Robert Smerdon’s lightly-raced stayer Berisha scored an upset Mornington Cup 2016 result on Saturday nosing out the Tony McEvoy-trained stablemates Big Memory and Lucky Lucky Lucky for the win.
A field of 14 lined up in this autumn’s $300,000 Listed Mornington BMW Cup (2400m), the 26/1 winner Berisha gaining automatic entry into the classic Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) in the spring.
The four-year-old Al Samer gelding came off a third in the Yarra Valley Cup (1950m) run on a Heavy track, but handled a much firmer Good (3) Mornington course to show his versatility on the weekend in black-type company.
Ridden by Daniel Moor the galloper carried 55kg from a wide barrier 12 of 14 draw and had only a short half-head to spare over McEvoy’s Duke Of Marmalade six-year-old Big Memory ($11) on the line.
Finishing off the Mornington Cup trifecta a further one and three-quarters of a length back in third was the fellow McEvoy-trained Lucky Lucky Lucky ($41), the roughie hope continuing his good place rate over the mile and a half.
Darren Weir’s Kiwi galloper Puccini crossed for fourth just out of the money, while the odds-on race favourite Tom Melbourne ($1.95) failed to make an impression running a distant 10th on the day after over-racing early.
It was a record breaking Mornington Cup result with Berisha taking out the event in 2:25.42, which was over four seconds off the previous 2400m record at the track, but once on the home turn winning hoop Moor was confident.
“To my judgment they went quite slick and we had a really good resting run back on the fence,” he said.
“They were the instructions to get the trip and he was strong and effective at that trip.”
It wasn’t only the bookies and punters taken by surprise, but Smerdon also had had pre-race concerns about Berisha’s ability to run out a strong mile and a half.
“It’s great having people in the horse like Deane Lester and Mark Hunter helping do the form,” Smerdon’s stable rep Stuart Webb said trackside on Saturday after the win.
“It was a brutally run race but it was also pointed out that the Cup hasn’t been that long standing at the distance.
“But to come out of a poor barrier, go all the way back and do that, it was outstanding.”
Originally prepared by Murray Johnston, Berisha has now had 18 starts for five wins, a second and four thirds amassing a conservative $378,725 in total prize money connections including part-owner Phil Sly.
Moor said he would fight to keep the ride on Berisha next-up, with the progressive galloper likely to attract attention from the country’s best hoops heading into the spring.
“I’ll stand outside his box with a baseball bat to keep the big boys away,” he said.
As for the post-race assessment from Tom Melbourne’s jockey Ben Melham, he said the Lee & Anthony Freedman-trained Irish import was too keen at his first look at the distance.
“He had Mujadale breathing down his neck and just ran it too solid,” Melham said.
See below for the full Mornington Cup 2016 results and stay tuned for the latest on Berisha.
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2016 Mornington Cup Results & Finishing Order
Mornington Race 9 – 02/04/2016
|1||14||BERISHA||Robert Smerdon||Daniel Moor||–||12||55kg||$26|
|2||2||BIG MEMORY (FR)||Tony McEvoy||Jamie Mott||0.1L||10||56.5kg||$11|
|3||11||LUCKY LUCKY LUCKY||Tony McEvoy||James Winks||1.85L||1||55kg||$41|
|4||1||PUCCINI (NZ)||Darren Weir||Brad Rawiller||1.95L||6||58kg||$7|
|5||7||FALAGO||Darren Weir||Harry Coffey (a)||2.95L||2||55kg||$31|
|6||10||TUSCAN FIRE||Dan O’Sullivan||Michael Dee (a)||3.05L||14||55kg||$81|
|7||5||SWACADELIC (GER)||Aaron Purcell||Declan Bates||4.8L||7||55kg||$26|
|8||12||DON DOREMO (NZ)||Robbie Laing||Ms Michelle Payne||4.9L||3||55kg||$26|
|9||6||MUJADALE||Paul A Jones||Ms Linda Meech||9.15L||9||55kg||$81|
|10||4||TOM MELBOURNE (IRE)||Lee & Anthony Freedman||Ben Melham||11.65L||4||55.5kg||$1.95F|
|11||15e||PEMBERLEY (NZ)||Ciaron Maher||Jake Noonan||13.9L||8||55kg||$9|
|12||8||TUNES||Grant Young||Steven King||16.4L||11||55kg||$41|
|13||13||DANDY GENT||Terry & Karina O’Sullivan||Dale Smith||24.4L||13||55kg||$26|
|14||3||OBSERVATIONAL (GB)||Robert Hickmott||Ms Katelyn Mallyon||26.9L||5||56kg||$8.50|
|–||17e||WALES||Richard Laming||Stephen Baster||–||0||–||–|
|–||9||ANCIENT KING (IRE)||Darren Weir||Luke Nolen||–||0||–||–|
|–||16e||NISOS||Paul Rocke||Dean Yendall||–||0||–||–|