work she missed over that period meant she has had to battle for fitness in her two runs.
"That run on Saturday and then this run coming over 1400 metres on Sunday will tell us a lot more, but the Cox Plate is still on the agenda and that’s the way we are heading with her," Smerdon said.
Although many have already written off the Caulfield Guineas as being in the possession of the champion colt Pierro or at least one of the many leading Sydney three-year-olds, trainer Tony McEvoy is pressing on with his top colt Jimando, who on Sunday runs in the 1400-metre Caulfield Guineas Prelude.
Jimando, who will be ridden by Glen Boss, is unlikely to run into any of the top chances in the market for the Caulfield Guineas but McEvoy said he would be able to get a good guide on the horse’s chances in the $1million classic after the weekend.