MARONG pacer Sunrose Master has stormed into the final of the $25,000 Australia Cup (2190m) on Mildura Pacing Cup night this Saturday with a classy heat win at City Oval Paceway on Tuesday night.
The Danny Curran-trained five-year-old withstood a spirited a challenge from Willem, from the strong Stephen O'Donoghue stable, but the Shepparton pacer was no match for an impressive winner.
Sunrose Master continued the rapid improvement that has seen him record three wins in his last five runs since breaking through at Gunbower in late February.
The gelding's win was the second leg of a driving double for James Herbertson, who praised the five-year-old's resilience.
"He went super tonight (Tuesday) this big horse. As I have said before he is a tough horse and he ran a pretty tough time," he told Trots Vision.
"He just wouldn't let little Willem past him, (but) all credit to the horse it was a pretty big run.
"His racing manners are first class - he got a bit fiery early and I had to rev him up.
"I dropped my hands and he came back to me and got the little breather he needed."
It was the second career win at City Oval Paceway for Sunrose Master, who was previously trained in the Mildura region by Bruce Rose and Luke Watson
The gelding now has seven wins and 10 placings from 41 career starts.
He will be joined in the final by the Glenn Douglas-trained gelding Pocket Thedeal, who finished the heat in fourth spot behind Master Penrose.
Meanwhile, the Group 2 Mildura Pacing Cup dream remains alive for Bendigo trainer Kate Hargreaves and reinsman Alex Ashwood after Resurgent Spirit snuck into the field for Saturday's $60,000 final.
The recent Tasmania Pacing Cup finalist finished fifth in his heat behind the smart Peter Manning-trained mare Reciprocity ($2.90 equal favourite with Resurgent Spirit) to earn a spot in the final-10 horse field.
Resurgent Spirit should be improved by the run, which was the eight-year-old gelding's first since his fourth place finish in the $75,000 Tasmania Cup final.
Certain to run favourite in the Cup final is the 2019 Bendigo Pacing Cup winner San Carlo, who returned to racing in fine style to break the track record in the night's second heat.
But the eight-year-old gelding and his driver Rebecca Bartley did not have things all their own way, after engaging in an epic duel down the home straight with Bendigo driver Ellen Tormey and recent Ouyen Cup winner Brallos Pass to win by a short margin.
The top pair's battle with Reciprocity in the final shapes as an epic.
San Carlo will be chasing a fourth country cup in six months following wins at Cranbourne and Yarra Glen last year and Bendigo in January.
While he might have missed out on Resurgent Spirit, Ashwood found success earlier in the night when he extended his partnership with Mildura trainer Sandra O'Connor to get a win with Geronimo Dan in the opening heat of the Mildura Working Man's Club Pace (2190m).
It was the young reinsman's third win in seven drives aboard the gelding, who beat a pair of Bendigo horses, headed by the Chris Svanosio-trained $2.50 favourite Major McRae, who was third, and the Douglas pacer Ozzie Major (fourth).
Both Major Mcrae and Ozzie Major have qualified for the final on Saturday's third night of the Mildura carnival.
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