The horse to beat in Thursday’s Perth Cup at Ascot Racecourse is the Adam Durrant-trained mare Real Love who secured her spot at the top of the markets with a gun barrier five draw overnight.
Perth Racing officially released the field and barriers for this summer’s $500,000 Group 1 Golden River Developments Perth Cup (2400m) on Monday evening with a full line-up of 16 starters plus two emergency runners accepted for the classic.
Short-priced favourite through Ladbrokes in both the pre and post-field Perth Cup betting markets is Durrant’s four-year-old daughter of Desert King Real Love.
She could jump from as close to the inside as barrier four if the two spares fail to gain a run on New Year’s Day with the state’s number one jockey William Pike retaining his association with the consistent stayer.
Real Love comes off back-to-back wins at Ascot from December with a two and a half-length effort in the Group 3 Queen’s Cup (2200m) followed by her narrower victory over Balmont Girl in the Listed W.A. St. Leger (2100m) at the track on the 20th.
In the St. Leger Real Love carried 56kg to victory and she will relish getting down to the 54kg minimum weight for Thursday’s rematch with the Paula Wagg-trained W.A. Oaks winner Balmont Girl.
During the autumn Real Love finished second best behind Balmont Girl in the Group 3 Oaks over 2400m and then ran third to the Grant Williams-trained Respondent in the Group 2 W.A.T.C. Derby (2400m).
The Perth Cup favourite then is proven over the mile and a half, and with the light weight and nice draw will be hard to hold off in the January first showdown.
Balmont Girl is the mare most likely to score an upset Perth Cup result then according to bookmakers around the country even after her wide barrier 15 draw.
The four-year-old also goes up to 57kg for the Cup which is the heaviest weight she’s ever been asked to carry, jockey Shaun O’Donnell staying on.
O’Donnell has ridden the daughter of Balmont for all but two of her 21 career starts to date including her second behind subsequent Group 2 C.B. Cox Stakes (2100m) winner Elite Belle in the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) earlier this season.
Respondent meanwhile comes off a close third in the St. Leger when beaten just over half a length in one of the traditional Perth Cup lead-ups.
That was an improved run from the Haradasun gelding, winner of the W.A.T.C. Derby back in April after he ran seventh and 13th respectively in the Railway Stakes and Kingston Town Classic.
Along with the favourite Real Love, Durrant has also accepted for the 59kg top weight Mr Moet and Chester Road who carries 58kg from the inside barrier one draw, the duo having dead-heated for fifth in the Cox Stakes last start.
Also launching a triple-pronged attack on the race this year is the Myalup-based Justin Warwick saddling up Tattersall’s Cup winner Global Flirt (barrier 16), Verglas mare Lucciola (barrier two) and his best chance of success Son Of Something (barrier 17).
Blackfriars five-year-old Son Of Something may have the wide draw but his lead-up form has been excellent including a Queen’s Cup second to Real Love and a fourth last time out over the 2200m again on December 24.
Adding more interest to the Perth Cup field this season is the addition of Neville Parnham’s stalwart God Has Spoken who races in the event for the fifth time, his best efforts being second place finishes in both 2012 and 2014.
Drawn in gate 10 the veteran Blackfriars eight-year-old comes off a C.B. Cox Stakes ninth but drops from 59kg under weight-for-age conditions there to 54kg on Thursday with Jarrad Noske to ride.
Parnham’s sons Steven, Chris and Brad meanwhile all have Perth Cup rides this week aboard Ihtsahymn (58.5kg), Bass Strait (54kg) and Respondent (54kg) respectively.
Fred Kersley’s 2013 Kingston Town Classic winner Ihtsahymn has barrier six for Thursday and comes off a close fourth when under a length off Elite Belle in the Cox Stakes.
His jockey Chris Parnham is the youngest of the three brothers and comes off a short stint in Melbourne where he won the Listed Christmas Stakes on Boxing Day aboard the Leon & Troy Corstens-trained Tried And Tired.
Bass Strait meanwhile also ran well last time out, the Parnham-trained five-year-old finishing a closer third in the Cox Stakes after sixth place finishes in both the Railway and Kingston Town.
The field of guaranteed starters is rounded out by Ask Me Nicely, Classique Ivory, Kirov Boy, Operational and Red Blast.
Starlight Lady and Bedamijo are then the two emergency runners sweating on a scratching drawn in gates nine and three respectively.