It feels like a while since we’ve had a massive race in Victoria.
As coronavirus has suffocated most of society, it feels like a very long time ago since we watched Lochinvar Art rip around Tabcorp Park Melton in the 4yo Bonanza, running an incredible 1:48.6 mile and leaving superstars like Self Assured in his wake.
Regional racing kept us afloat for many months but the time has come for the big guns to return – and boy o boy have they returned in sensational fashion.
We’ve seen some powerful performances from Lochinvar Art in some of the lead up races as well as a domination in Sydney from the Craig Cross stable with horses like Cash N Flow and King of Swing proving basically unbeatable at different stages.
And, fortunately for the Victorian racing scene, Cross’ crew is invading the south with a handful of seriously talented open class stars for a shot at the $300,000 Vic Cup.
Victoria’s dominant stable, Stewart/Tonkin, has three runners as well as the emergency, Major Times but all have drawn poorly aside from veteran Code Black who could get a cheeky economical pegs run.
Fireworks are assured. With 300k up for grabs the sparks will fly because everyone has been waiting for this big race – even the horses themselves.
Let’s take a look at the race and a few others on a sweet card at Harness headquarters.
PRYDE’S EASIFEED VICTORIA CUP (Group 1, $300,000, 2240m)
1 BALRAJ – John Caldow for Craig Cross. 20 starts, 12 wins, $84,420.
Lightly raced gelding who is easily the lowest rated horse in the event. He’s not, however, the outside chance his national rating suggests.
His past three runs have been staggeringly good, running past stable mates, King of Swing and Alta Orlando, from the trail.
His closing speed is mind-blowing and under the tutelage of Team Cobbity, his best looks yet to come. Huge winning chance, as the market suggests.
2 CODE BAILEY – Jason Lee for Marg Lee. 45 starts, 17 wins, $283,835.
This young lion devastated a good field in last year’s Bendigo Cup before upping the ante and running sixth in the Miracle Mile.
On his best, the 20/1 on offer would seem incredible value but he missed the Smoken Up Sprint after trainer Marg Lee admitted she was not quite happy with his health and well-being.
Like Balraj, he’s on the up but fresh into a race which looks like being a fight to the death you’d doubt he could strike the winning blow.
3 BLING IT ON – Kate Gath for Craig Cross. 97 starts, 48 wins, $1,838,876.
The grand old champ is back and the camp says he’s in a brilliant place and can win this race and defend his title from last season.
He seems the only Cross participant without huge gate speed which could see him land in the back half of the field. Regardless, he’ll be looking for the correct helmet to follow with a few furlongs to go. Blowout chance but many will be with the 1.8m earning son of American Ideal.
4 LOCHINVAR ART – David Moran. 41 starts, 20 wins, $714,376.
Will start the race as favourite but should he win, he will have earned it. He’s a warrior and whatever beats him will likely be winning. Driver/trainer David Moran is thrilled with his prep but he has some serious decisions to make. He has speed inside and outside. For mine, all he needs to do is stay between King of Swing and the marker pegs and he can either lead and be incredibly hard to run past or breeze outside a horse like Code Bailey or Balraj and control the race. Deserves favouritism and his versatility and toughness will need to be on full display.
5 ALTA ORLANDO – Mick Stanley, Craig Cross. 77 starts, 16 wins, $619,347.
An enigmatic horse with a few tricks but more than enough talent to be a major player in this race. The 20/1 looks a healthy each way go and there’s every chance Mick Stanley can scream him off the arm and lob a super position in the run.
Has not won since a Group 1 win in the Miracle Mile lead-up and was unlucky not to be closer in the Miracle Mile. Genuine blowout chance.
6 CASH N FLOW – Josh Aiken, Craig Cross. 65 starts, 31 wins, $526,021.
Has been in devastating form in Sydney, winning a dozen straight but all over the mile. The knock on him is the lack of staying prowess.
Last year he was the Vic Cup favourite, led easily and was beaten 10m into sixth place.
I cannot have the $10 on offer about him winning but his form should not be completely ignored.
7 KING OF SWING – Ant Butt, Craig Cross. 58 starts, 26 wins, $1,438,136.
The reigning Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile winner enters this race as an obvious legitimate hope but things will need to fall his way early.
Regular driver Luke McCarthy says he has explosive gate speed but others inside him seem to have more speed.
Should he get to the front, it could be game over but from the breeze, or even one-one, he seems a 10/1 chance.
Anthony Butt has won many major races but not this one, here is his best chance yet.
8 CODE BLACK – Greg Sugars, Emma Stewart. 78 starts, 19 wins, $348,735.
There’s always one well under the odds and this bloke is the one. Yes, he maps well – probably three-back on the fence – but he’s never really landed a blow at this elite level.
Markets have him around $10, I’d want more than double to be getting involved.
9 RISHI – Mick Bellman, Lance Justice. 82 starts, 15 wins, $218,870.
Stunned the world last week when coming from last and winning the Smoken Up Sprint and demanding a place in the big one.
People would’ve laughed in your face if you suggested he could have won last week. Well, he may make a fool of us all again but gee it would be another boil over. Should be 100/1 as the light turns green.
10 TAM MAJOR – Darryl Douglas, Emma Stewart. 51 starts, 14 wins, $325,990.
Surprised he got a run ahead of stable mate, Major Times.
Went super in the Minute Man, coming from wide to run 2nd and grab a spot in the race. Gate 10 is awful and he’s got next to no hope.
Write your own ticket.
11 HURRICANE HARLEY – Amanda Turnbull, Emma Stewart. 35 starts, 19 wins, $431,740.
Superb performance at Bendigo a few weeks back, defeating Lochinvar Art in a sizzling 1:52.3 for the 2150m.
Gate 11 is actually alright for this fella as he’s not yet ready to brawl with some of these seasoned campaigners. Speed is his weapon and if a couple take things too far up front, he could shoot home for a top five finish.
12 MAJOR TIMES – Jodi Quinlan, Emma Stewart, 44 starts, 18 wins, $235,395.
Unlucky not to get a run after beating Lochinvar Art a while back and running past a tiring Ride High last week to finish runner-up in the Smoken Up Sprint.
Seems unlikely to get a run but would be cricket score odds even if he did.
13 CRUZ BROMAC – Chris Alford, Amanda Grieve, 53 starts, 23 wins, $1,051,575.
A veteran with a hefty resume, including a New Zealand Cup and Len Smith Mile but his first-up run in the Minute Man was really average.
Trialled sharply against a couple of smart Kiwis, running home in 26.3 seconds. Can win on class, but current form a real worry.
1 LOCHINVAR ART $2.70
2 BALRAJ $3.30
3 ALTA ORLANDO $15
4 KING OF SWING $7.50
With no confidence whatsoever I am happy to have the Victorian, Lochinvar Art, on top. But I will not be backing him.
I’ll be having an each way play at Alta Orlando at $17 & $4 place.
Others on the card worth a throw at the stumps…
R2 N10 Major Moth ($6) – was double the price early in the week. Made a mistake last week but has a serious engine.
R5 N3 Pink Galahs each way ($11/$2.80) – superb win against the older horses last time and maps to get a similar opportunity to strike. Great value.
R7 N5 Alta Orlando each way ($15/$3.80) – quirky but brilliant. Speed off the arm and unlucky not to be a Miracle Mile champion.
R8 N8 Louis Sedgwick each way ($12/$2.40) – maps to gain the perfect run and whilst Pacifico Dream and Wolf Stride will be hard to beat, from the pegs it’s hard to see him missing a hole.
A superb night of racing coupled with a Cats victory. Let’s go!!