Victorian Country Cup Series Rolls on at the 'Bool'

The 2023-24 Victorian Country Cups Series continues at Warrnambool tomorrow (Thursday, 2 May) with coveted points up for grabs in the Listed $300,000 Sungold Milk Warrnambool Cup (2350m).

First run in 1873, the May Racing Carnival’s headline flat race has attracted multiple Country Cup winners and strong representation from local trainers including Lindsey Smith, Maddie Raymond, Shane Jackson and Matt Williams.

Striving to go back-to-back and keep the cup on home soil is 2023 winner Rolls (Raymond) who will again be partnered by last year’s victorious jockey Harry Grace (pictured).

The duo, who will jump from barrier one, bounced back into the winners’ circle at Warrnambool yesterday winning the 1700m handicap – a race they finished second in 12 months ago en route to their Cup triumph. As a result of yesterday’s victory, the seven-year-old gelding will now carry 56 kgs after receiving a 1.5kg penalty today. 

Parked next door in barrier two is the early favourite Little Mix who will be aiming to go one better than her second in the Sportsbet Mornington Cup (2400m) on 20 April where she gained her first two points in the Country Cups Series.

To be ridden by gun jockey Blake Shinn, Little Mix is one of two runners for trainer Annabel Neasham who is chasing her first Warrnambool Cup, with the other being former French galloper Hopeful.

Two local runners currently in the Top 10 in the Country Cup Series, Glitter ‘N’ Gold (4th- 11 points) and Mystery Island (6th – 7 points), feature among their opposition and can all but secure a start in the Country Cup Final at Caulfield in November with another forward showing.

Indeed, a win for Smith’s Glitter ‘N’ Gold would see her jump straight to the top of the leaderboard. The five-year-old mare, one of three entrants for the stable, arrives off a third placing in the Terang Sungold Milk Cup (2156m) at her most recent start.  Prior to that she had won both the Australian Lamb Company Colac Gold Cup (2000m) and bet365 Penshurst Cup (2000m) this season.

It would be the first time since 2012 that a mare has won the Warrnambool Cup if Glitter ‘N’ Gold, Little Mix or the Williams-trained Mi Rock Aly are successful.

Mystery Island, who will again be partnered by Harry Coffey for trainer Shane Jackson, has gained valuable points in the series by taking out the Mac’s Hotel Woodford Cup (1700m) and finishing second in the Australian Lamb Company Colac Gold Cup (2000m.) However, the Japanese-bred galloper will need to improve on his recent unplaced effort in the Sportsbet Mornington Cup.

Internationally renowned jockey Nash Rawiller returns to the ‘Bool’ to ride for Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young, whose sole entrant in the Cup, Suizuro, currently sits in 14th place on five points after winning the Jack Hirsch Memorial Yarra Valley Cup (1968m) on 17 March.

Jockey of the moment Declan Bates, who won the 2020 Warrnambool Cup, is booked to partner Fengarada for John Leek Jnr, while the 2018 and 2019 winning jockey, John Allen, will jump aboard USA-bred Cadre Du Noir for Warrnambool’s most coveted export, Ciaron Maher.

Maher, who yesterday surpassed Jim Houlahan’s record of 14 feature wins at the May Racing Carnival, is yet to win a Warrnambool Cup and his sole entrant will need luck to deliver a maiden trophy from barrier 19 despite dropping in class.

Adding an interesting narrative to the Cup will be the battle between husband-and-wife jockeys Dean Yendall and Christine Puls. Puls rides Kiwi-bred The Good Fight (Rachael Cunningham) while Yendall, who won the race in 2016, will pilot 2023 bet365 Hamilton Cup winner Win ‘O’ Clock for Williams.

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.

The next opportunity to gain points following the Warrnambool Cup, will be the Foodworks Casterton Cup (2000m) on Sunday, 19 May, before the Apsley Cup (2000m) and the bet365 Swan Hill Cup (1600m) are both run on Sunday, 9 June.

Click here for the 2023-24 Victorian Country Cups Series leaderboard as of 1 May 2024.