Europeans have time on their side
Luso spearheads what may prove a dominant European attack on the International Vase.
It is simply impossible to fault the credentials of the Clive Brittain-trained globetrotter and everything looks in place for last year's winner to retain his crown.
Brittain is a master at travelling a horse and in Luso he has the ideal animal. A multiple Group One winner and campaigned in no less than six different countries, he is the most genuine and consistent top-flight Thoroughbreds in training.
As you would expect from a horse handled by Brittain, Luso has hit town looking in the very peak of condition and could not have been more impressive in his early morning blow-outs.
But what of the hard facts and figures? Simple, this imposing son of Salse stands out in every department.
He hasn't finished out of the first two in his past seven starts, the final six being in Group One contests, and has consistently produced speed figures that more than confirm the overall high quality of his form.
Last year the five-year-old powered home from Australian raider Royal Snack to clock a smart 110 Topspeed rating and a simple reproduction of that time performance would surely be good enough to secure back-to-back victories in the Vase.
However, Luso's European efforts suggest he didn't actually have to produce his best 12 months ago and, with no more strength to the race this time around, he again has several extra pounds to play with over his rivals.
Frankie Dettori was in the plate in '96 but with ace Irish pilot Mick Kinane getting the leg up today there will certainly be no lacking in assistance from the saddle.
Ivan Allan's tenacious battler Privilege filled the tierce 12 months ago and again rates the main hope of the domestic challenge. But, last season's Horse of the Year will need to be ridden more aggressively than the he has so far this term with both Posidonas and Protektor more than capable of making it a clean sweep for the European challenge.
To be frank, the showpiece International Cup has attracted a rather disappointing field and offers the best chance for a local success, with Smashing Pumpkin, Oriental Express and Johan Cruyff all figuring highly in the time ratings.
However, it's also a race that looks fraught with danger for punters. On his very best form the undoubted class act of the race would be English raider Bijou D'Inde, but he really hasn't shown the same sparkle this season after taking a tumble in the Dubai World Cup and it's the Dubai-prepared Annus Mirabilis.
In short, it is a race to play very cautiously. If all has gone 100 per cent right in his preparation, Annus Mirabillis will take the beating, if not get ready to cheer a local victory.
Australian raider Catalan Opening has the top credentials for the Bowl. Having run third to Melbourne Cup winner Might And Power in the 2,400-metre Caulfield Cup, it could be tempting to take negative view over today's 1,400-metre trip.
But his latest start was a Group One win over a mile in the Chrysler Stakes at Flemington, while also won a Group Two event over 1,300 metres in September and has been looking a quality act in the mornings.
Wizard King is shaping like the best of the Europeans. He has clocked good Topspeed ratings in three of his four Group Three wins this season and comes into the race looking in top form.
Decorated Hero figures in the money on the ratings but it is a big worry that he did not travel well, while Spartacus probably won't get the soft lead he will almost certainly need at this distance.