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The weekend’s feature race favourite Big Duke has come up with barrier three as the Kris Lees-trained veteran looks to set a modern-day weight carrying record in the 2019 Caloundra Cup field.
Due to run as Race 7 at the Sunshine Coast on Saturday afternoon, this season’s Listed $175,000 Kendrick Racing Caloundra Cup (2400m) features a 15-horse field.
Heading the line-up and weights with 60.5kg is the punters’ pick, cult galloper Big Duke.
Early top fancy in Caloundra Cup betting at Ladbrokes.com.au, the rising eight-year-old son of Raven’s Pass is one of two in the race for Newcastle horseman Lees.
Lees’ European import Saunter Boy carries 55kg with Jeff Lloyd aboard from gate 11, the Australian Bloodstock-raced grey third-up down under.
Larry Cassidy will ride stablemate Big Duke for the first time in the mile-and-a-half clash, the horse out to surpass the Chris Lees-trained Index Linked (59kg in 2015) as the heaviest weighted Caloundra Cup winner in history.
Big Duke, third in the 2017 Sydney Cup and fourth behind Rekindling in that year’s Melbourne Cup when prepared by Darren Weir, is no stranger to carrying big weights.
He has given the kilos away in his latest two lead-up runs at Eagle Farm over the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival and is on a quick seven-day back-up.
On June 8 he carried 58kg when third to Sixties Groove (57kg) in the Group 2 Brisbane Cup (2400m) before the brave second with 60kg to class three-year-old Vow And Declare (54kg) in last Saturday’s Group 3 Tattersall’s Cup (3000m).
“He’s come through the run well and I expected him to get around 61kg,” Lees told Racing Victoria this week.
“He ran second in a Tancred Stakes so he deserves to get that sort of weight in a Listed race.
The Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m) second behind Avilius at Rosehill back in March was on a Heavy (9) track.
Lees believes seeing a wet course for the first time since the Tancred this weekend at the Sunshine Coast, currently rated a Heavy (9), will boost Big Duke’s chances.
“He’s crying out for a wet track as he doesn’t like it when the track is too firm,” he said.
As for Saunter Boy, Lees is also predicting a good run from the French-trained galloper who was last seen finishing 1.3 lengths back fifth behind Destiny’s Kiss in the Listed Winter Cup (2400m) at Rosehill on June 15.
“That was only his second run in Australia and he’s improved a lot and will also appreciate a wet track,” Lees said.
“At the weights there’s not much between the two of them and Saunter Boy should make a great deal of improvement.”
Looking towards the spring, Lees has ruled out another shot at the iconic Melbourne Cup for Big Duke in 2019.
“He’ll have a freshen up after this race and get ready for the early spring races in Sydney but it’s unlikely he’ll go on to the Melbourne Cup again,” he said.
“I think his Melbourne Cup days are behind him now.”
He is around $3.50 in Caloundra Cup markets for Saturday.
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