McCarthy plans Hunter Cup assault

by Adam Hamilton 

Luke McCarthy looms as the key driver on Hunter Cup night.

McCarthy and his wife Belinda will take five of their stable stars down from NSW for Victoria’s biggest meeting.

Along with Hunter Cup runners King Of Swing, Alta Orlando and Star Galleria, McCarthy confirmed Australia’s best mare, Bettor Enforce, and Chariots Of Fire favourite Expensive Ego will tackle Group 1 races.

King Of Swing capped his Cup preparation with a 2300m Menangle free-for-all win on Saturday night, but didn’t look quite as sharp as he can and only beat Burnham Boy by 1.9m, albeit in a slick 1min53.5sec mile rate.

Bettor Enforce, who won easily in a 1min51.4sec mile at Menangle on Saturday night, has the $100,000 Group 1 Ladyship Cup, while Expensive Ego will chase a ticket into the Chariots by winning the $100,000 Group 1 4YO Bonanza.

Expensive Ego showed he was primed with a blistering 1min53.1sec mile rate and 13.4m win at Menangle last night.

He went 0.4sec faster than King Of Swing and the time smashed the record by a 4YO at Menangle for 2300m.

Interestingly, the 4YO Bonanza has become the defining Chariots Of Fire lead-up race and form pointer in recent years.

The past four Bonanza winners have gone on to win the Chariots: Lazarus (2017), Jilliby Kung Fun (2018), Poster Boy (2019) and Lochinvar Art (last year).

All the Cobbity Equine horses have been are now officially trained by Belinda McCarthy with Craig Cross sidelined following recent surgery on a leg.

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Stunning four-year-old Magnificent Storm stole the show again at Gloucester Park Friday night, but three-year-old filly Black Jack Baby also turned plenty of heads.

The way she unleashed from back in the field to roar past the favourite and leader Royal Essence was breathtaking.

Throw in the fact she was timed to run her last half in 55.1sec and it’s no wonder she’s near the top of betting for the WA Oaks in April.

There’s a Kiwi connection with Black Jack Baby being by the All Stars’ former gun juvenile Follow The Stars.

Trained by Shane Quadrio and driven by Chris Voak, she has raced just 14 times for nine wins and two seconds.

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The countdown to the NSW Derby is in full swing.

A couple of feature 3YO races at Melton and Menangle on Saturday night will have a influence.

At Menangle, Chris Frisby’s raw but exciting gelding He Aint Fakin blasted home to win the Group 2 Simpson Memorial in a 1min53.1sec mile.

Frisby’s always had a big opinion of the Art Major gelding and it was an exciting return.

But the run of the race came from last season’s star juvenile Tasty Delight, who did a power of work first-up and fought so bravely into second spot in the slick time.

At Melton, David Moran’s buzz 3YO Patsbeachstorm was surprisingly beaten but far from disgraced when second in the $100,000 Group 1 VHRC Caduceus 3YO Classic.

Just second-up from almost a year out, Patsbeachstorm led and was rundown late by the raw and gifted Bondi Lockdown in a 1min53.8sec mile rate for 1720m and 26.4sec last quarter.

Trainer-driver David Moran made no secret of the fact Patsbeachstorm had “loads of improvement” to come.

“He was so, so underdone first-up at Shepparton when he won and will still get plenty out of tonight’s run,” he said.

Bondi Lockdown won’t be NSW-bound with trainer-driver Aaron Dunn looking longer term.

“He’s out for a break. I just kept him going for this race. The Australian Gold is his target,” he said.

“He’s got so much talent this guy, but he’ll be best served with us taking our time with him.”

It was a magical moment for Dunn, snaring just his second Group 1 win – 19 years after his first.

“I won the Vicbred (2YO) final on Dees Dees Dream in 2002 and I remember when we broke this horse in I told people he was the best we’ve had since Dees Dees Dream,” he said.

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The history of racing is built on fairytale stories.

We all love it when a battler gets his horse into a Melbourne Cup and we’ve got the equivalent with Basil Dooley and Victoria’s most-improved pacer Bettor Be The Bomb in the Hunter Cup.

The hobby trainer was lost for words when the rejuvenated Bettor Be The Bomb stormed home to win a very hostly-contested Group 2 Casey Classic at Melton on Saturday night and booked a spot in the Hunter Cup.

“I don’t quite now what to say. It was such a thrill having a runner in this race, let alone winning it. It’s by far my biggest moment in the game and now I’ve got a Hunter Cup runner,” Dooley said.

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Next stop Sydney for former top young Kiwi pacer One Change.

It’s been an inspired move to send One Change across to Queensland where, in the care of Vicki Rasmussen and Shane Graham, he’s raced 12 times for eight wins, two seconds and a third.

His only unplaced run was a sound fifth at Grand Circuit level behind King Of Swing in the Blacks A Fake at Albion Park back in December.

One Change did all the work and won narrowly but impressively in a slick 1min52.1sec mile rate for 1660m at Albion Park on Saturday night.

Now he heads to Menangle to try and qualify for a Chariots Of Fire birth.

He’ll be accompanied south by stablemate and another former Kiwi star, Turn It Up, who is chasing a Miracle Mile berth.

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Team Aiken is likely to take a conservative short-term approach with comeback star Max Delight.

The NSW Derby winner and Chariots Of Fire placegetter returned from 11 months with injury to easily win at Melton on Saturday night.

“There’s another race on the support card for him Hunter Cup night then there is the option of going to Sydney, but at this stage we’ll probably keep him here for some of the country cups,” driver Josh Aiken said.

“It’s great to have him back. He’s had a long, slow build-up and he’ll get a lot of benefit out of tonight.”

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There is no temptation to throw exciting former Kiwi trotter Havehorsewilltravel into the deep end with a Great Southern Star start.

Driver Kate Gath is excited about the future with McLovin’s baby half-brother, who made it five wins from as many starts in Andy Gath’s care when he cruised home at Melton on Saturday night.

“He’s doing everything right and winning easily, but it’s a big step-up to a Great Southern Star and there are other good races for him at this stage,” Kate said.

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