Improving Dunaden ready for top tier
Dunaden left France considered a handicapper, but arrived for his tilt at the HK$14 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase via Australia as a genuine international Group One contender at set weights.
Prior to his unbeaten two-run Australian campaign, the French five-year-old had an unassuming record of six wins from 26 starts. But Mikel Delzangles horse thrived in the southern hemisphere and took to the stop-start nature of Australian racing, capturing the Geelong Cup and Melbourne Cup in fine style.
Even though two previous Melbourne Cup winners - Rogan Josh (1999) and Americain (2010) have failed as favourites - Dunaden can become the first to win it.
He has the necessary attributes to adapt to the set-weight conditions - versatility, tactical speed and, most importantly, a turn of foot.
His glowing coat and robust physique show he is handling the rigors of a long campaign, in contrast to his European rivals, who are coming into their winter coats.
Another French horse provides the x-factor in the race, the Freddy Head-trained colt Silver Pond, a one-time French Derby favourite who has had just 10 starts. Even Head admits he doesn't know much about his striking grey, who he purchased at the Arc sale, but there is a buzz about the horse and he seems an adaptable type who has drawn well.
Japan Cup runners have solid record here with four previous Vase winners coming via Tokyo. This year Trailblazer enters the race off a strong fourth and his trackwork hasn't been far behind Dunaden's for quality.