Winning the last place in the Caulfield Cup field in Wednesday’s Coongy Handicap won’t necessarily guarantee Al Galayel runs in Saturday’s $5 million event.
The Coongy Handicap is the final chance for hopefuls to earn a Caulfield Cup ballot exemption from well down the order of entry.
Al Galayel (32nd) and Django Freeman (41st) are the only two of the nine Coongy Handicap runners still holding a Caulfield Cup nomination.
TAB has Al Galayel as a $2.40 favourite win the Coongy Handicap but co-trainer David Eustace said he and his training partner had hoped the gelding would not have to run in the $200,000 race.
“We hoped to get into the Caulfield Cup without having to run in the Coongy,” Eustace said.
“But it’s unlikely unless a few fall by the wayside.”
Complicating matters is the fact Al Galayel has won his last three starts with four-week gaps between those runs, which Eustace said perfectly suits the seven-year-old.
Eustace was unsure how Al Galayel would perform on a three-day back-up at his first go over 2400m, meaning he and Maher had to weigh up the pros and cons of attempting the mission.
But he said the Caulfield Cup wouldn’t be a thought unless Al Galayel won the Coongy Handicap.
Ben Melham will shoot for four wins in a row on Al Galayel in the Coongy Handicap. Photo: Reg Ryan/Racing Photos.Source:Getty Images
“It’s a tricky one because the horse goes very well fresh and that’s the reason why he’s going so well I believe,” Eustace said.
“I’d be a little bit hesitant in committing to the Caulfield Cup at this stage.
“We’re keen to try him over the mile-and-a-half. Backing him up into the Caulfield Cup you could argue is the wrong way to do it but also argue it’s the right way to do it.
“You don’t know until you actually try.”
But Eustace said he and Maher had already thought of a rich back-up plan for Al Galayel over the Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington.
“If he wins the Coongy, you’re probably giving a race like the Mackinnon (Stakes) some thought,” he said.
“It’s a three-and-a-half-week break between runs, which is what he likes, and it can often be an afterthought for those horses that have run a little bit below expectations in the Cox Plate.
“We’ll be guided by him and work it out but the Coongy looks a nice race for him.”
Ben Melham, who has been aboard for Al Galayel’s last three wins, will again ride the import on Wednesday.
Originally published asAl’s last Cup stand in Coongy
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