Lara trainer Brendan Pursell has plotted a perfect fifth birthday celebration for evergreen stayer Annie Lava; victory in the prestigious Casey Steel Victoria Cup (699m) at Saturday night’s Cranbourne Cup meeting.
Annie Lava will face the starter for the 73rd time in the Victoria Cup, her first appearance for 2020, having been sidelined since winning at Sandown Park on December 19.
While Pursell would love to collect the Victoria Cup’s $7500 winner’s purse, he also has one eye on the Group 1 Zoom Top (725m), one of the headline events on the opening night of the Australian Cup Carnival at The Meadows next Saturday, where Annie Lava is the first reserve.
“She needed a run in case she gets a start in the Zoom Top,” said Pursell.
“She pulled up a bit sore in the wrist after her last start so she had a couple of weeks off.
“She’s had a couple of short trials to get her ready and she has raced well before after four or five weeks off.
“I probably wouldn’t do it with many other dogs but she’s that strong. Every single time she’s finishing well on the line. She could run 900 metres!
“She also works very hard at home. She’s one of our hardest workers. She runs three kilometres every day pretty much.”
Annie Lava will tackle a reduced field of six in the Victoria Cup, pending further scratchings, which Pursell predicts will play into her hands.
“The smaller the field, the better,” Pursell said.
“Being fresh, hopefully she’ll jump good and put herself up there. She did that in her last win, when she was also coming back from a bit of a break.
“She’s as good as anything else in the race. Banga (box 5) goes good and a couple of others go well but she’s definitely not out of it.”
Age certainly hasn’t wearied Annie Lava, which will turn five on Tuesday.
She was runner-up three times in feature events in the back half of last year; finishing second to the great Tornado Tears in the Listed Fireball, and also finding one better in the Group 3 Topcat Video Cup and Listed Cup Night Stayers.
“Every time we start talking about retiring her she puts in a good run,” Pursell explained.
“She’s probably going as good as ever, to be honest. She looks great and she’s enjoying herself. The wrist problem was only a minor thing. She’s been through it a few times before and comes good pretty quickly.
“Her brother Back On Lava, which I used to have, is still racing well too. He ran third at Cannington last Saturday.”
The Victoria Cup is race 8 on the Cranbourne Cup card, to be run at 8.44pm.