GSS & Hunter Cup preview
Victoria's premier weekend of Harness Racing is here.
Friday evening sees an all-trotting card, headed by the uniqueness and toughness of these Standardbreds who will attempt to win their way into the Great Southern Star Final via the heats in race two and three.
Our galloping friends run every now and then, whilst these standardbred stars will go round twice within one evening.
Races three and four are the heats of the GSS with the big final to be held at 10pm.
24 hours later, our greatest pacing race is on the cards as an endurance test awaits the best of the best. We have Kiwis engaged, boom horses and veterans in what promises to be a race steeped in competitiveness and unknowns.
This week on HARNESSED, we chatted to Kiwi driver Brad Williamson who will guide Majestic Man through another GSS campaign.
Here is how we're seeing the mammoth weekend.
GREAT SOUTHERN STAR HEATS
CHINESE WHISPER has found some form but the inside alley could be some concern.
PLYMOUTH CHUBB steps up but draws handy. QUEEN ELIDA is the queen of open class trotting but her task will be tricky this evening. The ID22 champ, JUST BELIEVE, will have a task drawn behind the ace but his class is overwhelming and despite a tough gate you'd be staggered to see him miss a spot in the big one.
I'm seeing QUEEN ELIDA, JUST BELIEVE and CHINESE WHISPER (provided he behaves off the arm) should be among the first home whilst there's room for a blowout like PLYMOUTH CHUBB or HOPEFUL BEAUTY can sneak in.
Clearly the stronger of the two heats, we'll see an early burn between MUFASA METRO and MAJESTIC MAN - both fast horses off the arm who are demons in front. Because of the need to back up in the final, I expect Mufasa Metro to be happy to concede the top and cop an easier trail behind a known leader.
MAJESTUOSO, last year's champ, will probably need to chair up and go quietly to ensure a trip through to the final. His class is obvious.
I'M READY JET deserves respect and ALDEBARAN ZEUS is a quality animal. A Group 1 winner a couple back in the Maori Mile.
I'm thinking MAJESTIC MAN, MUFASA METRO and MAJESTUOSO are close to certainties to qualify. And I cannot discount ALDEBARAN ZEUS despite the poor gate.
HUNTER CUP (2760m, Group 1, $500,000)
We've got a beauty here.
Provided Kiwi COPY THAT does not roll to the front, I've got no clue who will be winning - I'm just being honest!
On their very best, SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS can win, as can stable mate EXPENSIVE EGO. On his Victoria Cup ROCK N ROLL DOO can beat them. On his Bendigo and Cranbourne Cup wins, MAJOR MEISTER could out-zip them and we know I CAST NO SHADOW could surprise.
Then there's COPY THAT - a two-time NZ Cup champ who stamped his authority at Ballarat with a big Group 1 win.
From a likely speed map point of view, SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS should hold them but whether he hands is an interesting decision for Jack Callaghan. Blair Orange will come looking, as may horses like HONOLUA BAY and maybe even EXPENSIVE EGO and ROCK N ROLL DOO.
About the only horses I cannot see winning would be TORRID SAINT (unless he crosses early) or MACH DAN from a horrid barrier draw.
1 COPY THAT
2 OLD TOWN ROAD
3 SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS
4 HONOLUA BAY
OTHERS BETS ON THE EVENING
Race Two - Number One: CAPTAIN WILSON each way.
Race Three - TRIFECTA, 5 CAPTAIN RAVISHING from 8 HEZA SON OFA GUN from 1 INVITATION ONLY
Race Five - TRIFECTA 2 TOUGH TILLY from 8 AMORE VITA from 1 POLLY PUT KETTLE ON
Enjoy and good luck to all.