Sydney’s leading trainer Chris Waller has withdrawn two of his four hopefuls for the Grafton Cup 2014 on Thursday leaving two to represent the multiple premiership winning horseman in the lucrative country clash.
This year’s $150,000 Listed GDSC Grafton Cup (2350m), the 101st edition of the race, originally featured a capacity field of 16 starters plus three emergencies.
That trio of spare runners has all now gained a start however and the race will run one short of full with four early withdrawals from the Grafton Cup field.
Two of those come from the Waller stables with veteran stayer Permit (barrier 18) and Mulaquen (barrier 19) the two widest drawn in the field.
They ran fourth and third respectively behind their stablemate Secessio last start on June 28 at Rosehill in the Listed Winter Cup (2400m).
Both are also nominated for a run at Flemington in Melbourne on Saturday in the $120,000 Banjo Paterson Series Final (2600m) on ‘Finals Day’.
That’s a race both seven-year-old Permit and imported Haafhd six-year-old Mulaqen should appreciate the distance of if accepted to face off against the likes of last start Warrnambool hurdle winner Sea King and the Peter Moody-trained Zuma Rock.
Still in Grafton Cup contention for Waller meanwhile are the two who ran the Winter Cup quinella for him a fortnight ago, Secessio and Hoylonny.
“All the horses have come through their respective last-start races in good order,” Waller’s stable manager Liam Prior told The Daily Examiner speaking of the Winter Cup first four.
The duo is drawn nicely for Thursday in barriers nine and five respectively with Konigstiger five-year-old Secessio the best fancied of the two.
Updated Grafton Cup odds are led by firming favourite from the Gai Waterhouse stables Queenstown ($4.40), the Stratum mare third-up for the season and looking for her first win since a Moonee Valley success against her own kind on Cox Plate Day last October.
Secessio, to be ridden again by internationally performed Sydney jockey Tye Angland, meanwhile pays $8.50 for an upset.
“There was nothing between them in the Winter Cup and while it’s a hard race, both have the profile to do it again,” Prior said of the Grafton Cup duo.
“Secessio was coming back from 3200 metres in the Winter Cup (2400m) and showed he’s not racing on tired legs.
“Ideally he prefers a bit of sting out of the track but the distance and Grafton track will suit him. He’s been racing consistently.”
Jason Collett’s mount Hoylonny is hot on their heels at $10 after going down a mere nose to them in the Winter Cup, a much improved effort from the Lonhro five-year-old who ran 11th in their two lead-up runs at the track over 1400m and 2000m respectively.
“If you go through his form he won third up last preparation after two similar performances,” Prior said of Hoylonny.
“He’s done the same this time and he’s a horse that once he strikes form generally holds it.
“We’d expect him to be very competitive.”
Other notable hopes in the wide open Grafton Cup betting market then include Ipswich Cup winner Brave Ali ($7) coming off a Caloundra Cup second, reigning champ Mr O’Ceirin ($9) who has the 59kg top weight, Waterhouse’s other runner Travolta ($9) and the Michael Moroney-trained Garud ($9.50) to be ridden by Glen Boss.
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