Orange Cup Prelude quinella has ‘Cup King’ planning conquests

Sea Of Flames won Sunday’s Orange Cup Prelude.
Image: Racing Photography.

The Country Cup king, Michael Mulholland, is ready to make a couple of audacious bids to add more silverware to his overflowing trophy cabinet. 

Racing at Orange on Sunday, Mulholland trained the quinella of the Orange Cup Prelude, with Sea Of Flames (Shayleigh Ingelse, $5) holding off stablemate Capaldi (Kath Bell-Pitomac, $21) in the 1610m Open Handicap.

The Dubbo trainer went to Orange confident Sea Of Flames was going well enough to win after a last-start fifth to Danza In The Dark in a stronger Quirindi Cup.

“We were pretty confident,” Mulholland told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“Going off the Quirindi Cup, the race at Orange was half the strength of that race, and we probably should have run second that day, but we got out a bit too late. 

“If we get out a fraction earlier, we don’t win but we run a good second.”

In an interesting Orange Cup Prelude, Ingelse raced Sea Of Flames on the pace before the Ciaron Maher-trained How’s It Kev took up the running while Capaldi raced at the rear of the field.

Sea Of Flames worked to the front on the Orange straight and was too strong to the line while flashing from last and beaten less than a half-length was Capaldi.

In third and three-quarters-of-a-length off the winner was the Connie Greig-trained Deel Street (Anna Roper, $3.70).

“The race panned out for both horses, and it was a good result,” Mulholland said. 

Sea Of Flames was four weeks between runs, but Mulholland explained it wasn’t by design.

“There was nowhere to go with these horses, and that’s the problem,” he said. 

“They get to a certain benchmark, which makes them hard to place; they are not good enough to win in town, so you’ve got to wait for the right races.”

Mulholland is now spoilt for choice and has a plan for both horses. 

With Sea Of Flames, he’s considering the Gundagai Cup (1800m) on April 7 or the Wellington Cup (1700m) on April 14 ahead of the $75,000 Orange Cup on April 19, which he is ballot exempt following Sunday’s victory.

“He has been over 2000m before I bought him, and he looks like he is looking for at least 1800m,” Mulholland said. 

“Once you get him settled, he is right, and there are options either way: we go with the Wellington Cup or Gundagai Cup, and then off to Orange.” 

Capaldi will be on the quick back-up at Mudgee on Sunday when taking on the 2000m Benchmark 66 Handicap. 

With Bell-Pitomac in the saddle, Mulholland said it’s the perfect stepping stone to the $40,000 Iron Horse (2400m) at Wellington on Friday, April 12. 

“He’s in at Mudgee over 2000m, and he’ll go from there to the Iron Horse,” Mulholland said. 

“They’ve added a bit of prize money, so it won’t be easy, but if we can ride him right with a bit of cover, he has a good turn of foot and should go good in a race like that.”

Mulholland is in for a busy day at Mudgee, with a team of five engaged, while he also has runners nominated for the Moree meeting on Tuesday.