By Ray Hickson
Trainer Paul Murray isn’t too concerned whether Bega Cup winner Winning Point finds herself in the Big Dance or the Little Dance in the spring because he knows he has something to aim at.
The mare’s strong victory in the Sapphire Coast feature earned her eligibility for the $3 million race on November 5 but Murray's job is only half done if he wants to tackle the big one.
While there’s plenty of time up his sleeve, Murray hopes Winning Point can take another step toward the Big Dance in the Agency Real Estate Handicap (1550m) at Kensington on Wednesday.
“Now she’s won that race we’re in the Big Dance or Little Dance, we’ve mapped out the program for her,’’ he said.
“We’ve got to be smart to work back from November 5 to get her rating up and into the big race.”
The field for the Big Dance is comprised of the winners of a series of eligible races across NSW, plus two Wild Card places, but its ballot order is done by the ratings of eligible horses.
Based on the two editions so far, a city rating in the 70s would be a minimum to ensure you’re in the top 20 and racing for the $3 million. Winning Point sits on 68 so Murray is aware there’s still work to do.
But she's assured of a start in the $750,000 Little Dance if things don't quite go to plan in the next eight months or so.
“I wanted to give her another run or two, and this one popped up so we’ll have a crack at that and then I’ll decide if she has one more after that,’’ Murray said.
“I’m leaning to three to four runs into the Big Dance. So we have a bit of leeway to get a win or so to keep the rating up.”
The Kembla Grange trainer said there was no fluke in the Bega Cup victory, pointing to the four-year-old's eye-catching Moruya Cup performance a month earlier.
“I thought she could win but not as dominantly as she did,’’ he said.
“The Moruya run was sensational, on a bog track and 1400m is not quite her distance. She was last at the turn, last at the 200m, and runs seventh beaten five. I don’t know how they didn’t see it.
“I thought the mile would suit her a lot better and it did and now we’re in the Big Dance or the Little Dance at the end of the year.”
Winning Point, $8.50 with TAB on Tuesday, has six rivals at Kensington so jockey Jean Van Overmeire won’t need to bank on nearly as much luck as he did at the Sapphire Coast.
Murray believes, even though the mare has won up to 2300m, a mile is her peak distance and the strength of the Bega Cup win suggests a Randwick mile will be right up her alley.
Winning Point takes out the Bega Cup
“Just the way she did it in record time, she went to the line with her ears pricked,’’ he said.
“We’ll know a lot more after Wednesday even though it’s only 1550m.
“I just leave it to Jean because he knows her better than anyone. He’ll do his homework and we work in with what he wants to do.”