By Julieanne Horsman
With just two races to go in the Wagga Stayer’s Series, three horses have emerged as the most likely to win – Sir Ottavio, Mr Sommerville and Class Clown.
But double points are on offer in this Sunday’s Avis Riverina Cup Prelude (2500m) and triple points for the grand finale, the Riverina Cup (3800m) so there is potential for an outside chance to swoop late and claim the trophy if the leaders fail to perform.
Doogans Rise, trained at Wangaratta by Steve Cunningham, is currently leading the series on 52 points but he isn’t competing on Sunday.
Sir Ottavio is snapping at his heels just five points behind in second place and only has to finish 8th or better in Sunday’s race to take the lead.
“I’m super happy with him,” Wagga-based trainer Trevor Sutherland said.
“He’s a good young stayer on the way up and is screaming out for the extra distance.
“We’ve had a bit of rain down here in the last week which will be his greatest asset.”
Sir Ottavio finished strongly for 3rd in his last start in a Benchmark 65 2000m at Wagga on 26th June. He was a length behind Class Clown and Zorba and he’ll meet them both again, along with stablemate Mr Sommerville, on Sunday. Mr Sommerville and Class Clown, who are in 4th and 5th place on the series leaderboard respectively, could also jump to first place with a win on Sunday.
Mr Sommerville won the inaugural series in 2015 and came 3rd to Ashtomina and Surzeal last year.
He’s won over 2500m three times before and will appreciate the Soft 5 track.
“He’s had a good prep but the hard tracks have made it hard for him,” Sutherland said.
“At 7-years-old and up to his 71st start he is coming to the end of his career but I still expect him to go well on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t swap either of my horses for anyone else’s and they will both go into the Riverina Cup on 18th."
Class Clown will fly the flag for fellow Wagga-based trainer, Chris Heywood.
He’s won three of his past five starts, including his most recent race over 2000m on 26th June when he led all the way.
“You wouldn’t even know he went around,” Heywood said. “He is a big strong horse.”
Jockey Richie Bensley has retained the ride with Heywood declaring he’s “sticking with a winning formula,” but the query for Class Clown is the distance.
“I can’t be certain how he will handle it, but the way he won over 2000m suggests he will run out the 2500m.”
Heywood had another strong chance in the series in Hard Go Jo. The mare shot to the lead in round three and stayed there for three months until she bowed a tendon. She was so far in front, she still sits in third place at round 21.
“That was devastating because winning this series with her was our goal,” Heywood said.
“I haven’t had many stayers before.”
Tumut galloper, Zorba, is well down the leaderboard on just nine points having only competed in one race of the series, but has the power to shake up the results if he finishes in between two of the other horses higher up the leaderboard.
The Kerry Weir-trained gelding beat Sir Ottavio and Mr Sommerville last start and finished a nose behind Class Clown.
The nominations for the Riverina Cup Prelude have been extended until 11am Wednesday with room four more runners in the final field.
The winner of the race will gain automatic entry to the 3800m Riverina Cup on 18th July and the winner of the Wagga Stayer’s Series will receive $10,000.
The winner of each heat of the Wagga Stayer's Series is award 10 points, 2nd 9 points, 3rd 8 points and so on down to 1 point for 10th.