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Beaudesert horseman Ben Ahrens admits harbouring some concerns over the speed in Thursday’s Grafton Cup as his progressive stayer Spechenka seeks back-to-back Cup wins.
Winner of the Group 3 Summer Cup (2400m) at Randwick last December, Danachenka gelding Spechenka was back in the winner’s circle two Saturdays ago when the five-year-old scored an upset victory over Gold In Dubai in the Listed Caloundra Cup (2400m).
It was a much-improved effort from Spechenka, who had previously failed to impressive when finishing a well-beaten seventh behind Gold In Dubai in the Listed Ipswich Cup (2150m) on June 18.
“It wasn’t really a surprise or a reversal of form, it was just that he finally got back to a distance he likes and his fitness was up to the mark,” Ahrens said in regards to Spechenka’s Caloundra Cup win.
Tomorrow Spechenka is set to back up in the $150,000 Listed Grafton Cup (2350m) where they will again face off against Gold In Dubai.
With Grafton Cup odds lead by the Chris Waller-trained The Verminator ($3.70), a 2011 Melbourne Cup hopeful, Spechenka currently sits on the fifth line of betting paying $8.50.
Regular rider Ryan Wiggins will maintain his association with noted backmarker Spechenka in the Grafton Cup, the pair set to jump from the ideal barrier five draw.
Despite their last-start win and advantageous starting position, Spechenka’s success in the Grafton Cup is still questionable according to Ahrens.
“The pace of the race is my biggest concern leading into it,” he said.
“There doesn’t look like being a huge amount of pressure up front.”
In the quality 15-horse Grafton Cup field that also features the likes of the Bryan Guy-trained Premier’s Cup winner Shuffle The Cash ($4) and well-bred Victorian raider Summarise ($7), Ahrens believes it is again the Mark Riley-trained Gold In Dubai that is the genuine danger on Thursday.
“It would be good if it’s a genuine staying test but it could come down to nothing if it’s a sit and sprint,” Ahrens said.
“If it’s a true staying even then I think he’ll (Spechenka will) show further improvement from Caloundra.”
Ahrens will use Spechenka’s performance in the Grafton Cup to guide future Sydney and Melbourne Spring Racing plans, the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups to become possible targets next season if the horse gets to prove their staying potential.
“We’ve got plans down the track for the horse to hopefully go to Sydney and maybe on to Melbourne so if he’s going to do that he’d have to measure up in the Grafton Cup,” Ahrens said.
“Ideally I think 3200 (metres of the Melbourne Cup) will be a good distance for him.”
Spechenka will target the $185,000 Group 3 Newcastle Cup (2300m) on September 15 and the highly-anticipated $400,000 Group 1 The Metropolitan Handicap (2400m) at Randwick on October 1 during the Sydney Spring Racing Carnival, before their possible trip to Melbourne.
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