Cliff House puts Wagga Cup rivals on notice after dominant Gundagai Cup win

The 2024 Gundagai Cup went to Tim Donnelly (far left) after Danny Beasley rode Cliff House to victory in the $36,000 feature at Wagga on Monday. Image: Trackpix Photography.

Leading into next month’s $200,000 Wagga Wagga Gold Cup, hometown trainer Tim Donnelly will dare to dream with the ever-improving Cliff House. 

A seven-time winner from just 14 starts, the five-year-old was coming off an impressive win in last month’s $50,000 Albury Mile. 

On his home track, Cliff House put in his best run to date when winning the transferred $36,000 Gundagai Cup. 

With champion hoop Danny Beasley in the saddle, it was a one-act affair as the Starcraft gelding cruised around the field and ran away for a four-and-a-half-length win. The Keith Dryden-trained Offspring (Quayde Krogh, $6.50) finished second, and the Norm Gardner-trained Cyborg (Damon Budler, $26) ran third.

Donnelly was pleased to see Cliff House showcase a remarkable turn of speed when it mattered most.

“It’s something new for him, that turn of foot, and it’d be even better if he can extend it to 2000m,” Donnelly said. 

“Obviously, it is going to be a huge jump in class in the Wagga Cup, but the local horse always runs well, and there’s no reason why he won’t.”

The Gundagai Cup was meant to be run and won at Gundagai on Sunday, but following the recent wet weather, Racing NSW stewards transferred the meeting to the Wagga Riverside course.

Despite the last-minute change of date and location, Donnelly was never overly concerned. 

“I thought the way the races are won at Gundagai probably wouldn’t have worried him; we would have ridden him similar to today, with good pace on, and come around them,” Donnelly said. 

“They weren’t making up a heap of ground today, and I said to Dan, ‘Don’t worry about riding him pretty; just be within striking distance on the turn; I don’t care if he is deep; just give him plenty of room’.”

A ‘cheap buy’ as an unraced maiden, picked out by Tim’s son, Alex Donnelly, the Wagga galloper has since won just shy of $190,000.

“Alex found him for me. He was in the Inglis Digital Sale, and the night before the sale, he rang me up and said you should buy this horse; it will win a race at Wagga,” Donnelly laughed. 

“So, we got him for $7000, and I’ve got some wonderful friends in him, people I have been friends with all my life.”

With next month’s Wagga Wagga Gold Cup a qualifier for the $3 million Big Dance, Cliff House will face some very handy metropolitan and provincial class horses in what is annually one of the strongest Country Cups in NSW.

Readers should keep an eye out for more of NSW Country and Picnic Racing’s coverage of the Gundagai Cup meeting in the coming days.