Shahwardi eyes Melbourne after Herbert Power win
HERBERT Power Stakes winner Shahwardi is almost certain of a start in the Melbourne Cup after receiving a 1.5kg penalty yesterday.
Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, who also puts the polish on 2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain, the lightly-raced seven-year-old came from last on Saturday to win the 2400m Group 2 Herbert Power at Caulfield in good time.
Racing Victoria handicapper Greg Carpenter handed out the same penalty he has given to other winners of the race in recent years (Alcopop in 2009 and Shewan in 2011), lifting Shahwardi to 53kg in the Melbourne Cup and 32nd in the order of entry.
Shawardi's win would have boosted the confidence of the connections of other overseas horses nominated for the Melbourne Cup, including Tac De Boistron and Brigantin.
Shahwardi finished third behind Tac De Boistron, now being prepared by Victorian trainer Mick Kent, in the Group 2 Prix Maurice de Nieuil over 2800m at Longchamp in July.
The French gelding followed that effort with another third behind Joshua Tree and Brigantin in the Prix Kergolay (3000m) at Deauxville in August.
The Kergolay has become the key lead-up race in Europe for horses looking to contest the Melbourne Cup.
Brigantin also finished third in the race in 2011, ahead of the likes of both Dunaden and Red Cadeaux who went on to quinella Australia's greatest handicap.
Joshua Tree also confirmed the form by leading all-the-way to win the Group 1 Canadian International (2400m) at Woodbine on the weekend.
Other Melbourne Cup contenders with form around Joshua Tree include recent Gai Waterhouse-stable purchase Fiorente.
To be the ridden at Flemington by James McDonald, Fiorente finished down the track in the Group 2 Prix Foy at Longchamp on September 16 (Joshua Tree ran third), the race won by Japanese superstar Orfevre which went on to finish a close second in this month's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Fiorente beat Joshua Tree home by 2-3/4 lengths in the Princess Of Wales's Goldsmiths Stakes (2400m) at Newmarket in July - Red Cadeaux finished just behind Joshua Tree in that race.
Meanwhile Brigantin's trainer Andre Fabre yesterday announced leading Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli would ride the horse in the Geelong Cup and Melbourne Cup, replacing emerging star Mickael Barzalona who could not commit to both races.