Shahwardi

Touch of class ... Kerrin McEvoy puts French stayer Shahwardi through his paces at Werribee yesterday. Photo: Racing Victoria

A RED-EYE flight between Sydney and Melbourne was Kerrin McEvoy's first mount of the morning as he flew into Melbourne yesterday to test ride French stayer Shahwardi before a crucial start in Saturday's Herbert Power Stakes.

Shahwardi is one of three European raiders down to race at Caulfield this weekend as local and overseas-trained runners fight to force their way up order of entry lists and claim a place in the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

Shahwardi provided the well-travelled hoop with a trouble-free cruise around Werribee as the pair got to know each other before Saturday's group 2 race.

"He had a nice easy bit of work and travelled nicely,'' McEvoy said. ''He feels in good order, and I'm looking forward to riding him on Saturday."

With Godolphin's spring team of Lost In The Moment and Cavalryman not due to arrive in Melbourne until October 20, McEvoy is keen to secure a Caulfield Cup ride, and like so many of the leading local riders, he turned to Europe for a suitable mount.

"I rang Alain [de Royer-Dupre] to put my name in the mix for the ride, I thought it was a good opportunity," McEvoy said. ''He hasn't won for a few seasons but since he has been back with Alain he has run a couple of good races behind quality opposition so he's in good form.''

The winner of his first three races when under de Royer-Dupre's care before being sold to race in England, Shahwardi's form since returning to his original trainer's team has been impressive with strong performances at group 2 level in France, giving his stable confidence that he could return to the winners' list in Australia.

"I think he can run a good race on Saturday,'' said Stephanie Nigge, de Royer-Dupre's stable representative. ''It's important that he can win so we can qualify [for the Melbourne Cup]. He has run some good races for us this year, and we need him to keep going. If he doesn't make it he can do the Moonee Valley Cup and the Sandown Classic."

Joining Shahwardi in the Herbert Power will be the Luca Cumani-trained Ibicenco and the John Gosden-trained Gatewood, with all three horses on the cusp of a Melbourne Cup start.

While it is highly unlikely that a winning import would back up and race again in the Caulfield Cup, a golden ticket to that race is available to the winner, but more importantly for the European trio, victory on Saturday will bring a penalty that would elevate the winner up the Melbourne Cup elimination order. Gatewood (59th), Ibicenco (60th) and Shahwardi (61st) all have 51.5 kilograms in the Cup, with a mark of 53 to 53.5kg considered a safe weight five weeks from the race.

With four wins from eight starts before arriving in Australia, much is expected of Gatewood this spring, but the lightly raced five-year-old has become something of a forgotten horse at Werribee.

"He's going well, we are happy here but we don't get much attention," travelling foreman Marcel Koren said.

Gatewood scored a hat-trick of wins at York, Goodwood and Royal Ascot before placing twice in strong group races in England and France.