Robert Smerdon at last has a second Ballarat Cup to his name.
Some 21 years after a guiding McGuane to victory in the race, Grand Dreamer ($7.50) made it two for Smerdon on Saturday.
For Smerdon, the listed $300,000 Sportsbet Ballarat Cup, 2200m, is something special.
‘’I grew up here and all my background is from here in Ballarat so it’s very satisfying.’’
And it showed.
Grand Dreamer’s performance was more than enough to put an extra sparkle in Smerdon’s eye – one that he would have also had as a youngster growing up watching the Ballarat Cup year-in year-out.
While Smerdon is based at Caulfield these days as the biggest trainer for Aquanita Racing, he maintains a significant presence in Ballarat.
He said he still had 25 to 30 horses at his Dowling Forest stables.
“They all start off here and all the babies are broken in and educated here and they come back here for a change of environment. It compliments Melbourne really well,” Smerdon said.
Grand Dreamer finished over the top of runner-up Oncidium Ruler ($10), which stuck closest to the inside rail, third-placegetter Grey Lion ($3.60 favourite) and Mr Garcia, which faded for fifth, to get the verdict by 1.75 lengths.
After Big Blue opened up a 10-length lead mid-race, Grey Lion and Mr Garcia swooped to the lead with Oncidium Ruler cutting the corner with 400m to go at the top of the home straight, with Grand Dreamer stalking the trio.
Smerdon said rain earlier in the day made all the difference for Grand Ruler.
‘’I looked at the forecast a week ago and they said showers on Friday and Saturday and I thought, ‘’well, if it’s going to rain anywhere it’ll rain in Ballarat’.”
He said the Cup was always going to be a big ask for Grand Dreamer, with him unsure whether the seven-year-old would be good enough to win.
‘’He’s got terrific wet track form, but we’ve rarely been able to get him on a soft track. The weather brought him into the race and we rode him in that conservative fashion and it came off.
‘’It (the rain) couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The rain has worked in our favour,” he said.
Smerdon said getting in on the minimum weight (54kg) had also been crucial.
Smerdon said he could now set his sights on a third Ballarat Cup.
“So, if I live long enough, I can train a third one. Just another 20 years to wait.’’
Grand Dreamer gave Smerdon a Cup Day winning double.
He also scored with Tezlah ($5) in the $120,000 Hertz Ballarat VOBIS Gold 3yo Eureka Stockade,1400m.
The NZ-bred colt had almost a length to spare from Mactier ($11), with Captain Harry ($9.50) third.
Smerdon complemented the financial benefits of the VOBIS Gold scheme, which with the owners also being the nominators had made this a $90,000-plus earner for connections.
“It’s a good payday for these horses.”
Smerdon said Tezlah was a horse they had always liked, but he had “punched above his weight a bit”.
“He’s exceeded my expectations.”
The son of Ocean Park has only had the five starts, but has now won three times with previous successes at Moe and Moonee Valley.