Trainer Peter Maher believes prelude winner Cha Cha King is nearing his peak now and is in better shape heading into Friday’s $30,000 Ted Ryder Cup (1660m) at Wagga.
Cha Cha King finished ahead of five of Friday’s rivals in the prelude and will go up one kilogram in the weights which won’t affect the equine giant.
Maher is confident Cha Cha King can repeat his prelude victory from 11 days ago, but it’s the unknown capabilities of Mercurial Lad and Overdue that he is unsure about.
Mercurial Lad, trained by Barbara Joseph and Paul Jones, has the statistics to win and is coming off a gallant sixth in the Muswellbrook Cup after making the speed.
Overdue’s win at Albury two starts ago was first class and the Kym Davidson-trained gelding backed that up with a closing fourth in a Highway Handicap in Sydney.
“They are both really good horses racing well and my horse hasn’t been up against them before,” he said.
“In saying that, my horse has done well since his last run.
“He is getting towards his peak now and I expect him to run a big race.”
Sydney apprentice jockey Nick Heywood will again ride Cha Cha King who has drawn awkwardly, according to his trainer.
Cha Cha King showed plenty of determination to win the prelude and his style of racing will again mean Heywood makes use of the gelding early to race in a forward position.
“He will go forward and most likely end up outside of the leader. It’s an awkward draw because the first turn comes up pretty fast and he is drawn out,” Maher said.
“The horse has a bit of guts about him so if he races like he has been and runs up to his last run he is hopefully good enough to win again.”
Cha Cha King has always had his share of ability, but at times has been his own worst enemy at the barriers.
He has been scratched at the gates a few times, but those problems appear to be a thing of the past much to the relief of his owners.
The winner of five of his 16 starts is raced by Maher’s long time client Noel Forrest and Steve Brown.
“They bred the horse and Noel has raced some nice horses with me for about 30 years including Atlantic Comet who won a Wodonga Cup and Jack Maher 2yo,” he added.
This will be the 30th running of the Ted Ryder Cup – a race that has been won by a host of the region’s best gallopers including by three times victor Pride Rock.
“I think this is my first runner in the race and it would be an honour to win it,” Maher said.