The standout performers on Victoria’s captivating Country Cups circuit will converge on Caulfield this Saturday for the inaugural $500,000 Victorian Country Cups Final (2000m).
The lucrative race is the culmination of 12 months of action across the state where Victoria’s 55 professional Country Cups have brought communities together and delivered memorable results for owners, trainers and jockeys.
The Victorian Country Cups Final, to be run at 5.05pm (AEDT), features alongside the $1.5 million Schweppes Thousand Guineas (1600m) and $1 million Neds Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) on the Spring Racing Carnival’s newest Group 1 raceday.
Headlining the 14 Country Cup winners among Saturday’s final field is reigning Sportsbet Ballarat Cup (2000m) winner Bankers Choice who carries the minimum topweight of 62kg under the race’s special handicap conditions.
Bankers Choice (trained by Mike Moroney), who beat subsequent Group 1 winner Atishu to the prize at Ballarat 12 months ago, backs up after contesting the Group 1 Champions Mile at Flemington last weekend.
The in-form partnership of Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young have qualified two runners in bet365 Benalla Gold Cup (2100m) winner Brayden Star and Ladbrokes Moe Cup (2050m) winner Suizuro who finished fourth behind his stablemate at Benalla.
At his last outing Brayden Star finished a very close second in the Group 3 Apiam Animal Health Bendigo Cup (2400m) behind Interpretation, who would go on to register a top six finish in the Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Pakenham trainer Gemma Rielly will be hoping her progressive stayer Claidheamh Mor can overcome a wide draw (16) to embellish an already strong race record with a victory in the final.
The five-year-old has finished in the top three at each of his last five starts, an impressive streak which includes wins at Sandown, Moonee Valley and in the bet365 Coleraine Cup (1800m).
He is the highest points scorer in the final field having also posted victories in the bet365 Geelong St Pats Cup (1420m) in March and a Moe Cup third placing at his most recent start.
Another horse in red-hot form is Grand Pierro, who followed up a runner-up finish at Morphettville with a tough victory in Sunday’s bet365 Ararat Gold Cup (2200m).
His trainer Jason Warren and owners Grand Syndicates are hoping the $50,000 yearling purchase can scoop the pool on Saturday and claim the $275,000 first prize cheque.
Among the hardest to beat will be Simon Zahra’s stylish Ladbrokes Sale Cup (1600m) winner Maktoob, who has drawn perfectly in barrier three, and Clayton Douglas’ last-start bet365 Kyneton Cup (2006m) winner Harmysian who sits on the limit weight of 53kg.
The field for the 2023 Victorian Country Cups Final (2000m) is as follows: