BENDIGO trainer Kym Hann is hoping to cap a productive first northern winter foray with a win in this Monday's $200,000 Darwin Cup (2050m).
The two-time Bendigo trainer of the year winner will saddle up Our Destrier in the big race, with the five-year-old gelding an early $7.50 chance behind only the favourite Living The Dream ($3) and Playoffs ($4).
Hann is coming off the best season of his career, which has included 17 winners, amassed across four states or territories.
He has trained winners in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
His tally of five in the Top End was boosted by a double on Wednesday this week with Elmore Lad and Boy Big.
The season total has come from 104 starters at the handy win percentage of 16.4 per cent.
Hann could not be more satisfied with the stable's efforts this season.
"We've only had just over 100 runners for the season, so I'm very happy with 17 winners," he said.
"There's been a lot of placings in there as well (29). It's a credit to the whole team what we've been able to do.
"Things up here (in Darwin) have gone really well for us, so I'm really glad we did this."
As the curtain falls on the 2021-22 racing season, Hann will be striving to start the new one off on a bright note in the Darwin Cup.
Despite an obvious distance query, Hann is optimistic Our Destrier, a winner of six of 18 starts, can get the 2050m cup trip.
The son of Zoustar and Royal Flirt has shown an affinity for the Darwin track with a win and a second in his only two starts up north, both over 1600m.
"He hasn't gone the distance before, that's my only query," Hann said.
"But the way that he races gives you every indication he would.
"We've only tried him once before (over 2000m at Wangaratta) and he probably should have been in the paddock at that stage.
"But everything is good with the horse and the way that he does race you would think he's got to be some sort of hope."
Our Destrier has deliberately been kept fresh for the cup, with his last start on July 9 producing a second behind fellow cup contender Playoffs in the weight-for-age Chief Minister's Cup (1600m).
Remarkably for a Bendigo-trained horse, none of his six race wins have been in Victoria, with three coming on New South Wales tracks, two in South Australia and one in the Top End.
The cup race boasts plenty of central Victorian connections, with Brad Rawiller riding the Western Australian-trained favourite Living The Dream and Kyneton trainer Neil Dyer chasing his fourth cup win with Kaonic, with Bendigo's John Keating in the saddle.
READ MORE: Dyer chasing fourth Darwin Cup win
Hann declared Living The Dream - a brilliant winner of last Saturday's feature $50,000 Metric Mile - as undoubtedly the horse to beat.
"In saying that, he's got to give us seven kilos - that's a big, big swing in the weights (61.5kg compared with 54.5)," he said.
Our Destrier will again be ridden by Stan Tsaikos.
Hann has a feature race runner before Monday, with Royal Tyke lining up in today's (Saturday) $135,000 Palmerston Sprint (1200m).
"He's been knocking on the door - he just got beat by one of the favourites two starts back and he was a bit unlucky," he said.
"His form has been good (three Darwin seconds) and he certainly deserves a chance in the race.
"We'll just ride him quietly and have him sit in the line and hopefully he's the strongest one at the end and there's a few others stop.
"That's probably his best hope, as they are going to fly."
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