Wangaratta trainer Craig Weeding has proven repeatedly that he isn’t afraid to travel to find the right races for his horses.
Leaving home on Saturday, the Victorian trainer will make the seven-hour trip into NSW, arriving in Dubbo on Sunday, with Prince of Helena ($7.50) contesting the $100,000 Dubbo Cup and Big Day Out ($41) taking on the $50,000 Vincent Gordon Flying Handicap.
Weeding, who has won at Dubbo before when he was based in Hawkesbury, has not made the trip back to the Central Districts track since moving to Wangaratta, but he has planned out the journey and he believes both horses will handle the trip.
“I am planning on driving a whack of the way tomorrow, and hopefully we can find somewhere to stay in Parkes or Forbes, and then make the short trip to Dubbo the next day,” Weeding said.
“They both should handle it; Big Day Out, I haven’t travelled with him before, but he is very laid back.
“Prince of Helena travelled to Adelaide earlier this prep, and we did something similar both times and travelled to Bordertown and made the short trip the next day, and it seem to work, and he won and ran second in two starts.”
Jake Duffy takes the ride on Prince of Helena, which has drawn gate four, and with only 57kg on his back, Weeding was excited to see how he went in the 1600m feature race.
“I can’t think of a time when he has drawn a good gate in a good race,” Weeding laughed.
“He will settle nicely from the draw, and he won’t have to do a lot of work to be in a good position.”
The six-year-old won the Gundagai Cup and finished second in the Kerang Cup earlier this year and after a short let-up, the Sidestep gelding has raced five times this preparation, winning at Albury and Murray Bridge back in June and July.
Weeding tried to get Prince of Helena out over more ground this preparation, but he conceded that his galloper is better suited to eight and nine-furlong events.
“We stretched him out over 2000m, but I don’t think he gets it, and he is better suited to a mile and 1800m races, so we freshened him up for this, and we think he is on target to run a big race,” Weeding said.
“Everyone knows who he is, and he always runs a good race. He is a bit of a punters friend, and he is always around the mark.”
The Dubbo Cup is a qualifier for the $2 million Big Dance and $500,000 Little Dance, and Weeding admitted the dangling carrot of the rich Country Cup final was too hard to pass up.
“It is an attraction. We had the option of going to the Balaclava Cup next week with him, but the fact that this is a race that can make him eligible for the Big Dance, particularly now that we think he is a 1600 to 1800 metre horse, we thought we should give it a go,” Weeding said.
Despite being considered a $41 chance, Weeding believes Big Day Out, which will also be ridden by Duffy, looms as a big chance in the $50,000 Vincent Gordon Flying Handicap.
“I don’t understand the price, but he is actually going really well this prep,” Weeding said.
“He has had every run on a heavy track this prep, and he’s running well in good (Benchmark) 64 races in Victoria, which are really strong at this time of year.
“He takes control in his races with apprentices on board, but he won’t do that with Jake on board, as he knows him really well.
“He probably runs better on top of the ground, and he goes better with a sit, and with Jake on board and from the good draw, he should take a sit and get a good run in behind the good pace.”
The Dubbo Cup and Vincent Gordon Flying Handicap only add to what is a big day for the Dubbo Turf Club, with the eight-race-program offering some good country racing.