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Hot favourite for this afternoon’s 2014 Grafton Cup, Queenstown is ready to thrive over the distance according to jockey Tim Clark.
Clark replaces Tommy Berry aboard the progressive Stratum mare, four-year-old Queenstown one of two in today’s $150,000 Listed GDSC Grafton Cup (2350m) for top Sydney trainer Gai Waterhouse.
Waterhouse has also accepted for the now sole 59kg top weight Travolta, the Handsome Ransom gelding second-up for the season and paying $7 in the latest Grafton Cup odds.
Those Grafton Cup betting markets however are led by their stablemate Queenstown who has firmed right into $3 to win her first race since Cox Plate Day last year.
A brave second when defeated in the final stride at Flemington in a Group 2 over 2000m on Emirates Stakes Day followed that Moonee Valley win, before Queenstown further proved herself a stayer to watch when under weight-for-age conditions she ran third to Sertorius in the Group 2 Zipping Classic (2400m) on November 16.
She was then spelled for six and a half months only returning to the track at Rosehill on May 31 when beaten under a length first-up to finish third behind Tromso in the Octagonal Handicap (1400m).
From there she went to Brisbane on June 21 and ran fifth finishing two and a half lengths off the winner Kingdoms in the Listed Mercedes Benz Centenary Classic Open Mile (1600m) at Eagle Farm.
Queenstown is now set for a sharp rise in distance going up from a mile to 2350m today.
It’s a tactic Waterhouse has used on her before during the spring when she backed up from a second in the Group 3 Angst Stakes over the 1600m in Sydney to win over 2040m at Moonee Valley.
And it’s a move Clark believes the mare will agree with and thrive today.
“Gai had done it before with success,” Clark told Racing NSW.
“Queenstown is looking for the trip now.”
Queenstown is bred to go to the distance too with her dam Regal Heights one of Zabeel’s progeny.
Clark is aboard the mare under race conditions for the first time in the Grafton Cup but did partner her for a recent track gallop that impressed him.
“I rode her in an exhibition gallop at Rosehill last Saturday and she worked real nice over 1200m with a mate. It was a lovely bit of work,” he said.
“She is a mare that has hardly missed a place throughout her career and she’ll present fit and well.
“She has got good tactical speed to put herself into the race early and as I said earlier, she’s looking for distance now.”
To date Queenstown has had four wins and eight minor placings from 15 starts winning just over $343,000 in prize money.
She is one of a few nice recent rides for 27-year-old Clark who, since returning from Hong Kong 15 months ago, has been well supported by Waterhouse.
“Gai has been good to me and rewarded me with some good rides like Queenstown,” he said.
“We’ve had a bit of success together.”
Today will be his maiden Grafton Cup ride, but he did come close to a Ramornie Handicap win during the 2008 Grafton Cup Carnival aboard runner-up Captain Bax.
Waterhouse is one of two Sydney trainer’s launching a double pronged attack in today’s Grafton Cup with multiple premiership winner Chris Waller the other.
After originally accepting for a quartet of runners, Waller’s contingent is down to two with his Winter Cup quinella of Secessio and Hoylonny to face off once again.
These are the top names in a Grafton Cup field that has been depleted due to seven early scratchings.
Earlier in the week High Kin and Grey Assignment were withdrawn, followed by Waller’s Banjo Paterson Series Final duo of Permit and Mulquen.
Then it was the reigning Grafton Cup champ Mr O’Ceirin who drew wide and would carry 59kg, followed by recent Ipswich Cup champ Brave Ali out with injury.
The latest then was the Michael Moroney-trained Garud, Glen Boss’s mount a late scratching with their trainer hesitant to run the European import on the firm Grafton track.
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