The bet365 Benalla Gold Cup on September 29 will be the litmus test for the spring cups campaign of Kiwi stayer Fanatic.
Winner of the 2016 Group 1 NZ Oaks over 2400m the five-year-old mare was brought to Australia and given to Lindsay Park to target the Caulfield and Melbourne cups.
The Shocking mare is bred to stay and Lindsay Park racing manager Rayan Moore said the 2046m at Benalla next week will give them all a good indication of Fanatic’s spring potential.
She was entered in the 2016 Caulfield Cup, but was a late scratching.
‘‘She has been with us this preparation and has had two starts but the cup field here is a quality line-up and will show us exactly where she is,’’ Moore said.
‘‘Her NZ owners have been keen to give her a go here and we have put her over two 2000m runs.’’
‘‘We are yet to win the cup here and we see Benalla as our home track, so it would be a bonus if we could get her over the line and confirm her cups form while breaking our drought in our home cup.
‘‘We have not yet set on a jockey for the big day, it’s a bit far out.
‘‘Lindsay Park has also nominated runners in a number of other races on cup day so we are looking forward to grand final eve on September 29.’’
Another Benalla trainer with his sights set on cup day is Peter Burgan.
And Burgan makes his racing a family affair, especially when he saddles up Commands the Stage.
Because his wife Shirley Hunter will be in the saddle.
‘‘She’s a lovely mare — the horse that is,’’ Burgan said.
‘‘The jockey’s pretty good too, hardly ever puts in a bad showing.
‘‘I bought her a few years ago (the horse of course), and syndicated her with some friends and we have high hopes on September 29 that she will be running into some form.
‘‘If everything suits on the day she will have a good chance — this is her fourth time in this preparation and although she did disappoint a little on Wednesday she had a close second at Benalla the previous run — and would have won in a few more strides.’’
Burgan has eight horses in work; four of them are two- and three-year-olds getting close to their first starts.
From the others he has also entered Fildancer — a track veteran with more than 50 starts — and believed the seven-year-old chestnut gelding would be in the running
‘‘He has won over 2000m and is taking on 1600m on cup day so should be thereabouts,’’ Burgan said.
‘‘We had thought he was disappointing, but when he pulled up and we looked closer we discovered he had an abscess in his hoof, so he hadn’t let us down after all, he had given us everything and would have been with the leaders when they hit the line.
‘‘It’s a funny thing, but even though the Benalla Gold Cup is on our home track we rarely seem to have a runner in the big race.
‘‘But a winner on cup day will do for me,’’ he laughed.