Imported stayer Lucas Cranach has overtaken Melbourne Cup winner Americain for favouritism in the Group 1 $1m Dubai Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on Saturday.
The Anthony Freedman trained stallion draw the inside gate from the tricky 2000m start while Americain draw the outside of nine in the small field.
Freedman was able to produce Lucas Cranach to win first up over 1800m in the Group 2 $200,000 Carlton Draught Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 25 even though the five year old’s European form suggested he could only produce his best over a longer journey.
Former leading trainer Lee Freedman, who handed his position as head trainer for the Freedman Racing operation to his brother Anthony in August 2011 still is heavily involved with the training of the German import and is anxiously looking forward to the clash with Americain.
“Americain’s the measuring stick but we’re in with a show,” Freedman said.
“I think the run has improved him and he did a bit of pace work on Thursday and seemed nice and bright.”
Lucas Cranach has firmed into $3 favourite just ahead of the French galloper at $3.20 with the Peter Moody trained Manighar at $8.50.
Last year’s Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed and Mackinnon Stakes winner Glass Harmonium share the next line of betting at $10.
Americain is having his first start for trainer David Hayes and he is confident he has done enough with the seven year old to win fresh.
The international galloper is another that is better known to produce his form over more ground but Hayes has put in a lot of work and thought to prepare American for a first up win over 2000m.
“Everything is good and I’m looking forward to the weekend,” Hayes said.
“He’s in great shape and really going well.”
Americain hasn’t raced since winning last year’s Group 2 $350,000 Zipping Classic at Sandown on November 12 after an unlucky fourth to Dunaden in the Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup when trying to make it back to back Cups.
Hayes took Americain to Seymour on February 16 for a solid hit out with stable mate Budai and was happy the work.
“I’m very happy,” Hayes said after the gallop. “He wasn’t out to run time. What I liked about the work was how long it took to pull him up.”
“He wanted to do more so I know the 2000m won’t worry him for sure.”
The Australian Cup should be renamed the “International Cup” with more than half the field being from overseas.
As well as Lucas Cranach and Americain there is the Peter Moody trained Manighar, Glass Harmonium and Illo trained by Cups King Bart Cummings.
Moody was able to produce Manighar to win first up in the Group 3 $125,000 Catanach’s Jewelers Carlyon Cup (1600m) on February 11 and show that it was possible to train the imported stayers to race well over a shorter distance while fresh.