A mid-winter country meeting may not be most traditional springboard into some of the spring’s major races but a number of stayers will get the chance to press their claims for higher honours in Thursday’s Grafton Cup (2350m).
Among them is New Zealand mare Zennista who heads a list of 32 horses entered to fill the 16 spots available in the $150,000 race.
The five-year-old backed up her Brisbane Cup third last month to win the Caloundra Cup, prompting trainer Lisa Latta to abandon plans to take her back to New Zealand.
After the Caloundra win Latta indicated she would like to target some spring races with the daughter of Zenno Rob Roy including the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes.
Also set to play a role at Melbourne’s spring carnival via Grafton is Victorian stayer Mr O’Ceirin.
Caulfield trainer Ciaron Maher has Caulfield Cup ambitions with the Postponed gelding who was second in the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes last spring.
The five-year-old was a convincing winner at Moonee Valley two starts back before suffering a shock loss when favourite on June 29.
Heading to Grafton in good form and a potential spring player is Joe Pride’s progressive gelding Destiny’s Kiss.
The four-year-old will chase a third straight win at Grafton after dashing home for a 2 1/2 length triumph in the Winter Cup at Rosehill on Monday.
Another last-start winner featuring in nominations is De Fine Lago who took out the Dominant Handicap at Moonee Valley on June 29 after finishing runner-up to Mr O’Ceirin the start before.
Other notable horses entered for Grafton’s biggest race include veteran Group 1 winner Fiumicino and Peter Moody’s front-running import Voila Ici.