Thursday, 12 July 2012
: The powerful Patinack-backed stable of John Thompson goes into this afternoon's Grafton Cup meeting with a strong chance to take the feature staying event for the first time.
Since taking over the training duties, Thompson has ensured a regular stream of winners for the Nathan Tinkler-owned operation and a win in the Listed Grafton Cup (2350m) this afternoon would cap off what has already been the most successful season.
Thompson will saddle up two runners Shamardashing and Saint Encosta. Both have strong chances but the former is slightly better fancied on weight adjusted Timeform
Shamardashing has raced four times since a 42 day freshen up but his form has been solid during the Brisbane Winter carnival.
Three starts back he finished a close up fourth in the G3 Premiers Cup over 2200m at Doomben making ground quickly in the closing stages after turning for home near last. An unlucky run followed behind Lights Of Heaven in the Timeform Brisbane Cup over 2400m when trapped deep throughout.
Last start luck deserted him again in the G3 Tatt's Cup (2200m) at Eagle Farm behind Ginga Dude but he still managed a close up fourth placing just over a length from the winner.
Jeff Lloyd fresh from a Grade 1 win on South African Champions day in Durban last Saturday will again have the mount and despite rising in weight today, Shamardashing does face a much easier assignment and looks the horse to beat.
Last year's Grafton Cup winner Warrior Within is aiming for back-to-back success in the feature and it is hard to fault his form coming into the race placing at his last two outings.
Two back he ran on well from mid field on the home turn to take third place in the Listed Ipswich Cup over 2150m, then last start also contested the G3 Tatt's Cup at Eagle Farm just touching out Shamardashing for third place.
There is a half kilo weight swing in favour of Shamardashing today but I am not expecting a great deal between the pair when the judge calls a halt this afternoon.
John Thompson's second runner Saint Encosta has cost punters plenty in the past but he is likely to be at attractive odds today in possibly the easiest race he has contested for some time.
He has raced three times since a spell with two of those runs being an excellent pointer to his prospects here.
Saint Encosta's record fourth up is quite sound and last campaign was runner up in that state behind Veracious in the Listed JRA Trophy at Ascot.
If you can overlook his last start failure in the Brisbane Cup then he must be amongst the chances for the multiples.
But be aware that he has only won two races from 32 starts with his last win coming 488 days ago – hardly statistics that would inspire most punters.
Despite a class rise the well fancied Southern Shimmer trained by Ross Stitt and to be ridden by veteran Robert Thompson looks well placed to take a hand in the finish.
Robert Thompson who has ridden more winners than any other jockey in Australia last won the Grafton Cup on My Star Sapphire trained by his late father Arthur back in 1981, so he is certainly due for a change of fortune.
Southern Shimmer was narrowly beaten last start at Warwick Farm in benchmark 85 class and while he would need to improve on that rating to win this afternoon, a repeat of his close fourth in the Wagga Gold Cup in early May would see him right in the finish.
The Stephen Farley-trained veteran Gazzu Guru has been in consistent form of late but puts an unbeaten record on the Grafton course on the line today. He has won his only two starts at Grafton.
The rising eight-year-old was a surprise winner at Warwick Farm over 1600m three starts back then failed at Rosehill before a much better effort last time out again at Rosehill in benchmark 85 class.
Leading rider Peter Robl will be having his first ride on Gazza Guru and should the race unfold to his liking, there is little doubt he could be in the finish.
Enjoy another interesting Grafton Cup.