Day At The Track

$50,000 Horsham Cup's changing face

07:00 AM 07 Jan 2009 NZDT
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The Horsham Cup has changed a bit since champion reinsman Gavin Lang won the first of his four editions way back in 1984 aboard Marching Order. Then the race, while the highlight of the Horsham Harness Racing Club's year, was a run-of-the-mill country cup worth just $3500 and failed to attract a full field. Marching Order had just eight rivals and came off 10 metres to win comfortably.

Today the 2700m standing start test is one of the most lucrative prizes on the country cup circuit. That's partly because of its $50,000 purse and its recently-attained Group 2 status, butlargelybecauseit carries asought-after ballot exemption from the Hunter Cup.

That is what connections of most of the 13 acceptors for Sunday's 2009 renewal are chasing. The $400,000 Hunter Cup is Australia's richest handicap race and will be run at Moonee Valley on Saturday night, February 7.

As Australia's top mare, Deanna Troy is arguably well-placed for a start in the Hunter Cup, but Lang has no doubt the free pass is why his 2009 Horsham Cup drive has such a talented array of pacers to contend with on Sunday.

"The exemption means a lot and to get a leg up into the Hunter Cup is good because then you don't have to worry about where you're racing next because you're in the race you want to be in," Lang said.

"That's probably half the reason they've got the strength the field that they've got for this year's race."

Deanna Troy shares the 10m line with four-time Derby placegetter I Am Sam, while Kilmore, Tasmanian and Moonee Valley Cups winner Bold Cruiser is the backmarker off 20m.

Among a class-laden front line are classy mare Mesmerizing (barrier two), 2007 winner Ultimate Mark (six), untapped gelding Mickey Mac (seven), Cobram Cup winner Genuine Star (eight), last week's Ararat Cup winner Count De Lira (nine) and talented Queensland mare Thats The Spirit (10).

Lang, who has partnered more than 4000 winners, is the only driver to have won the Horsham Cup more than twice. He also won with Our Navy Lady (1988), Dunno (1991) and last year aboard Advance Attack.

He is confident he can make it five wins with the six-year-old daughter of Troublemaker, who count the Group 1 Ladyship Mile among her five-straight wins this campaign.

The Wimmera Mail-Times Horsham Cup is the headline act on a bumper eight-race twilight card that commences at 5.22pm. The cup is race seven and will be run at 8.12pm.

Brad Bishop

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