Battle Lines Drawn For Ballarat Cup Showdown

THE scene is set for an epic Group 2 Ballarat Cup showdown between gifted Victorian stars Explicit and Matt Loch on Friday night.

EXPLICIT versus Matt Loch.

Shepparton Cup winner versus Warrnambool Cup victor.

Jason Thompson versus Michelle Mallia.

Box one versus box two.

The battle lines have been drawn ahead of Friday night's Group 2 Ballarat Cup Final (450m), which on many levels looms as a two-sprinter showdown between Explicit and Matt Loch.

The dynamic duo dominate betting, with near-record heat winner Explicit (box 1) $1.80 favourite ahead of Matt Loch (box 2) at $3.

Their respective trainers, Jason Thompson and Michelle Mallia, have all-but monopolized Victoria's country cups circuit in 2024, claiming five of the six provincial features decided thus far.

Thompson has been victorious at Warragul (Tim Zoo), Traralgon (Unleash Collinda) and Shepparton (Explicit), with Mallia successful at Horsham (Fernando Phil) and Warrnambool (Matt Loch).

Explicit, winner of 16 of his 21 starts, set a blinding pace in Sunday evening's Cup heats, clocking 24.76 at his Ballarat debut, only a length outside Silver Lake's 24.69 course record.

It was the January '22 son of Bernardo and Brueghelino's first start since finishing eighth in The Sandgroper at Cannington on April 18.

The G1 Temlee hero was then assured of Ballarat Cup favouritism after drawing box one, from where he boasts a perfect five from five overall record.

"His effort was huge," Jason Thompson said.

"He hadn't raced for five and a half weeks after he was very badly galloped on in The Sandgroper. 

"He had cuts and abrasions – it was probably as badly spiked as I've ever had a dog.

"He seemed to stumble first stride off the matting in his heat, which I think might've been because he was a little bit over the top.

"He's only ever had one trial at Ballarat, when he was 17 months old, out of the puppy boxes, so he'd never been out of the 450m boxes.

"Obviously the track was in good order, but had he begun he might've broken the record.

"Whether he can improve on the clock, who knows, but with that run under his belt hopefully he can find a little bit.

"Matt Loch is 100 per cent the one to beat.

"The dog is flying and is consistently breaking ‘25' at Ballarat, so we wouldn't want to do anything wrong."

Matt Loch continued his sensational run of form with a 24.96 heat victory.

Incredibly, it was the fifth successive occasion the December '21 son of Aussie Infrared and Stepping has broken 25 seconds at Ballarat, clocking 24.79, 24.83, 24.85 and 24.81 in his previous four assignments at the track.

Matt Loch has won eight of his last nine starts and has an excellent record at Ballarat, winning six from seven, finishing runner-up at his only defeat, while he's won two from three out of box two.

"Another brilliant run from the boy!" Michelle Mallia said.

"I'm so happy with the box draw, I think it's worked out quite well.

"I've raced against Explicit a few times now, he's a great dog and you've just got to hope you can put pressure on him.

"If the two of them come around the home turn together It's going to be very interesting.

"But I would never say it's a two-dog race. 

"There's eight good dogs in the field and they've all earned their places in the final."

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