In-form horseman Michael Hickmott will take a two-pronged attack into battle chasing his first hometown feature in Friday’s $100,000 Carlton Draught Murray Bridge Cup.
A three-time Darwin Cup-winning trainer, Hickmott has enjoyed a stunning start to the 2020-21 racing season and is trailing Tony and Calvin McEvoy on the South Australian Premiership by only one, while leading the Metropolitan Trainers’ Title.
Hickmott saddles up his first Cup runners in two vastly different horses in the feature – Danon Roman and Aqueduct – from two contrasting barriers.
“I’ve never had a runner in a Murray Bridge Cup until this year – it hasn’t been a target race until this year,” Hickmott said.
“Both horses profile completely differently.
“It would be fantastic to win in front of my friends and family.”
Aqueduct is unbeaten in three Australia starts since joining Hickmott and is a $3.80 favourite with tab.com.au.
He bolted in at Murray Bridge by 6.1 lengths at his Australian debut, took that form to town, winning by 3.3 lengths at Morphettville Parks before repeating that with a strong win over fellow Cup hopeful Wings Of Pastrami last time out.
Hickmott said despite heading into the race in faultless form it was a big ask for a young horse taking on some seasoned rivals.
“Aqueduct is drawn to go forward, he’s unproven at a mile but he’s a young, progressive horse on the up,” Hickmott said.
“It’s difficult for four-year-olds to win these type of races in the spring time against older season horses.”
Danon Roman will make his debut for Hickmott from a tricky wide gate. The former Japanese galloper is a four-time winner in Australia for his previous trainer Anthony Freedman.
“He’s drawn very awkwardly and he’s got a lot weight, so he’s going to have to run to his best,” Hickmott said.
“From a handicapping point of view he’s in the race on a poor mark, but if he can run to a peak figure he can be in the finish with the right run.”
Todd Pannell has the ride on Danon Roman while Jessica Eaton, like Hickmott, will be hoping to continue her brilliant season in SA aboard Aqueduct from barrier four.
Winning Partner will be trying to give leading trainer Tony McEvoy a second successive Murray Bridge Cup and claim a second Gifford Hill feature. He is marked a $4.20 second favourite while Wings Of Pastrami sits on the third line of betting at $7.
Hickmott said he had no doubt Winning Partner was the horse to beat on the back of a dominant Balaklava Cup win.
“Winning Partner looks to be the horse to me,’’ Hickmott said.
“He’s just a handicapper’s special. He’s weighted to win a race like this. Great stable, great rider – he certainly looks the big danger to me.”