Thumbs up for the champ
Duric rides our Best Bets - Tom Cat tonight and Valencia on Sunday
There was no fanfare when he arrived in March. What was there to shout about? Valencia was just another unraced three-year-old New Zealand-bred, owned by the man who would train him - Stephen Gray.
Five months of lolling about and off to the trials he went. In the saddle, I Amirul, didn't go for broke. He held him together to finish third behind Coming Up. His time was 61.0sec dead on.
He was back three weeks later and again he ran a decent trial, clocking 60.6sec for the trip. King's Landing won that one by 6 lengths.
There were signs aplenty that Valencia was above average. Well, sent off a as a $63 chance, Valencia didn't win on debut but, true to his trial form, he ran a blinder, taking second behind Luck Of Master while beating the likes of The Iceman and Whistle Grand.
A month later, the "cat out of the bag" punters backed him down to unbettable odds. He was the $9 favourite at the off but, again, something came in his way.
Fight To Victory stole the race with a clean getaway, leaving the favourite with too much to do. He took second, beaten by a neck.
They say, it could be third time lucky. I believe it too and, when Valencia takes them on in Race 4 on Sunday, he could have his day in the sun.
The opposition is moderate. Jumping from Gate 2, he should be gifted the lead. Then, of course, he'll have Vlad Duric doing the steering.
Enough said? I guess so. For Sunday, at least.
What do you know? Another of Duric's mounts features as my best bet today and he can be found in Race 7.
The name's Tom Cat and, when he takes off, he can be like that other feline. The cheetah.
Tom Cat's got speed. That we know. We saw it in mid-September when, in a Restricted Maiden event, he led from go to whoa. Never challenged, he won by 31/2 lengths - easing up.
Then came that last start about a month ago. We expected the same and punters backed him down to $13 first favourite.
How were they to know that things were going to be turned upside down. Tom Cat, so quick out of the gates on debut, was crowded shortly after the start.
To compound matters, he was unable to get clear running room from the 450m to the 200m and his rider, Joseph Azzopardi reported that his mount wasn't striding out freely over the final 100m.
Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. Well, that's racing.
Tom Cat's work over the last fortnight does suggest he's in form and, with the champ on the reins, I say, make him your banker.