It’s one of the biggest days on the calendar in the state’s Mid North and a field of nine runners are set to line up in Sunday’s Port Augusta Cup.
In a big surprise, 2017 Cup winner Soaring High returns to the track for the first time since claiming the Port Augusta feature. The Leon Macdonald & Andrew Gluyas trained gelding has had a bit of a lean patch since claiming the Cup, only registering one win since his victory here two years ago. The Macdonald-Gluyas team have often supported the Port Augusta Cup and will be hoping the six-year-old can reclaim his form of two years ago and return to the winners stall on Sunday.
Soaring High is not the only surprise addition in the Cup field with David Jolly’s Dellacqua set to line up in the Cup. Most punters would have expected his other runner Fulton Street to take his spot in the field after claiming last month’s Squatters Cup, but it’s Jolly’s four-year-old mare who gets her chance. It will be interesting to see how the mare handles her first crack on a dirt track with all four of her career wins coming on her home track of Strathalbyn. Even though it’s her first time at Port Augusta, you have to respect any horse that Jolly brings there as he has a 44% win and 76% place rate at the track over his career.
While Soaring High and Dellacqua are having their first run at the track this campaign, six of the nine runners from the Squatters Cup a fortnight ago are set to lineup in the field.
There might be some doubts around Darren Magro’s Spiegel Grove and Grant Young’s Shakopee who both contested a 2100m race at Gawler on Wednesday. The two runners filled the quinella there but the four day backup might be a bit quick for both of them. Of the two, Shakopee is more likely to make the trip to Port Augusta as trainer Grant Young is not afraid of the short backup with many of his runners.
Darren Bonetti’s Sizzling Bullet is likely to start favourite in the race and will be happy to see that David Jolly’s Fulton Street isn’t in the race after finishing second to him in his last two start by a combined margin of 0.6 lengths! He’ll carry a similar weight as he did in last month’s Squatters Cup and being trained on the track could be a big advantage for him come Sunday.
If there’s one trainer who deserves to win a hometown Cup it would have to be Kylie McKerlie. The leading Port Augusta trainer has had three consecutive third placings in this race over the last three years. Her runners Eigelstein (2018 & 2017) and Devon (2016) have come so close to claiming the Cup without any luck. McKerlie will have a great chance on Sunday with her runner Dance of Heroes. The Hawker Cup winner has been in okay touch this preparation but the extra distance of 2300m should suit the former European galloper.
Dennis McMahon’s The Willybe and Bob Hannigan’s Gold Maestro will also be flying the flag for the locals in their hometown Cup. The Willybe gets the services of 2016 Cup winner Justin Potter aboard who can hopefully turn the runners form around while Gold Maestro ran home strongly in the Squatters Cup and looks like the extra distance will suit him very nicely.