Racing: Ellerslie part of Weir's treble goal

Last year's winner El Soldado will be back to defend the Auckland Cup. Photo / Trish Dunell
Last year's winner El Soldado will be back to defend the Auckland Cup. Photo / Trish Dunell

Leading Victorian trainer Darren Weir is seeking a Triple A rating this weekend.

Weir, who is experiencing another extraordinary season, will have genuine chances in the Auckland, Australian and Adelaide Cups.

He will also be breaking new ground when the former English galloper Lord Van Percy tackles the $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.

Lord Van Percy will be the first New Zealand runner for the Weir stable, which has become Victoria's answer to Chris Waller.

Lord Van Percy is scheduled to fly out of Melbourne on Thursday and Vinnie Colgan has been booked to ride the horse at Ellerslie.

Weir, who spreads his forces over country and metropolitan tracks, has won 272 races this season, almost a 100 more than any other Australian trainer.

David Hayes is second on the national premiership, with 183, with Waller on 153.

Weir, who has won six Group 1 races this season, is also Australia's leading trainer in terms of stake earnings, with his team earning A$14.6 million to date this season, shading Waller's tally of A$14.5m.

Weir heads the Melbourne metropolitan premiership with 96 wins, 21 clear of the Hayes team, but Waller shades Weir on the Australian metropolitan premiership with 112 wins, two more than Weir.

Lord Van Percy, who is at $21 with the New Zealand TAB for the Auckland Cup but at $16 with tab.com.au, has had a second and two fourths from his last four starts.

He ran fourth in the listed Torney Cup (2500m) at Moonee Valley at his last start, on February 17. He had been fourth over 2400m at Caulfield at his previous attempt and ran second over 2500m at Flemington in December.

The Sir Percy gelding, who is part-owned by OTI Racing, won five races in England when trained by Andrew Balding, including 2800m wins at Newmarket and Goodwood. He was also runner-up in the Ebor Handicap (2800m), one of England's most competitive handicaps.

Balding sent Lord Van Percy to Melbourne for the 2014 spring carnival but the horse was injured after running fifth in the Herbert Power at his Australian debut and was later transferred to Weir.

He did not resume racing till October last year and has had only eight starts for Weir.

Weir nominated seven horses for the Auckland Cup but most came out at the first withdrawal and only Lord Van Percy remained after the second withdrawal last month.

"There are not many two-mile races around and Lord Van Percy's owners have been keen for the horse to come to Ellerslie," Weir's racing manager, Jeremy Rogers, said.

"We are very happy with his condition. He was OK last start start and we are pretty confident he will manage the distance. He's a strong stayer."

Yobro (1997) and Maguire (2002) have been Australian-trained Auckland Cup winners in the last 20 years and the Australians have also claimed the Railway Stakes (three times), NZ Derby (twice) and Karaka Million (three times) over that period.

Weir, who won black type races in three states last weekend, will have three runners in the A$1.5m Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on Saturday and two in the A$400,000 Adelaide Cup (3200m) next Monday.

Former Otaki galloper Humidor heads Weir's Australian Cup team and is a $4 favourite for the Group 1 weight-for-age feature. Humidor was the runner-up in the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings in the spring.

He had one start at the Melbourne spring carnival for Johno Benner but has been with Weir for his latest campaign, which has produced two seconds and a fourth from three starts.

"He's been getting better and better each start and stepping up to 2000m at Flemington should really suit him," Rogers said. "He still does a few things wrong but should be hard to beat."

Stablemate Master of Arts, winner of the Lord Reims Stakes (2600m) last weekend, is second favourite for the Adelaide Cup.

- NZ Racing Desk

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