A capacity field of Stradbroke Handicap hopefuls...
Seven of the dozen stayers in Wednesday’s Geelong Cup 2017 field are hoping to win and earn a Melbourne Cup spot including the improving Robert Smerdon-trained Berisha.
Smerdon believes Berisha is nearing peak fitness ahead of the Group 3 $300,000 Geelong Cup (2400m) that is an important Melbourne Cup qualifying race.
The six-year-old Al Samer gelding has been on the steady improve since returning from a tendon injury.
Last time out Berisha put the writing on the wall with a second behind the Charlie Appleby-trained Godolphin raider Folkswood in the Listed Cranbourne Cup (2025m) on October 15.
This Saturday Folkswood, with Kerrin McEvoy retaining the ride, takes on super star mare Winx in the 2017 Ladbrokes Cox Plate.
Berisha meanwhile steps-up to a mile-and-a-half for the Geelong Cup, looking to earn a possible start in November’s Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Smerdon has been pleased with the work of his resurgent stayer since the eye-catching Cranbourne Cup performance rating him a genuine chance on Wednesday.
“It’s been well documented that he’s coming off a tendon injury and it has taken some racing to get him back to peak fitness for a horse that gets over ground,” Smerdon told Racing Victoria.
“We’ve been very cautious with him and I think the Cranbourne performance was a reflection of the fitness that he’s gained from those lead-up runs.
“I think he’s taken further benefit from that run, which he’d need to going up to 2400m and he’s poised to get back to his best form.”
The Geelong Cup has produced some very nice types for the famous Flemington two mile classic on the first Tuesday of November over the years including French-trained gallopers Dunaden (2011) and American (2010) doing the double.
Berisha is currently a $201 outsider in all-in Melbourne Cup odds, but can be found at single-figures in Geelong Cup betting at Ladbrokes.com.au for Saturday.
Markets for the midweek feature are led by the Darren Weir-trained Gallic Chieftain ($3.20) coming off a third in the Group 2 Ladbrokes Herbert Power Stakes (2400m), which produced last weekend’s upset Caulfield Cup winner Boom Time (4th).
Berisha has regular rider Ryan Moloney in the saddle again, but the outside barrier (12 of 12) to overcome.
The horse’s only other run over the Geelong Cup distance (2400m) produced a narrow victory over Big Memory in the Listed Mornington Cup (2400m) in April of 2016 where Berisha also jumped from barrier 12 (of 14).
Smerdon knows the Melbourne Cup is an age away, but said Berisha was still officially in the mix for a shot at the ‘race that stops a nation’.
“We made the most recent pay-up so I guess it’s a possibility but he’d have to step up from where he is at the moment,” he said.
To back Berisha in the Geelong Cup 2017 this week and for access to the best all-in Melbourne Cup odds online head to Ladbrokes.com.au.
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