NEW Zealand raider Christen Me flies to Australia tomorrow in readiness for his start in the $175,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup on Saturday night.
Christen Me is one of three Kiwis among 17 nominations for the group 1 event.
The Cran Dalgety-trained Christen Me is joined by Pass Them By from the Tim and Anthony Butt team, and The Gold Ace, which for this campaign in Australia is being prepared by Belinda McCarthy in NSW.
Grand old campaigner Smoken Up and Caribbean Blaster lead the Australian contingent’s charge to wrest back from NZ’s grip.
The past three Ballarat Pacing Cups have gone to New Zealanders – Stunin Cullen (2011), Highview Tommy (2012) and Mah Sish (2013).
The Butts are set to return to Bray Raceway with Mah Sish, but instead of the Cup will tackle the standing start feature, The Pure Steel.
Caribbean Blaster, which won the 2012 Victoria Cup, takes outstanding form into what will be his first race start in Ballarat.
He finished second in last year’s Victoria Cup at Melton and last-start won the group 1 South Australian Cup, when he edged out Smoken Up in a classic duel.
Smoken Up ready to win again after consecutive seconds in the Horsham, SA and Shepparton Cups.
Smoken Up is one of five nominations from the Melton stable of Lance Justice.
Group 1 winner Restrepo for Smythes Creek trainer Emma Stewart and stablemate Metro Milke are the only hometown hopes.
Restrepo is coming off a third to The Gold Ace and Smoken Up in Saturday night’s Shepparton Gold Cup.
The nominations also feature the dominant performers from this season’s Victorian cup circuit – Ima Corzin Terror (Maryborough and Bendigo Cups winner), The Gold Ace (Cranbourne and Shepparton Cups winner) and Pass Them By (Cobram Cup winner).
Harness Racing Victoria will finalise the Cup field this morning, with the barrier draw taking place at a breakfast at Bray Raceway.
CUP NOMINATIONS: Abettorpunt (trained by David Lewis), Alchemy (Lance Justice), Caribbean Blaster (Andy Gath), Christen Me (Cran Dalgety, NZ), Field Officer (Grant Dixon, Queensland), Hugo Play (Lance Justice), Im Barney Rubble (Lance Justice), Im Corzin Terror (Dean Braun), Keayang Cullen (Marg Lee), Metro Mike (Emma Stewart), Pass Them By (Tim Butt, NZ), Restrepo (Emma Stewart), Smoken Up (Lance Justice), The Gold Ace (Belinda McCarthy NSW), Toulouse Lautrec (Lance Justice), Uncle Wingnut (Joe Costa), Wartime Sweetheart (David Aiken)