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Weir's 14-year Cup itch

4 min read

By Bren O'Brien

In the past 14 years, Darren Weir has won over 3400 races, 34 Group 1s and precisely zero Ballarat Cups.

It seems incongruous that Weir, the country's most prolific trainer, who collects country Cups for fun, has not won the only stakes race run at his home track since Just the Part (Archway {Ire}) was successful in 2004.

When Just the Part led all the way to win that race, Weir had just recently moved his operation from Stawell and the Forest Lodge empire was in its infancy.

“It was great to win then, but it’s been hard to win since." - Darren Weir

“It was great to win then, but it’s been hard to win since,” Weir told RSN Racing Pulse.

It has certainly not been for want of trying and Weir will aim a six-strong army at the $350,000 Listed race on Saturday.

Chief among them is Lucky For All (NZ) (Tavistock {NZ}), the lightly-raced 4-year-old bought for big money out of New Zealand earlier this year, who looks to have a big future.

He only gained a start when two other runners were scratched, but on the minimum weight of 54kg, looks well placed.

Lucky For All as a yearling

Putting it together

However Lucky For All's manners have proven a constant source of frustration for Weir of late, and last start the saddle slipped when he was beaten as favourite during the Flemington carnival.

“He’s a nice horse for the future, but whether he’s ready for a race like this now, I’m not sure" - Darren Weir

While Weir has applied blinkers for the first time and has a lot of faith in Lucky For All's ability, he remains concerned by his maturity.

Lucky For All winning at Caulfield

“He’s a nice horse for the future, but whether he’s ready for a race like this now, I’m not sure,” Weir said.

“He’s very immature in every way. He’s going to get better with another preparation or two under his belt and he deserves his spot in the race. I’m just not sure he deserves favouritism."

“If you went on his trackwork you’d say he couldn’t win but in saying that he has never worked much good since we’ve had him, so we are used to it now. He is definitely a better race day horse."

Coldie comfort

Last start Kyneton Cup winner Another Coldie (Snitzel) provides a good back-up. A winner of ten of his 28 starts, including three of his past four, Weir feels he is in the right form to be competitive, but does harbour concerns whether he is up to Listed grade.

“I think the trip suits, I’m not sure about the class." - Darren Weir

“I think the trip suits, I’m not sure about the class,” Weir said. “It looks a stronger race than what he has been taking on, but he is drawn to get a good run and he is super fit."

Weir also has the third favourite in the race, Kiwia (Reset), a horse coming off a luckless fifth in the G3 Eclipse S. at his most recent run.

"If the track is in the Good range, he’d be my best chance I reckon.” - Darren Weir

Having rocketed through his classes this time last year with six wins in his first ten starts, Kiwia is winless in his past 11. The prospect of a rain-affected track also worries his trainer.

“I reckon he’s going really well. The downside to Kiwia would be that when he raced at Flemington over the Carnival, he was very disappointing, but that was on rain affected ground," he said.

“His best chance would be on dryer ground. If the track is in the Good range, he’d be my best chance I reckon.”

The second wave

Conversely, the wet track would be a considerable advantage to Tradesman (Trade Fair {GB}), who Weir expects to come on from his seventh in the Eclipse S.

“He’s going well. I thought he ran quite well last week, and the back-up will be good,” Weir said. “Ideally, if you had the perfect preparation, you’d like one more run and a bit of time between runs instead of backing him up, but he does come right into the race if the track is a bit wet.

Last start Ararat Cup winner Andrea Mantegna (USA) (Giant's Causeway {USA}) and Master Zephyr (Shirocco {Ger}) make up Weir's six-pronged attack.

“Andrea Mantegna got a great ride last start and he’ll get a lovely run again. He’s a fit horse, but he probably needs to lift a bit on last start,” he said.

“Master Zephyr is going really well I think but will need luck. He’s drawn wide and will need to go back, which will make it really hard for him."