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Big Duke favourite for Sydney Cup

Big Duke ridden by Craig Williams
Big Duke is the most likely candidate to give trainer Darren Weir a first Sydney Group One victory.

Big Duke has emerged as the most likely candidate to give premier Melbourne trainer Darren Weir a first Group One victory in Sydney.

The stayer gave Weir his first Sydney win in last month’s Group Three Manion Cup and notched his second at Group Two level in Saturday’s Chairman’s Handicap to surge to the top of the Sydney Cup market.

He is now at $2.80 ahead of Assign at $6 and English visitor Penglai Pavilion who is at $8 alongside veteran Who Shot Thebarman.

Penglai Pavilion’s Charlie Appleby-trained stablemate Polarisation missed a scheduled start in the Chairman’s Handicap because of a hock issue and will have to rely on luck to make the field for the 3200m-race on Saturday.

Tavago, the 2016 Australian Derby winner, will not take his place after a stop-start campaign came to an end on Saturday.

Trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young feared he had been badly injured when he finished last in the Group One BMW at Rosehill on March 25.

A few days later their spirits were raised when he passed all the vet tests and scans, reigniting Sydney Cup hopes.

But on Saturday he was found to have heat in his off foreleg after a gallop and will now be spelled.

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