As many eyes fixate on high-profile stayer Gold Trip, Irish jockey John Allen has his sights on an upset aboard one of the favourite’s stablemates in the $5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup.
Imported galloper Duke De Sessa has been geared towards the prestigious 2400m spring feature and has hardly put a hoof wrong in the lead-up to Saturday’s race.
The five-year-old, rated a $31 chance, has been overshadowed by fellow Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained stayer Gold Trip ($6).
Soulcombe and West Wind Blows ($6.50) are on the second line of betting, as Without A Fight ($8) and Breakup ($9) round out the leading contenders.
But Allen is quietly confident of mounting a challenge after sitting on Duke De Sessa for the first time this week.
“He’s probably flown a little bit under the radar but hopefully he can step up to the mark on Saturday,” Allen told AAP.
“It is a very deep race and he’s going to have to step up a little on what he’s shown.
“But Ciaron and David are confident he can and he couldn’t have worked any better than what he did on Tuesday morning when I rode him.
“Going in we’re certainly very hopeful.”
Duke De Sessa won twice in as many starts over 2400m in Ireland and was sixth in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) last time out.
The son of Lope de Vega out of Dark Crusader made steady ground from the back in his third Australian run and drops from 56kg to 53kg for the Caulfield Cup.
“I’m hoping that run has just topped him up and he’ll be cherry ripe for Saturday,” Allen said.
“All his runs have showed a bit of promise and there should be good improvement in him. I’m pretty confident he can run well.”
There are queries, however, with Duke De Sessa having to negotiate barrier 14 and a track that won’t present as ideal.
“They’ve always had a thought that he’s a little bit better on soft ground but he certainly couldn’t have felt any better on Tuesday,” Allen said.
“He was moving super and his action seemed good. I think he can handle it hopefully once it’s not rock hard.
“He’s probably going to balance up somewhere but a lot of the fancied ones will be around midfield or somewhere like that so I should be able to find the right back to follow.”
Favourite Gold Trip is also in line for shots at the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup, which he won last year.
Ben Melham has the Caulfield Cup ride, with Gold Trip carrying the top weight of 58.5kg out of barrier 11 – the same alley he jumped from when second to Durston last year.
Maher and Eustace will saddle up four runners with Gold Trip and Duke De Sessa joined by Right You Are and first emergency United Nations.
Second-favourite Soulcombe – one of three runners from the Chris Waller stable – drew barrier six, which hatched the triumphant Durston last year.
Waller also has Montefilia ($13) and Francesco Guardi ($14) in this year’s edition.
Joseph O’Brien’s Valiant King has been the big mover in the market, slashed from $21 to $10.