Puissance De Lune nails cup

A long-range plan to win the Bendigo Cup came to fruition for trainer Darren Weir and owner Gerry Ryan on Wednesday when French import Puissance De Lune strolled to an eight-length victory in track record time.
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The ghostly grey lobbed straight on the speed for Glen Boss and cruised into the home straight before sprinting well clear of his rivals to set a new benchmark for the 2400m course in 2.27.97, with Weir keen to run the horse during the Flemington carnival.

”We hoped he might have that sort of ability, we can look at a race at Flemington now,” he said.

The grey is now likely to tackle the Queen Elizabeth Stakes on the final day at Flemington.Courtney to take reins at VRC

The VRC has announced that former Crown Casino chief executive David Courtney has been appointed as its new chief executive.

Courtney will take up the position after this year’s Melbourne Cup carnival and will drive the VRC’s ambitious growth plans for Flemington and its business operations.

Courtney was CEO of Crown Casino (2007-10); CEO of Perth’s Burswood Casino (2004-07); and CFO at Crown (1997-2004). He was born in Melbourne and educated at RMIT and Monash University, and was a partner at Ernst & Young in Melbourne before leaving to join Crown Casino in 1997.

”The VRC and Flemington have an established place in Australian culture and I am looking forward to playing my part in the ongoing development of this major entertainment venue and the events that take place here,” Courtney said.Dunaden firing, says Williams

Craig Williams needed to feel improvement in Caulfield Cup winner Dunaden at trackwork on Wednesday and after the pair completed the 1400m gallop there was no doubt in the jockey’s mind that his mount was on target.

”The way that he worked before the Caulfield Cup and the way that he improved today has me really confident going into the Melbourne Cup,” Williams said.

Williams was all smiles as he discussed Dunaden’s progress and does not believe that the one-kilogram penalty assigned to the horse following his Caulfield win is enough to stop him from defending his Melbourne Cup title.

”My feeling is that the weight is not going to stop him. I know mathematicians, figures, and history will say that it will, but my feeling is that as long as he has the right luck in running I’m very confident that he can win with that weight,” he said.

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Oliver’s steely resolve to the fore on path to Cup

PUNTERS always rally around a fairytale story at Melbourne Cup time, and the standout this year is undoubtedly Damien Oliver and Americain.
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This year’s Cup marks 10 years since Oliver’s incredible victory aboard Irish import Media Puzzle, an emotion-charged win that came just days after his brother Jason was killed when he fell from a horse in a barrier trial in Perth.

Oliver was torn between grief and his savage need for competition, eventually producing a winning ride and a tearful salute to the heavens that will be forever remembered as one of the most touching moments in Australian sport, and eventually the subject of a feature film.

Ten years later and Oliver is under the microscope again in the lead-up to the Cup. This time he is besieged by a betting scandal that threatens not only his integrity but also his career. The question is: Can the champion jockey triumph over adversity again?

At Werribee on Wednesday when faced by the media, Oliver happily answered questions about Americain and how he came to have a seat on the horse, but when questioned regarding the ongoing Racing Victoria investigation into an alleged $10,000 bet he had placed on a rival runner, he preferred a straight bat over a detailed response.

”I don’t know anything about that [investigation]. It’s just business as usual,” he said.

Oliver’s resolve during the investigation has been nothing short of steely. He was sacked from the Caulfield Cup ride aboard My Quest For Peace and missed a ride on Cox Plate runner Green Moon after the betting scandal broke, but days later won the Thousand Guineas aboard Commanding Jewel.

With rumours buzzing as to his potential betting activity, Oliver admitted that the offer to ride Americain came as a surprise. ”I was actually driving home from Ballarat and I nearly ran off the road. It was really exciting and a great opportunity for me,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, he was again focused on work as he partnered Americain in a 2000-metre hit-out with stablemate Shahwardi to complete their Melbourne Cup preparation.

”He’s an amazing horse, he’s in great condition and in great form,” Oliver said. ”From afar he’s such a big and imposing horse, but I was really taken by his athleticism today. He’s really light on his feet and he’s got some great acceleration, and even through the line today was the best part of his work … he just wanted to keep going.”

