AFTER a crack at a pair of Group 2 cups to start the new year, Terry French is hoping Form Analyst can show the benefits of racing against that better grade of horses at Wedderburn on Sunday.
Not that the Heathcote-trained gelding won't be up against some impressive opposition again in the $14,500 Wedderburn Pacing Cup.
But the six-year-old gelding figures to relish the step back in grade and prove himself as a contender in a wide-open field.
While the form-line for Form Analyst reads consecutive 10ths in the Bendigo Pacing Cup and last weekend's Shepparton Gold Cup - won respectively by Code Bailey and Phoenix Prince, who will both contest Saturday night's Group 1 Ballarat Pacing Cup - French insisted he was pleased with the gelding's effort in both races.
"He's been boxing above his weight - he was the lowest-rated horse in both cups," he said.
"He was in it a long way in the Bendigo Cup, it was only that last 100 metres or so - and he pulled pretty hard.
"You can't pull when you are up against that class of horses."
Form Analyst will again be driven by Tayla French.
The father-daughter team got their weekend off to the perfect start, combining for a win with Joey's Hangover at Cobram on Friday.
A trio of Bendigo region chances in the cup is completed by the Ross Graham/Sutton Grange-trained Animated and Julie Douglas-trained Bernie Winkle.
French rated the Brent Lilley-trained Sicario ($2.60 favourite), a last start fourth in the Shepparton Cup, as the undoubted horse to get past.
"Sicario raced in our race last week and finished a fair way ahead of us," he said.
"He had a tad different run then we had, but he's drawn outside of us on the second row. He's the one to beat for mine.
"But with the right run, we should be a chance. He's jumping out of his skin and loving it."
With Wedderburn without a trainer to call its own, Greg Norman, from nearby Charlton, represents the closest thing to a local cup hope.
But the former South Australian trainer will need a slice of luck to gain a start with Rocknroll Baby, after the mare was named the first emergency.
Should the daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven gain a run, Norman is confident she can make her presence felt.
"She ran a good third at Melton last start when they went 1.54, so if she gets a start she'd be right in it," Norman said.
"She's come back from a long spell and taken three or four runs to get going but has come right in her last two for back-to-back thirds.
"Hopefully we can get a start and give the locals something to cheer about."
In-form Heathcote-based reinswoman Shannon O'Sullivan is booked to drive Rocknroll Baby and she would like nothing more than to add a second country cup win to her resume, after gaining her first at Elmore on Boxing Day.
It will be a milestone cup day for former Wedderburn local Warren Richmond, who will sponsor the trotters cup for the 20th-straight year.
Wedderburn and District Harness Racing Club secretary Tom Nisbet is expecting a crowd of about 700 people on cup day, the first of only two race dates.
The club will host the final of the Central Victorian Pacing Championship on February 16.
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