Brightside’s Australian Cup Orr-dition

Expected autumn star Mr Brightside launches his campaign at Caulfield this weekend

Lonhro is the last horse to complete the Orr Stakes/Australian Cup double.
Lonhro is the last horse to complete the Orr Stakes/Australian Cup double. Picture: Racing and Sports

It wasn't too long ago that a C F Orr Stakes appearance was a head-start for those with Australian Cup aspirations.

Of the 13 Australian Cup winners from 1999 and 2011, only Northerly in the first of his two wins, in 2001, did not contest the 1400-metre weight-for-age event that will be run at Caulfield this Saturday.

Weighing-in in the Orr Stakes was not a pre-requisite for those Australian Cup winners, either, with Lonhro the only horse to complete the double and Istidaad and Intergaze the only others to place in the Orr.

But trainers have drifted away from launching Australian Cup campaigns in what is now Australia's first Group 1 race of the calendar year.

In the past three years, only three horses who ran in an Orr Stakes made an appearance in the Australian Cup and the only Australian Cup winners to have come through the Orr Stakes in the past 12 years are Spillway (2015) and Fifty Stars (2020).

Like eight other Australian Cup winners, Spillway and Fifty Stars were trained out of Lindsay Park, now run by Ben, Will and JD Hayes, who have this year's Australian Cup favourite Mr Brightside kicking off his campaign in Saturday's $750,000 event.

The six-year-old returns to the Caulfield 1400 metres, where he has had three starts for wins in the past two editions of the Group 2 Lawrence Stakes and last year's Group 1 Memsie Stakes.

It is no surprise the son of Bullbars was put up an odds-on favourite for the Orr Stakes, a race that, historically, has been kind to favourite backers.

Half of the past 40 editions have been won by the punters' elect, but none since Black Heart Bart won at $3.20 in 2017.

Mr Brightside is poised to become the first odds-on favourite since 2012, when Black Caviar won at a record short price of $1.05.

Nine others have started seven money or shorter in the past 40 years, including long-odds-on winners Vo Rogue ($1.25, 1989) and Typhoon Tracy ($1.40, 2010).

The only horse to go under at odds-on in that time was Canny Lass, who was beaten at 2/5, or $1.40, when second to At Talaq in 1987.