Seven year old Prince Cheri will kick of a low key Caulfield Cup campaign when he returns to the race track at Moonee Valley on Saturday in the $90,000 1PRINT Craig Opie Cup (1600m).
Trainer David Vandyke is keen to get Prince Cheri back to being competitive at Group 1 level and will work towards qualifying him for the Group 1 $3m BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield on October 17.
At his two attempts at the top grade, Prince Cheri was beaten one and a half lengths when sixth to Seville in the 2013 Group 1 $400,000 McGrath Estate Agents Metropolitan (2400m) at Randwick during the Spring Carnival and was also sixth placed behind Boban in the 2014 Group 1 $500,000 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm the following Autumn.
But Prince Cheri’s career had to be put on hold for over twelve months because of a back injury and the seven year old has only been to the races once since May of 2014 for a fourth to Sons Of John in the Group 3 $150,000 Panthers Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m) at Hawkesbury June 7.
“He had what’s called a kissing spine where two of his vertebrae are touching and we had that operated on and he’s in good shape now and his back has never been better,” Vandyke told Racing.com’s Racing Ahead on RSN.
Premiership winning jockey Damien Oliver takes the ride on Prince Cheri on Saturday and was on hand to get a feel of the entire in a gallop at Moonee Valley on Tuesday morning.
“Ollie (Damien Oliver) galloped him on Tuesday at Moonee Valley and he was very happy with him,” Vandyke said.
“He’s a horse that will improve over more ground, he’s very stoutly-bred and we’re looking forward to getting him out to 2000 metres and even further.”
An impressive showing this week will give Vandyke confidence as he heads towards the Group 3 $150,000 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on September 19 with the winner being exempt from the ballot for the Caulfield Cup.
“He gets all the favours on Saturday from barrier three and 58.5kg is a nice weight for him,” Vandyke said.
“If he improves from the Hawkesbury Cup which I think he has, then he should be very competitive but I’m more focussed on the Naturalism in two weeks at Caulfield to try and get him exempt from the ballot and into the Caulfield Cup.”
In a congested market order for the Craig Opie Cup with six runners at $10 or under, Prince Cheri is at $7 on the fourth line of betting with Ladbrokes.com.au.
$4.20 favourite The United States has a distinct fitness advantage after the Robert Hickmott trained import scored a first up win over 1500m in a Moonee Valley Handicap on August 22.
Craig Opie Cup market order at Ladbrokes.com.au: $4.20 The United States, $6 Onpicalo, Abbasso, $6.50 Pacific Heights, $7 Prince Cheri, $10 Baron Archer, $12 Chance To Dance, $15 Streets Away, $21 Lord Of Brazil, Garud, Electric Fusion, $26 Mujadale, $61 Initiator.
Prince Cheri has been handicapped with 50.5kg for the Caulfield Cup and in current markets is listed at $101.