GLENN Douglas has had plenty of superbly credentialed Bendigo Pacing Cup runners in the past, among them the former three-time Breeders Crown-winning mare Make Mine Cullen.
So when he says Torrid Saint represents his best chance of scoring a breakthrough win in his hometown cup to date, you best take notice.
The ever-improving six-year-old Shadow Play gelding is one of two hopes for the Julie Douglas stable in the $70,000 Group 2 feature at Lord's Raceway on Saturday night.
The Strathfieldsaye-based team also has the improving Rick Reilly entered in the 12-horse field.
While Rick Reilly has a pair of smaller country cups wins to his recent credit (Elmore and Gunbower) and an eye-catching third in the $75,000 Group 2 Cranbourne Cup also alongside his name, it is clear Douglas sees Torrid Saint, who has drawn the pole, as the emphatic number one among the stable's hopes.
"He will go very close. He's going along very nicely and has a favourable draw and probably a frontline that suits too," he said.
"That's not degrading anybody, but there's nothing there (on the front row) with out-and-out explosive speed.
"They are all nice horses, but there is nothing there that is going to explode off the arm and we don't know what they are going to do. I really like his chances.
"His run at Cranbourne (in the cup) was super, he draws somewhere better and he wins it.
"The run at Ballarat (sixth in the Sokyola Sprint), I'd just put a line through it. They walked early and we erred on the side of caution and didn't make a big race move, which put him out of the race.
"Other than that, he's ticking along nicely and the draw really suits."
Torrid Saint will be driven by John Caldow, who partnered the gelding to victory in the Popular Alm Sprint at Kilmore last July and a third two starts later in the Our Maestro Free For All at Melton, behind one of his main rivals on Saturday night, Triple Eight for Jess Tubbs and Greg Sugars.
Being the hometown cup, Douglas said the Bendigo Pacing Cup was arguably the most sought-after prize to have eluded the stable over the years, but he was optimistic the tide was ready to turn.
"I truly believe it's the best chance we have had going into a Bendigo Cup," he said
"I don't know how many runners I have had in total, but I know I have had some real nice horses in it. We had Make Mine Cullen and Heza Trick, but I've never truly gone into it thinking I am a genuine chance.
"But I think this is our best chance.
"And I know I talk a bit about Torrid Saint, but even Rick Reilly just keeps stepping up and doing things that, if you looked at his trackwork, you wouldn't think he could do. But he keeps taking that step.
"He'll need to be driven accordingly (by Ellen Tormey), but if that run presents, I think he showed at Cranbourne that he is not out of these types of races."
The Douglas stable's last Bendigo Pacing Cup runner was Bernie Winkle, who finished a nice fifth behind San Carlo in 2019, when driven by Monique Burnett.
Torrid Saint is no stranger to success on cup night.
He won the NR 72 to 79 pace on last year's program, the first of seven wins and 10 placings from 35 starts for the 2021 season, for earnings of $139,470.
Underlining his development during his five-year-old season, Torrid Saint finished a creditable sixth in the $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup in October, run for the first time on his home track at Lord's Raceway.
Torrid Saint is owned and bred by Swan Hill racing identity Noel Watson, while Rick Reilly is owned by Glenn and Julie's daughter Hayley.
A perfect lead-up to cup night for the couple included a treble at Kilmore on Thursday night, spearheaded by a win by Saviour Telf, who is owned by their other daughter Laura.
The five-year-old gelding was making his Australian debut after 12 previous starts in New Zealand and won convincingly by 24.5m.
Their haul of three included victories by Pray Tell and Ozzie Playboy, with Ellen Tormey notching a double aboard Saviour Telf and Pray Tell and Michael Bellman taking the steer on Ozzie Playboy, giving him a treble for the night.
The Douglas stable will have nine runners in total on the biggest night of the year for the Bendigo Harness Racing Club, starting with Magic Mike in the opening race on the program.
The team will be well represented with three runners in the claimers pace, headed by the evergreen Bernie Winkle, Ozzie Battler and Pocket Thedeal, and possesses a strong chance in the NR 70 to 79 pace - the race between the night's two features - with last year's Hygain Northern Region Championship Final winner Duke of Dundee.
The Bendigo Pacing Cup will be run at 9.35pm.
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