Nick Hall celebrates victory aboard Fawkner in the Caulfield CupPICTURE: Robert Prezioso/Getty Images
Fawkner denies Dandino in Caulfield Cup
Report: Australia, Saturday
Caulfield: BMW Caulfield Cup (Group 1 Handicap) 1m4f, 3yo+
A WIDE draw proved the barrier to success for Dandino, but although narrowly beaten into second by Fawkner (Robert Hickmott/Nick Hall), Britain's valiant Caulfield Cup raider left his many Australian owners ecstatic and eagerly looking forward to an assault on the biggest Cup of all.
Being effectively drawn 16 of the 18 runners was also going to be a horrible handicap to overcome, and so it proved, but the Marco Botti-trained Dandino so nearly overcame it, flashing home down the short Caulfield straight in his valiant but fruitless mission to reel in the winner.
That winner, whose owner Lloyd Williams characteristically stayed away from the racecourse, could head to the Emirates Melbourne Cup, for which the much-travelled Dandino is now 6-1 joint-favourite alongside former Brit Fiorente with Ladbrokes.
Although still very much a Brit, Dandino is also an adopted Aussie having been purchased early this year by the Darren Dance-led Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock company, whose members celebrated as if the £1.05 million first prize was theirs. Instead they had to make do with the £224,350 their horse collected for edging out Dear Demi for second.
Heavily-backed favourite Hawkspur made up a considerable amount of ground in the closing stages but could no better than seventh.
"If you had swapped barrier draws you would have swapped the result, no doubt," said rider Craig Williams, who tracked the Nick Hall-ridden Fawkner for much of the race.
However, while Fawkner was able to put his head in front around 100 metres from home, Dandino, successful in the American St Leger on his previous outing, ran out of racecourse.
"I think we all feel like we've won the race," said Dance. "When we buy these horses we put in a lot of money and a lot of work. I couldn't be happier and I suppose we can go to Flemington now without a penalty. We just wanted him to run well for the owners because they're wonderful people and he did."
Nothing, however, ran better than Fawkner, whose owner went into this race having won the Melbourne Cup four times but never the BMW-backed Caulfield Cup. Now that wrong has been righted.
"I think this is the hardest race to win in Australia," said Williams' son Nick. "It's a lot harder to get a horse to the Melbourne Cup but by the nature of the way this race is run there are always a lot of hard luck stories.
"We've had a lot of runners in it over the years and it's great that we've managed to win it. I'm sure all the Australian breeders will be happy because we've managed to do it with an Australian-bred horse."
Like Nick Williams, the Australian-bred rider is the son of a famous father, but while Greg Hall won a Melbourne Cup he was unable to capture the contest his son plundered to perfection.
There was, however, a sting in the tail for Hall, who was handed a ten-meeting careless riding suspension that rules him out of next Saturday's Cox Plate, in which he would again have ridden for Williams.
Also set to miss the Cox Plate after being found guilty of the same offence in the same race is Glen Boss, who would have partnered Puissance De Lune at Moonee Valley. Boss was banned for 12 meetings. Both men will be back for the Melbourne Cup.
"This is definitely the best moment of my career," said Hall.
"Turning for home I was pretty confident. We had discussions about a month ago about where this horse was headed and this was the ultimate goal. There were a lot of doubters but he got there in the end."
Dandino, on this occasion, did not. At Flemington it might be a different story.
Also on Saturday
Caulfield: Jacob Park Thoroughbreds Norman Robinson Stakes (Group 3) 1m2f, turf, 3yo
The AAMI Victoria Derby in two weeks time looks a very realistic option for both Polanski (Robbie Laing/Hug Bowman) and San Diego who fought a fierce battle down the Caulfield home straight in this recognised Classic trial.
The first and second had suffered nightmare trips when meeting at Moonee Valley in late September, but with the mammoth San Diego this time setting the pace and Polanski enjoying a perfect run in behind, both horses were this time seen to best advantage.
Having travelled smoothly throughout the race, Polanski nailed San Diego early in the straight, and although Kerrin McEvoy conjured up a fine rally from Sheikh Mohammed's hope, Polanski had his measure at the line.
"He's still a big, raw horse and I think he can move up," said Bowman. "He'll have an excellent chance in the Derby. He'll be a top three pick for sure."
Caulfield: Sportingbet Moonga Stakes (Group 3) 7f, turf, 4yo+
Boban (Chris Waller/Glyn Schofield) confirmed himself to be Australia's top miler when coming from last to first to post a seriously impressive success.
Two weeks on from his similarly striking Group 1 victory in the 1m Epsom Handicap, Boban defied a drop back to 7f in style.
His progress from an intentional last place sit was halted due to interference at the start of the final bend, but the class horse of the contest defied the setback and unleashed an excellent change of pace to cut down Strawberry Boy.
The Emirates Stakes, a Group 1 handicap on the final day of Flemington's Melbourne Cup carnival, will be Boban's next race.