Mornington offers a pathway to multiple Spring features

The Sportsbet Mornington Cup (2400m) has more than a lucrative $300,000 prize pool at stake for the connections of the 13 acceptors this Saturday (20 April).

The winner not only walks away with a guaranteed start in October’s $5 million Caulfield Cup (2400m), but also a chance to secure the $1 million prize offered by Sportsbet if they can go on to secure the Cups double later in the year.

Additionally, Saturday’s Listed race carries valuable qualifying points for the 2023-24 Victorian Country Cups Series.

The first three horses home in each of Victoria’s 55 professional Country Cups are awarded points on a 5-2-1 basis with the top 16 points getters to a secure a start in the Victorian Country Cups Final at Caulfield in November.

Two runners currently in the top 10 in the Country Cup Series, Mystery Island (6th – 7 points) and Captain Envious (equal 9th – 5 points), will be looking to all but secure their start in the final with a second Country Cup win of the season this weekend.

Mystery Island, who will be partnered by Harry Coffey for trainer Shane Jackson, took out the Mac’s Hotel Woodford Cup (1700m), while the Paul Preusker trained Captain Envious was victorious in December’s Sportsbet Ballarat Cup (2000m).

Captain Envious, the equal topweight in the Mornington Cup with 60kg, finished third in the inaugural Victorian Country Cups Final last November.

The five-year-old gelding heads to Mornington fresh off winning the Group 3 Tobin Brothers Celebrating Lives Easter Cup (2000m) at Caulfield on 6 April and will again be ridden by in-form jockey Thomas Stockdale. 

After a blistering weekend interstate winning both the Sydney Cup and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Victoria’s leading trainer Ciaron Maher is hoping his hot streak continues with three hopefuls lining up in Saturday’s feature race at 4pm (AET).

Maher, who is chasing back-to-back victories in the Mornington Cup after Right You Are was victorious in 2023, has Strawberry Rock, United Nations and Future History entered with all set to relish the 2400m journey.

Irish import Strawberry Rock, a last start narrow second in the Listed Roy Higgins (2600m) at Flemington, will be partnered by jockey Declan Bates fresh off his dominant performance with Pride of Jenni in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Annabel Neasham will be looking to secure the Mornington Cup with three entrants in the race, while a win for Mark and Levi Kavanagh’s First Immortal would take its prize earnings to over $800,000 and see it shorten dramatically in early Caulfield Cup markets.

Group 2 winners Deny Knowledge (Michael Kent) and Nereus (Shaune Ritchie and Colm Murray) are also among the many winning chances in an open race.
The dashing Deny Knowledge, the highest-rated runner in the race, is sure to prominent throughout from barrier two with Blaike McDougall on board, while New Zealand visitor Nereus will be chasing his fifth win in six starts. 

Beyond the Mornington Cup, there are 24 Country Cups to be run over the ensuing seven months of qualifying for the 2024 final with the next opportunities to gain points coming in the Warrnambool Cup (2350m) on Thursday, 2 May and then the Foodworks Casterton Cup (2000m) on Sunday, 19 May. 

Click here for the 2023-24 Victorian Country Cups Series leaderboard as of 18 April 2024.