Track and field: Raiders star seeks double bliss
Canberra skipper Jarrod Croker is chasing a winning double that will reap huge financial rewards for himself and his club in just 18 hours.
A win for Croker and his Raiders teammates in the preliminary final against Melbourne on Friday night is expected to be worth around $600,000 to Canberra through increased sponsorship, membership and merchandise from grand final week.
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And the following afternoon, Croker will watch the horse he part-owns, Goulburn galloper Intuition, push for victory in one of Australia's richest races, the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko at Randwick.
The prizemoney for winning The Kosciuszko is $600,000, and Croker, his dad and his dad's friend have a 20 per cent share in Intuition.
Which means Croker's footy club and his race syndicate stand to be $1.2m better off between them if both are successful.
Intuition is paying $26 to win The Kosciuszko with the TAB, which will be run just before The Everest.
The Raiders will fly in and out of Brisbane for the Storm match, arriving back in Canberra during the early hours of Saturday.
Restricted by the NRL COVID bubble, Croker cannot be at Randwick for the race but will instead watch it from his "man cave" at his home in Canberra.
"I will be sitting at home with the feet up watching the big race on Saturday. I can't go anywhere else," Croker said.
"I have a nice man cave down stairs, a bar and pool table, so I will set it up like I'm at the track and cheer him on.
"My old man, Greg, will go to Randwick. He has a share in the horse as well. Myself, dad and dad's best mate, Steve Jones, have 20 per cent - about 6.6 per cent each.
"Every owner going there thinks they are a chance and I'm no different. But I genuinely think he is a chance. Just look at his form.
"Intuition is an ex-Godolphin horse who has won at Group 3 and Listed level. His form stacks up and he's at a very juicy price.
"It's a very tough race and there are a lot of good horses in it. Our horse has had 30 starts in good company for a couple of years now and he's in good condition.
"He worked in a trial last week and ran third by 2.9 to three lengths to Gytrash. That's pretty impressive. Maybe I'm looking into too much or I'm just too excited by talking up my own horse, but I'm quietly confident."
Intuition, which has already won around $500,000, will wear custom-made Raiders silks.
"Intuition is a proven stakes performer, set specifically for this race, and with even luck he can be in the finish," Daily Telegraph racing editor Ray Thomas said.
The night before, Canberra will start as underdogs against Melbourne but they will have grown in confidence following their gritty win over the Sydney Roosters in last Friday's elimination semi-final.
"We will fly straight home after the game and hopefully start preparing for another game the week after. That's the grand plan and so far, so good," Croker said.
"For the last decade, Melbourne has been the benchmark, along with the Roosters. It's big test again but to be the best you have to beat the best.
"We can take plenty of confidence out of beating the Roosters. If we can knock Melbourne after beating the Roosters, we'll be very confident.
"It will be a big challenge but the boys are all in. I know Penrith have been flying - they have had a great year - but consistently-wise, it's been the Storm and the Roosters for a long time."
Croker plans to donate anything he wins with Intuition to the Ricky Stuart Foundation.