One of the most popular festive season showdowns, the 2011 Christmas Cup is set to light up Rosehill Gardens this Saturday, Racing NSW extending nominations for the summer staying feature until Tuesday December 6.
There were 15 early entries for the $100,000 Listed Christmas Cup (2400m) taken on Monday, but nominations will stay open until 11:00am (local time) on Tuesday.
Chris Waller will look to go back-to-back following the success of Bellagio Wynn in the race 12 months ago, the ace Sydney horseman having nominated Strike One for the Cup on Monday.
Danehill Dancer seven-year-old Strike One resumed with a narrow first-up win at Rosehill over 1900 metres on November 12 but failed to back-up successfully when finishing seventh, beaten three lengths by Zara Dancer in the Listed Frank Underwood Cup (1900m) on a Slow (7) track at Canterbury on November 26.
As it stands there are two Christmas Cup hopefuls that will be out for their third win on the trot with Reset six-year-old Assertive Billy and Galileo gelding Sea Galleon.
Prepared by Warwick Farm trainer Steve Englebrecht, Assertive Billy’s two gritty wins in Sydney have earned them a shot at their first black-type test and 19-year-old apprentice jockey Shaun Guymer, aboard for both wins, will retain the ride on Saturday.
“The apprentices are doing well and Shaun is right up there with them,” Englebrecht said.
“The horse is running for him so there’s no reason to change (riders).
“He’s not riding him all that pretty but that has probably been the key.”
The Christmas Cup will also be Assertive Billy’s first true distance test, the improver stepping up to 2400 metres for the first time.
“I think he’s earned his chance,” Englebrecht said.
“I don’t think the horse has the turn of foot so he’s got to be stoked up to take the sprint out of the others.
“The way he is racing and on his win the other day I don’t think the distance will be a problem.”
The Colin & Cindy Alderson-trained Sea Galleon was most impressive last-start on a bog Sandown track, the five-year-old putting a minimum four lengths on their rivals in the D’Urban Handicap (2400m) on November 26.
Other current Christmas Cup nominees coming off some good form this prep include three horses that finished two-three-four behind the winner in the Frank Underwood Cup with the Peter Snowden-trained Yulalona (2nd), Goulburn Cup runner-up Scottish Border (3rd) and John Thompson’s Count Encosta (4th).
Meanwhile, Tim Martin’s Zabeel seven-year-old Scouting Wide will line-up in the Christmas Cup this year looking to become a dual winner having saluted in the race two years ago.
The race is a traditional lead-up to the $125,000 Group 3 Summer Cup (2400m) at Rosehill on Boxing Day, December 26.
Stay tuned to Races.com.au for all the Christmas Cup field and betting updates.
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2011 Christmas Cup Nominations
As of 05/12/2011 – Extended until 06/12/2011
|1||ASSERTIVE BILLY||Steve Englebrecht|
|2||COUNT ENCOSTA||John P Thompson|
|4||GAZZA GURU||Stephen Farley|
|5||MERENSKY REEF||Gai Waterhouse|
|7||OUR BILLY BLUE (NZ)||Paul Cave|
|8||POLE DANCING||John Taylor|
|9||SCOTTISH BORDER||Garry Frazer|
|10||SCOUTING WIDE (NZ)||Tim Martin|
|11||SEA GALLEON||Colin & Cindy Alderson|
|12||SHADOW MINISTER||Garry White|
|13||SOLID BILLING||Craig Ritchie|
|14||STRIKE ONE (GB)||Chris Waller|