Queensland Cup A Cuban Pipe Dream For Schwenke

By: Ryan Clark
July 6th, 2011

Garry Schwenke is one of two things, either a mad man or an eternal optimist.

Whatever way you look at it on Saturday afternoon he could be transformed into a genius.

It would be one of the most unlikely victories in the history of Australian horse racing, but his dream is the Queensland Cup and that’s what he’s going after.

Schwenke has a four-year-old mare by the name of Cuban, a horse that outside Ipswich and Toowoomba most would never have heard of.

She was 20th of the 20 nominations for the Queensland Cup but with just 17 accepting, she finds herself in a Listed field against horses with Group 1 experience.

Making things even more interesting is the fact she’s never won a race, not so much as a maiden on the Clifford Park cushion track.

It’s an impossible task, surely, but connections refuse to give up on their plan dubbed “Operation Cup”.

The one piece of hope they give themselves is the trip, a two mile gruelling gallop around Eagle Farm they hope will knock off a few of their rivals.

There’s no guarantee Cuban will stay though, it’s more of a hunch, only once has she raced beyond 2000m, that was at Ipswich and she came third last.

They will get a better idea today though, her lead up to Queensland’s most prestigious 3200m race is a maiden at Doomben across 2240m.

It would be a handy one to win, after all her prize money at the moment stands at a rather unimposing $3,600, compare that with the likes of Group 1 Sydney Cup starter Tinseltown who is approaching half a million dollars.

(UPDATE: Cuban finished 4th behind Clear Passage)

“She’s a good type of black mare. She looks like Cathy Freeman but runs like Oprah,” Schwenke said.

“In the sprint race, she can’t keep up. Her strength is just to keep running. We know it’s a ridiculous dream but I think she will run the 3200m and some of the others won’t.”

There’s certainly no issues about her being fit enough for the race, she’s had six starts this prep and will have more than 12km of running to her name by Saturday.

Another plus is the weight, handicappers would have given her 20kgs if they could but regardless, the 53kg bottom weight is still a far cry less than what she’s used to.

Schwenke rides all his track work himself and he doesn’t offer a lot of change from 100kg.

If hell does freeze over and pigs are seen flying over Eagle Farm on Saturday, much of the credit (and $96,000 prize money) has to go to Schwenke’s wife Joann.

When she’s not working hard as the general manager of the Warwick RSL she’s poking her nose through horses for sale.

She spotted Cuban at a mixed horse sale on the Gold Coast a couple of years ago.

“We went down with some mates to look at a couple of tried horses,” Schwenke said.

“Joann just started walking and finished up outside the stall of this nice-looking black filly. She just kept looking at her.

“The tried horses we were keen on either were too dear or had an old injury.

“Joann kept talking about the black filly, so I decided to have a bid. Eventually we got her for $3000.

“My mates from Brisbane, Dave Amedee and Jason Barr, wanted a share. They are in on the cup dream.”

Schwenke himself works as a manager at the Warwick RSL where the horse has built up quite a following.

With just two placings from her 18 career starts the TAB at the club has been through some very healthy times.

If Cuban causes a boil over on Saturday though there won’t be enough money in Warwick to pay out the winners, if you fancy a few drinks it could well be the place to be.

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