Metro Mike will be eager to hold the front from barrier one in the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup.
Speed maps that have Major Crocker and Mossdale Conner dicing for the lead in Saturday night’s showcase may be blown away by a local with lofty ambitions.
Metro Mike, trained at Smythes Creek by Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, drew barrier one for the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup, a starting point connections will endeavour to capitalise on.
“The barrier helps, he’s got a lot of gate speed, we will look to hold the front and see how he goes,” Stewart said.
“It is our home cup, he has to take a step up against the other horses, but he is a quality racehorse.”
She said Metro Mike had a “freshen up” since finishing last when favourite in the Melton City Council Sprint on July 4 last year, only returning this month for one run at Ballarat before tackling the cup.
On January 8 Metro Mike placed third behind Changing Code and Jaccka Art, battling on well after coming from the tail mid-race to finish within 4m of the winner.
“He also had a few trials and he trialled pretty well. He had a pretty hard race first up, but did a good job,” Stewart said.
“Now we’ve thrown him in the deep end, but he is a quality horse and if things fall right he should be a good chance to run a place.”
The cup represents a step-up for the seven-year-old, whose 70 starts have yielded 20 wins and $189,000 in stakes, but Stewart is confident he can compete in this class.
“It’s his first taste against a couple of the better ones. It’s not an outstanding field, I’ve seen stronger and he’s definitely got a chance,” she said.
Key to any success will be Metro Mike’s ability to hold the front, or near to, amid a succession of likely challengers.
“There’s definitely going to be pressure, because everyone will be working to be on the fence. It will be up to (driver) Jason (Lee) to sum up, but I’m confident we’ll be able to hold the front.”
Also front of mind is the fact some challengers may be wary of burning too many petrol tickets ahead of the Victoria and Hunter cups.
“We can afford to run along a bit stronger than they may want to, which is probably in our favour,” Stewart said.
Should the cards fall their way, it would be the third time the Stewart and Tonkin stables have held the cup, following Restrepo in 2014, Safari in 2008 and Robin Hood in 2006.
“It is always a race that we want to win. We have won it three times before and it’s a race we want to win again on Saturday.”
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