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Countdown to spring begins
Mandy Cottell
07:42 AEST Fri Aug 31 2012

Seven, eight, nine-and-a-half. That's the number of weeks left until the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup.

The countdown begins in earnest on Saturday, the first official day of spring.

The Group Two Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield is a traditional starting point for Cups-bound stayers and Saturday's renewal will feature several.

Premier Melbourne trainer Peter Moody will take the wraps off Italian import and dual Group One winner Voila Ici.

Moody successfully transformed former English galloper Manighar from dour stayer to weight-for-age star and hopes Voila Ici can also make an impact in Australia.

"Obviously seven furlongs is well short of his best and what his form suggests he should be performing over, but I've got to say, he's probably appeared to be a bit sharper than some of the other imports we've had in previous years," Moody told Racing Victoria.

German import Sanagas will make his local debut for Bart Cummings.

In what could be an early omen for punters ahead of Cummings' quest for a 13th Melbourne Cup, Sanagas will wear saddlecloth 13 and jump from barrier 13 in the Memsie.

Also resuming and on the Cups trail are 2010 Melbourne Cup runner-up Maluckyday, the Lloyd Williams-owned pair of Midas Touch and Green Moon and Sydney Cup winner Niwot.

Moody and Cummings have split their stayers with the Moody-trained import Sneak A Peek and Cummings' Precedence to contest a 1400m handicap at Caulfield.

That race will also mark the Australian debut of Val Champ.

At four, the Argentinian is one of the younger internationals to arrive in Australia and unlike many of the Europeans who rarely race below 2000m, he has form from 1400 to 2400m.

Sydney will also host a sprinkling of Caulfield Cup nominees.

Gai Waterhouse trumpeted former English gelding Glencadam Gold as a potential star after he won his Australian debut earlier this month and he will continue his build up in the Listed Premier's Cup (1800m) at Rosehill.

"I think he's a really exciting stayer in the making," Waterhouse said.

"He's Melbourne Cup-bound and he's got to get qualified."

With the exception of Gazza Guru, every horse in the Premier's Cup holds a Caulfield Cup entry with first nominations for the Melbourne Cup to be taken on Tuesday.

Among those expected to be entered are the 2011 Melbourne Cup quinella of Dunaden and Red Cadeaux.

They are scheduled to arrive in Australia with the first shipment of internationals on September 29, along with 2010 Cup hero Americain.