He may have the top weight and wide gate but the Gai Waterhouse-trained import Bonfire is spot on physically and form-wise ahead of Thursday’s 2015 Grafton Cup.
A six-year-old son of Manduro, Bonfire is only lightly raced for his age having had 15 starts for just the two wins.
That’s a record Waterhouse is confident the gelding can add to on Thursday when he lines-up in the Clarence River Jockey Club’s showcase race – the $150,000 Listed Blanchard Haulage Grafton Cup (2350m).
Due to jump as Grafton Race 7 at 3:55pm (AEST), the Grafton Cup field originally drew 16 stayers but the early scratching of the David Vandyke-trained Maurus leaves 15 still in the mix.
Vandyke still has one hope in the race however in last start Canterbury winning four-year-old Archean ($26) who has just his 10th career start on Thursday.
Heading the updated Grafton Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au at a firming $3.50 is the Ciaron Maher-trained Kapour who shoots for back-to-back winter feature wins after success in the Listed Winter Cup (2400m) on a rain-affected Rosehill track late last month.
Kapour goes up from 54kg to 56kg this week, the Grafton Cup weights topped by Bonfire with 59kg and Blake Shinn riding.
Shinn replaces Danny Beasley in the saddle, Beasley having ridden the in-form import for his two previous runs this time in.
In his first start since a seventh behind Big Memory in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield last October, Bonfire ran a good fourth finishing under three lengths from the winner in the Group 3 Hawkesbury Gold Cup (1600m) on June 7.
After that he showed improvement when stepped up to 2400m to finish second behind runaway winner Kapour, who thrived on the Heavy (8) track and is the one to beat in the Grafton Cup, in the Winter Cup.
Bonfire had the same 59kg that day as he does for Thursday’s rematch but after starting from barrier 2 (of 7) in the Rosehill feature, he will need to be at his best from an outside barrier 14 draw at Grafton Racecourse this July Racing Carnival.
Despite the things going against her hope, Waterhouse is confident the galloper is ready to peak third-up following an ace piece of trackwork at Randwick and the fact in the Winter Cup he looked one run short of his best.
Fitter and meeting Kapour three kilos better in the weights than last time, Bonfire also ticks plenty of boxes and if Shinn can maintain a solid tempo over the course Waterhouse rates him as hard to beat.
The bookies look to agree and are keeping him safe in the markets as the $5 second elect.
Last Saturday Bonfire had his final serious piece of pre-Grafton Cup trackwork and killed it, running 39.2s and 11.4s, as he looks to break through with his first win on Aussie soil this week.
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