There'll be plenty of challengers to take Letter To Juliette's crown in Friday's The Oriana Orange Gold Cup Showcase (2100 metres), but one in particular looks likely after overcoming the Garry White-trained mare in the lead-in to Friday's $65,000 feature.
Friday will be the first time Cowboys Karma has covered more than 2000 metres, and Gibson acknowledges it's the great unknown heading into the Gold Cup.
There's no doubt the gelding has the ability, with seven wins to his name and outside a 10th placing in the Banjo Patterson Cup in February, he hasn't finished further back than fourth since September 2017.
"He's a very honest horse, always puts in his best ... but it's his first time doing the distance," the Dubbo-based Gibson said.
He likes to jump and lead, if someone challenges him it might tire him out over the distance but we don't know.Allan Gibson
"A lot will depend on how well he goes the distance, he likes to jump and lead, if someone challenges him it might tire him out over the distance but we don't know."
Gibson "hopes and feels" he will make the whole 2100 around Towac Park, which is a happy hunting ground for Cowboys Karma, who's had two wins in four starts at the Orange track after bolting early.
"He likes the track alright," the trainer said.
"He's a leader, always a leader."
Ken Dunbar, who'll be in the saddle on Friday, also has the feel for Cowboys Karma after doing all the training and trackwork with the gelding.
That said, Gibson acknowledges it's a formidable field.
"Probably Letter to Juliette and Welcome Art are the two on paper to beat," he said.
Aside from running second in the prelude, Letter To Juliette has shown she can run the 2100 distance in claiming last year's win, with a third over 2000 in August to go with it.
While the Garry White-trained mare hasn't had brilliant form to open up 2019, she's fresh off a five-week freshen-up which ended with the Orange run a fortnight ago.
While the reigning champion's recent form doesn't challenge Gibson's gelding, reigning Cowra Cup champion Welcome Art's does.
Trained by Andrew Molloy, the six-year-old gelding has two thirds over 1800m and 1900m in Cantebury and Bathurst respectively in February, backing up the Cowra Cup win in January.
That feature was over 1700m, and brushes up the Welcome Art's credentials over the longer distances to look pretty as a picture, but any of Bjorn Baker's Vega, Scott Singleton's Itasca, or Garry White's Cool One could easily mount a significant challenge out of the strong field.
Gates open at Towac Park at 12.30 on Friday, with Racing Orange's $65,000 main event scheduled to jump at 4.38pm.
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