The 2015 Australian Cup first acceptances have been released and 37 talented gallopers are still a chance of running in the Group 1 event at Flemington on March 14.
2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist remains the headline act in the Australian Cup entries, but the German import is no certainty to run in the race and needs to perform well in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield this weekend in order to remain in Melbourne.
Happy Trails will meet Protectionist in the Peter Young Stakes and the veteran gelding is one horse that is certain to press on to the 2015 edition of the Australian Cup.
The Good Journey gelding has recorded all three of his wins at the highest level of racing at Flemington and has previously won over the course and distance of the Australian Cup in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m).
Happy Trails is without a doubt one of the most popular horses in Australia, but he will be challenged in the Australian Cup popularity stakes by veteran European stayer Red Cadeaux and Tasmanian star The Cleaner.
Red Cadeaux is already in Australia continuing his preparations for the Australian Cup and the Cadeaux Genereux will be having his fifth race start in Melbourne, but amazingly it will be his first race in Australia outside of the Melbourne Cup.
The nine-year-old was narrowly denied by Dunaden in the 2011 edition of the Melbourne Cup before going on to finish second again behind Fiorente in 2013 and Protectionist in 2014.
The Cleaner does not have the extensive racing resume of Red Cadeaux, but in the last 12 months has stamped himself as the most popular horse in Australia with a string of brave front-running performances.
The Tasmanian galloper proved that he was up to Stakes company when he won both the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) and Group 3 JRA Cup (2040m) during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival before he finished a credible ninth in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) and a brave third in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m).
The Australian Cup is one of the only major races in Australia that have not been won by Chris Waller, but the leading Sydney trainer has included six horses in the 2015 Australian Cup first acceptances.
Foreteller finished third behind Fiorente in the Australian Cup last year and could run in the Group 1 event again; while the likes of Bagman, Beaten Up, Hawkspur, He’s Your Man and Weary are also a chance of making the trip to Melbourne for the $1 million race.
The Godolphin operation are keen to win their first Group 1 event in Australia since John O’Shea took over as head trainer and they have included Contributer, Hartnell and Sweynesse in the first acceptances, but they are unlikely to contest the race due to the firmness of the Flemington track.
Other notable horses in the 2015 Australian Cup first acceptances include Orr Stakes runner-up Entirely Platinum, Gai Waterhouse-trained Greatwood, Perth Cup winner Real Love, Queensland Derby winner Sonntag and the in-form Mourinho.