Gai Waterhouse’s honest stayer Reuben Percival will defend their title in the $100,000 Listed Winter Cup (2400m) at Rosehill Gardens this Saturday going up to the mile and a half just two runs into their comeback campaign.
The rising seven-year-old Al Akbar gelding was enjoying plenty of success during their spring – summer campaign which included a nice second to imported stayer Ibicenco in the Listed Sandown Cup (3200m) in Melbourne, a Gosford Cup second and Australia Day Cup third on Australia Day in Sydney.
They were out of luck though in their final run for that prep when a hefty 60kg weight allocation got the better of them in the Listed Mornington Cup (2400m) on February 13 where they could only manage to finish a distant ninth to Tuscan Fire.
Waterhouse sent them out for a well-earned spell after that, one that would last four months.
They resumed on June 15 at Rosehill running a credible fifth to Said Com in a 1400m handicap having come from the back of the field to cross just two lengths off the winner and now in an unusual move Waterhouse will take them straight to the Winter Cup this weekend.
Twelve months ago Reuben Percival was the toast of the town when narrowly holding off Chris Waller’s Group 1 winner The Verminator to win the Winter Cup at Warwick Farm on a Slow (6) track.
This year there’s been a venue move but they will likely get a wet track, something Waterhouse’s stable foreman Mark Newnham isn’t concerned about having given them a nice gallop at the track last weekend.
“I was able to use the course proper last Saturday,” he said.
“They use two horses to test the ground (before a meeting) and it was our turn so I made sure we used him.
“With all the wet weather, at least he’s had that good, hard gallop last Saturday.”
Despite having had just the one run since February and going up 1000m in distance, Newnham is confident Reuben Percival can successfully defend their Winter Cup title.
“We won’t be using fitness as an excuse,” Newnham said.
“It is unconventional but he’s a horse who it suits.
“He went from a mile to 2400 metres in the Metropolitan last preparation and ran the race of his life for a Group One placing.
“He has done plenty of work going into it.”
They carried just 54kg to victory in the race last winter but will on Saturday have the second heaviest weight going up to 58.5kg with Nash Rawiller to ride, trailing only the Hawkes-trained Fiumicino (59kg).
They also have the ‘visitor’s’ gate to overcome, barrier 11 of 11.
Still they are well fancied in the markets paying around $5.50 with the favourite at $2.60 being Joe Pride’s last start winner Destiny’s Kiss.
Other notable hopes lining up in the fifth at Rosehill on Saturday include the in-form Peal Of Bells coming off a seventh length Stayers Cup win over the two miles at Randwick, and the aforementioned veteran Zabeel nine-year-old Fiumicino looking to improve on a Brisbane Cup 10th over the same distance at the start of the month.