Rob Heathcote’s special little filly Startantes...
Already a clear favourite to win the two mile feature of the autumn carnival, the Darren Weir-trained Big Duke now dominates 2017 Sydney Cup betting after a huge Royal Randwick win over the weekend.
The Raven’s Pass gelding charged home on a Heavy (8) track on Day 1 of ‘The Championships’ carrying the 58kg top weight for a smart two length victory in the Group 2 Chairman’s Handicap (2600m).
That was the third official win on the trot for Big Duke following success in the Launceston Cup in Tasmania and his protest success in the Group 3 NE Manion Cup (2400m) at Rosehill on Golden Slipper Day.
It is now all systems go into this weekend’s $2 million Group 1 Schweppes Sydney Cup (3200m) where the stayer will step out over the extra distance for the first time.
The ease in which he won the Chairman’s Handicap has the bookies convinced Big Duke will see out the two miles without a worry on Saturday.
Helping out further is the notable weight relief Big Duke will enjoy for his Sydney Cup bid as he looks to complete the double last achieved by The Offer (2014).
With so much working in favour of the favourite, he has firmed in pre-field Sydney Cup betting and now pays $2.80 through Ladbrokes.com.au to break Victorian trainer Weir’s Group 1 drought in New South Wales.
Connections also have the $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on the first Tuesday of November firmly in their sights for Big Duke this coming spring.
“He’s won a Group 2 race at that trip, so he’ll make the [Melbourne Cup] field now,” Australia Bloodstock director Jamie Lovett told the Newcastle Herald on Sunday.
“He’ll get 53 kilos or something and that will get him in. It’s a long way to go, but that’s the long-range plan.”
Occupying the second line of the all-in Sydney Cup odds ahead of final acceptances for the classic on Tuesday morning is Assign ($6.50) for last year’s winning trainer Robert Hickmott.
The Lloyd Williams-raced stayer is also a last start winner having won the Group 3 Neville Sellwood Stakes (2000m) back in late March.
He comes up notably in distance for the weekend, but has winning form up to a mile and a half having taken out last October’s Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) in Melbourne.
Hickmott chases his third Sydney Cup trophy having prepared Mourayan for his upset win in 2013 as well as the reigning champ Gallante last autumn.
The other early favourites to take out the Sydney Cup title in 2017 are the Chris Waller-trained Who Shot Thebarman ($8) and Godolphin-raced English raider Penglai Pavilion ($9).
Veteran eight-year-old Who Shot Thebarman has been up over 3200m seven times before for a win in the 2014 Auckland Cup and two other placings down under including a third in that year’s Melbourne Cup trifecta.
Waller’s evergreen galloper has contested the Sydney Cup for the past three years running ninth in 2014, second to stablemate Grand Marshal in 2015 and fourth to Gallante last season.
Charlie Appleby prepares Penglai Pavilion who is out to steal the Cup from the locals, the UK-trained Monsun gelding boasting winning form in Europe up to 4220m.
The Sydney Cup 2017 final acceptances close at 9:00am (AEDT) on Tuesday making now the time to back your tips online at Ladbrokes.com.au before markets firm.
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