THERE might not be a Bathurst presence in the biggest event of the NSW harness racing calendar this Saturday at Menangle but the city's trainer are still hoping to make a splash in the quality support events on Miracle Mile night.
Gemma Hewitt is chasing what would be a huge upset in the $200,000 Group 1 NSW Derby with her consistent three-year-old gelding Kashed Up.
The NSW Breeders Western Region champion made a strong impression in his semi-final when he ran runner-up behind Brian Portelli's super star and reigning Bathurst Gold Crown champion Tasty Delight.
Kashed Up fought hard over the last 100m of her heat to take back second spot in a photo finish after losing it briefly to Jacks Hawk in the run for the winning post.
But the barrier draw in the finale has blunted the Group 1 dream in a big way.
Unlike the Derby heat, where Kashed Up used gate one to his full advantage, he's going to need a lot more luck when he starts the final from gate nine.
Hewitt is realistic about her gelding's chance of spoiling the party from the wide draw but she has been encouraged by the way Kashed Up has looked this preparation.
"Barrier nine makes it tough but if they go mad up front over the long trip I've got no doubt in my mind he can be there at the end," she said.
It was his first trip over 2,400 metres and I was really happy with the way he stuck on.Gemma Hewitt
"He tries hard all the time. Hopefully he deals with the retention barn well, because that's not normally the case.
"He had a great season last season. He was in a couple of Group 1s and 2s before he knocked off a Group 3 and he's been a nice horse to have bred and owned."
Regardless of how this Saturday pans out against a red hot field, Hewitt said the heat runner-up result was a great showcase of Kashed Up's determination.
"I didn't know if he'd be up for it. He was first up from a spell and I only got the only trial in him. I probably would have preferred a start or two but he drew barrier one and he got the right trip," she said.
"It was his first trip over 2,400 metres and I was really happy with the way he stuck on. The barrier made it for him, especially first up from a spell and he was against horses who race at Menangle and are fit.
"Just like he was this time last year, he's probably good enough to make it into the finals against these sorts of horses but without another kind barrier it's hard for him to compete."
Markets currently have Tasty Delight and David Moran's Patsbeachstorm as equal $2.90 favourites for the derby, with Emma Stewart's Act Now the next best at $6. Kashed Up is currently at big $101 odds.
The race with a big Bathurst presence is the Group 2 Sapling Stakes.
Chris Frisby fields both Our George Boston and Uncle Miki in the $50,000 event while Mat Rue has McLean starting from wider out.
Our George Boston won on debut ahead of third-placed Uncle Miki, while the latter went on to win his second start comfortably on his home track.
McLean won with ease on debut at Young and has some success in his bloodline.
The Bettors Delight colt is a half brother to Group 2 champion and Inter Dominion finalist Blazin N Cullen.
Also in action will be the Bathurst-owned Red Hot Tooth in the Group 1 Trotters Mile, going out from a hard gate nine draw.'
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