Brisbane’s Liam Birchley is hoping for a strong run from his progressive stayer Pop ‘N’ Scotch at the Sunshine Coast this weekend when he steps the horse out over two miles in the Queensland Cup 2015.
The Husson four-year-old is one of nine gallopers in the field for this year’s $150,000 Listed Hutchinson Builders Queensland Cup (3200m), which is due to run as the Sunshine Coast Race 6 at 3:17pm.
Drawn in barrier five with Paul Hammersley in the saddle, Pop ‘N’ Scotch has his second run over the two miles after his second place finish behind Iggi Pop in the same race 12 months ago when the Queensland Cup ran at its traditional Eagle Farm home.
Pop ‘N’ Scotch was previously raced by the now defunct Nathan Tinkler-owned Patinack Farm banner before being picked up by clients of Birchley’s who paid $220,000 for him at a Patinack dispersal sale last year.
A 2150m winner at Ipswich two back, last time out Birchley’s Queensland Cup hope ran a disappointing 10th of 12 runners in the Group 3 Tatt’s Cup (2400m) at the Gold Coast on June 20, an effort his trainer is hopeful he can improve on this weekend after failing to live up to expectations so far.
“I must admit I would have thought he would have done a lot better by now,” Birchley told AAP.
“But to be fair he has continually run into tracks which haven’t suited him or races which have not been run to suit.
“You can only make so many excuses for horses but in his case they have been genuine.
“His win in the Ipswich race was outstanding, so he can do it.”
While Pop ‘N’ Scotch is yet to record a win over further than 2200m, Birchely is hopeful he can go one better than his effort in the Queensland Cup last winter and win over the 3200m on the weekend.
One of the big tests for the horse, as well as all his rivals, is carrying the 58kg in the handicap clash.
All nine hopes have the same allocation after weights were lifted four kilos to accommodate the non-acceptance of Tattersall’s Cup winner and original topweight Escado.
Also a concern is the chance of a rain-affected track at Caloundra for Queensland Cup Day, Pop ‘N’ Scotch having had six runs on Soft going for just the one third place finish to date.
“Pop ‘N’ Scotch can handle soft going but what worries me is if you get a gluey track which sometimes happens when the Sunshine Coast gets a lot of rain,” Birchley said.
“This will probably be his last run before a spell and we will be able to give him a good break before deciding and which way to go with him.”Should Pop ‘N’ Scotch step up with a good Queensland Cup run this weekend, Birchely will look at targeting the Sydney Cup over the same distance but in Group 1 company at Royal Randwick next Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
“We were tossing up the idea of going to Sydney this year but decided to concentrate on the Brisbane winter,” Birchley said.
Hammersley, who takes over for Jeff Lloyd in the saddle, has just the one worry.
“The only problem could be the 3200 metres is too short,” the hoop said.
Leading the Queensland Cup field is the Steve Hodge-trained mare Lovethebeaches who saluted over the distance in Sydney last time out winning the Stayers Cup (3200m).
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