STAWELL hobby trainer Ray Harvey believes if any horse can defy a 30m handicap it's his tough-as-nails trotter The Penny Drops.
That's the assignment facing Harvey's six-year-old gelding in Friday night's $30,000 Group 2 Bendigo Trotters Cup (2650m) at Lord's Raceway.
It's an ask almost as tough as The Penny Drops himself, but as his record over the past 13-months has shown, if there's a will there's a way.
The home-bred son of Danny Bouchea will be the lone horse off 30m, conceding 10m to Always Ready and 20m to a group of five horses, led by his familiar foe Robbie Royale.
But Harvey, a full-time truck driver and part-time horse trainer, is undaunted and is backing his multiple country cups winner to rise to the challenge, as he did at his last start in the $30,000 Group 3 Charlton Trotters Cup (2570m) when he won off 20m.
"He's as good as he was at Charlton," he said.
"It's a bit tougher I suppose being off the 30m mark, with 11 runners in front of him that he has to get around.
"But he doesn't know how to run a bad race. He'll be there when the whips are cracking.
"The way I look at it, that extra 10m is a sign he's in good form.
"He's the best horse in the race, there are no worries about that, it's just whether he can get the luck and get around them and get to his favourite spot and still beat them.
"If they're doing their homework, they'll be aware Ronny (The Penny Drops' stable name) will be getting around them at some point and if someone is smart enough to make him do some extra, that mightn't help us.
"But there's not much we can do about it."
If that scenario eventuates, Harvey feels there is every chance The Penny Drops thrives rather than wilts.
"I don't know what it is about it, he likes that sort of scenario - and he's pretty good at it," he said.
"You generally find that a horse who does a bit of work in the death, they are the first horse to put their hand up and back out of the contest.
"But not Ronny, the harder it gets the tougher he seems to get himself."
A brilliant past 13 months has delivered wins in the Kilmore, Swan Hill, Maryborough and Charlton cups in Victoria and three in South Australia, including the Group 2 SA Trotters Cup last June.
His Charlton Cup win over Havehorsewilltravel reversed a second placing to the same horse at their previous meeting in the $30,000 Group 2 Horsham Trotters Cup earlier in March.
In December, he finished sixth in the Inter Dominion Final at Menangle, a week after winning a heat at Newcastle.
The Inter Dominion is a long-term goal, but for now, Harvey's eyes are on the Bendigo Trotters Cup.
While The Penny Drops will be 19-days between starts, he has been far from idle since his stirring cup triumph at Charlton.
"He had a little bit of a freshen up, but not too long ... he gets fat pretty easily," Harvey said.
"He actually went to the trials last Sunday at Maryborough and he won that.
"I needed an extra horse because I had a three-year-old filly trying to qualify and it only had two and you have to have three, so Ronny went over and went around in the trial to make up the third number.
"He didn't do a lot in the trial, but he ran home in the last half mile and it ended up being a good workout."
The Penny Drops will be driven by his regular driver Grant Campbell, after world champion reinswoman Kerryn Manning did the honours at Charlton in her husband's absence.
A quality cup field contains plenty of obvious dangers, according to Harvey.
"Robbie Royale is always hard to beat - he and Ronny have had quite a few battles," he said.
"Nephew Of Sonoko, who ran third at Melton the other night, looks a threat (on his home track), and Always Ready is a very good horse, but he's got bad manners at the stand.
"You could probably have a bet on four or five of them and still not get the winner.
"I've never had a runner in the Bendigo Cup, so it would be pretty nice to win it."
Fields for Friday night's Bendigo Trotters Cup meeting will be published in Friday's Bendigo Advertiser.
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