Running at Grafton on Thursday as the second major feature of Australia’s richest regional racing festival, the XXXX Gold July Carnival, the $150,000 Grafton Cup (2350m) drew a final field of 15 gallopers with one of the early favourites Gold In Dubai drawing to perfection with barrier four.
“Barrier four, I’m absolutely rapt,” Riley said.
The Desert Sun gelding comes into Thursday’s showdown on the back of two excellent runs in Queensland and sits on the third line of Grafton Cup betting behind the Brian Guy-trained Shuffle The Cash and Chris Waller’s Melbourne Cup-bound The Verminator.
After finishing well back in the Listed Spear Chief Handicap (1500m) in their Brisbane debut at Eagle Farm on June 4, Gold In Dubai found their feet next start when winning the Listed Ipswich Cup (2150m) by an easy two and a half lengths on June 18.
Next start they jumped up in the weights from their Ipswich Cup winning weight of 54.5kg to 57kg for the Listed Caloundra Cup (2400m) on June 2.
In a brave run, Gold In Dubai was narrowly beaten into second place when finishing a short-neck away from Caloundra Cup winner Spechenka.
“The horse has done enormous since Caloundra,” Riley said.
“He worked sensational up there the other day.”
Now on Thursday Gold In Dubai will target a second Cups victory this season, Riley hoping to see enough in the Grafton Cup to warrant targeting his new-found stayer for the Melbourne Spring Carnival features.
“Who knows, he might even turn into a Melbourne Cup horse,” Riley said optimistically.
“He’s seasoning now after coming off a sprinting preparation.”
Gold In Dubai will be just the second Grafton July Carnival runner for Riley in three decades, who was represented for the first time in 30 years last year.
The Mornington-based trainer also shared the 1978 Ramornie Handicap success of Mistress Anne, who was trained by his now 78-year-old father Martin.
“This is the best chance I’ve ever had to win a Grafton Cup,” Riley said of Gold In Dubai.
“It would be a fantastic homecoming.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back to Grafton with a very good Cup chance.
“Until last year, I hadn’t been to a July Carnival for 30 years.”
The horse that defeated Gold In Dubai last start, Beaudesert galloper Spechenka shares the equal Grafton Cup top-weight of 57kg with Gold In Dubai and Shuffle The Cash.
The Verminator has drawn wide with barrier 11 but carries just 54kg with Glyn Schofield in the mount while Lonhro four-year-old Summarise has the inside running from barrier one and will be ridden by this year’s Stradbroke Handicap-winning jockey Jason Taylor.
2011 WYKES Tyrepower Grafton Cup Final Field & Barriers
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Hcp. Rating|
|1||0696312012||GOLD IN DUBAI||Mark Riley||Michael Walker||4||57kg||94|
|2||2041227152||SHUFFLE THE CASH||Bryan Guy||Michael Rodd||10||57kg||94|
|3||11151X2071||SPECHENKA||Ben Ahrens||Ryan Wiggins||5||57kg||94|
|4||3211X62211||THE VERMINATOR||Chris Waller||Glyn Schofield||11||54kg||88|
|5||X536220393||LITTLE STRANGER||Brian Smith||Chris Munce||13||53.5kg||87|
|6||31149X5241||SUMMARISE||Stephen Theodore||Jason Taylor||1||53kg||78|
|7||X8099X9606||TWO TOWERS||Wanda Ings||Peter Wells||6||53kg||77|
|8||6980480615||WARRIOR WITHIN||Bruce W Hill||Paul Hammersley||9||53kg||77|
|9||86121X2107||ARCENCIEL (NZ)||Yves Seguin||Scott Seamer||15||53kg||75|
|10||555X11X403||KING OF THE NILE||Joanna Methven||Nathan Thomas||7||53kg||74|
|11||4630X00681||INTERLOCKING (NZ)||Troy Hall||Terry Treichel||2||53kg||70|
|12||8487743615||CIRCLE OF FAME||Ruth Cooper||Robert Thompson||8||53kg||69|
|13||X039431764||BLACKETT STREET||Fred Cowell||Timothy Bell (a)||3||53kg||66|
|14||21335X2142||RODEO PLAYBOY||John B Scott||Ben Looker (a)||14||53kg||61|
|15||X075924561||NORTEPOPPY||Alan Ryan||Dale Spriggs (late alt)||12||53kg||58|