Keagan Latham stars with Orange Cup victory and winning treble

Keagan Latham and the Richard and Will Freedman-trained Piraeus won Friday’s $75,000 Orange Cup.
Image: Racing Photography.

Keagan Latham’s class shone through in Friday’s $75,000 Orange Cup, as he won the Big Dance qualifier on the Richard and Will Freedman-trained Piraeus. 

There was drama prior to the start, with the Michael Mulholland-trained Athena’s Lad a late scratching.

Then, after the gates crashed back, the Danny Williams-trained Marsabit was a surprise early leader for jockey Quayde Krogh. 

There was good tempo in the race – more than most punters expected – meaning Latham was able to have Piraeus travelling a touch worse than midfield for most of the 2110m event. 

A handful of horses made their runs, turning for home, but Latham bided his time before presenting the four-year-old on the home straight.

The Merchant Navy gelding then sprouted wings and cruised past his rivals to comfortably win from the Roy McCabe-trained Our Orator (William Stanley, $9), which was three-quarters-of-a-length away, while Marsabit ($9) held on gamely for third, only beaten a length. 

Punters found the winner, backing him from $2.50 into $1.75, and Latham explained that the race worked out where it suited the Sydney galloper down to the ground.

“His form suggested he enjoys kind of running at them a little bit, so with their being good genuine speed in the race, I just opted to sit behind the horse that I thought was the horse to beat in Vincenzo,” Latham said. 

“In fairness to Vincenzo, he kind of dropped me at the top of the straight, and he’s the kind of horse that looks after himself, but once I got the ball rolling and threw the kitchen sink at him, he (Piraeus) picked up and won nicely.”

On paper, it appeared that this year’s Orange Cup would be, at best, run at a moderate tempo, and Latham touched on how the feature race played out after Marsabit took up the running.

“It happens so often when there’s no tempo on paper, all of a sudden, three or four people want to take it up,” Latham laughed. 

“So it worked out perfectly for me that they went out at a good, honest tempo, and he’s a horse that’s come here at his top.

“He’s been pretty consistent this prep bar his last run, and he’s off to the Big Dance now.”

While Piraeus is now eligible for the $3 million Big Dance, Our Orator also qualified for the $750,000 Little Dance, which will be a massive thrill for Bathurst trainer Roy McCabe.

On an entertaining day at Orange, the Brad Widdup-trained Akaka Falls (Zac Wadick, $5) won the $35,000 Orange Sprint (1010m), defeating the Danielle Seib-trained Smokeshow (Ash Morgan, $7) in second and the Alison Smith-trained Brief Statement (Grant Buckley, $3.40) in third.

Sydney visitor Bjorn Baker won the $50,000 Super Maiden Handicap (1010m) with Joey D’Or (Ash Morgan, $1.26) cruising to an easy two-lengths win. 

Latham landed a treble at Orange and, earlier on the card, combined with Rob Potter to win the $40,000 Country Boosted Maiden Plate (1290) on Snippety Star ($1.65).

In the final race of the program, he won the 1310 m Benchmark 66 Handicap on the Ciaron Maher-trained Up To Mischief ($1.90).