A trio of past winners head the race for Country Cups glory at Casterton

A field of familiar faces will line up in the $50,000 Foodworks Casterton Cup (2000m) this Sunday, 19 May hoping for an opportunity to gain valuable points in the 2023-24 Victorian Country Cups Series.

The Victorian Country Cups Series culminates in a $500,000 final at Caulfield on Saturday, 16 November. Points are accumulated through Victoria’s Country Cups across the season, with the top 16 points getters qualifying for the rich final.

Past winners Bold Bourbon (2023), Brawl (2022) and Farooq (2021) are all back for a shot at a second Casterton Cup, where their opposition includes two horses that have already tasted Country Cup success in 2024 – Khoekhoe and Thunder Point.

Bold Bourbon, prepared by Warrnambool trainer Lindsey Smith, will appreciate the drop in grade and distance from the Listed Sungold Warrnambool Cup (2350m) where he finished unplaced at his most recent start.

Jockey Jarrod Fry takes the ride aboard the five-year-old from last year’s Casterton Cup winner Dean Yendall who will partner Thunder Point for Symon Wilde.

Yendall, who has racked up 40 wins on the Victorian country circuit this season, will be looking to claim his fourth Casterton Cup, 15 years on from winning his first.

The veteran was aboard Thunder Point when victorious in the Emmetts Warracknabeal Cup (1600m) in March and victory on Sunday would see the six-year-old leap to sixth place on the Country Cups Series leaderboard.

Yendall can expect to face some tough competition though, including from his wife, fellow jockey Christine Puls, who would also like to add another Casterton Cup to her CV after taking out the 2022 edition with Brawl (Paul Preusker).

This year, Puls partners Hasta La Fiorente for South Australia’s Sue Murphy, the sole trainer with multiple runners in the starting lineup of 12.

Murphy’s fellow warrior, Farooq, lines up in his third Casterton Cup after finishing second last year, with his jockey Linda Meech also searching for her second victory after taking home the prize in 2016.

Fellow South Australian trainer Travis Doudle’s Prince Jofra, the topweight with 60.5kg, looms large off the back of strong autumn form including a home state win in the Penola Cup (1700m) two starts back.

Among those out to spoil the visitor’s party will be Khoekhoe (Matt Cumani) who currently sits 18th on the Country Cups Series leaderboard, after claiming the Sungold Milk Terang Cup (2156m) on 14 April.

Fresh off his hurdle and steeplechase wins at the Warrnambool May Carnival, versatile jockey Will Gordon takes the ride from the inside draw.

Also drawn low is Equine Philosopher (Jarrod Robinson) who has also made his way onto the Country Cups Series leaderboard after finishing second in the Clubarham Kerang Cup (1800m) on 30 March. Budding third-year apprentice Rose Hammond will pilot the six-year-old.

Hoping to keep the Casterton Cup in the Western Districts after missing victory in 2022 is trainer Tom Dabernig who saddles up Picaroon with jockey Tom Madden aboard. Madden is also no stranger to the course having finished third in last year’s Cup on Loyal Consul for Jane Baker.

Fellow Western District trainer Maddie Raymond also has her eyes on the prize with Heart of Puissance. The seven-year-old will need some luck from barrier 14 but jockey Brad Rawiller, who recently surpassed 3000 career wins, could be just the man to make it happen.

John Allen, a 19-time Group 1-winning jockey, is set for a busy weekend riding in the Listed Lexus Andrew Ramsden Stakes (2800m) at Flemington Saturday, before backing up on Sunday to partner Teewaters for Archie Alexander.

Rounding out the field of 12, who are set to jump on at 4.35pm (AET) on Sunday, will be veteran The Good Fight (Rachael Cunningham), with four emergencies waiting in the wings should an opportunity present.

Points for the Victorian Country Cups Series 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.

The next opportunity to score points in the Victorian Country Cup Series will be on Sunday, 9 June with both the Apsley Cup and the bet365 Swan Hill Cup.

Click here for the 2023-24 Victorian Country Cups Series leaderboard as of 16 May 2024.