Shahwardi led out in the gallop and maintained a four-length break until the final 50 metres when Oliver asked Americain for more and the 2010 Cup winner comfortably reduced the margin to a length at the post. Soon after the line, Americain had gone four lengths clear.

”As we know he’s a great two-miler and when he gets to Flemington on a big track, that’s going to be his biggest asset,” Oliver said.

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Dundeel top pick but Cool is also hot

THE Victoria Derby is likely to be run at a good tempo, with Fiveandahalfstar and the Gai Waterhouse-trained Our Desert Warrior likely to push forward and set a solid tempo.
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That will suit New Zealand trainer Murray Baker with favourite It’s A Dundeel, the horse having maintained his place at the top of betting even after he was beaten in the Vase at Moonee Valley by Super Cool as a long odds-on favourite last weekend.

”We aren’t going to be changing anything. He is going to get back,” Baker said. ”It is a very big field and we will need to get the right run because there are a lot of horses that just won’t stay and will be out of gas on the turn. That [staying] isn’t a problem for us. He has tightened up a bit from that run last week, and it has really helped him.”

It’s A Dundeel will probably be better suited to the long stretches of Flemington but so will Super Cool.

”Before he went to Moonee Valley, he was getting back and finishing off and you would have thought Flemington was going to be the track he was looking for,” Super Cool’s trainer, Mark Kavanagh, said.

”I’m happy enough with the barrier because it looks like it’s going to be a truly run race. It is up to Michael Rodd now but if he can get him relaxed and settled we know he has a real turn of foot at the end.”

The David Payne-trained Honorius was the only runner to firm in betting after the draw, in which he got gate two. He is the $6 second elect in the TAB Sportsbet market, with Hvasstan and Super Cool at $7.

Manny Gelagotis believes that Hvasstan has ”the whole package” after drawing gate nine.

Gelagotis, who is stable foreman for his brother Peter at Moe, went to yesterday’s barrier draw worried it could ruin the Fastnet Rock colt’s chances. ”The barrier was more critical to what I thought about the horse’s chances than anything else,” Gelagotis said.

”Now we have drawn in the middle of the field, it will give Glen [Boss, jockey] options. He should be able to find a spot and put him to sleep, it’s one less thing that can go wrong. I couldn’t be happier with that gate.”

The draw has three of the favourites next to each other in the barriers, with $2.60 top pick It’s A Dundeel to Hvasstan’s immediate outside and Super Cool in gate 11.

But Gelagotis was oozing confidence heading towards Saturday.

”We have thought for a while he was one of the two best colts in Melbourne. His lead-up going into the Norman Robinson [Stakes] was excellent but it was there he showed how good he is,” Gelagotis said. ”He had to find a way to win and I just liked the way the horse picked himself up off the deck there.”

DERBY FIELD

Victoria Derby (G1) 2500m, 3pm Flemington Saturday

Prize money: $1.5m; 1st $900,000; 2nd $270,000; 3rd $135,000; 4th $67,500; 5th $37,500; 6th-8th $30,000.

NO. FORM HORSE (DRAW) TRAINER JOCKEY 1 1112It’s A Dundeel(10)M. BakerJ. McDonald 2 1337Jimando(6)A. McEvoyM. Neilson 3 3232Honorius(2)D. PayneC. Brown 4 1421Super Cool(11)M.KavanaghM. Rodd 5 1121Hvasstan(9)P. GelagotisG. Boss 6 5511Fiveandahalfstar(5)A. CummingsD. Oliver 7 2653Escado(12)M. LaurieB. Melham 8 8213Electric Fusion(7)R. SmerdonN. Hall 9 1294Subiaso(8)R. LaingS. Arnold 10 3394Bullion Express(16)D. BinaisseV. Duric 11 422Malabar Man(15)M. KentC. Williams 12 3206Costa Nova(14)Ellerton/ZahraJ. Bowman 13 144Our Desert Warrior(13)G. WaterhouseN. Rawiller 14 2535Nisos(3)P. RockeW. Egan 15 6270Rawnaq(4)D. HayesM. J. Walker 16 613Batistuta(1)A. CoffeyD. Yendall

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Cooper’s Wallaby contract ‘on hold’

QUADE Cooper’s future in Australian rugby remains in limbo in the wake of a $40,000 fine handed to the Wallabies’ five-eighth for attacks he made on the team and coach Robbie Deans.
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Although Cooper has signed a three-year deal with Super Rugby franchise Queensland Reds, the ARU withdrew its top-up contract after the injured playmaker’s criticisms in September.

