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New Zealand mare Savvy Coup will be set for a battle with Winx in the Cox Plate as her trainer Michael Pitman faces a personal challenge.

Two days after Savvy Coup’s Group One win in the Livamol Classic at Hastings on Saturday, Pitman will undergo surgery for bowel cancer.

The 63-year-old was diagnosed in February and has since endured bouts of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

The champion South Island trainer has remained upbeat throughout and has been overwhelmed with the support he has received from the tight-knit racing community.

The 63-year-old was diagnosed in February and has since endured bouts of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

The champion South Island trainer has remained upbeat throughout and has been overwhelmed with the support he has received from the tight-knit racing community.

He admitted to being emotional after the New Zealand Oaks winner notched her second Group One victory in the Livamol Classic.

“My emotions did come out a little after the race yesterday but it was as much about winning with this wonderful mare as it was about what’s going on in my life at present,” Pitman told NZ Racing Desk.

“What made it even more special was that I could share it with my wife Diane and a number of people who have been so supportive of me.”

Pitman, who is now in partnership with his son Matthew, has won three New Zealand trainers’ premierships, a feat more noteworthy because he is based in the South Island with most major trainers in the North.

He had been confident about Savvy Coup’s prospects in the Livamol which is run over the 2040m of the Cox Plate.

“I thought she had really matured from three to four and was over a few little niggles she had last season,” he said.

“She had a few problems with corns in her feet last season but so far this prep she has been as good as gold and everything had gone so well.”

Pitman expects to be at Moonee Valley in three weeks to saddle the mare.

“I’m going for keyhole surgery tomorrow, where they will remove a section of my bowel to take out the cancerous growth and surrounding tissue,” he said.

“As long as it all goes well the doctors have said it will mean a 7-10 day stint in hospita.

“There are 19 days to the Cox Plate, so I’m confident I will be on course to watch a South Islander take on the best in the world.”

Pitman is realistic about Savvy Coup’s chances but says she is not running to make up the numbers.

“The way I look at it is there are still some pretty juicy plums if we can run into the placings along with some very realistic opportunities later on in the carnival,” he said.

 
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