Grafton trainer Hunter Kilner is chasing back-to-back wins in the Casino RSM Club Beef Week Cup (1400m) with Steve’s Surprise today, but admits he is not quite as confident going into the race as he was 12 months ago.
Steve’s Surprise won last year’s race at his fifth start for Kilner after doing his earlier racing in the west with Perth trainer Neville Parnham.
Kicking off his career with Kilner in April last year, Steve’s Surprise went into the 2016 Beef Week Cup on the strength of three wins from his first four runs for the new stable – two at Lismore and one at Grafton.
Steve’s Surprise carried 54.5kg in the 2016 Beef Week Cup, beating Gold Horizon and Doughty and rises to 59kg in Friday’s $30,000 race.
Since joining Kilner’s stable, the Stratum five-year-old has won six races. He has been racing well this preparation, winning a Class 6 over 1200m at the Gold Coast on April 15 and an Open Hcp over 1106m at Grafton on May 1 before his last-start third in a heavy 9 conditions behind My Cousin Bobby and Fabry at Grafton on May 19.
“He’s certainly going just as well, but the extra weight this year is my concern,” said Kilner. “He’s up to 59kg this time and I’m not going into the race as confident as I was last year.”
Kilner said training track restrictions caused by the recent wet weather had probably cost Steve’s Surprise a few more wins this campaign.
“He loomed up to win a couple of times but his fitness found him out,” he said. “But he had that run in the heavy ground at Grafton the other day and he’s now race fit. And he will certainly appreciate the jar out of the track on Friday.”
Matt Paget, who is a five-time winner on Steve’s Surprise – including last year’s Casino race – continues his association with the gelding, who drew barrier 7 in the 14-horse field.
Brisbane trainer Tony Gollan is likely to have a two-pronged attack on the race with topweight Heart Of A Warrior and High Esteem. His other acceptor, Lord Coconuts, has been scratched and will most likely to be kept for a Gold Coast race on Saturday.
Heart Of A Warrior, to be ridden by Robbie Fradd, wasn’t beaten far when a first-up seventh to Mystic Opal over 1300m at Eagle Farm on April 29. High Esteem, to be ridden by non-claiming apprentice Allanah Fancourt, goes into today’s race at his third run back from a break after a first-up 10th to Tumbler at Doomben on April 15 and a fourth to Abu Ben Adam at the Sunshine Coast on May 7.
One of the other features on the 10-race program is the NCMC Casino Flying (1000m) which has attracted a smart field of Northern Rivers sprinters, as well as the in-form Queensland gelding Destiva.
The Ben Ahrens-trained Destiva won back-to-back races at Ballina back in February-March and ran a great third to Prompt Return and Hidden Pearl last start in the Bat Out Of Hell Flying (900m) at the Gold Coast on Hollindale Stakes day.
Casino-trained sprinter Hide The Moon finished unplaced in that same Gold Coast race, but will appreciate the return to his home track where he has won two if his three starts.
The rail at Casino will be in the true position and the track is rated a Good 4.