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Fri 4 June 2021

Image credit: Steve Hart

By Glenn Davis

Newcastle sprinter Special Reward will carry the burden of having to break a Moreton Cup hoodoo into next week’s Stradbroke Handicap if the gelding wins the Group 2 feature at Eagle Farm on Saturday.

Special Reward has a lightweight with 52kgs and is a borderline contender to make the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap field on Saturday week.

However, the five-year-old can gain a golden ticket into the $1.5 million showpiece if he wins the 1200-metre Moreton Cup.

Lees is hoping a gear change can spark some renewed vigour from Special Reward, who has failed to fire at his only two starts this campaign including a last start 10th – beaten just over five lengths – by Emerald Kingdom in the Group 3 BRC Sprint at Doomben last month.

“His form has been disappointing and I doubt he will be running in the Stradbroke unless he can win this race,” Lees said.

“His two runs back this time in haven’t been up to scratch but he’s the type of horse who can turn his form around quickly.

“I’ve used blinkers on him in the past but I’m using winkers on him for the first time tomorrow to help him focus more.”

Lees - who also will start Zaniah in the Moreton Cup - is yet to win a Stradbroke, with Clearly Innocent his best effort when third to Impending in 2017.

“Zaniah has been going well but her doubt is getting the 1200 metres,” Lees said.

Zaniah has never won in five attempts over 1200 metres and is coming off a last start fourth to Varda in the Listed Chief Be Beers over 1110 metres at Doomben on May 22.

The Moreton Cup is arguably one of the biggest hoodoo races in Queensland, if not in Australia.

It was originally run as the Katie’s Cup in 1979 but has undergone several name changes since.

The Moreton Cup has been a hoodoo race for Stradbroke runners with no winner going on to claim victory in the Stradbroke Handicap.

Of 25 Moreton Cup winners, only five have managed to fill a place.

Furthermore, only seven Stradbroke Handicap winners have used the Moreton Cup as a lead-up race to Queensland’s premier sprint.

They were Sincero in 2011, Robian Steel (1989), Daybreak Lover (1986 and 1984), Grey Receiver (1982), Watney (1981) and Bemboka Yacht (1980).