FEATURE RACE PREVIEW: HUNTER CUP

Preview, speed map, runner-by-runner analysis, selections and betting strategy for the Hunter Cup with Betfair’s Victorian harness analyst Brett Carroll. Your feature race preview is online now.


HUNTER CUP 2022

Distance: 2760m Start: Mobile Start  Sprint Lane: Yes

The Hunter Cup has been Victoria’s premier harness race since it was established in 1949. Despite heated conjecture about the Cup’s standing start history, it is interesting to note the race has often been varied in distance & start conditions throughout its history. Since 2011, the race has been run at Melton. The first 6 of these races were standing starts over 3280m & the last 5 have been the same mobile start 2760m we have now.

Melton is a well-proportioned 1040m track. It does seem to race fairer in lower-class racing but when you get to the elite level the quality on-speed horses always seem very hard to get past.

We’ll concentrate on the statistical analysis of the race since moving to Melton as it holds some absolutely critical information for us. The initial Melton Hunter Cup was won by Stunin Cullen getting a 3-wide trail into the race & swooping home. The last 10 Cups have all been won by on-speed runners with 5 leaders, 3 behind-leaders & 2 death-seat winners. Based on that history, it really would take an extraordinary performance to win this race from any position other than those settling in top 4 positions. From an in-play perspective, I would be laying or trading out of any runners that don’t settle in the top 4 spots.

Favoured runners have a very good record in this race. 6 of the 11 Melton races have won by the favourite & only one of those victories was by a horse in double-figure odds. 3 of the last 4 winners have started at red-figure odds.


SPEED MAP

The barriers have almost ruined this race as far as tactical intrigue goes. KING OF SWING drew the exact same barrier in 2020 Cup & fired to the lead easily from the moment the green light went on. Stablemate to favourite SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS is drawn 4 & the slim possibility of it leading initially, then handing up to KING OF SWING is the only other map option. Amazing Dream will relish the opportunity to sit on the helmet of KING OF SWING. SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS likely to roll forward early & wait for LOCHINVAR ART to come across to take its logical position sitting outside KING OF SWING. It would be unlikely that any more moves will occur as it just wouldn’t make any tactical sense to expend unnecessary energy in a surely futile attempt to get past the established topliners upfront.


FINAL FIELD             

  1. King Of Swing (Rated Price $2.25)

This horse has been a total star all career, but especially since joining the McCarthy stable winning 22 of 30 starts all at the highest level. He has won all those 22 races from the lead so this draw is absolutely ideal. The only time he has lost from the lead was in the Victoria Cup 2020 when Lochinvar Art managed to slot in behind him & run past him up the straight – on that occasion King Of Swing did work very hard in front & the race was ran in track record time. I don’t anticipate anywhere near track-record tempo in this race.

  1. Triple Eight (Rated Price $26.00)

No history of gate speed so settles around 6th in running at very best. In outstanding form this whole preparation & hits line very hard but the quality of runners who map a lot better is a massive hurdle to overcome.

  1. Our Uncle Sam (Rated Price $501.00)

Doesn’t have the tactical speed to settle forward & their current form is just not good enough to figure at the elite level. Will finish out the back.

  1. Spirit Of St Louis (Rated Price $12.00)

Has gone to another level lately winning 3 country cups in an impressive fashion. Stablemate to the favourite and driven by outstanding young driver Jack Callaghan. I map him sitting behind Lochinvar Art so he will get his chance up the straight.

  1. Phoenix Prince (Rated Price $251.00)

Lucky to be in this field & can’t see him finishing top 6.

  1. Lochinvar Art (Rated Price $5.00)

Star pacer looking to break back into Group1 ranks after niggling injuries robbed him of racing for nearly 12 months. His 2 runs back were both very good without winning & I’m expecting him to be close to his peak for this race. Extremely likely to settle outside the leader – a position he has held 11 times since reaching open company for 8 wins & 3 seconds!

  1. Expensive Ego 

  2. Amazing Dream (Rated Price $5.00)

Classy NZ mare who has been racing in unbelievable form since arriving in Australia last winter. Her 11 runs here have resulted in 4 Group wins & the only time she missed a place was a gallant 4th in the Victoria Cup when she set up a fast tempo from the lead. Both times in OZ when she has settled behind leader she has won Group1 races so this sure looks like an ideal set-up.

  1. Mach Dan (Rated Price $151.00)

Will settle on the pegs behind Amazing Dream. A handy horse but really can’t see it passing the quality in front of it so 4th placing absolute best possible position

  1. Willie Go West (Rated Price $81.00)

A real potential wildcard in this race before the barrier draw but the map just won’t allow him a chance to get past the favoured runners here.

  1. Supreme Dominator (Rated Price $501)

Would need a miracle run to be any chance here.

  1. Malcolms Rhythm (Rated Price $501.00)

Handy type but has had a limited preparation & now the barrier has killed off any chance at all.

  1. Max Delight (Rated Price – $151.00)

Did win the Victoria Cup in October but loses gun driver Chris Alford & raced awkwardly last run so too much against it from horror draw.

SELECTIONS

1st1. King Of Swing

2nd6. Lochinvar Art

3rd8. Amazing Dream

4th – 4. Spirit Of St Louis


WHAT TO DO WITH LOCHINVAR ART?

Before niggling injuries forced Lochinvar Art out for nearly a year he had strung together 6 dominant victories in high-class races & was announced as the star of the country’s pacing scene.  A fortnight since his 2 runs in a week to blow the cobwebs out when he still went very well in high-class events, now he will be close to his peak for this race. Expected to sit outside the leader – a position he has won 8 times & finished runner-up the other 3 occasions in the 11 times he occupied that spot since running in open company. Risk this horse at your peril.

SUMMARY

The 2022 Hunter Cup promised to be a race of intrigue but the barrier draw has really robbed the race of much of this mystery. The runners most favoured by the barriers (KING OF SWING, AMAZING DREAM & LOCHINVAR ART) are all just too good to rule out & the market has them well covered. The overwhelming overs in the market is Lochinvar Art’s place quote – currently trading at $2 this does seem a luxury for a horse with such an incredible record. SPIRIT OF SAINT LOUIS is the only other winning chance but I would honestly be surprised if he could pass the quality around him.


BETTING STRATEGY:

BACK (PLACE) — Lochinvar Art for 5 units at $1.80+

Check out full market for the Hunter Cup on the Betfair Exchange.


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