ECHUCA's Robert Owen is among a big band of owners hoping Friday night will bring the delight of a much coveted country cup.
Owen is a part-owner of Sicario, which will start from gate one in the Group 3 Moama Bowling Club Echuca Pacing Cup and carry winning form from Saturday's final night of the rich TAB Summer of Glory.
Victory in the Edgell Sidewinders The Pure Steel built on a promising season for the former Kiwi, who was purchased by the large Victorian syndicate in January 2019 and, having provided plenty of highs including being the best of Victoria's Inter Dominion entrants, gets a chance to break through for a first Trots Country Cup victory.
Having run third in the Yarra Valley Cup in November and then second at Cobram, fourth at Shepparton and fifth at Wedderburn, the Brent Lilley-trained gelding is well placed to claim the silverware at Echuca, according to reinsman Chris Alford.
He said the gate one draw, allocated on national rating, had put Sicario in the box seat at the 800 m track.
“Even though he competed in the Inter Dominion and races like that, he's still fairly lowly rated, so he comes up in those Cup races with a nice draw,” Alford told Trots Talk. "Barrier one around Echuca is a big plus, that's for sure.”
It was also a big plus at Melton on Saturday night, when Sicario started an $11-shot with TAB.com.au and trailed favourite Bright Energy until the home straight, when Alford veered right and swept to a 1.7 m victory.
“It probably was a bit of a shock to some people after his Wedderburn Cup run, but he had the draw, he had the good run and he was back to his best,” Alford said.
It was a result that would have brought great delight to Mr Owen and his co-owners, who have enjoyed Sicario's journey, which looks to have plenty of big moments still to run.
“He made the Inter Dominion final and they were just as rapt with his run (Saturday) night at Melton,” Alford said.
“They are really enthusiastic and love their horses, and it would be great for them to win a country cup this year and I'm sure he's probably got another one in him before the end of the season.”
Ownership members Owen, John Wilkinson, Elizabeth Crews and Gary Dowling could be set for a particularly big night because they also share ownership in Stress Factor, who will likely start favourite for the J A Connelly Crystal Bucket.
The prestigious race is Echuca's trotting cup and, again with trainer Brent Lilley and reinsman Chris Alford partnering, the five-year-old looks well placed for a strong showing first-up after a six-month spell.
Alford said he was hopeful Stress Factor could return to the form that saw him named the Australian three-year-old trotter of the year.
“He came over and had a great start to his campaign here, he won the (Victoria) Derby and the Breeders Crown, then sort of went off the boil there for a little while,” Alford said.
“His trial last week showed me that he might be back to his best, so around Echuca in that race he will be very hard to beat.”
The J A Connelly Crystal Bucket takes place at 8.50 pm on Friday, followed at 9.20 pm by the Moama Bowling Club Echuca Pacing Cup.
Words by: Michael Howard.