James Doyle (GB) returns to the mounting yard with Jungle Cat (IRE) and Charlie Appleby (GB) after winning the Ladbrokes Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield Racecourse on September 22, 2018 in Caulfield, Australia. (Racing Photos)

The Cat pounces for in-form Appleby

The Brits struck an early blow against the locals in the Ladbrokes Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield last Saturday, when Jungle Cat delivered the ninth Group 1 of 2018 for his in-form trainer, Charlie Appleby.

It was a fourth straight victory for the globetrotting sprinter who, according to Appleby, seems to grow a fifth leg whenever he boards a plane.

Given an expert ride by his English jockey James Doyle, who gave new meaning to the term a ‘flying visit’ by spending less than 12 hours in Australia, Jungle Cat overhauled long-time leader Dollar For Dollar in the shadows of the winning post to claim his second Group 1 win in as many starts.

With Appleby believing the seven-year-old can step up to a mile, his next assignment could come in the Toorak Handicap on Caulfield Guineas Day. The Cat, as he’s affectionately known by stable staff, is also entered in the Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes at The Valley on Cox Plate Eve, and the VRC Sprint Classic at Flemington on 10 November. His versatility, will to win and strength under pressure should make him a formidable foe to Australian sprinting stars such as Chautauqua and Redzel, who were also nominated for both races.

In contrast to Jungle Cat, stablemate Folkswood finished a disappointing last in the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday, but he has had excuses after a post-race examination revealed he was suffering lameness.

The stable have therefore opted to freshen him up for races later in the Spring Racing Carnival, meaning a rematch with Winx in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate, or a tilt at the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup, are both off the table.

However, Group 1 winner Blair House – the third Godolphin horse who arrived on 8 September – remains in the entry list for the Cox Plate.

The six-year-old gelding will return from a lengthy spell this Sunday, when he makes his Australian debut in the Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes at Caulfield. Blair House will be aiming to overcome the likes of local Group 1 winners Grunt and Humidor, who currently head the market on $4.  

The three Godolphin gallopers will soon have company at RV’s Werribee International Horse Centre, with 27 overseas raiders set to arrive on Saturday morning. They include some familiar faces, with Appleby sending another four horses who will aim to continue his remarkable strike rate down under.

Jungle Cat’s success was the eighth race Appleby has plundered in Australia over the past two years and, having achieved a first win for Godolphin in the English Derby earlier this year, it would be little surprise if he were to end the stable’s drought in the Lexus Melbourne Cup. The lightly-weighted Cross Counter and, should he get a run, Hamada, both have live chances in the ‘race that stops a nation’.