Big Duke is set to start next weekend’s 2017 Sydney Cup a clear race favourite after recording a strong win in the Group 2 Chairman’s Handicap (2600m) at Royal Randwick this afternoon.
Jumping from the gates well, Big Duke strode forward and took an ideal position on the rails and on the heels of early leaders Aloft and Shalmaneser as the field past the post the first time.
Settling into a good rhythm and receiving a good run in transit, the Raven’s Pass gelding was shuffled back a pair as Vandancer took up the running across the back straight, but jockey Craig Williams remained patient aboard the standout stayer, clearly confident in the ability that he had underneath him.
Holding his positon towards the inside of the track as the field circled into the final straight, Williams allowed Big Duke plenty of time to balance before going for the whip and was able to easily find a passage between Aloft and Pentathlon, before producing a smart turn of foot to comfortably find the line in the clear.
Big Duke has been a strong and consistent performer for leading Victorian trainer Darren Weir this season and posted a third-consecutive race win in the Chairman’s Handicap this afternoon.
Having failing to justify his clear favouritism when second in the Group 3 Hobart Cup (2400m) on February 5th, the five-year-old was too good for his rivals in the Group 3 Launceston Cup (2400m) a fortnight later and returned to the mainland for a smart win in the Group 3 NE Manion Stakes (2400m) two weeks ago.
Macedon Lodge runner Aloft was gallant in finishing second in the Chairman’s Handicap this afternoon and is another horse who appears likely to take a position in the 2017 Sydney Cup field on Day 2 of The Championships.
Four-year-old Rock On was settled towards the tail of the Chairman’s Handicap field and was impressive to finish third, in what was his first appearance at the races since arriving in Australia.