LIFESAVER won Matt Dunn an 18th Highway Handicap win at Rosehill on Saturday on his way to what could be Murwillumbah Cup success later this month and then maybe even a crack at the rich $1.3million Kosciusko (1200m) in October.
The five-year-old gelding son of Helmet strode to his third career victory in the 1100m $60,000 Highway at his first run back from a spell.
Matt’s wife, Keira, said her husband has always had the 1200m Kosciuszko in mind for Lifesaver.
She said the gelding will have to keep stepping up though to warrant a place in the October 13 sprint for country-trained horses.
Friday week’s Murwillumbah Cup meeting could be another stepping stone for the gelding.
“It was a good win,” Matt Dunn said following Saturday’s successful return.
“He disappointed last time. We were trying to get him to the Country Championships but he seems to have come back well.”
Whether Dunn stretches him out to the 1530m of the $38,000 Riverview Hotel Murwillumbah Cup on August 24 or sticks to the 1200m $28,000 Newmarket remains to be seen but one fact is for sure. The Murwillumbah-based trainer will have plenty of runners on his home track.
He’s also got the Highway Handicaps in Sydney worked out too.
He said it’s not just the formula they have found and follow either.
His Highway runners are transported to Sydney in one nine to 10 hour hit midweek, enabling them to “acclimatise” for a few days and find their feet at Rosehill.
“I’m lucky I also have a larger pool of horses to call on than most country trainers,” he said.
“I’ve got 80 in work here, probably double the size of most of the bigger country stables.
“I can then pick the eyes out of the Highways as they come up.”
He doesn’t deny the fact you also have to have the talented horses and have them trained to be at their best.
And they will be at their best at the Friday, August 24 Murwillumbah Cup meeting with the likes of Saturday’s Casino Cup starter, Mystical Renegade, and Doomben runners Pegapus and Contralto likely Cup runners.
Contralto ran third behind Coffs Harbour Cup winner Glitrata at Doomben with Pegapus eighth.
“Contralto and Pegapus will both go to the Cup,” he said.
“Going to be another big day, we’ll have quite a few in.”
Murwillumbah is a track with a shorter straight (around 320m) but Matt said “they can win from anywhere”.
“Just got to be mobile before the turn, up and rolling.”.
While Mystical Renegade ran on for fourth in Saturday’s Casino Cup the Murwillumbah Cup is not only his radar but possibly on Casino Cup Landmarks.
The six-year-old gelding son of New Approach led all the way to win by more than four lengths in track record time.
Landmarks did all it himself, jumping well and leading from around the 100m for jockey Matthew Paget.
“It was a beautiful ride,” Scott Cumming said today.
“Rated him to perfection.”
Landmarks had won the Cup last year for Cumming then went to the Gold Coast where he badly cut his leg.
He had 28 weeks off to recover and the worry was always there for Cumming that he might not race again or regain the obvious ability he had shown in winning that 2017 Cup.
In five starts back this campaign Cumming has taken him along slowly. A fourth in the recent Beef Week Cup showed he was nearing his best again and then a last start second in the 1400m Maclean Cup at Grafton had Cumming confident he could win a second Casino Cup.
“After he cut his leg badly last year we took him along slowly,” Scott Cumming said.
“He’s only just started to hit his straps.”
Saturday’s Cup win was his third in four starts on his home track and his fifth in 19 career starts.
Cumming, 46, born and bred in Casino, has plenty of options for his gelding.
“We’re not in a rush,” he said of finding a next start.
“We’ll see how everything goes in the next week or so. We’ll sit back and see what benchmark rating he gets and that will probably tell us whether we stay local or go to town with him.”
One option is the August 24 Riverview Hotel Murwillumbah Cup (1530m).
“Yeah I’ve looked at that,” he said of the $38,000 Cup.
“That could be a pretty strong race though with Matt Dunn training there.”