The place to be for the top harness racing this weekend is Moonee Valley as the esteemed Moonee Ponds circuit hosts their final ever meeting headlined by the $400 000 Group 1 BIG6 Hunter Cup.
Run over a testing 3065m this coveted standing start event has a capacity field of 14 elite pacers set to line up on the night and includes an abundance of big name players such as Mr Feelgood, Smoken Up, I Am Sam and Karloo Mick.
Trained and driven by Lance Justice, Smoken Up is one of the most experienced and formidable pacers in the final. The Tinted Cloud gelding is looking to return to winning form after three successive second placings but has been allocated a disappointing second-line draw with barrier 10.
The closest Smoken Up has come to a Hunter Cup victory was as runner-up by a mere half-head to Blacks A Fake two years back in 2008.
Victoria Cup victor Bettors Strike, despite drawing poorly with barrier 13, has been installed as the odds-on favourite for the race. Smoken Up occupies the next line of betting.
I Am Sam was runner up in the Hunter Cup last year and has drawn well with barrier four for this year.
But the big winner in the barrier draw was the Barry Lew-trained Karloo Mick, allocated the cherished barrier one.
Three of the best in-form pacers have all drawn poorly in the final. The John McCarthy-trained WA Pacing Cup winner Washakie is seeking out their fourth consecutive win but has a lot of work to do from barrier 14.
Mr Feelgood has suffered the most in the barrier allocations, drawing the far outside barrier 15.
Smart Victorian pacer Tanabi Bromack, trained by Keith Cotchin, is another last start winner who will race off the second row in the Hunter Cup.
Winner of the Shepparton Gold Cup last month and more recently victorious in the Horsham Pacing Cup, which earned them exemption for the Hunter Cup, Tanabi Bromack has drawn barrier 11.
Two other Group pacing events also highlight the cracker 10-race programme the $30 000 Group 3 4YO Bonanza (Race 2) followed by the other big one, the $200 000 Group 1 Alabar Victoria Derby Final (Race 6).
The BIG6 Hunter Cup will run at 9:30pm (VIC time) as race eight.
2010 BIG6 Hunter Cup Final Field & Barrier Draw:
|B J Lew||Greg Bennett||C26 M20|
POWER OF TARA (NZ)
|A L Peacock||Tony Herlihy||C16 M11|
ROAD TO RAINBOW – Em.1
|G F Douglas||Daryl Douglas||C14 M4|
I AM SAM
|A R Tubbs||Amy Tubbs||C15 M10|
|D J Butt||David Butt||C19 M13|
IM THEMIGHTYQUINN (NZ)
|G E Hall Snr.||Gary Hall Jnr.||C16 M11|
OHOKA NEVADA (NZ)
|A L Peacock||Damien Wilson||C8 M4|
|G F Douglas||Daryl Douglas||C14 M5|
PEMBROOK BENNY (NZ)
|B Purdon||Barry Purdon||C8 M3|
SMOKEN UP (NZ)
|L J Justice||Lance Justice||C25 M20|
|K P Cotchin||Gavin Lang||C10 M4|
|G R Norman||Grey Sugars||C12 M5|
BETTORS STRIKE (NZ)
|C T Dalgety||Dexter Dunn||C13 M4|
|J P McCarthy||John McCarthy||C21 M15|
MR FEELGOOD (USA)
|T G Butt||Anthony Butt||C2 M17|