The Allied Express Victoria Cup kicks off the new Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season this Saturday night.
The 2240m mobile start feature is now the opening feature of the eight leg series and champion pacer Lennytheshark is drawn to dominate his home state feature after landing the coveted inside gate.
A winner of the Victoria Cup back in 2016, the David Aiken trained eight-year-old is aiming to become just the fourth pacer to be a multiple winner of the event.
If successful, he will join Desperate Comment (1996/97), Bag Limit (1987/88) and Popular Alm (1982/83) as dual winners while Koala King (1978/79 & 80) holds the record with three victories.
Interestingly, Lennytheshark was a runner-up behind Kiwi star Christen Me in the 2015 edition after being beaten for early pace from the same draw as he faces this year.
Boasting an outstanding record at TABCORP Park, Melton with 20 victories from 31 starts, Lennytheshark proved he was the horse to beat following his scorching victory last week in the lead-up event, the Gr.2 $50,000 Smoken Up Sprint in 1:51.9.
Regular reinsman Chris Alford is no stranger to success in the Victoria Cup and aims for his third triumph following victories behind Golden Reign (1995) and Lennytheshark (2016).
Amazingly, the pint sized driver has only had four drives in this prestigious event over the past decade and two of those drives have come behind Lennytheshark.
His other drives were Penny Veejay (2007) and Cruz Bromac in the most recent edition (2017 – staged earlier this year).
He took his maiden drive in the race back in 1994 aboard Golden Reign and his drive this weekend will be his 13th – his other drives coming with Golden Reign (1995), Tailamade Lombo (1999, 2000/01/02) and Mont Denver Gold (1993 x 2).
With the change in timeslot, the New Zealand representation is non-existent although My Field Marshal is listed as Christchurch trained for master horseman Tim Butt.
The classy pacer has been based on Australian soil since April and has faced the starter on a dozen occasions during that time frame.
Since 1992, only once has a Victoria Cup field boasted nil New Zealand trained representatives – the 2007 edition won by Robin Hood was the exception.
Kiwi trained pacers have excelled in the Victoria Cup with victories coming via Franco Ice, Master Musician, Chokin, Desperate Comment (x 2), Brabham, Holmes D G, Young Rufus, Bettors Strike and Christen Me while Lazarus won the most recent edition.
Almost unbelievably, neither Tim nor Anthony Butt has tasted success in the Cup despite all their success in most features on the calendar and on both sides of the ditch.
In-form mare Ameretto is looking to create history to become the first female pacer to win the Victoria Cup, no mare has won the event since its inception in 1974.
Prepared by record breaking horsewoman Kerryn Manning, the tiny mare will be handled by former trainer Ash Grives as she shoots for her 7th consecutive victory.
If successful, Grives will join Natalie Rasmussen, Amy Tubbs and Kate Gath as winning female drivers of the Cup.
Manning also prepares Mr Mojito who will be handled by her husband, Grant Campbell.
The husband and wife team of Shane and Lauren Tritton are chasing their biggest success with Yayas Hot Spot, the talented pacer finished a sound 4th last week behind Lennytheshark.
Another husband and wife combination aiming for success is Andy and Kate Gath, the couple combined with Caribbean Blaster back in 2012.
They will be represented in this edition by Burnaholeinmypocket.
Young Bec Bartley is also hoping to join that exclusive list of female winners and will partner boom pacer San Carlo for trainer Stephen O’Donoghue.
A winner of 19 of his 22 starts, the seven-year-old gelding faces his moment of truth this weekend.
The last winner of the Cup from north of the border was For A Reason back in 2013 for Luke and Belinda McCarthy, the representatives this year include Galactic Star, Code Black, Tiger Tara and Yayas Hot Spot.
Galactic Star, prepared by Craig Cross has won 5 of his past 6 starts and will be handled by Luke McCarthy, a two times Cup winner (For A Reason and Mr Feelgood).
Rossmore mentor Kevin Pizzuto prepares both Code Black and Tiger Tara; both pacers possess excellent form and should acquit themselves well.
Leading reinsman Greg Sugars has opted for the Vince Vallelonga Major Crocker in preference to Tee Cee Bee Macray.
Sugars is chasing his Maiden Victoria Cup success.
Trainer Alan Tubbs, a winner of the 2008 Victoria Cup with Melpark Major has engaged Zac Phillips to partner Tee Cee Bee Macray.
The Victoria Cup field is;
Flaming Flutter (Emergency)
Yayas Hot Spot
My Field Marshal
Tee Cee Bee Macray
Start time is 9.02pm local time.