Pink Panther eyes Braidwood Cup ahead of Darwin expedition

Ruby Scott will ride the Joe Cleary-trained Pink Panther in Saturday’s Braidwood Cup. Image: Lance Fearne.

Joe Cleary hopes Pink Panther can keep up his winning ways in Saturday’s $22,000 Braidwood Cup (1350m). 

The five-year-old has been in career-best form this preparation, winning his past two races. 

Following a first-up third placing on his home track, Queanbeyan, on December 4, he won back-to-back races at the same place, taking out a 1460m Benchmark 50 Handicap on December 26 and a 1600m Benchmark 58 Handicap on January 6. 

The Real Impact gelding will be five weeks between runs heading to Braidwood, but Cleary thinks the 1350m trip will suit him right down to the ground. 

“He had a bit of a setback after his last run with a foot abscess,” Cleary said.

“He was meant to race at the last Queanbeyan meeting but had four to five days in the paddock, so he’s back on fresh legs. 

“With Braidwood an hour down the road, we thought we’d give him a go there, and we’ve had some luck in the Braidwood Cup, winning it with Hard Core (in 2022).”

Apprentice Ruby Scott remains in the saddle for the two-kilogram claim, and Cleary believes the pair can utilise the outside draw (gate 8) to their advantage. 

“I think he’s absolutely a big chance,” he said. 

“I am actually glad he has drawn the outside barrier, and it means Ruby won’t have to press the button too early.

“They should be able to roll across, and he can find the front at his pleasure, and with no weight (54.5kg), they’ll be pouring the pressure on from the 450-500m. 

“It’s a little tight turning track, not too dissimilar to Queanbeyan, and he’s done a great job to win five, and hopefully, he can go out with a bang before he’s off to Darwin.”

Pink Panther will only have two more starts for the stable before he joins the Gary Clarke stable in Darwin. 

“He’ll have this run, then he’ll step back up to an open 1600m at the Sapphire Coast on the 19th (of February) before he is off to Darwin,” Cleary confirmed. 

“I spoke to Gary Clarke in Darwin, and we think this horse will be perfectly suited over there. 

He’s a bit one-dimensional, and he goes to the front in most races and plugs along for 1600-1800m, and that track will suit him. 

“The syndicate will remain the same, and my wife has a share in him, and we’ll cheer him on from over here.”

The Braidwood program looks good on paper, with the six-race non-TAB meeting bringing together a good mix of South East trainers and jockeys.

Cleary has four runners engaged, and he’s looking forward to attending the meeting.

“It will be a good day at Braidwood, it always is,” he said. 

In the lead-up to Braidwood’s big day, they have the Braidwood Cup Calcutta at Braidwood Servicemen’s Club from 6 pm tonight. 

Another feature of the Braidwood meeting is their superb fashions on the field competition. 

It will be no different tomorrow, with a massive 14 categories to be won, and it will be no surprise if the stage draws a bigger crowd than the races.

For more on the day, click here