By Gus Underwood
Leading Victorian trainer Emma Stewart will be chasing her first Jim Phillips Memorial Cobram Pacing Cup on Sunday.
And she has the horse to beat in the $30,000 2678m marathon.
Stewart will be represented by the brilliant Major Secret who is coming off a runaway win in the recent $50,000 Hobart Tasmania Cup.
Despite drawing the outside of the back row she still looks the testing material in what should be another memorable cup showdown.
Shepparton reinsman Mark Pitt has the drive on the five-year-old who has won 22 of his 50 starts with 14 minor placings.
Despite being staged the day after the Bendigo Cup meeting, Cobram officials are delighted at the response from trainers for the meeting with 10 or more horses to line-up in all nine events, with northern Victorian trainers strongly represented in the cup.
Shepparton mentor Clive Dalton will make a two-pronged attack on the cup with Hugh Victor and John Of Arc and he also has the emergency Michael Joseph sweating on a scratching.
Hugh Victor, to be driven by Greg Sugars, has drawn barrier five while John Of Arc who will have the services of Nathan Jack will come barrier 11, four off the second row.
Another Shepparton trainer Steve O’Donoghue is chasing cup glory with consistent mare Shakahari, which has drawn barrier three for driver Bec Bartley while Avenel’s David Aiken has drawn the pole with Im The Boss, with Kima Frenning in the sulky.
Successful Sydney trainer Craig Cross is also seeking the cup with the well performed Epaulette who comes from barrier two off the second row and will have the services of leading NSW reinsman Luke McCarthy in the sulky.
While many of his 18 career wins have been over the 1609m (mile) trip at Menangle, Epaulette, who started his career in the David Aiken stable, has won up to 2647m, just 31m short of Sunday’s 2678m marathon.
Bonny mare Milly Perez, now in the Michael Stanley stables at Burrumbeet, has drawn immediately inside Major Secret and also looks a major player over his trip.
It is the first time Stanley has had a runner in the cup and she is coming off a win in the time honoured George Johnson mares classic at Hobart on December 22.
The Central Murray Credit Union Group 3 $20,000 Cobram Trotters Cup has also drawn a top field headed by Shepparton trained pocket rocket Sky Petite, to be driven by Anthony Butt from a 20m handicap.
But it’s far from a one-horse race with other well performed trotters in Fabrication for Tatura north trainer David Abrahams, 30m backmarker The Boss Man, Clover Mac and Heavenly Sister engaged as well as the NSW visitor Quillabamba for Blake Fitzpatrick who specialises in training squaregaiters.
The other feature on the card, the $10,000 Murray Valley Locksmiths Vicbred Platinum Mares Championship, has drawn an even field with only one of the runners, the Brian Gath trained and driven Wilma, scoring a win in her last four starts.
But she is having her first start since June.
The meeting has a late start, with the first race at 2.51pm and the final event at 7.29pm.