The 2011 Melbourne Cup could be a battle of the Kiwis with yet another in-form New Zealand galloper, Innocent Lady, emerging as a genuine contender for Flemington’s showpiece spring carnival showdown.
The Graeme and Mark Sanders-trained Viking Ruler mare Innocent Lady has joined the likes of Wall Street, Harris Tweed, Shez Sinsational, Lion Tamer and Scarlett Lady as New Zealand-trained horses heading towards a start in the $6 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on Tuesday November 1.
Last Saturday Innocent Lady kicked off her Melbourne Cup Carnival campaign in fine style back home, the Oaks Stud-owned galloper taking out the Cosmopolitan Club & TAB Handicap (1400m) on a Heavy Te Rapa track.
“The distance of today’s race was well short of her best but she was fresh-up and went a good 1400 metres,” co-trainer Mark Sanders said on Saturday.
“More of a worry to us before the race was the track conditions as we thought it could be a bit heavy for her but she got away with it.
“She has come up really well and we thought she would go a nice race today.”
With five wins and seven minor placings from 18 starts to date, Innocent Lady emerged as a stayer to watch back in March when former Melbourne Cup winning hoop Glen Boss rode her to a gallant fourth place finish behind Titch in the Group 1 Auckland Cup, contested over the same testing two-mile distance as its famous Aussie counterpart, the Melbourne Cup.
“Her run in the Auckland Cup gave us confidence she could get the two miles,” Sanders said.
Connections have a huge opinion of five-year-old Innocent Lady, a mare they believes can match the likes of Queensland Oaks winner and one of the early Melbourne Cup favourites Scarlett Lady come November.
“We are aiming big with her in thinking of a race like the Melbourne Cup but we rate her very highly and it’s worth a go,” Sanders said.
Melbourne Cup 2011 nominations will close on Thursday September 1, but connections only have until midday tomorrow to enter their spring hopefuls for the other majors with nominations for the 2011 Caulfield Cup, 2011 Cox Plate, 2011 Caulfield Guineas and 2011 Thousand Guineas all released on Tuesday August 2.
Betting markets and pre-nomination Melbourne Cup odds are lead by last year’s second placegetter Maluckyday paying $13 through Ladbrokes.com.au, while the shortest-priced of the Kiwi contingent is Scarlett Lady at $17.
Innocent Lady has no Melbourne Cup price at this stage, but with Australia’s premier online bookmaker Luxbet due to open their futures Cup betting shortly, odds on many more hopefuls will be out.
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