Racing: NZ hopes high for Caloundra Cup

By Mike Dillon

Roi D'Jeu (left) is a proven stayer, handles wet ground and is well-weighted for the Caloundra Cup today.  Photo / Mark Coote
Roi D'Jeu (left) is a proven stayer, handles wet ground and is well-weighted for the Caloundra Cup today. Photo / Mark Coote

Mike Moroney reckons he's overdue for a cup win and you can't blame him.

High-profile Australian jockey Brenton Avdulla is very definitely the odd one out among the two guns in today's A$200,000 ($255,000) Caloundra Cup.

Shenzhou Steeds and Roi D'Jeu share the top of the betting board for one of the final features of the Queensland carnival, Shenzhou Steeds the $2.60 favourite and Roi D'Jeu at $4.

In terms of breeding, country of birth, ownership, trainers and riders of the pair, Avdulla stands alone.

Both New Zealand-bred horses are trained by ex-Kiwis and Shenzhou Steeds will be ridden by Eddie Wilkinson, a Northlander who served his apprenticeship with Frank Ritchie and Mike Moroney.

Moroney trains Shenzhou Steeds and renewed a long-ago association with Eddie Wilkinson, whom he legged into the saddle to win the Ipswich Cup on the horse last start.

Roi D'Jeu is trained by Craig Ritchie, these days preparing a team out of Sydney's Warwick Farm, and is owned by Gerrard Peterson's GG Syndicate and Keith Parsons.

Moroney reckons he's overdue for a Caloundra Cup victory and you can't blame him.

Tinseltown was third last year and second in 2010 and Deraismes was third in 2009.

A decision was yesterday left until this morning on whether the meeting, or selected races, will be transferred from the grass track to the inside cushion circuit.

Heavy rain for an extended period left the Caloundra grass track unsafe. Clearer weather yesterday morning improved the chances of running at least the Caloundra Cup on the grass surface.

Moroney was impressed with Shenzhou Steeds in the Ipswich Cup, but feels that at the short odds, the horse might be tested this time.

"For certain it's going to be his biggest test. He's unbeaten up here [in Queensland] but he's stepping to a mile and a half [2400m] for the first time, he's got a fair bit of weight and the track is fairly heavy.

"He's handled it slow before, but never in this sort of ground. The 58kg is also a concern."

Roi D'Jeu is a 2400m winner in New Zealand and with Avdulla adopting daring tactics, he fought out a great battle with Adroitly when a close second in heavy footing over 3200m in the Stayers' Cup at Rosehill two weeks ago.

That was a tough run and Ritchie said yesterday he waited to see how the horse recovered before committing to Caloundra.

"He had a couple of days in a paddock not far from my stable and he was bucking and kicking after two days."

Moroney feels he is the horse for the favourite to topple.

"I think Roi D'Jeu is the hardest to beat. He's a proven stayer, handles wet ground and is well-weighted [55.5kg]."

Anudjawun is third favourite at $6 ahead of Warrior Within ($7.50) and last year's winner, Spechenka, at $8.

•Internationally acclaimed jockey Jeff Lloyd will chase his second feature race win in as many weeks, this time aboard Startsmeup in the Glasshouse Handicap.

The six-time champion South African rider claimed the final group one of the Australian racing season when Pear Tart won the Tattersall's Tiara at Eagle Farm last weekend.

Today, he will head to Caloundra where his mounts include Pear Tart's stablemate Count Encosta in the listed Caloundra Cup and Startsmeup for Gillian Heinrich in the listed Glasshouse Handicap (1400m).

While Lloyd will be riding Count Encosta for the first time, he has the benefit of a last-start win aboard Startsmeup at Ipswich.

"I was very impressed with the horse," Lloyd said of Startsmeup.

"I thought when I got on him, 'Whatever he does today he will improve on it.' He won so I was very happy. I took the ride straight away."

The Sunshine Coast track has been lashed by heavy rain this week. Startsmeup has been placed on heavy ground at group two level and while he is yet to win a stakes race, Lloyd has no doubt he is up to the task.

"For sure he's up to the level. You can feel it when you get on him. He's got a lot of quality."

While Lloyd will chase listed success at Caloundra he has another group one target in his sights - in his native South Africa.

Despite his success there, Lloyd is yet to win the Durban July, one of the biggest races on the South African calendar.

"There are two very big races, the Durban July and the J&B Metropolitan," Lloyd said.

"The J&B Met has been very good to me. I've won it five times but I've never won the July, which is why I'm going back."

Lloyd will leave on Thursday to ride Chesalon for trainer Mike Bass in the Durban July (2200m) before returning to Brisbane the following week.additional reporting

-AAP

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