Victoria's Country Cup Series rolls on with multiple Cups this weekend

Top spot on the 2023-24 Victorian Country Cups Series leaderboard is up for grabs this weekend with Sportsbet-Pakenham, bet365 Geelong and bet365 Yarra Valley set to host their features.

The $300,000 Sportsbet Pakenham Cup (2500m) has attracted a has strong lineup in its new timeslot this evening, including both Glitter ‘N’ Gold (Lindsey Smith) and Mystery Island (Shane Jackson) who currently sit third and fourth on the leaderboard respectively.

A win for Smith’s five-year-old mare (pictured) would see her jump to the series lead with 10 points already in the bank thanks to convincing wins in the Australian Lamb Company Colac Gold Cup (2000m) in February and the bet365 Penshurst Cup (2000m) last November.

Attempting to stop his rival will be Jackson’s seven-year-old Japanese-bred gelding, with in-form jockey Harry Coffey taking the ride aboard this season’s Mac’s Hotel Woodford Cup (1700m) winner who has seven points in the series to date.

After narrow defeats at his last two starts in the Colac Gold Cup and PKF Torney Night Cup (2500m) at The Valley, connections will be hoping Mystery Island can go one better tonight in what will be an exciting race at 9.15pm (AEDT).

Both runners will be attempting to overcome Group 1 2023 South Australian Derby (2500m) winner Dunkel (Billy Egan for Patrick Payne), who is the warm favourite in the Listed feature after recent wins at Caulfield and The Valley.

The action then rolls on tomorrow to Geelong for the bet365 Geelong St Pat’s Cup (1412m) where just under half the field is made up of budding apprentices, including Danica Munro, who will be hoping her mount New York Hurricane can continue trainer Liam Howley’s impressive start to the Country Cups Series.

The Geelong St Pat’s Cup was the race that Claidheamh Mor won en route to delivering trainer Gemma Rielly a career highlight when winning the inaugural $500,000 Country Cups Series Final (2000m) at Caulfield last November.

The Country Cups action concludes for the weekend at Yarra Valley with the $125,000 Jack Hirsch Memorial Yarra Valley Cup (1968m), where connections will be hoping “the luck of the Irish” follows their horse on St Patrick’s Day (Sunday, 17 March).

Station One, the in-form stablemate of New York Hurricane, is hot on the heels of current series leader Mister Me (13 points), however, with the latter not set to participate this weekend, the race for top spot is on.  

The tough five-year-old gelding, also ridden by Munro, will be hoping to return to his best after a below-par result in the Winsec Savings and Loans Wangaratta Cup (2000m) last start.

Prior to this, Station One had put forward impressive performances earning 12 points with victories in the bet365 Traralgon Cup (1900m) and the William Thomson Dunkeld Cup (1800m), as well as third placings in the Mac’s Hotel Woodford Cup and the Seppelt Great Western Cup (1950m).

Fresh off his impressive win in the Winsec Savings and Loans Wangaratta Cup, Toogoodfortoorak is primed to gain further points in the Country Cup Series at Yarra Valley after drawing barrier one. A win would see Matt Laurie’s six-year-old well placed to secure a start in the 2024 Country Cups Series Final.  

Beyond the three qualifiers this weekend, Country Cups are scheduled at Bairnsdale, Kerang, Warracknabeal and Stawell throughout the remainder of March.

As well as the spoils on offer in each race, horses are competing for points to secure a start in the lucrative 2024 Victorian Country Cups Final to be held in November during the Spring Racing Carnival.

Points are awarded on a 5-2-1 basis for the first three horses home in each of Victoria’s professional Country Cups. In the event of any dead heats for first, second or third, each dead-heater shall receive 5 points, 2 points and 1 point respectively.

Click here for the 2023-24 Victorian Country Cups Series leaderboard as of 14 March 2024.