BY NICK GUTHRIE | Daily Liberal 5 September 2023

One of the strongest fields in Dubbo Gold Cup history is set to line up on Sunday after a bumper collection of nominations were received.

The $100,000 event - which offers eligibility for November's $2 million Big Dance - attracted a big 32 nominations while there was 186 in total for the showcase meeting at Dubbo Turf Club (DTC).

The strong number is no coincidence.

Big Dance eligibility immediately makes it more attractive for Sydney trainers to head west, but DTC general manager Sam Fitzgerald and his team have been working hard to raise the profile of the club outside the western area.

"We're really, really happy with the nominations," Fitzgerald said.

"It's about growing the footprint of the race and getting ourselves on the map.

"We're a very high-performing race club. We had the second largest number of trained starters in 2022/23 and we obviously had back-to-back leading country trainer of the year and it's about making sure people are aware we're here and we've got fantastic facilities.

"It's a fantastic, fair race course and it's about making sure people have us on their radar for these big days."

If the nominations are anything to go by, many of the country's biggest trainers are all too aware of Dubbo.

Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, Edward Cummings, Annabel Neasham, Bjorn Baker, David Payne and Kim Waugh are among the high-profile Sydney trainers who have put forward chances, a number of which having previously raced at a Group or Listed level.

A strong country contingent remains with Dubbo's Clint Lundholm nominating Smooth Esprit, Notabadidea and Watch Me Rumble, while Wellington's Peter Stanley put Not Negotiating forward, and Wild Rocket is also in the mix for Narromine's Kylie Kennedy.

Former Australian rugby league international and Dubbo hobby trainer Terry Fahey was feeling optimistic as he nominated Costas, a 47 benchmark-rated galloper who was at Louth and Gulargambone for his last two starts.

The horse which could come from the furthest away, by some distance, is the impressive Chicago Bear.

Trained outside of Melbourne at Cranbourne by Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young, the Irish gelding was one which stood out to Fitzgerald.

"It won at Morphetville last start, it has reasonable form in Melbourne," Fitzgerald said, before looking at others.

"Iknowastar won the Black Nugget Cup (at Mudgee) last start but going back to its autumn campaign it won the Orange Cup Prelude and then went around in the Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill.

"Caprice Des Dieux was a French horse and has come over here and had two starts. It went around on August 26 (at Rosehill) and the horse that won that, Vreneli, has been nominated as well."

Given the quality of nominations, Fitzgerald and the club is excited by the thought of the final field which will line up on Sunday.

"On paper it looks like it's certainly the strongest Dubbo Gold Cup we've ever had," Fitzgerald said.

"Looking at what we've received, it would appear it's infinitely stronger than 2022 and the strongest Gold Cup we've ever had."

One of the stronger Vince Gordon Flying Handicap sprints is also set to be run on Sunday, with Tamworth star Talbrager - a Kosciuszko frontrunner who ran second to Brett Robb's Sizzle Menizzle in this year's Country Championships Final - headlining the 16 nominations.

Final fields are released on Thursday while what is expected to be a hugely popular Gold Cup Calcutta will be held at the Castlereagh Hotel on Friday night.