Darren Weir’s Warrnambool stable foreman Jarrod McLean is confident their genuine stayer Big Duke will present well for his final spring run in Saturday’s Group 2 $300,000 Zipping Classic (2400m) at Ladbrokes Park.
Raven’s Pass six-year-old Big Duke is one of eight gallopers doing battle in the old Sandown Classic this spring and is out to frank the form out of the ‘Race That Stops A Nation’.
The Group 1 $6.25 million Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) run over the two miles at Flemington on the first Tuesday of November has proven the form race to follow into the Zipping Classic over the past decade.
Seven of the past 10 Zipping Classic winners had their final lead-up in the Melbourne Cup, which bodes well for this year’s fourth placegetter Big Duke and which is something Weir is well aware of.
“Weiry said horses coming back from the Melbourne Cup have a good record in the Zipping Classic, so I think that’s his reason for being there,” McLean told AAP this week.
Big Duke is current second favourite at $3.30 in Zipping Classic betting at Ladbrokes.com.au with last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Almandin ($2.60) from Lloyd Williams’ Macedon Lodge stable the firm favourite.
Almandin also comes off a Melbourne Cup run in 2017 having finished 12th after a luckless run three wide with no cover through much of the race.
The two top fancies for Saturday’s weight-for-age clash over the mile-and-a-half are the only ones in the Zipping Classic field coming out of the Melbourne Cup from November 7.
Big Duke has been in top form throughout the spring with other highlights being his second to Foundry in the Group 1 $750,000 The Metropolitan (2400m) and $500,000 St. Leger Stakes (2600m) win at Randwick.
His other latest Melbourne run was a fourth when two lengths beaten by Who Shot Thebarman as the beaten favourite in the Group 2 $300,000 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m).
McLean said the always-honest $1.41 million earner had come through the Melbourne Cup in fine order and while he hadn’t improved, he was fit and ready for a big effort before going to the paddock.
“He had a quiet gallop on the course proper at Warrnambool yesterday [Wednesday] morning. Obviously there’s no improvement in him but he’ll present well come Saturday,” McLean said on Thursday.
“He has just poked along at the beach and other than his turf gallop yesterday morning he’s just been in the water at the beach.
“He never runs badly. What you see is what you get with him.”
Big Duke also has a notable gear change in stall for the Zipping Classic donning blinkers for the first time to sharpen him up.
“Weiry said ‘work him in them’ and he worked quite well in them so we’ll go with that, just sharpen him up a bit,” McLean added.
Almandin is joined in the race by stablemates Assign and recent addition to Williams’ Australian-trained contingent The Taj Mahal who is the third favourite after a lead-up fourth in last weekend’s Group 1 Emirates Stakes (2000m).