Racing: Kiwis pursue Victoria Cup spoils

By Michael Guerin

Confirmed duo to be joined by Gold Ace, Sir Lincoln and possibly Pembrook Benny.

John McCarthy's delight at winning behind Terrorway at Cranbourne on Saturday night amuses rival drivers. Photo / Supplied
John McCarthy's delight at winning behind Terrorway at Cranbourne on Saturday night amuses rival drivers. Photo / Supplied

New Zealand's assault on the A$400,000 ($503,000) Victoria Cup may have more than doubled in just a few days. But that could leave some of New Zealand's biggest pacing names facing a battle to even get a start in Saturday's great race.

Before last weekend only Sushi Sushi was a guaranteed New Zealand-trained representative - albeit Australian owned - in the Melton classic.

He confirmed his trip with a fourth in last Friday's Franklin Cup and was always likely to be joined by Mah Sish, who is campaigning in Victoria and only needed an adequate run in Saturday night's Cranbourne Cup to get a Vic Cup start.

But three other Kiwis could now be set to join that pair, with Sir Lincoln, Gold Ace and Pembrook Benny likely to be on the plane to Melbourne tomorrow.

Sir Lincoln's connections were pleased enough with his sixth in the Franklin Cup to want to make the trip and while he has had an interrupted spring, as the Auckland Cup winner he will get a start.

Gold Ace had been borderline to miss the Victorian mission after suffering the effects of a virus last week but he thrilled trainer Steven Reid with an impressive win at the Alexandra Park workouts on Saturday.

"He won very well and as long as he shows us no signs of the virus then he will be going," Reid said.

What stunned Reid the most was the way Gold Ace ran away from some high class rivals on Saturday as he has often been a horse who fights his way to narrow victories.

"He looks to have overcome the virus really well and Tony [Herlihy] was rapt in his run because he went down the back [second last 400m] in about 27.5 seconds," said Reid.

"I think if we get a good draw we have a real show."

Pembrook Benny is the surprise inclusion in the Victoria Cup entries after a brave second to Smolda in the Franklin Cup.

He has rarely been a glamour horse in the mould of Sir Lincoln or Sushi Sushi but has raced as well as them this season and deserves a start on Saturday.

But Pembrook Benny could be fighting with the likes of Melpark Major, Franco Jamar and Mach Alert for the last spots in the 12-horse field.

Melpark Major is a former Victoria Cup winner and was a fighting second to former Otago pacer Terrorway in the Cranbourne Cup so is likely to get one of those places.

So it could be Franco Jamar or Mach Alert versus Pembrook Benny for the last spot depending on what happens with Victorian comeback hero Bitobliss.

He was an expensive failure in the Cranbourne Cup and his trainer Scott Stewart said he would study results of a blood test last night night before deciding on a start this morning.

If he misses the race with a suspected mild virus, then Pembrook Benny could get a start and New Zealand trainers would provide five of the 12 starters, with four others having started their racing careers here.

The ex-pats are headed by I'm Themightyquinn, who was brilliant again in Perth on Friday night and hasn't tasted defeat since last season's Victoria Cup.

He is rated a $1.80 chance by most Aussie bookies pre-draw but the New Zealand TAB has him $2.20.

The TAB took an $800 bet on Gold Ace at $12 straight after Saturday's workout win. Meanwhile, trainer Mark Purdon will aim Smolda at Alexandra Park on December 31 as his next start on his way to an age group race at Cambridge on January 11.

The Cambridge race has the added attraction of being an automatic qualifier for the A$200,000 Chariots of Fire in Sydney on March 3, which Purdon wants to target instead of the Interdominion the same day.

Purdon's unbeaten filly Adore Me will not race again before the Sires' Stakes Final at Alexandra Park on December 31.

Kiwi raid

What: Victoria Cup.
Where: Melton, Victoria.
When: Saturday night.
Who: 12 of the best pacers in Australasia, with up to five Kiwis.

- NZ Herald

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