Texas raider finds a happy hunting ground

Outside barrier: Armidale Cup Prelude winner Elegies, trained by Rod Hilton, has a great affinity with the New England-based track.
Outside barrier: Armidale Cup Prelude winner Elegies, trained by Rod Hilton, has a great affinity with the New England-based track.

Under the right conditions the horse that won the Armidale Cup Prelude at the Guyra meeting recently, would be very hard to beat in Monday’s Armidale Cup.

However, Elegies trainer Rod Hilton said the gelding would have a tough time after having drawn the outside barrier.

“Elegies loves the track at Armidale and loves the distance but he’s starting from the outside at 16,” Hilton said.

In the Armidale Cup Prelude at the Guyra meeting, the seven-year-old gelding had a pretty good run.

“He drew a nice alley and got the box seat just behind the pack, which he really likes, before he made a break at the turn,” Hilton said.

“He is not going to get the same run on Monday and he’s going to have some pretty strong competition.”

Hilton, who’s based at Texas, Queensland, would consider scratching Elegies if there’s heavy rain over the weekend.

“The track’s a soft five at the moment, which is perfect,” he said.

“But rain is forecast and Elegies doesn’t like a wet track.”

Ben Looker – who rode Elegies at his last two wins at Armidale – will be on board again.

“Benny rode him the last two times there and he’s one of the top riders in northern NSW,” Hilton said. “He knows the horse well.”

Armidale-based trainer Stirling Osland has six starters for Monday and hopes he might have a home-track advantage.

“It’s our home track, so we try to have a few starters,” he said.

The four-year-old mare Zarabeel drew barrier one for the 1900m Armidale Servies Class 3 handicap and was in pretty good form.

“She has won two of her last three outings and was third here in Armidale last start,” Osland said.

He has two entries in the race one, the Coventry Family Thunderbolt two-year-old handicap.

“They’re both young but trialled here in Armidale on Guyra Cup day, getting first and third,” Osland said.

“First Family is the better of them at the moment, trialling just a touch better than It’s Relative.”

Osland is also concerned about the possibility of a wet track.

“Very soft tracks and two year olds don’t mix – it can be hard for them to handle,” he said.

Closely Related, who’s entered in the 1400m Maiden plate, should be “in the market”, Osland said. “She’s been pretty consistent lately, but just can’t seem to win one.

“Prada Miss has been running well too, she just needs a bit of luck.”

A potentially wet track won’t worry last year’s cup winner Hunter Jack, who trainer Tim Martin described as a “mud runner”.

“He is in good form at the moment,” Martin said.

“The only concern is the weight – he will be carrying a fair bit more than he ever has before.”

Hunter Jack is chasing a seventh win in the Cup for Martin, but has to shoulder the burden of 62.5kg despite the 1.5kg claim of apprentice jockey Molly Partridge.

The Cup will be run at 4.40pm.