“He’s absolutely flying at home, he hasn’t put a foot wrong. He’s going to be on the fresh side but 1200 metres, group 1, you probably want to see him like that, he’s an athlete, and I’m excited to show him off.”
Ryan will travel with Bowman and the other Sydney jockeys to Melbourne on Saturday morning.
Bowman has built a strong relationship with Lost And Running, who brings winning form from his first-up run at Randwick last month.
The five-year-old finished fourth in last year’s Everest, and has been in consistent form since.
“He’s a really good horse and I think he’ll be suited up the straight personally,” Bowman said.
“Although we didn’t quite expect to have him there [in Melbourne] quite as early this year, that’s not to say he’s not ready. He had a good first-up run here, he won with authority, and he’ll make his presence felt, there’s no doubt about that.”
Lost And Running will have synthetic hoof filler on his feet for the first time, which can indicate feet issues, but Bowman said he was not aware of any cause for concern.
Home Affairs will jump favourite for Chris Waller, after the star three-year-old – winner of the Coolmore Stud Stakes in the spring – knocked off Nature Strip and Eduardo in a star-studded Lightning Stakes.
The one X-factor galloper who might be flying under the radar, however, is Finance Tycoon.
The fellow three-year-old, from the Danny O’Brien camp, has had just the nine starts for four wins and is a winner down the Flemington straight.
O’Brien said the Newmarket would separate the wheat from the chaff.
“It takes a top line sprinter, you’ve got to be a really strong horse to win that 1200-metre group 1 race at Flemington,” the Melbourne Cup-winning trainer said.
“We’re a little bit optimistic, it can be a good race for those three-year-olds that are a bit lightly exposed.
“Home Affairs is going to go around favourite, and he’s an outstanding three-year-old. Because of his record, we’re getting 5.5 kilograms off him.
“It’s a great handicap in Victoria, second only really to the Melbourne Cup, so we’re going in there as a lightweight with hopefully a small chance.”
Apprentice Josh Richards will ride the three-year-old Written Tycoon colt from barrier 5 at just 50.5kg. It will be Richards’ first ride in a group 1.
An Australian Cup field unlike yesteryear
For a century, the Australian Cup was Victoria’s premier autumn staying event.
From its first running in 1863 to 1942, it was run at handicap level at 3600 metres – two furlongs further than Melbourne Cup.
That dropped slightly, to 3400 metres, to 1962, and then to 2800 metres in 1963. Since 1964, it’s been a 2000-metre event, and the past 35 editions have been at weight-for-age, producing an honour roll littered with champions, from dual winners of the race Northerly (2001, 2003) and Vo Rogue (1989, 1990), to the likes of Dulcify (1979), Bonecrusher (1987) and Better Loosen Up (1991).
Saintly, Octagonal and Lohnro have also underlined their class in the race, while Let’s Elope, Makybe Diva and Fiorente are three Melbourne Cup winners who returned to the scene of their wins to triumph at weight-for-age in an Australian Cup.
While European import Spanish Mission went close, running third in last year’s Cup, he brings the profile of a champion stayer looking to join a star-studded winner’s list. But Saturday’s field is unlike that of yester year, featuring a Sydney star, a champion handicap miler and a dual group 1-winning Kiwi among others.
The top weight is Cascadian, from the Godolphin operation, who will look to become the 13th horse to win the Peter Young Stakes (formerly the St George Stakes) and Australian Cup double.
“He’s going great. We’re pleased to bring him into the Australian Cup as a last-start winner with weight-for-age form on his side,” trainer James Cummings said.
“And as last year’s Doncaster [Mile] winner he finds himself with the number one saddlecloth.”
“He’s got the right draw to get run-of-the-race stuff and we’re just very, very pleased with the way he’s prepared for this target race.
“Having seen him look so strong in the Mackinnon (Stakes) last year at this track, which he relishes, he gets to Flemington for the first time this prep ready to produce a big performance.”
Cascadian is due to back-up into next week’s All-Star Mile, a race just four years old that has no doubt reshaped the profile of the Australian Cup.
Just one contender from last year’s Cox Plate features in Saturday’s main event, that being former Kiwi Callsign Mav, a two-time group 1 winner in New Zealand now with Danny O’Brien.
He runs second-up in Saturday’s race, but O’Brien says his condition will be of no concern.
“He had a really strong fitness base when he came over here for his Cox Plate campaign, and he only had a small break at the end of the spring, so I don’t think fitness will be an issue for him,” O’Brien said.
“[His former trainer] John Bary gave us a really good background on him. He’s just a very tough, genuine racehorse. He really turned it on when he went to the race the other day. He’s a relaxed, casual customer at home, but he was super once we put the saddle on him at Caulfield, he was very competitive.”
But O’Brien, having tried 11 times unsuccessfully to win the Australian Cup, knows this will be no easy task.
“He has won group 1s in New Zealand, but they wouldn’t be at this level,” O’Brien said.
“This is a really deep race. We’ve got the horse from Sydney [Think It Over] coming down here and a really good group of local horses.
“He definitely would have to go to a new peak to win, but I’m quite hopeful he can.”
Jamie Mott rides Callsign Mav in search of his maiden group 1 victory.