Operation Black Hawk for Grafton Cup

Local Grafton-based horseman Alan Ryan and part-owner Steve Danvers aren’t exactly brimming with confidence going into this afternoon’s Grafton Cup showdown, rating their Black Hawk gelding Nortepoppy as anything but a sure thing.

Five-year-old Nortepoppoy is the last of 15 gallopers in today’s $150,000 Listed Grafton Cup (2350m), the feature race of the XXXX Gold July Carnival.

A veteran of 42 starts, Nortepoppy scored just their seventh career victory last Sunday at Grafton, winning the Skyracing TV Benchmark 50 Handicap over 2100 metres by one and a quarter lengths.

It will be a huge step up in class for the Grafton Cup today, however, Nortepoppy facing a quality field of Group performers in his black-type debut.

“It was a fantastic run on Sunday and it’s a great feeling having a runner in the Cup,” Danvers said earlier in the week.

“But realistically the only way he can win the Cup is to do a Steven Bradbury…hope all the other horses fall down in front of him.”

Drawn awkwardly in barrier 12 and due to be ridden by Dale Spriggs, Nortepoppy may be coming off a win at the track but Grafton Cup betting has him as one of the $101 roughies of the race.

Ryan, while hoping for a miracle, also doesn’t argue Nortepoppy’s triple-figure odds.

“It’s the first horse I’ve trained which will run in a Grafton Cup,” he said.

“It’s a pretty good feeling and I’m sure I’ll get a bit nervous.”

For their last-start victory Nortepoppy impressively carted a hefty 61kg and is sure to advantage from the drop back to the Grafton Cup minimum weight of 53kg today, which is why Spriggs takes over riding duties from Matthew McGuren.

“Matty rode the horse brilliantly the other day but he can’t make the weight for the Cup so we’ve got Dale Spriggs,” Ryan explained.

It will also be the galloper’s first go over 2350 metres, but Ryan is confidence with their weight allocation the trip won’t be an issue.

“The 2350 metres won’t be a problem,” he said.

“But he’s up against a better class of horse and they’ll probably go a bit harder.

“We’ll just let the jockey see how the horse goes at the start.

“We won’t be bustling for a position….just let him run the race how he likes.

“He won out of barrier 11 on Sunday and he’s drawn barrier 12 in the Cup.

“I’m expecting the speed up front to be a lot faster.

“But he only knows one way to race.”

One person that will have a sneaky few dollars on the juicy Grafton Cup odds for Nortepoppy today is fellow part-owner Keith Gregor, who said having a runner in the race today was one of the biggest thrills of his time in the racing industry.

“It’s a sensational feeling,” he said.

“It probably can’t win but it’s a big thrill to have your horse in such a prestigious race.

“Hopefully the trainer will let us know how the horse is going.

“He told me before Sunday’s race it couldn’t win so I took his advice and didn’t have any money on it.”

Grafton Cup betting has the Chris Waller-trained The Verminator as the narrow favourite over Queensland raider Shuffle The Cash.

Prepared by Bryan Guy on the Gold Coast, six-year-old Shuffle The Cash last ran a devastatingly close second to Ironstein in the Group 3 Tatt’s Cup (2200m) at Eagle Farm on June 25 and will jump from barrier 10 with Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michael Rodd in the mount.

Rodd rates Shuffle The Cash as the horse to beat in the Grafton Cup, the hoop having ridden two winners at Grafton’s Ramornie Handicap Day on Wednesday.

“I know my Cup ride very well and he will be hard to beat,” Rodd said.