BRETT Crawford, who won his first J&B Met with Angus in 2003 when he was just out of his 20s and again with Futura in 2015, believes his lightly-raced four-year-old Whisky Baron (AUS), fits the mould of a horse that can put his third winner on the board in a race that, ironically, won’t be sponsored by the whisky barons in 2017.

Sun International has taken over as the backers of the Cape’s Flagship event and already the betting outlets are buzzing with keen pre-race touts and ante-post investors, any number of whom believe that Whisky Baron will be the first name on the premier hotel and entertainment chain’s Sun Met trophy on 28 January 2017.

Whisky Baron’s odds were cut from 16s and 12s into 8-1 (7-1 with some bookmakers) after his commanding win in an Allowance Plate over 1800m at Kenilworth yesterday, and he is likely to attract more support when the weights are published on 9 January.

Being a conditions race, the mark for the Sun Met has been set at 57,5kg for four-year-olds and five-year-olds, with a 2,5kg penalty for Gr1 winners. This means that ante-post favourites Marinaresco and Legal Eagle will be conceding that amount of weight to Whisky Baron if he comes into the race without a Gr1 success.

Here’s the thing. On two lines of form through the talented Marinaresco, Whisky Baron has every chance of turning the tables on Candice Bass-Robinson’s runner – provided he doesn’t contest and win the Gr1 Queen’s Plate over 1600m on 7 January.

Crawford, speaking on Wednesday afternoon, said that he has to consider the Queen’s Plate as a final prep into the Met for Whisky Baron, but that the Gr2 Peninsula Handicap over 1800m on the same afternoon may a better target.

“I have to discuss this with Whisky Baron’s owners Craig and Ross Kieswetter, but I’m not sure we want to take on the 123-rated miler Legal Eagle and 115-rated Marinaresco in the Queen’s Plate. He won’t get a penalty if he wins the Peninsula, his weight will stay at 57,5kg and that will give us an obvious good chance on paper.”

Has Whisky Baron go the class to take on the big guns? As noted, he was beaten less than half a length by Marinaresco over a mile and 1800m respectively, receiving 0.5kg and 1kg respectively, but that was during the Cape Winter Series during April and May. Whisky Baron has been gelded since then, he is more mature and will undoubtedly be a few lengths better than he was, when he meets Marinaresco again.

Crawford said: “Gelding has made all the difference for Whisky Baron. We gelded him after the Winter Derby, when he didn’t deliver his best and with his big frame became flatfooted in the mud. He has blossomed since, he is more athletic now and seems to quicken easier, two further factors in our favour.”

Has Whisky Baron got the blood?  Well, consider this:  He is by Manhattan Rain (Bletchingly), who stands at Australia’s famous Arrowfield Stud.  Manhattan Rain won a Gr1 over 1400m at two, and finished second in the Gr1 Cox Plate over 2050m at three.

With 18 stakes performers from his first three crops, Manhattan Rain is expanding the dynasty established by his famous half-brother Redoute’s Choice and he’s doing it with an impressive range of talent, including Man Of Choice, who went from a Maiden at two to finish third in the Gr1 ATC Spring Champion Stakes over 2000m, at three, just recently.

Evidently then, Whisky Baron has all the attributes to pull off the Sun Met and we’ll be following his progress into the race with interest.

For more info on the inaugural Sun Met, go here.

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