Anthony Butt lands gun drive in Victoria Cup

By Adam Hamilton

The Victoria Cup driver jigsaw puzzle is falling into place.

With Luke McCarthy not getting the permit he needed to head to Melbourne and return home without quarantining, the rush was on for drivers.

Anthony Butt has landed the drive on King Of Swing, who McCarthy was to drive.

King Of Swing is one of Craig Cross’ five runners. The other drivers confirmed so far are: John Caldow (Balraj), Bling It On (Kate Gath) and Josh Aiken (Cash N Flow).

That just leaves Cross to confirm a driver for his former Kiwi pacer and Miracle Mile placegetter Alta Orlando.

Chris Alford and Greg Sugars, who were expected to drive to Cross runners, have gone elsewhere.

Alford will stick with NZ Cup winner Cruz Bromac, who is a $34 outside from outside the back row (gate 13). At least he did trial better at Melton on Tuesday after a first-up flop.

Sugars is continuing his partnership with Emma Stewart’s pint-sized sit-sprinter Code Black, who has drawn potentially well inside the back row (gate eight). He follows out Balraj (one), who you’d think would either lead or sit behind the leader.

Stewart’s other runners will be driven by: Amanda Turnbull (Hurricane Harley), Tam Major (Daryl Douglas). She also has emergency Major Times, who Jodi Quinlan will drive he gains a start.

The early Aussie TAB betting moves on the Cup have been: Lochinvar Art ($2.50 out to $2.70), Balraj ($3.80 into $3.50), King Of Swing ($7.50 to $6.50), Cash N Flow ($8 to $9.50) and Code Black ($7.50 to $9.50).

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Kate Gath will stick the “champ” Tornado Valley ahead of stablemate McLovin as her drive in Saturday night’s $50,000 Group 1 Bill Collins Trotters Sprint (1720m) at Melton.

Tornado Valley has improved at each of his three runs back from a spell, but is a $10 shot from gate 10 against a strong field.

Gifted but enigmatic mare Dance Craze, who easily beat Tornado Valley, is $2.15 favourite from the pole.

Another star mare, Red Hot Tooth, is a solid $3.40 second favourite and a big chance of crossing to the lead at the start from gate four.

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Just getting back to the races is pretty special for former Kiwi star Turn It Up.

Less than two years ago he looked on the verge of greatness with an Auckland Cup win at just his ninth race start.

He added a Harness Jewels 4YO victory on June 1, 2019, but that’s the last time he’s been to the races.

Turn It Up’s career was frozen by injury and, at times, it was feared he may never race again.

The son of Courage Under Fire steps out for just his 16th start (he boasts 11 wins and four seconds so far) for new trainer Vicki Rasmussen at Albion Park on Saturday night.

Turn It Up has trialled twice at Albion Park in preparation for a return, the latest a sparkling 13.9m win over classy mare Smart As Camm Be in a slick 1min52.3sec mile rate for 1660m. He dashed home in 55.3 and 27.1sec.

The fact mighty filly Amazing Dream was beaten at Albion Park shows it’s never easy, especially from bad draws.

Turn It Up has a mighty task first-up, drawing outside the back row (gate 11) and meeting the state’s best pacer Colt Thirty One (gate seven).

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Victorian trainer Mick Stanley is the big “winner” from his mate Luke McCarthy being stuck in Sydney this weekend.

McCarthy hoped to be at Melton driving King Of Swing in the Victoria Cup.

Instead, he’ll be watching the Cup from Menangle in-between drives.

Just 12 minutes before the Victoria Cup, McCarthy will drive Stanley’s buzz juvenile Bar Room Banta in a semi-final of the rich NSW Breeders Challenge.

Bar Room Banta, who boasts three wins and a second from his four runs, is nominal favourite for the final.

So too is Stanley’s brilliant filly Soho Almasi, who McCarthy will drive in her semi on Saturday night.

Soho Almasi boasts blazing speed and will need it from gate six with her main rival, Arma Renegade, drawn the pole.

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Untapped WA Pacing Cup winner Mighty Conqueror finally makes his racetrack return in the free-for-all at Gloucester Park tomorrow (Friday) night.

Greg and Skye Bond’s stable star had a longer than expected spell with hoof issues and was scratched from his planned comeback race two weeks ago.

It’s not an easy first-up task, with Mighty Conqueror having gate seven and noted on-pace runners Convert Denario (gate one) and Our Jimmy Johnstone (two) drawn so well.

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