Aussie stars return ahead of Hunter Cup

By Adam Hamilton

Two of Akuta’s major Hunter Cup rivals return to racing this weekend.

Recently crowned Inter Dominion champion Leap To Fame and Miracle Mile hero Catch A Wave will have their only Hunter Cup lead-up runs in different states.

Leap To Fame, who has been freshened since his breathtaking Inter Dominion romp at Albion Park on December 16, returns at the same track in a 1660m free-for-all on Saturday night.

While Catch A Wave, who sparkled winning a Melton trial last night (Monday), now looks set to resume on Saturday night in the $100,000 Group 2 Ballarat Cup.

Trainer Andy Gath was re-thinking his plan to miss Ballarat after Catch A Wave gave away a start and beat proven topliners Mach Dan (who led) and Encipher (behind leader) in some mind-blowing closing splits to a three-horse 2240m Melton trial last night.

Although the mile rate was just 1min58.3sec, the official closing splits were 54.2 and 25.8sec.

Catch A Wave gave away a couple of lengths to Mach Dan at the 400m and was clocked to run his last quarter in 25.2sec.

Long-time trial watchers said they had never seen a faster closing split at Melton.

“The (Ballarat) Cup hasn’t been on the radar, but the nominations aren’t as strong as I’d always thought they would be,” trainer Andy Gath said.

“I’d planned to go to a heat of the (1200m) Mercury80 series at Melton on Friday night, but the way he trialled, if he runs this week it will be at Ballarat.

“We’d been really happy with him at home and the way he ran past really good horses tonight was terrific.”

While trainer-driver Grant Dixon said he was thrilled to get any lead-up race with Leap To Fame ahead of the Hunter Cup.

“He’s had a few fall through with lack of numbers before,” he said.

“We didn’t trust the longer race to stand up here (Albion Park) next week, so we popped him in this week to improve our chances. It’s great they got a field.”

Leap To Fame will start from outside the front row (gate seven) in the eight horse field.

“He’s ready to go,” Dixon said. “He had that week or so off after the Inter Dominion win, but he came through the race so well, he didn’t really need it.

“He was itching to get back into it after the time out and he seems as good as he’s ever been.

“He’d had so much strong racing … he didn’t lose much fitness.”

Dixon confirmed Leap To Fame’s Hunter Cup raid would be a quick hit-and-run by plane from Brisbane.

In somewhat of a surprise, Leap To Fame will almost certainly then head to the $100,000 Group 2 Newcastle Mile on February 23 to try and qualify for the Miracle Mile.

“I think it’s a better option than going to the lead-up sprints the week before the Mile where he’d have to go 1min48sec or so to win one of them and then even quicker the week after in the big one,” Dixon said

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