Ohoka Punter’s chances of taking the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup from his compatriot Smolda were given a boost at tonight’s barrier draw.
Tony Herlihy’s New Zealand hope drew barrier three, inside Smolda (barrier five), for the last Hunter Cup to be run with a standing start.
Geoff Webster’s Franco Ledger took barrier one and will be joined on the front row by fellow Victorian hope Yankee Rockstar (barrier two), Ballarat’s It Is Billy (barrier four), Messini (barrier six) and Webster’s other runner, Flaming Flutter (barrier seven).
Webster said “he couldn’t be happier” with Franco Ledger, who chances were greatly boosted by the draw, hosted by the Caduceus Club at the MCG.
“He’s been going quite well,” Webster said. “I drove him at Shepparton and he felt good to me, and with that run and this barrier draw he should be a good each-way chance.”
Driver Anthony Butt has held the reins for Franco Ledger of late, but will steer Ohoka Punter on Saturday night.
Butt said in barrier three Ohoka Punter had “drawn perfectly”.
“He needed to draw the front row and it has fallen well for him,” Butt said.
Adam Hamilton of TAB.com.au said the draw had made Ohoka Punter favourite at $3, after Smolda eased to $3.20.
That was short-lived however and, after the first few bets all went the way of the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup winner, Smolda was drawn back into $3 equal favourite.
Good Form’s Jason Bonnington said Smolda wasn’t the best from the standing start and expected a lot of horses would battle for the breeze early.
“We do think that Ohoka Punter will lead and that probably Smolda will find the breeze eventually,” Bonnington said.
“It is the last standing start Hunter Cup as we know and anything can happen. We can make predictions, but we really don’t know what is going to happen on the first line.”
Bonnington picked Smolda on top, while Good Form’s Blake Redden said the barrier draw had convinced him to switch and tip Ohoka Punter to win.
Del-Re National Hunter Cup barrier draw:
1 - Franco Ledger
2 - Yankee Rockstar
3 - Ohoka Punter
4 - It Is Billy
5 - Smolda
6 - Messini
7 - Flaming Flutter
8 - My Hard Copy
9 - Mossdale Conner
10 - Im Corzin Terror
11 - Five Star Anvil
12 - Franco Nelson
13 - Star Chamber
14 - Jason Rulz
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