New Zealand raid on Mornington Cup

New Zealanders Shaune Ritchie and Colm Murray have their heart set on winning a start in the Caulfield Cup at Mornington.

The Listed Mornington Cup (2400m) on Saturday offers the winner a start in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) in October, a race Ritchie would like to see lightly raced stayer Nereus contest.

Ritchie is planning a hit-and-run mission with Nereus but may stay on in Melbourne for the Listed Andrew Ramsden (2800m) at Flemington next month if unsuccessful on Saturday.

Success in the Andrew Ramsden provides the winner a ballot exemption into the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington in November.

“If he happened to win, he would probably go home to prepare for the Caulfield Cup, but if he was beaten, we would have to think about the Andrew Ramsden,” Ritchie told RSN.

“But he would want to be hitting the line strong to warrant that.”

Ritchie has form in hit-and-run missions to Melbourne.

Last year he brought Nassack Diamond over to win the Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool.

Nereus has raced eight times, registering five wins, and Ritchie said the gelding was not the typical New Zealand stayer that has been brought over in previous years.

“He’s a very unassuming little horse,” Ritchie said.

“He’s a nifty little fella and I think he will probably suit the Mornington track and if we can qualify, Caulfield shouldn’t be a problem for him either.

“He took a long time to develop. I think we had him in and out of work three or four times before we even presented him on race day, but when the penny dropped, he showed a bit of talent and the strength caught up with him.

“He missed that three-year-old year, unfortunately, through a few little growing spurts and pains, but once he got to the races, he was away.

“He’s a remarkably consistent horse. He’s got a great temperament and he’s got the pedigree to go with it as well.”

Nereus is yet to race beyond 2100m, scoring in the Group 2 Awapuni Cup at his last start on April 6.

Ritchie said it is hard to line up the form from his New Zealand races, but Saturday’s race looks a step in the right direction.

“He’s got to improve a little bit on his New Zealand form, but he’s got a winning manner about him and he’s extremely consistent,” Ritchie said.

“He’s only in his second preparation and whether he might be a preparation away from his best is probably likely, but he needs to be competitive here if he wants to be coming back in the spring.”

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