Emerging country Victorian galloper Our Skeeta has earned a shot at the 2011 Moe Cup after handing Ian Jones, who is based in Moe and works part-time as a plumber to help fund his humble horse training operation, their debut metro win at Sandown Hillside on Wednesday.
Four-year-old Freeze gelding Our Skeeta took their career record to four wins from nine starts running away to score their third straight success for the season in the Betfair Handicap (1400m) putting two and a half lengths on their closest rival, Peter Snowden’s Gireson.
Jones was over the moon with the breakthrough city success, his first as a trainer, and now has eyes on claiming the major prize at his hometown, the Moe Cup 2011.
It was also a particularly sweet victory for Jones who bred Our Skeeta himself, the promising runner being the second foal from his Stargazer mare Starkeeta.
There have been a number of changes to the schedule and conditions of the Moe Cup this year, which have worked in Jones’ and Our Skeeta’s favour.
Traditionally run over 2050 metres two days prior to the time-honoured Caulfield Cup in October, the Moe Cup distance has been cut to 1600 metres this year and will run on Friday December 16.
Drainage work saw the course at Moe un-raceworthy for the earlier meeting that was transferred to Cranbourne.
The shorter Moe Cup distance is perfect for Our Skeeta, one of just three horses Jones currently has in work with five more as-yet-unnamed juveniles at the stables, as Wednesday was their first time racing over 1400 metres making the mile next-up ideal.
“We’re looking at the Moe Cup for him now it’s over 1600 (metres),” Jones said.
“I’ll check with Jason (Benbow, jockey) first but I reckon he’ll get it (the mile).
“I thought he was looking for 1400 (metres) today, but I didn’t think he’d do it as easy as that.”
Prior to Wednesday Our Skeeta claimed a narrow victory over 1200 metres at Sale on November 4 and put a minimum four lengths on their rivals in the De Bortoli Wines Handicap (1200m) at Cranbourne on October 22.
They have been ridden by Jason Benbow for seven of their nine career starts including their three recent wins, the hoop set to continue his successful association with Our Skeeta in the Moe Cup next month.
Benbow was full of praise for Our Skeeta after the Sandown win and had full confidence the horse would get to the mile of the $40,000 Moe Cup without issue.
“He’s a real little trier,” Benbow said.
“He’s not a lot to look at in the yard, but I don’t want to be too critical of him because he just keeps winning.
“I would have loved to have had a bit of cover first time to the 1400, but we had to press forward and sat outside the leader.
“Coming to the 600 he wanted to travel a little bit keen but to his credit he was really strong to the line.
“He actually got headed coming down the dip but I just wanted to make sure first time here he did get down there comfortably.
“I know what he can do at the end of the race and thankfully he did that today.
“The Moe Cup’s back to the mile this year and it’s in three weeks’ time so it looks like the right step forward.”
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