Lightly raced six-year-old First Command will wear blinkers for the first time in attempt to win a second Listed $100,000 Doveton Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield tomorrow.
The belated gear change at his 23rd start had been discussed previously between trainer Anthony Freedman and former trainer and brother Lee yet was never implemented.
But after a year without winning a race with First Command, the experiment steps into action tomorrow.
The gelding has had a troubled 12 months since last year’s Doveton victory over Diplomatic Force and Maxisun.
The son of Commands and River Serenade had a throat operation in early 2011 and contracted a virus in the spring.
Of First Command’s nine wins in 22 starts, five have been at Caulfield.
It is fact not lost on fixed price bookmakers who have First Command at $4.00 behind Stirling Grove the $3 favourite.
In 2009, First Command won six races in a row and his best win was at Caulfield in the Group 2 Caulfield Sprint (1100m) during the spring that year.
After last year’s Doveton he finished second in the Group 1 Telegraph Hcp in New Zealand to (King) Mufhasa at Trentham.
Throat operations can spell the death knell to a successful career and First Command hasn’t won in three runs since.
He did finish second in the Listed Testa Rossa (1200m) to Amaethon at Caulfield when the $4.20 favourite two start back in September.
Racing Victoria handicappers haven’t missed First Command and he needs to carry 59kg, the same weight he won the Doveton with last year and five more kilograms than the rest of the field.
Both First Command and Stirling Grove are going in fresh.
First Command hasn’t raced for 14 weeks but has won three of five first-up starts in the past.
Stirling Grove hasn’t raced for nine weeks but also wins after a break having won twice in four starts when spelled for 12 weeks or more.
The Adelaide galloper missed Monday’s Standish Handicap due to a mild colic attack.
Trainer Richard Jolly is setting his sights big with Stirling Grove.
He is aiming at Group 1 $350,000 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) on February 25 with the four-year-old.
Expect those plans to be in jeopardy if he doesn’t win this.
Cascabel ($6.50) was comprehensively beaten into second place by Catapulted in the Standish and is backing up five days later.
He will be having his third start in 12 days with his past three efforts resulting in runner-up cheques.
“He always backs up well a week apart but we have never done three in a row, especially coming off a hot day like he faced this week,” trainer Robbie Griffiths said.
“He is very consistent and deserves to win one of these races.
“He (Cascabel) is not as good as Catapulted and First Command is also a better horse than him when he is on song.
“The others in the race are at a pretty similar level.
Chasm ($11) will be having his first start for his new trainer Brendan McCarthy after being transferred from the Heath Conners yard.
The Group 1 Emirates Stakes placegetter hasn’t won a race since April 2009 and like Stirling Grove is having his first run in nine weeks.
Five-year-old mare Cat’s Pyjamas ($7.50) is jumping in class but is undefeated in three Caulfield starts over 1200m.
A winner of five from 11 starts, it is fair to believe the best is still in front of the Mark Kavanagh-trained galloper and one wouldn’t rule her out here.
Trainer Clinton McDonald’s search for rain with Second Effort ($5.50) is predicted tomorrow but the patchy forecast may not be enough to help the gelding.
All six wins recorded by Second Effort have been on slow or heavy tracks.
Caulfield track manager Jason Kerr has posted a good (3) rating for the meet.
|No||Last 10||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Penalty||Hcp Rating|
|1||34120X527X||FIRST COMMAND||Anthony Freedman||Jamie Mott||1||59kg||105|
|2||1610X5382X||STIRLING GROVE||Richard Jolly||Dean Yendall||4||54kg||95|
|3||24X2479222||CASCABEL||Robbie Griffiths||Craig Newitt||5||54kg||94|
|4||8X4008076X||CHASM||Brendan McCarthy||Chris Symons||6||54kg||94|
|5||27311117X5||SECOND EFFORT||Clinton McDonald||Danny Nikolic||2||54kg||94|
|6||633X113X81||CAT’S PYJAMAS||Mark Kavanagh||Stephen Baster||7||54kg||90|
|7||X1X6X46415||GALBRAITH||Peter Healey||Ms Michelle Payne||3||54kg||90|
|8||82149X7837||FROM THE TERRACE||Matt Laurie||Dwayne Dunn (late alt)||8||54kg||84|