FOR Graeme Dalton, the long path to the Group 2 PETstock 2019 Bendigo Pacing Cup (2650m) has been worth the wait.
It has been 39 years since the veteran Sutton Grange trainer last had a Cup runner and now he’s eager to make up for lost time.
Dalton, who has been a trainer for more than 40 years, will target the $70,000 feature race with the consistent pacer Animated.
Despite an unplaced run at his last start in the Group 3 Schweppes Pace Final at Melton on December 15, Animated will enter the race on the back of some handy recent form.
The seven-year-old gelding’s last five runs have included a pair of wins at his second last stat at Ballarat (December 4) and Melton (November 3) and second placings in the Gunbower Cup (November 18) and at Melton (October 20).
Those performances have Dalton confident of another ‘honest’ performance from Animated at his late Thursday TAB odds of 50-1.
“He didn’t race until he was three, but he’s showed a fair bit of promise all the way through,” he said.
“He very rarely runs a bad race and if he does you generally find a reason for it afterwards.
“He’s certainly paid his way. A couple of his owners are first timers, which has been a joy for them.”
While the Cup shapes as one of the most open in recent memory, Dalton, whose only previous runner in the race finished third, believed the 11-horse field contained a clear standout.
READ MORE – Open field for PETstock Bendigo Pacing Cup
“San Carlo’s obviously going to be very difficult to beat; under the conditions of the race we’ve drawn outside him, which is going to make things difficult,” he said.
“But that will be up to the driver (Chris Alford) to work out the tactics there.
“I would think San Carlo would go forward.
“But given the right run, anything could win it.”
Dalton viewed Alford, who achieved an Australian record of 436 wins last season, as a potential ace in his bid to land a desired first Bendigo Cup.
“Any of those drivers who go around on a regular basis, they know the form of the horses they are competing against; we don’t tell them how to drive,” he said.
“I’ve always looked at it this way, if you are going to employ a driver to drive your horse, and you have to tell him how to drive it, you’re better off driving it yourself.
“We don’t give pre-race instructions – Chris has shown he knows how to get the job done.”
Dalton, who entered the training ranks following the death of his father Lester in 1975, is no stranger to big race success.
The 78-year-old has won a Shepparton Gold Cup, Maryborough Pacing Cup, Echuca Cup and Ouyen Cup and also notched his share of metropolitan wins.
As one of two Bendigo region trainers with horses in Saturday’s race, Dalton hoped it would be he or Strathfieldsaye-based Glenn Douglass and his contender Bernie Winkle, who would be enjoying the spoils of victory.
“We’d like to think we could keep the cup locally, but some of the visitors will have other ideas,” he said.
“Glenn has had quite a bit of success in country cups, more so than I.
“He’s a great competitor – we get along very well.”