CHAMPION jockey Kerrin McEvoy has lauded the depth of what could be the strongest ever Ballarat Cup.
McEvoy, who will ride in the country cup for the first time since 2014, has missed the past fortnight due to a 13-meeting suspension and costly whip breach out of the Melbourne Cup.
Three-time Melbourne Cup winner and triple Everest champion McEvoy has five rides at Ballarat, including cup favourite Junipal, on the back-up from an impressive Sandown win last week.
“It is great prize money and it is a great racetrack,” McEvoy said.
“Back in the day I rode in a few (Ballarat Cups), it‘s going to be a nice day to be part of.
“I learnt my craft there (Ballarat) as a young kid, when I first moved to Melbourne, nice to be able to get back there, obviously my wife‘s (Cathy Payne) family have lived there for many years.”
Kerrin McEvoy after winning the 2009 Ballarat Cup with Itstheone. Picture: Jay TownSource:News Limited
McEvoy won the 2009 Ballarat Cup with Itstheone.
The gun lightweight will return to Sydney on Monday once the borders reopen.
A prizemoney boost in recent years has turned the country cup into a genuine spring carnival bookend.
Junipal incredibly is one of seven cup contenders with a rating higher than 102 — up from one last year (Fifty Stars) and the season before (Luvaluva).
Dual Group 1 winner Harlem, with a $2.7m prize purse, is one of four runners with seven-figure earnings, while a further six have pocketed more than $500,000 for connections.
“Junipal’s recent runs have shown he’s in great form,” McEvoy said.
“If he can back up … he‘s going to run a great race in what looks like a really open race.“
McEvoy has two rides for sister-in-law Michelle Payne (Flag Edition, R2 No. 8 and Cape Victory, R7 No. 18), and one for brother-in-law Andrew Payne (Private Lounge, R6 No. 17).
McEvoy has never ridden for Melbourne Cup-winning sister-in-law Michelle previously.
“These are the days I’m sure the Paynes’ earmark to try and win one,” McEvoy said.
“Country cup days are special for people that train at those venues, it will be no different come Saturday.”
McEvoy is one of 15 separate Group 1-winning jockeys set to ride at the meeting, with up to 12 engaged in the cup alone.
Kerrin McEvoy and his wife Cathy (right) and sister-in-law Michelle Payne. Picture Jay TownSource:News Corp Australia
Despite Racing Victoria lifting jockey segregation rules — a successful COVID-19 safeguard — riders will be separated on Saturday because the Ballarat jockeys’ room cannot accommodate them all.
Ballarat Turf Club chief executive Belinda Glass welcomed the surge in quality horses, trainers and jockeys.
Glass has been involved in 10 cups, but this is her first in charge after replacing Lachlan McKenzie, a part-owner in Junipal coincidently, last year.
“It’s been a lot of work over the year and Lachlan, as our former CEO, was certainly instrumental,” Glass said.
“It is one of the richest country cups and I think the increased prize money helps attract a higher grade.
“There really are some great contenders this year and it’s going to be a really strong race.
“We are the last feature meeting, at a metropolitan level, of the spring racing carnival, I think our fields probably support that branding even more so than they have in the past.”
Glass expects about 200 registered owners to be trackside on Saturday.
Racing Victoria hopes to make further announcements about crowds attending race meetings as early as next week, in line with the State Government‘s scaling back of restrictions.
Originally published asFamily ties: McEvoy chases second cup
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