A free ticket into this year’s Caulfield Cup goes on the line in the $300,000 Mornington Cup.
The winner of Saturday’s Listed Mornington Cup (2400m) earns a ballot exemption into the 2016 Caulfield Cup and the race has attracted 25 nominations headlined by Group One Ranvet Stakes winner The United States and exciting stayer Tom Melbourne.
After his dominant Albury Cup win earlier this month, co-trainer Lee Freedman highlighted the Mornington Cup as the next step for Tom Melbourne to secure a Caulfield Cup exemption.
Fellow trainer Robert Smerdon has nominated Berisha for both the Cup and a benchmark race over 2000m but confirmed the last-start Yarra Valley Cup placegetter would run in the feature with Daniel Moor to ride.
“He’s on trial at the trip and he’s got to prove he can run it, I guess,” Smerdon said.
“We’ve always thought he would but after his last start in the Yarra Valley Cup, it probably begs the question of whether he will run the 2400 metres.”
Smerdon said the Mornington Cup had been a target for Berisha since the start of his campaign given the prize money and also the carrot of Caulfield Cup qualification.
David Hayes and Tom Dabernig have nominated Golden Mane for the Cup and also the 2000m-benchmark race with Dabernig saying they will study the entries before making a call.
Smerdon won last year’s Hareeba Stakes with Under The Louvre and will have Reldas and Every Faith in the Listed 1200m-race on Saturday.
Reldas finished fifth in the Oakleigh Plate two starts ago before winning the Listed Abell Stakes on March 18 at Moonee Valley.
“His last few runs have probably been his career-best, and the Oakleigh Plate form is standing up,” Smerdon said.