A monster weekend awaits that could reshape the lucrative Trots Country Cups Championship, with Shepparton and Hamilton clubs taking their moment in the spotlight.
While championship leaders Shadow Sax and Messini pursuit Group 1 acclaim across the border in the $100,000 South Australian Cup, quality runners will attempt to score valuable championship in this weekend’s Victorian cups double-header.
The Mathews Petroleum Hamilton Pacing Cup has presented an even field with Keayang Kallisto, Keep On Rocking, Bad Billy, Berisari and It Is Billy in single figures with TAB.com.au amid a Sunday race card that also features a keenly contested Porthaul Hamilton Trotters Cup.
But before the dust is disturbed at Hamilton some of the summer’s most promising pacers will battle for the $50,000 Neatline Homes Shepparton Gold Cup, which takes centre stage at 9.20pm on Saturday.
Among that number is San Carlo, fresh from his breakthrough Inter Dominion heat win, dual Tasmanian cups winner Major Secret and trainer Sonya Smith’s promising pacer Moonrock.
The latter made a bold play for the PETstock Bendigo Pacing Cup lead last Saturday, challenging Ideal For Real before driver Anthony Butt had to relent and then struggled for a run in the dying stages.
“On paper it looked as though we might get to the front, we had a crack and it wasn’t to be,” Butt told the Trots Talk radio show.
“Ideal For Real raced outside his normal pattern and he wanted to hold the front too. That’s racing and we’ll turn the page and get on with it.”
Moonrock has drawn gate seven for Saturday night’s Shepparton Cup and Butt said they would use the front line draw to stay ahead of major back row threats.
“With the two good ones, San Carlo and Major Secret, drawn the second row, we’ll try and keep ahead of them and go from there,” Butt said.
“(San Carlo’s) a great horse, one of the up and comers and raced really well in the Inter Dominion in Perth so he’s obviously the class horse in the race.”
It could be a lucrative night for team Smith and Butt, who also team with Hey Yo in Group 3 race The George Gath, the former Kiwi whose been impressive in her first Victorian season. She will start from gate two, inside fellow mare and favourite Red Hot Tooth.
“(Hey Yo’s) been fantastic since she come over from New Zealand,” Butt said. “She raced at a pretty good level over there but couldn’t quite compete with the very best ones.
“Three starts for two wins and a second, and a big run last week behind Sparkling Success (at Bendigo). (Shepparton’s) probably a little bit easier field, but in saying that Red Hot Tooth’s been in her best form and probably should be hard to beat along with a few of the others.”