Blair House to put Cox Plate credentials on the line
BLAIR House's Cox Plate credentials go on the line when the Godolphin raider challenges Grunt and Humidor in a watershed Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) showdown at Caulfield on Sunday.
Aware of Grunt and Humidor's class, trainer Charlie Appleby will gauge Blair House's Australian debut with a critical eye towards a possible tilt at Winx at Moonee Valley on October 27.
"This is an important race for Blair House," Appleby said.
"It will determine what path he takes in Melbourne for the rest of the spring carnival.
"He is a winner of the Group 1 Jebel Hatta (1800m) at Meydan and I think the Australian style of racing will suit him. He travelled over fine and has settled in well at Werribee.
"The Underwood is a tough first assignment, but we will know where we stand after he has run in it."
If Blair House doesn't measure up at Caulfield, he is likely to be saved for lesser targets.
Appleby's stunning strike rate on Australian soil - 22 runners for nine stakes class winners, including five first-up out of quarantine - means local horsemen are increasingly wary of the Englishman.
Mick Price is no exception as Grunt bids for successive Group 1s.
"Given that he (Appleby) brings the right horses here and they stand up under pressure I would say he might be the one to beat," Price said.
"So I would think Grunt wouldn't want to be giving it too big a start.
"But I think it's a little dangerous to bowl forward and get stuck and he (Grunt) seems to be a horse that is a good finisher so I think it would be a bit dangerous to sit outside the leader.
"At the end of the day Ollie's (Damien Oliver) out there riding, not me."