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Kilmore Pacing Cup preview

While the Australian thoroughbred attention is currently focused on Moonee Valley, the Sunday after the Cox Plate is traditionally one of harness racing's biggest days - Kilmore Cup Day. As new contributor Matt Nicholls, @mattnicholls29, says below, it's a race steeped in tradition.

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Kilmore Pacing Cup

One of the greatest races in harness racing history is the Kilmore Pacing Cup. The home of many top former pacers and trotters, the stand-start event boasts a magnificent honour roll and has provided some of the biggest highlights in harness history. While the $70,000 Group 2 race has lost some of its nostalgia and Group 1 rating over the years, it’s still a ballot-exempt race from the Hunter Cup and is still much adored by the harness public. Sunday’s 3150-metre stand-start race should be another classic, with Bitobliss aiming to make it three Kilmore Cup wins in a row. He’s going to have to do it off a 20-metre handicap, though.

1. JADAHSON – $61 Was outclassed in Saturday night’s Nyah Cup at Swan Hill when he had a reasonably soft run. Would need to step well from the stand start and get the sit behind Chancellor Cullen to be any chance of running a place.

2. MAGICAL TELF – $8.50 Was beaten a head as a 2.10 favourite at Swan Hill last time and that was over a mile. He’s certainly a progressive pacer, but he’s having his first stand-start race and jumps significantly in distance. A place chance only, but I doubt he’ll run top-three.

3. JACCKA CLIVE – $15 At his best, old Jaccka Clive might have been able to challenge these. He was fifth in this race last year, but he was in OK form at the time. Hasn’t won since April and hasn’t looked like winning, so I’ll risk him as he’s a nine-year-old and starting to lose touch in FFA races.

4. MUSTANG MACH – $17 He can be a bit of an enigma, so you can’t completely dismiss his chances of being in the finish, but on paper he looks a little bit outclassed. The positive for him could be the fact it’s a stand-start and he’s had two attempts from the strands and placed both times, winning one and running third in another. Rough place chance only.

5. CHANCELLOR CULLEN – $3.60 A tough pacer who should lead from this good draw and prove hard to run down. Providing he steps well from the strands, he should find the front with reasonable ease and that makes him a contender. Does love to run quick sectionals, so he could be paddling late, though. A tough wind at Kilmore can make it tough for leaders in the race. Definitely one of the major players.

6. OUR CHAIN OF COMMAND – $35 Getting on in years, but this Tasmanian pacer still knows how to run a good race. An excellent start-start horse, he has given rivals in Hobart a 50-metre start and won. That’s the main thing in his favour on Sunday. If he steps well and can find a cosy run in transit, he might be able to sneak into third spot. A few others do look to have his measure, though.

7. CUT FOR AN ACE – $15 Is flying at the moment, but jumps significantly in class and I think that will be his undoing. Has only had one stand-start beginning and was unplaced, so you’d be risking him on Sunday in a high pressure race. I’d be happy to take him on if I was a bookmaker.

8. RESTREPO – $4.40 Was absolutely brilliant last start when winning the Nyah Cup at Swan Hill, but that was helped by the fact Chancellor Cullen set a cracking speed up front for him to fly home and nab him. I think if you watch the replay it’s pretty easy to acknowledge that he had a much easier run, so he’s going to need it again on Sunday. Lang’s best home might be to lob in the running line and hope to get a cart-up from Bitobliss. Can’t see him winning, though.

9. LIVINTHEHIGHLIFE (emg) – $61 Needs a scratching to get a run, but would be no chance of winning anyway. Hasn’t fired a shot this preparation and is likely to run around in a claimer later in the program. Discard.

10. JACK IN FLIGHT – $35 Had a good run in transit last time when third behind Bitobliss, beaten four metres, but he’s a rough chance again on Sunday. Has six wins from stand-start races, so should be a pro at the tapes and that gives him hope of running a place. Petroff must get him cover when making a three-wide trip late.

11. ARTOC – $101 The bookies have his price spot on as he’s no chance. Has raced 121 times for 15 wins, but his best is well and truly past him and the owners must want a day out at the Kilmore Cup. Can’t win.

12. MACHIN OUT – $61 Would need a lot of luck to feature in this race. Won as a $1.30 favourite at Yarra Valley, but that was four steps down in class. Would have to follow Bitobliss and, to be frank, I don’t think he has the motor to do it. I’d leave him out of my exotics.

13. BITOBLISS (20m) – $2.10 The class horse of the field, but can he overcome the 20-metre handicap? Scott Stewart is an old Kilmore boy and has won this race the last two years with Bitobliss, so it would be a dream to make it a hat-trick. Last year he sat in the death against Caribbean Blaster and outstayed him, but he won’t have that option on Sunday. Needs to make a mid-race or late move to win as Chancellor Cullen will get a softer run. Definitely the best horse in the race, but how he’s driven will go a long way to deciding his fate.

THE VERDICT It’s not the classiest Kilmore Cup that’s been pieced together, but Bitobliss certainly provides the star factor. The race is going to be determined by the horse that sits in the death seat. If enough pressure is applied to Chancellor Cullen, then Bitobliss can win, but if Alford gets a relatively soft lead, then I don’t think Scott Stewart can outgun him from the 20-metre handicap. I’ll stick with Bitobliss to make it a hat-trick of wins, but try and shop around for better odds. $2.50 is about the right price.

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