Commands gelding Voice Commander may not have won a Group race from their 40 career starts to date, but has the ideal form coming into the $140,000 Listed Wagga Wagga Gold Cup (2000m) on Friday.
After becoming a triple stakes winner in the Listed Frank Underwood Cup (2000m) at Rosehill in January, Voice Commander has won back-to-back country Cups at his last two starts.
First was the $25,000 Gundagai Cup (1800m) on April 3 followed by a commanding four length victory in the $40,500 Queanbeyan Cup (2000m) on April 24.
Now a hat-trick of successive Cup victories is on the cards, Voice Commander the $6 second favourite for the Wagga Wagga Gold Cup behind Fanjura at $5.50.
After he won the Underwood Cup the plan was always to get him ready for Wagga,” Olive said.
“The Wagga Cup is the biggest race in the southern districts.
“It’s a race I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I started training.
“Until now I haven’t had one good enough but Voice Commander ticks all the boxes.
“To be honest, even when he was firing as a younger horse, I’ve never had the horse better or working better.
“He’s absolutely thriving.
“Since Queanbeyan, he’s come on again.
“To win the Wagga Cup would be a dream come true for me, the owners and everyone involved in the stable – definitely be a career highlight.”
The Lee Freedman-trained six-year-old Fanjura was ultra impressive last start when defeated by a mere nose by Paddy O’Reilly in the Group 3 Easter Cup (2000m) at Caulfield.
On Friday Fanjura has drawn wide with barrier 17, into barrier 16 with the early scratching of Regular Aussie, while Voice Commander has come up with a nice gate two start.
However, with Freedman yet to decide on whether he will make the trip north with the Wagga Wagga Gold Cup favourite Fanjura could be a sensational scratching from the race.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” Freedman said on Wednesday night.
“I’m disappointed with the draw, but that’s no one’s fault.
“We’ll have to give it a bit more thought.”
Freedman is considering a run in Saturday’s $75,000 Peter Rowland Catering Handicap (2000m) at Flemington for Fanjura for which she is also accepted.
“We can either go to Flemington on Saturday or the Scone Cup (Friday week),” Freedman said.
“Wagga is a 50-50 chance at this stage.”
Adding to Voice Commander’s claims for Wagga Cup glory tomorrow is the advantageous drop back in weight.
In both the Gundagai and Queanbeyan Cups he carried over 60kg to victory and should thrive with the drop back to just 55.5kg with Kathy O’Hara in the mount on Friday.
“He’s carrying 5 kilos less than Queanbeyan and with a senior rider,” Olive said.
“He’s drawn perfectly and Kathy should be able to let him bowl along in front and dictate.”
Other horses in the Wagga Wagga Cup markets include another from Freedman’s stables Speed Gifted ($8), Skyerush ($8.50) and the Chris Waller-trained Beijing Boy ($9).
Super Jet mare Skyerush is looking to bring her good form to Wagga having last run a gallant second to Sworn To Secrecy in the Group 2 Emancipation Stakes (1600m) at Randwick after striking early interference.
Skyerush, trained by Guy Walter, is due to jump from barrier 10 (in from 11) with jockey Jay Ford engaged for the ride.
“Her run in the Emancipation was good and the step up to 2000 metres will suit,” Walter said.
“Barriers can often win or lose races and she’s drawn awkwardly but I’m very happy with the mare.”
The Walter and Ford trainer – hoop duo have previously partnered up to win the 2010 Grafton Cup with Twin Wing, while Ford also enjoyed a winning ride in the Gosford Cup on Bush Honey back in 2005.
“It’s a nice ride to pick up,” Ford said of Skyerush.
“She has drawn a little bit awkwardly in barrier 11 but it’s not too bad a run to the first turn as you’ve got about 300 metres.
“Hopefully we can get across and put ourselves in a nice position with a bit of cover, and her form through the autumn carnival suggests she can be competitive in a race like this.”
Meanwhile a longer-priced contender that has the confidence of their connections heading into the staying showdown is Lebrechaun.
One of the 53kg lightweights of the Wagga Wagga Gold Cup field, the Matthew Dale-trained Iglesia five-year-old Lebrechaun is rated a $17 chance.
Winner of the Listed The Tradies National Sprint (1400m) at their home track in Canberra last month, Lebrechaun went on to run a close second to Pureness in the Group 2 Ajax Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill before finishing three lengths away sixth to My Kingdom Of Fife in the Group 3 Doncaster Mile Prelude (1600m) at Randwick.
Last start Lebrechaun was outclassed when finishing over 20 lengths away last to My Kingdom Of Fife in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on a bog Randwick track.
But a less challenging field of rivals and a giant step back from elite level to a Listed feature brings the gallant gelding back into contention.
“(The Wagga Cup) was always the plan with him this preparation,” Dale said.
“It was obviously disappointing the other day (in the Queen Elizabeth) but the wash up was that he pulled up remarkably well and he just didn’t handle the heavy 10.
“We didn’t expect him to win the Queen Elizabeth but we thought he would be competitive.
“He’s pulled up well and he’s a lot better suited back in this grade and on the limit weight.”
Drawn in barrier 15, Lebrachaun moves into barrier 14 for Friday.
“The wide barrier draw doesn’t influence him as much,” Dale said.
“He doesn’t like getting cluttered up and needs galloping room so that’s probably to his advantage.”
2011 Wagga Wagga Gold Cup Final Field & Barrier Draw
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Hcp. Rating|
|1||030X80X030||SPEED GIFTED (GB)||Brett Cavanough||Hugh Bowman||5||58.5kg||104|
|2||X2754X3422||FANJURA (IRE)||Lee Freedman||Brenton Avdulla||17||57kg||101|
|3||4023154711||VOICE COMMANDER||Nick Olive||Ms Kathy O’Hara||2||55.5kg||98|
|4||221162592||BEIJING BOY (NZ)||Chris Waller||Tommy Berry||6||54kg||95|
|5||1245X41360||LEBRECHAUN||Matthew Dale||Mathew Cahill||15||53kg||91|
|6||31747X9533||VINTEDGE||Chris Waller||Tommy Berry||19||53kg||91|
|7||3X30334555||IRONSTEIN||Gerald Ryan||Tim Clark||1||53kg||88|
|8||1111X06362||SKYERUSH||Guy Walter||Jay Ford||11||53kg||87|
|10||X5326X1314||OUR BILLY BLUE (NZ)||Paul Cave||Nathan Berry||9||53kg||81|
|11||113431X001||WORLD WIDE||Bede Murray||Rod Quinn||3||53kg||79|
|12||55895X2881||HE’S AN ANGEL||Brian Cox||Andrew Stead (a)||4||53kg||77|
|13||362X191641||UNIVERSAL PACK||Kerry Weir||Simon Miller||18||53kg||77|
|14||2431116492||ILRINGYA||Luke Pepper||Jeff Penza||13||53kg||75|
|15||21581X8552||REGULAR AUSSIE||Mick Hartney||-M||7||53kg||71|
|16||X412346X27||KIMORRA||Michelle Russell||Josh Adams (a)||14||53kg||64|
|17e||2162X54060||THE BOONDOCK SAINT||Trevor Sutherland||Brendan Ward||8||53kg||58|
|18e||8336143983||FUHRSTY||Rodger Waters||Bryan Murphy||12||53kg||57|
|19e||21X7113564||ROCKY COD||Kerry Weir||–||10||53kg||57|