For harness racing it’s been a week to forget, and at the same time, one to remember.
Last Monday morning’s police raids and subsequent arrests in relation to race fixing, have not surprisingly seen the sport thrust into the mainstream media, but what it has also done is stolen the limelight from the Summer of Glory carnival.
Last week it was the Victoria Cup, with the New Zealanders made sure yet another of our Group One trophies headed back across the Tasman when Cran Dalgety, Dexter Dunn and Christen Me combined to claim the feature.
This week the trio will not only look to capture more Group One Glory, and put the finishing touches on their preparation for the Inter Dominion, but also to join an elite club of back-to-back winners of the time-honoured staying classic.
Just four pacers have managed to defend their Hunter Cup crown the following year, and the feat has not been achieved this century. The quartet are Sheffield Globe (1961-62), Monara (1973-74), Pure Steel (1977-78) and champion Kiwi mare Blossom Lady (1994-95).
Despite being obviously in peak form as shown in his dominant Victoria Cup victory, and drawing perfectly in four for the 3,280m journey, Christen Me drifted in betting and lost favouritism for the event.
The Group 1 Hunter Cup is set to jump on Saturday at 9:32pm (AEDT). Tune into Sky Racing for compreghensive coverage!
Fellow New Zealander Adore Me assumed the role at the head of the market, firming sensationally from $3.80 to $2.60 with TAB.com.au, following her exceptional run into third placing behind Christen Me, and the equally favourable barrier draw of three.
Outside of the winner, Adore Me was the performance in the Victoria Cup. Covering plenty of territory, firstly three wide with a trail, then four wide from the 400m, the mare made up great ground on the winner, and as she is proven at the standing start, and over the trip having won the 2014 New Zealand Cup, she deserves favouritism.
Christen Me, who is also looking to join the likes of Mr Feelgood (2009), Master Musician (1993) and the legendary Popular Alm (1983), as winners of both the Victoria Cup and Hunter Cup in a season, is out to $4.00 with TAB.com.au, but anyone who witnessed his performance last week, and his staying effort in winning last year’s Hunter Cup, wouldn’t hesitate backing up on the Dalgety-trained pacer.
On the next line of betting at $6.00 is the Emma Stewart-trained Guaranteed. After working early to the find the death seat, Guaranteed fought on strongly to finish fourth in the Victoria Cup, losing no admirers with the performance. He will again have to deal with an awkward draw, having collected the 11 marble, and will come out behind Christen Me.
His stablemate, Philadelphia Man, was just behind Guaranteed in fifth in the Victoria Cup after enjoying a nice run in transit, but some believe there are signs he’s coming to the end of his campaign instead of being on an upward trend. The Horsham Cup winner has drawn barrier one, and is quoted at $12.00.
We all know he can get away from a stand, we all know he can stay, and that this trip will suit, but we also know he’s not as good as he once was. Still there is plenty of support for three-time New Zealand Cup winner Terror To Love, currently $6.50 with TAB.com.au.
Check out the full TAB.com.au market for the Group 1 Hunter Cup here.
To be honest he never really got into the Victoria Cup, settling at the rear of the field and in a race where it was difficult for the backmarkers to make too much ground, he ran on without threatening.
The second row draw is not a bother, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Terror play a role in the Hunter Cup.
Both Restrepo ($14), Franco Ledger ($31) and Im Corzin Terror ($26) all suffered a similar fate to Terror To Love - getting back and being unable to make ground, and all should be better suited in this Cup.
The Ballarat Cup winner, Im Corzin Terror does have one thing in his favour … his driver, Anthony Butt has won a staggering seven Hunter Cups - Blossom Lady in 1994 and 1995, Mister D G in 2004, Mr Feelgood in 2009, Stunin Cullen in 2011, Choise Achiever in 2012 and Mah Sish in 2013.
It’s hard not to tip the Kiwis at the top of the markets, but I’m going with the Kilmore Cup winner, Guaranteed. With just a little luck in running, he’s capable of winning this Cup, before heading into next week’s Inter Dominion heats, and the $6.00 is appetising to me.
My selections are Guarantedd on top, with Christen Me for second, and will throw in one at value for third, Franco Ledger.
Gareth Hall, Adam Hamilton and Jason Bonnington will bring viewers all the latest news and their thoughts on the Hunter Cup in a special half-hour preview show on Sky Racing 1 from 10.30am on Friday.
The trio will also be trackside on Saturday night to bring the viewers all the action, news and views of a massive night of harness racing.