There are a few unknowns facing Mark as the Hunter Cup draws near.

One  is the track with a hill.

“He’ll have a good hitout later in the week but I am a bit wary of the track we are working on. It rises on one side and is downhill on the other. I will be relying on (host) Greg (Sugars) to advise me how much to do without doing too much”

“He has come through Saturday’s run in great order I am very happy with him.But I don’t want to overdo it  a few days before a race like that and those ups and downs could make how much work we are doing a bit hard to judge”

Greg and his wife, Jess Tubbs, handle Better Eclipse, the Inter Dominion runner-up who beat Don’t Stop Dreaming by half a head in the $A50,000 Casey Classic.

Both enjoyed good runs, Mark moving off the rail early and landing the one-one while the winner trailed. 

“I was in two minds about going into the Hunter Cup before the race actually. But Bettor Eclipse is the best of the Victorian horses in it so to run him so close was a big lift. I knew then he was going to be competitive over here” Mark said

The Sugars/Tubbs partnership also train Australia’s reigning trotting champion, Just Believe, who won the Dullard Cup on Saturday night and may head over to New Zealand for the upcoming Trotters Slot race at Cambridge later in the year. Mark was very impressed with a likely adversary for Oscar Bonavena. 

Bettor Eclipse and Just Believe are both millionaires after Saturday. Greg Sugars took Just Believe to Sweden for the Elittlopp last year and it is possible he may return there instead of going to Cambridge.

Until the Casey Stakes  Mark,who has not personally campaigned in Victoria for some years, was having some difficulty accurately measuring how our age group horses shape up in Australian open company.

“In previous times  over here we have raced them in the three year old features like the Derby on the way through and they have been exposed to tough local competition at that age so we could get a good line on how they shape. Now we are over for the first time taking on the top open class horses and not being sure how it will go.So Saturday was a great boost to our chances. I think we know we can measure up”

After Saturday it is off to Sydney to qualify for the Chariots of Fire through either the Hondo Grattan or  Paleface Adios Stakes. The latter, on February 24,may be the thinking at this stage- a week before the Chariots- but it will all  decide on immediate outcomes. 

The programme means Mark is not at Karaka sorting out thoroughbred yearlings this year.But he is back after Saturday to attend the inspection for the standardbred sales next month.

PIC.Don’t Stop Dreaming-from Mark’s viewpoint

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