Sheila Arnold’s in-form galloper The Ruffian is sure to jump as the punters’ favourite in the 2011 Darwin Cup this afternoon, ace hoop Kerrin McEvoy booked to ride the Lonhro four-year-old in the feature.
In the latest Darwin Cup betting odds, The Ruffian has firmed in from $2.50 to $2.40 to take out the $175,000 feature.
The Ruffian is also up for a lucrative $100,000 Triple Crown bonus if they become the Darwin Cup winner at 5:30pm (AEST) today, after having won the Darwin Guineas (1600m) and Northern Territory Derby (2000m) back-to-back last month.
Drawn ideally in barrier five, The Ruffian will carry 53.5kg which is a huge drop back from the 57kg they carted in both the Darwin Guineas and NT Derby.
The only other horse at a single-figure price in the Darwin Cup odds is dual runner-up Hawks Bay at $3.50.
Kyneton-based trainer Neil Dyer is hoping it will be third time lucky for veteran Black Hawk gelding Hawks Bay in the Darwin Cup result after their second place finishes in the race behind Activation (2009) and Shout Out Loud (2010).
Odds on Hawks Bay drifted out earlier for them to finally win the Darwin Cup after they were slapped with a 1kg weight penalty that will see Steven Arnold, son of rival The Ruffian’s trainer Shelia Arnold, ride them at 62kg today.
“Steven’s a professional and I know he’ll get the job done and my horse has a big weight so it’s going to be an advantage having a heavy-weight jockey like him on board,” Dyer said.
Arnold is vying for his second Darwin Cup trophy after dead-heating in the race for first aboard Kingston Reserve back in 1995.
Hawks Bay lines up for their 39th career start in the Darwin Cup and comes into the race on the back of a last-start victory over the mile at the track on July 23, where they carried an incredible 63kg to victory.
“That run shows how well he is going,” Dyer said.
“He wasn’t at his top but when he got into the clear he just out-sprinted them.”
After coming up with their first decent Darwin Cup barrier draw, Hawks Bay set to start from gate three today after jumping from barriers 11 and 10 respectively the past two years, Dyer is confident of their chances.
“It’s going to make a huge difference drawing an inside barrier,” he said.
Following on from the two top elects in the Darwin Cup markets are the likes of Hawks Bay’s stablemate Palmyra Boy ($13), the Ken Rogerson-trained Robdon Flyer ($15) and Morphettville raider Naratel ($16).
Prepared by Phillip Stokes, Naratel enjoyed a good win in the Alice Springs Cup back in May but after failing to place in their two runs since Stokes knows they have work to do today.
Due to be ridden by South Australian jockey Dom Tourneur, Naratel drew awkwardly in barrier 13 but moves into gate 11 of 12 with the scratchings of emergencies Bolton (br.10) and Loukoumi (br.7), and is out to become the first horse since Lothaway County in 1995 to win the Alice Springs – Darwin Cup double.
“We’re going to go midfield, try and slot in somewhere and hope he can work it out from there,” Stokes said of their Darwin Cup riding tactics.
“I don’t think he’ll have enough speed to cross them from out wide.”