There might be indecision around whether Black Heart Bart runs this Saturday, but there are no such concerns around one of Darren Weir’s key runners on the Kingsford-Smith Cup Day support card.
Neverland is a certain starter at Eagle Farm, to contest the $125,000 Channel 7 Premier’s Cup.
The 2200-metre Group 3 will be the final lead-up to the Group 2 Brisbane Cup (2400m) for the former Perth mare, and Australia’s premier trainer is delighted with the way she has come to hand since heading east.
“I’m really happy with her,” Weir said. “These are the races that we have had in mind for her all along and this run should have her spot on (for the Brisbane Cup).”
Neverland goes into the Premier’s Cup, in which she will carry 54kg, with the benefit of two lead-up runs; a first-up sixth over 1800m at Caulfield followed by a fine fourth placing over 2000m under 59kg at the same track on May 13.
Circumstances dictated that the daughter of Big Brown had to make a wide run at that latest start and Weir is resigned to the fact Damian Lane might have to do likewise on Saturday after drawing the outside barrier in what is now a 14-horse field following the scratching of Stampede.
“Of course I would have rather she’d drawn a (good) gate so she could be in a more forward position, but that’s the jockey’s problem now,” he said.
Neverland is a $5.50 chance in CrownBet’s market, which is headed by fellow Victorian, The Chairman, at $4.20.
Lane has the ride on all of Weir’s team bar Black Heart Bart, reuniting with Volatile Mix – who was ridden to South Australian Derby victory by John Allen – in the $150,000 Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m).
Lane also rides Turbo Miss in the $150,000 Group 3 Glenlogan Park Stakes (1300m) and Snitzepeg in the $250,000 Group 2 BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) if the second emergency gains a start.
Weir is waiting on a report from respected track walker Peter Ellis – who has been sent north to inspect an Eagle Farm surface that was rated a Heavy 8 on Friday afternoon – before deciding whether to run Black Heart Bart.
The five-time Group 1 winner, who finished seventh in last week’s G1 The Goodwood, is yet to win in four starts on tracks rated worse than Good and while Weir would love to start the gelding, he said the trip would not be a complete waste even if the track was deemed not suitable.
“If he doesn’t run tomorrow he can have a good break in the sunshine,” he said.
As of 1.30pm Friday, Black Heart Bart was CrownBet’s $3.30 favourite for the Kingsford-Smith Cup, with Clearly Innocent and Derryn the joint $6.50 second elects.