By David Nagel
The town of Pakenham had a certain allure for Peter Roche when he first fell in love with racing at the old track on Racecourse Road in 1963.
It was love at first sight for the then 17-year-old, who on his first visit to a racecourse backed a 50-1 winner and has been hooked ever since.
The now 71-year-old trainer is hoping history will repeat this Saturday when he saddles up long-shot Transfer Allowance in the Listed $250,000 Sportsbet Pakenham Cup (2500m).
“It’s funny how things work out isn’t it. I got hooked on racing at Pakenham and now I train there and have had a runner in the cup for the last two years,” said Roche, who travels from Yarragon three times a week to work the only horse in his stable.
Transfer Allowance – an eight-year-old gelding – ran a cracking fourth in last year’s edition of the cup, finishing four lengths behind the David Hayes-trained Pilote D’essai.
The retired school teacher is hoping his 56-start warrior can provide him with the biggest thrill of his career.
“When I retired my main ambition was to have enough money to buy a beer and put on a quaddie,” Roche said with a laugh.
“I trained a horse called Fontaines, who won a few at the picnics, but this would be pretty special and mean a fair bit to win the Pakenham Cup. And the one hundred and fifty grand would come in pretty handy as well.”
Transfer Allowance has shown some promising signs this preparation, finishing third at Moonee Valley in early November before pulling up sore after a poor run at the same track a fortnight later. Roche is hoping some tender loving care will have the son of Danzero-Banishing in tip-top shape for his main assignment this time in.
“It’s been our aim all along to have him cherry ripe for the cup but he couldn’t stretch out at the valley and pulled up with sore glutes,” he said.
“But we’ve had the vet work on him and he stretched out nicely on Monday so things are on the up. And my rain dances seem to be working because he enjoys the cut out of the ground at his age.”
Roche said Transfer Allowance had been a joy to train from the very beginning of his career.
“He gets a few niggles during the winter but overall he’s a been a gem to train,” he said.
“He’s a big horse, 16 hands, but very athletic and always on his best behaviour which makes it easy for an old bugger like me. I never underestimate the opposition but hopefully he can find his best and produce a big run.”
Oncidium Ruler for Mick Kent, and Grey Lion for Matt Cumani would appear to be the class in the race, while the Robbie Laing-trained Darabad could be hard to catch if he can reproduce the resilience he showed after leading strongly in the two-mile Sandown Cup last start.
It will be a great day of racing on Saturday with nearly a million dollars up for grabs on the nine-race card.
The top-rated nominated horse is the Mick Bell-trained Jungle Edge, who will need to overcome a huge weight to take out the 1200-metre open sprint. Jungle Edge, who won at group three level and was more than competitive in the feature sprints during the Queensland autumn carnival, has been given 63.5 kilos, down to 60.5 after a three-kilo claim for apprentice Georgina Cartwright.
The other highlight on the card will be the rematch between Grand Rosso, Burning Front and Dan Zephyr in the $120,000 Racing.com VOBIS Gold Bullion (1400m). The trio ran in that exact order in the same race last year and will be favoured to be in the thick of the action again.
Others to have won on the same program last year, Invincible Al, Smart Dart and Tykiato have all been nominated for the big day.