Wayne Walters goes to Avoca Cup to start Puccini campaign

Mt Gambier trainer Wayne Walters has chosen to take on the challenge of Puccini carrying the big weight of 66.5 kilograms in the Avoca Cup on Saturday.

Walters is saddling up the New Zealand Derby winner for the first since he joined his stable.

Puccini last raced when sixth in the listed Caloundra Cup, 2400m, on the Sunshine Coast in July for Ballarat trainer Darren Weir.

There is no question the six-year-old is the class factor – a win would take his earnings to within a breath of $1m – but weight can be a great equaliser.

Jacob Rule has been booked to take the ride on Puccini, which just three starts ago finished midfield in the Brisbane Cup.

Walters said he had basically been left with no choice but to start Puccini in the Avoca Cup with the big weight owing to a lack of other options.

He said had ruled out Murray Bridge on Wednesday because of an unsuitable track and there was nothing suitable in distance at Caulfield on Saturday.

Walters said with the need to get racing into Puccini, he had found Avoca even though he would not be suited by the heavy8 track rating.

There will be some sadness for Walters when Puccini steps out, with it being the group 1 winner’s first start since Walters’ long-time friend, NZ owner and breeder Paul Smithies died unexpectedly.

Walters agreed to take on Puccini after Smithies told him the stayer would be better suited in the open country setting the Mt Gambier stable could offer – something Puccini had thrived in back home in NZ.

He said he planned to tackle black-type feature events towards the end of the spring with Puccini.

Smithies and his wife Cushla bred a number of group 1 performers at their Monovale Farm in NZ, with Puccini among the best.

A half-brother to Puccini won for the Smithies’ Monovale Holdings at Ruakaka in NZ on Wednesday.

The Avoca Shire Turf Club attracted nine acceptors for the $20,000 Blue Pyrenees Estate Avoca Cup, 1860m, this has already been trimmed with the scratching of Buzz Punch.

The club has programmed seven races, with the first at 1.10pm.

AVOCA CUP (non-TAB)

1-846 PUCCINI Jacob Rule 6 66.5kg 

2-900 COUNT OF LIMONADE  Declan Bates 5 57.5kg 

3-124 SOMETHING TO SHARE Jack Hill 9 57kg 

4-185 PECULATUS  Anthony Boyd (a0) 2 55kg 

5-293 ZLATAN  Ibrahim Gundogdu 8 55kg

6-473 DESERT SAMURAI  Jessica Eaton (a3) 3 55kg 

7-626 BUZZ PUNCH scratched

8-087 ASSET HOUND  Kassie Furness (a1.5) 4 55kg

9-085 DEFIABLE  Rose Pearson (a3) 1 55kg 4

CUP RUNNER: Darren Weir-trained Count of Limonade is one of three Ballarat runners set to line up in the Avoca Cup. Pictrure: Getty Images

CUP RUNNER: Darren Weir-trained Count of Limonade is one of three Ballarat runners set to line up in the Avoca Cup. Pictrure: Getty Images