Hunter Cup draw favours King Of Swing
Champion pacer King Of Swing’s last crack at the Hunter Cup could be a winning one after a perfect barrier draw.
The Kiwi-bred led and won the 2020 Hunter Cup then ran a fantastic third from an awful draw and after doing all the work behind Lochinvar Art last year.
Team McCarthy’s dual Miracle Mile winner has the pole and, with the front row lacking any explosive beginners, he is a great chance of leading where he has been almost unbeatable since moving from WA to NSW.
But the doubters may point to the Group 1 Blacks A Fake during Winter at Albion Park when he drew the pole and was crossed at the start.
“You’ll always take the pole. We know the gate speed he has. I’m happy,” co-trainer and driver Luke McCarthy said.
Connections have said King Of Swing will be retired to stud after this campaign.
The draw cemented McCarthy will drive King Of Swing with star stablemate Expensive Ego drawing awfully outside the front row (gate seven).
Will Chris Alford drive Expensive Ego or go with Max Delight, who he won a Victoria Cup on, or the emerging Willie Go West? Both Max Delight (13) and Willie Go West (10) also drew poorly.
“I’ve got some thinking and talking to do,” was Alford’s only comment.
Defending champion Lochinvar Art drew wide on the front row (gate six) and looks set to push forward and maybe end-up sitting parked, at least early. It looks a big ask given he’s still building after a long stint on the sidelines and not the unstoppable force he was 12 months ago.
The other big winner from the draw was champion Kiwi mare Amazing Dream, who snared gate eight (inside the back row). She follows out King Of Swing and if he leads, she’ll get the perfect trail and use of the sprint lane late.
Remember that’s how she won the big Group 1 Rising Sun and Group 1 Blacks A Fake double at Albion Park during winter.
The much-improved former Kiwi pacer Spirit Of St Louis, winner of the Bendigo, Shepparton and Ballarat Cups at his past three runs, landed gate four on Saturday night.
Young gun driver Jack Callaghan will need to weave some magic to find a good spot, but the gate speed Spirit Of St Louis showed at Ballarat could be a key weapon.
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Andy Gath’s quest to continue his Great Southern Star dominance gained a huge boost with perfect draws for his two big guns in the heats on Friday night.
Tornado Valley, going a hat-trick after winning the feature the past two years, looks the leader and one to beat from the pole in heat one.
Gifted and younger stablemate Majestuoso is the one to beat in the second heat from gate two. He looks the leader with main danger, Im Ready Jet, drawn the pole and likely to sit behind him.
Gath’s luck didn’t extend to recent Kiwi import, Vacation Hill, who has the task ahead from the back row (gate 10) in the first heat.
No question Kate Gath will drive Tornado Valley in the heat, leaving Vacation Hill’s connections searching for a new driver.
On the upside, the first heat looks clearly the weaker of the two and a top-three finish will ensure Vacation Hill a final berth. Of course, the final is run on the same night. The last two spots in the eight-horse final will be filled by the fastest beaten runners outside the top three in the heats.
Veteran Kiwi raider Temporale, who self-destructed when he couldn’t lead last week, faces a tricky task again from gate five with Majestuoso drawn inside him like last week.
Another Kiwi, Majestic Man, will need luck from the back row (gate nine) and trainers Sonya Smith and Anthony Butt try to nurse him through some breathing issues which will ultimately require surgery.
THE DRAWS :
Hunter Cup :
Front row: King Of Swing, Triple Eight, Our Uncle Sam, Spirit Of St Louis, Phoenix Prince, Lochinvar Art, Expensive Ego. Back row: Amazing Dream, Mach Dan, Willie Go West, Supreme Dominator (emerg), Malcolms Rhythm, Max Delight.
Great Southern Star - Heat 1
Front row: Tornado Valley, Lotamuscle, Sundons Courage, Wobelee, Always Ready, Hatchback (emerg), Tough Monarch. Back row: Rules Dont Apply, Caligula, Vacation Hill, Keayang Livana
Great Southern Star - Heat 2
Front row: Im Ready Jet, Majestuoso, Hatchback (emerg), The Penny Drops, Temporale, Aldebaran Crescent, Aldebaran Revani. Back row: Illawong Stardust, Majestic Man, Queen Of Crime, Powderkeg