All roads lead to Birchip on Sunday for the Buloke Shire’s community event of the year and the running of the 2018 Sharps Bakery Mallee Bull Pacing Cup.
The cup has drawn together a very even field of nine runners and looks an awfully tough assignment for punters looking to find the winner.
However, there’s no doubt that the crowd favourite will be the locally-owned and trained 8yo gelding Waterboy, which led all the way to score in a C1 contest at the corresponding meeting last year.
Waterboy comes into the cup off a last start victory at Gunbower where he out-toughed the opposition after racing outside the leader throughout.
The Mallee Bull Cup represents a fair rise in class for the Sharp family’s hope and it will take a pearl of a drive from Michael Stanley to find a spot somewhere up in the running line from out in gate five.
There looks to be plenty of speed drawn on the front with Em Jay Fortyseven, Flying Hannah and Curlimore all expected to make an early claim for the front runner’s position.
Naomi Malone (Ellen Tormey) and Manoueuver Man (Michael Bellman) are the two class acts of the field and have the drivers on board to overcome their less-than-ideal barriers.
Tommaso showed a return to form for the Carberry family two weeks ago at Hamilton when second in slick time and it wouldn’t surprise if Jackie Barker bought the 7yo bay with a late rush down the outside to upset the more fancied runners.
One to watch in the second event on the card, the John Connelly Memorial 3YO Pace, could be the filly Rosie Apples, which did plenty wrong last season in her three starts up in Queensland.
She has since joined the Wayne Ronan stable and has trialled well at Maryborough recently.
Rosie would need to be on her best behaviour if she is to match it with the nicely bred colt You Ninety Two from the Peter Salathiel stable.
The son of Auckland Reactor NZ and Nuismatic is from the same family as Aye Tee Em, Giggling Girl and The Fat Man and showed plenty of ability at Charlton back in August when he strolled to the post 25 metres clear of his rivals.
He was placed behind some very smart 2YOs at his next three starts and heads to Birchip with the benefit of two runs under the belt after a few months spell.
The McLennan Bulk Fuel Trotters Handicap has attracted a capacity field and sees the polemarker Major Bouchea resuming from a spell for the Nick and Debbie Youngson stable.
The now eight-year-old gelding showed plenty of ability as a youngster but hasn’t been seen at the races since May 2015.
He has trialled at Bendigo and Maryborough recently but it’s hard to gauge if the Wedderburn trotter has regained his confidence, attitude and fitness on those practice runs from behind the tapes.
Keepthedream (Daryl Prosser) has the advantage of solid racing over a few of her rivals here and it would be great to see the chestnut mare notch up her maiden victory at start number 26 for her owner-trainer Janet Exell.
Away from the racetrack, the Birchip club have organised a wonderful lineup of activities to cater for patrons of all ages.
It’s free admission for all, with the gates opening at noon and the first event set for 1pm.
Racegoers will enjoy the live music and atmosphere on the lawns featuring the popular Ballarat group, Old Melbourne Road.
For the kids there will be a zoo, pony rides, face painting and a jumping castle.
The punter’s club and produce stall were real hits at the cup day last year and will be even bigger and better on Sunday.
They’re off at: Birchip (D) Sunday March 11th; Horsham (D) Noel Smith Memorial Invitation Drivers Championship Monday 12th; Mildura (N) Wednesday 14th; Mt Gambier (N) Friday 16th; Boort (D) Cup Meeting, Sunday 18th and Stawell (D) Thursday 22nd.
Last return: $61.20 (Ararat Gallops and Horsham Trots).
Best Bet: R5 No 7 Timmy's Reject $6 win.
Value Bet: R7 No 8 Tomasso, $2 win $4 place.
Multi Bet: Quinella R2 No 6 with 1,2&3 spend $8.