Big Duke connections line up second shot at Sydney Cup

AUSTRALIAN Bloodstock think it’s unfair to re-open entries for the rescheduled Sydney Cup (3200 metres) on Saturday but they do not believe it will stop their favourite, Big Duke, from winning the $2 million race at Randwick.

STRONG: Craig Williams takes Big Duke to victory in the Chairman's Handicap at Randwick on April 1. Pictures: bradleyphotos.com.au

STRONG: Craig Williams takes Big Duke to victory in the Chairman's Handicap at Randwick on April 1. Pictures: bradleyphotos.com.au

Big Duke was favourite for the April 8 Sydney Cup, which was abandoned mid-race after Almoonqith broke down and his jockey, James Doyle, was left injured on the track just past the winning post the first time around. Blake Shinn also fell from his mount, Who Shot Thebarman, and Racing NSW stewards declared a no-race because of safety concerns. Half the jockeys did not hear the call and continued.

The group 1 was rescheduled and Racing NSW allowed new entries, which led to nominations growing to 16 with the addition of Boom Time, Harlem, Lasqueti Spirit, Rock On and Self Sense for the 14-horse event.

The Darren Weir-trained Big Duke, which is half-owned by Hunter-based Australian Bloodstock and their clients, was the $3.50 TAB Fixed Odds favourite on Monday for the second edition of the Cup.

Australian Bloodstock director Luke Murrell believed the decision to allow new entries was “not just unfair for us but for all who paid up the first time”. Nominations were not re-opened for the Provincial Championships qualifier moved from Gosford to Rosehill last month. 

“I certainly don’t think it’s fair,” Murrell said. “I really think it’s an unusual precedent, but our horse has certainly come on since the half a run it had, so I don’t think we will have too many excuses.

“The only thing is he’s been up and in work for a long time, but he’s a very tough horse, so fingers crossed.”

Murrell was thankful the five-year-old gelding, aiming for a fourth consecutive win, had come through the first Sydney Cup run uninjured. Big Duke was racing just outside Almoonqith when he was injured and “was lucky not to go down” as well.

“Ours was outside the one that ended up breaking down and we got a knock,” Murrell said. “It took a shoe off but nothing too serious thankfully.

“[Jockey] Craig [Williams] got off and said he thought we would have won easily with what he had underneath him, and he’s put on a bit of weight since going back to Melbourne, so that’s good.”

Williams was suspended at Sandown on Monday and will miss the Cup ride. 

Meanwhile, Newcastle trainer Kris Lees went to 98 winners for the season with victories from Beretta at Canterbury and Fleeteor at Tamworth on Monday.

Australian Bloodstock own Fleeteor and also New Zealand three-year-old Mongolian Wolf, which won the group 3 Frank Packer Plate at Randwick on Saturday on debut in Australia. 

Murrell said Mongolian Wolf would now target the Queensland Derby.

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