Deputy chief executive Matt Carroll said the ARU had noted the tribunal’s findings and would consider the next step in the contracting process.

”ARU placed contract negotiations with Quade Cooper on hold until the tribunal process had been finalised,” Carroll said.

”Given the tribunal has handed down its decision, this matter as far as we are concerned has been finalised. ARU will now look at how we address the contract situation involving Quade Cooper.”

After more than four hours of hearings and deliberations at the ARU headquarters in Sydney on Wednesday, the three-person tribunal found Cooper in breach of the ARU’s code of conduct in two separate instances.

He was fined $10,000 for a post on Twitter criticising an ARU-licensed computer game, Rugby Challenge, and $50,000 for comments he made in the mainstream media and on Twitter, in which he called the Wallabies culture ”toxic” and criticised the team’s style of play under Deans.

A $20,000 portion of that was suspended, as was a three-match ban, but both will be activated if Cooper breaches the code of conduct again at any point over the next two years.

The Reds five-eighth apologised to rugby fans and said he had received a ”very fair hearing” in front of the three-person panel at ARU headquarters.

”I’m very happy with the outcome and obviously the sentence that’s been handed to me, full respect for that, and I understand that I fell well below par for what it means to be a Wallaby and for all the supporters who are out there, my apologies,” he said.

Cooper must now wait while the ARU decides whether or not to put its contract offer back on the table.

But in the aftermath of the hearing, Cooper, who has battled a knee injury all year and will sit out the Wallabies end-of-year tour to Europe, broached the subject of playing again in the gold jersey.

”From now I’m just looking forward to the future and hopefully having a big year with not only my state but the Wallabies and very much looking forward to overcoming my injury and getting back on the field,” he said.

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WA told to ignore scrutiny

WEST Australian players have been urged to ignore the intense scrutiny on their unsuccessful recent tour of South Africa when resuming their Sheffield Shield responsibilities in Melbourne on Thursday.
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Only four of the 12 Warriors brought over for the match were also part of Perth Scorchers’ Champions League campaign. The impromptu 21st birthday celebrations for all-rounder Mitch Marsh, in which all bar one player went to a bar after a team dinner, have been criticised by the WA hierarchy but were not deemed serious enough to warrant individual punishment.

In the aftermath of the players’ return home long-time captain Marcus North quit as captain of both WA and the Scorchers, although that was based on the former Test batsman’s embarrassment at his poor batting form, which he believed severely undermined his right to remain in the team.

North remains part of the WA team but, for the first time since early 2007, will not be captain. The interim Warriors leader will be Mike Hussey, who has not captained at any level since November 2005. Hussey said his instructions to his teammates involved ”clearing all the baggage out of the way and focusing on what’s really important”.

”I’ve spoken to the whole team about distractions. There has been a fair bit of distraction around the team in the past week or so and we really want to try and put those distractions aside and just concentrate on this particular game,” said the veteran, who will make only a cameo appearance before moving on to Test duties.

Hussey said he would also seek to remind the players of what they achieved last season against the Bushrangers: chasing a final-innings target of 362, the fifth-highest ever achieved at the MCG. Despite ranking near South Australia as the conspicuous domestic underachiever of late, WA is aiming for a third consecutive outright victory at the MCG.

Both Victoria and WA have lost key players to Australia A duty and will field makeshift top-order batting line-ups because of that.

Batsmen Peter Handscomb and Aaron Finch, all-rounder Alex Keath and seamer Jayde Herrick are the likely inclusions for the Bushrangers, with uncapped leg-spinner James Muirhead expected to be named 12th man.

VICTORIA (from): White (c), Finch, Herrick, Handscomb, D Hussey, Keath, Mckay, Muirhead, J Pattinson, Rogers, Siddle, Wade.

WA (from): M Hussey (c), Beer, Behrendorff, Harris, Hogan, Johnson, M Marsh, North, Rimmington, Triffitt, Voges, Whiteman.

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