CAIRNS trainer Fred Wieland is banking on Hot Saga “thriving” over the 2000m journey this afternoon at Townsville. With the Townsville Cup next Saturday afternoon at Cluden Park, a number of consistent north Queensland stayers get their final chance to prepare for $100,000 feature in today’s $30,000 Open Handicap (2000m).Several of today’s contenders are yet to win over 2000m, giving Wieland confidence his grey seven-year-old is well placed.“There are a few horses in the race that are having their first go at the distance,” Wieland said.“It will be an interesting race.“If they can run it or not, we will see.“I know my horse can run the distance.“He just thrives in those longer races.”Hot Saga, who has earnings of $378,825, won over 2200m in Brisbane earlier in his career.
If Hot Saga was to produce career win No. 13 this afternoon, Wieland said he was likely to push on to the Townsville Cup, but if he finishes back in the field he will be kept fresh for the Cairns Cup.Hot Saga is backing up after running a promising third at Cannon Park on Tuesday.While San Amaro’s four-length win was the headline act from the Services Handicap on Tuesday, the veteran Wieland gelding was far from disgraced.With David Simmons in the saddle, he settled last before going around the extreme outside on the turn to force his way into the race.“He is getting into the distance he wants now after a good run on Tuesday,” Wieland said.“As long as he backs up … things are going good.“We are not just going down for a look, we are going to hopefully get some money.”Hot Saga drops 2.5kg from Tuesday’s run to today.Meanwhile, Emerald trainer Glenda Bell sent an ominous warning to punters that her cups warrior Fastnet Flyer was primed to return to winning form today.Fastnet Flyer is the early favourite for the Open Handicap after a slashing third in last week’s Mackay Cup.“He’s a backmarker and bad luck has been the story of his life. My thinking is chase the money in a slightly weaker race and we’ll see how he pulls up before we decide whether to run in the Townsville Cup or wait for Cairns,” Bell said.