Mark was not worried when told DON’T STOP DREAMING had worked about three seconds outside what is considered a top time on the track at the Greg Sugars/Jess Tubbs establishment on Thursday. 

But he is worried about the gate the horse starts out of on Saturday and the little he can do early in the race to return to the Hunter Cup win list after 6 years mostly absent from the Group one feature.

With his “stablemate” ,the Tubbs-trained Better Eclipse, stuck wide out on the front line it looks like an ideal setup for race favourite Leap to Fame from just inside him and the Andy Gath-trained speed horse Catch the Wave to dominate the early rush,Catch the Wave leading then,probably from the ace gate with Kiwi co- owned Can’tfindabettorman on the ballot, then handing up to the favourite who is a proven iron horse in front and who may  then dominate the race.  

“It is hard to see the favourite being beaten if it works out like that” Mark said

“We can’t do much early to influence the race. We are drawn behind behind a horse who can get out the gate (without scratchings) so you can’t plan on too much when you are relying on what other drivers might do”

Don’t Stop Dreaming seems ready for the fray though. 

“As I said it is an up and down track here. Greg told me he thought 3.15 was a top time to aim at. We did 3.18 this morning and I am quite happy with that.

He’s travelled over, had a race, done some light work earlier in the week and I think that was all he needed at this stage”

Mark himself has not thrived quite as well, a virus he now thinks he had before leaving home causing some discomfort earllier in the week.

Don’t Stop Dreaming cast a shoe in his leadup last Saturday and did well to get so close to Inter Dominion runner- up Bettor Eclipse.

His chances of going one better rely largely on whether any or who among rival drivers will want to take on Leap To Fame midrace, a move unlikely to help the chances of the challenger on Leap To Fame’s domination of the Inter Dominions. Only the fact he has had plenty of racing is a potential weakness and most Aussie champions cope on lengthy campaigns.

Mark is hopeful things will turn out for the best on the night but with a big Chariots of Fire campaign in the offing in Sydney a real Don’t Stop Dreaming performance will be a nice consolation if not.

Smolda (2016) a horse whose feats of stamina were underrated in New Zealand and the incomparable Lazarus (2018), Mark’s two previous winners, were different kettles of fish in the Hunter Cup being tough horses experienced at the elite level.

On Sunday Mark will be at the Victorian sales.

“I’ve got several I have been asked to look at for different owners so will see that goes.I haven’t had the chance to look at them yet”

Mark heads home on Monday with upcoming races and sales making for a busy time


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