A CLASS field for Saturday night’s Group 2 Petstock Bendigo Pacing Cup has been bolstered by the return of star stallion Ideal For Real.
The Emma Stewart-trained six-year-old is on the comeback trail and has not raced since his win in the Group One Breeders Crown in August 2016.
Ideal For Real, who has spent the time since his last start recovering from a fractured forearm, was unbeaten from seven starts during 2016, with his victories also including the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final at Melton.
The son of American Ideal is being set for the $500,000 A.G. Hunter Cup – Victoria’s richest race – in February.
He will be driven by champion reinsman Gavin Lang, who has partnered Ideal For Real in all 21 of his race starts, for 13 wins, two seconds and two thirds.
The Grand Circuit-class pacer has only once before raced at Bendigo, when he finished sixth in a heat of the Breeders Crown Series for three-year-old colts and geldings.
Only a small field of seven will contest the 2560m Cup, but it includes plenty of quality.
The Melton-trained Moonrock is racing in good form this season, with wins in seven of last 12 starts.
Trainer Sonya Smith has engaged champion New Zealand driver Anthony Butt to team with the five-year-old, who was beaten at his last start in Balllarat by another Cup fancy The Faithful, who has won his past three starts for Shepparton trainer Amanda Turnbull.
Driver Chris Alford, who guided the favourite Lennytheshark to victory in the last year’s race, will target a fifth Bendigo Cup win behind Messini.
A veteran of the circuit, Messini won country cups at Swan Hill and Ouyen in 2017 and was second in the Preux Chevalier Free For All at Melton in September.
Meanwhile, the Andy Gath-trained trotter Glenferrie Flyer will look for a second success in Saturday night’s other feature race, the $50,000 Group One Aldebaran Park Maori Mile.
The now eight-year-old broke the track record by 1.3 seconds, with a blistering mile-rate of 1:54.3, in winning the 2016 version of the race.
A winner of 22 of his 51 career starts, Glenferrie Flyer will again be driven by Kate Gath.
Saturday’s meeting will feature eight races, with the first at Lord’s Raceway 6.59pm.